What do you picture when you think of a truck driver? If you’re of a certain age, you might remember all the “trucker songs” that were so popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Remember C.W. McCall’s “Convoy”? Or maybe you’ve seen movies about scary serial killer truckers. On the other hand, maybe you just know the guy down the road who drives a truck and seems like a decent sort.
Many people still think of certain types, though, when they think of truckers. They picture the middle-aged guy with the beard and the dirty ball cap, not all that bright, the one who’s always on the road, has no family life, and his only source of companionship is the “lot lizards” who frequent truck stops (where you can no longer get decent food because they’re all franchised these days – Denny’s, anyone?).
Where do we get those ideas?
The fact is, truck drivers are just like anyone else. They have hopes and dreams, families, hobbies, and most of them ARE pretty bright. Let’s take a closer look at some of the misconceptions about truckers.
- Truckers Drive Because They’re Not Smart Enough to Do Anything Else
Think about it – could you park yourself behind the wheel of a big rig, after doing a pre-trip inspection that requires you to know every single inch of that truck, inside and out? Most people can’t even change the oil in their car, never mind look after a tractor-trailer. That takes brain power. Truckers also have to have well-developed literacy and numeracy skills to be able to deal with log books, manifests, and other paperwork.
- Truckers Have No Social Skills
If truckers had no social skills, the industry would collapse. Often, the trucker is the face of the company whose goods he or she is delivering. When a trucker brings products that carry a certain brand name, the person receiving those goods doesn’t know the person who’s shipped them. He sees only the trucker. To the receiver, the trucker IS the company, and he’d better have some pretty decent interpersonal skills in order to represent that company in a positive light.
- Truckers are Out-of-Control, Drugged-up Cowboys on the Road
Nothing could be further from the truth. The days when truckers used to drive all night and all day under the influence of “stims” are long gone. Regular drug testing, both in-company and on the road, have made it virtually impossible for anyone to remain employed in the industry if they’re using. A trucker can be checked at any time, and there’s no need for “probable cause.”
As to speeding, many trucks are now equipped with governors that prevent the trucker from driving at an excessive rate of speed, and modern technology has made it possible for trucking companies to determine very easily if a trucker is exceeding the speed limit. Companies also offer incentives to drivers who keep it to “double nickels,” so there’s a greater advantage to the trucker to obey the law.
Another common complaint is that truckers think they own the road. Almost every non-trucker can tell you a story about the truck driver who tailgated them, but here’s the thing – that’s a BIG vehicle. And “big vehicle” does not mean “better brakes.” Truckers are horrified when people pull out in front of them and fail to pick up their speed. They can’t stop quickly when they’re pulling a heavy load, and the stress is far more on the trucker than on the person ahead of him or her.
Oh, and as to stress? Next time someone tells you that trucking is an easy job, you might want to point out to them that studies show that the stress level for a truck driver is approximately the same as that for an air traffic controller.
- Truckers Smell Bad
Okay, sometimes that’s true. But if you had to spend a lot of time in a big rig, deal with repairs on the road, maybe accidentally step in mud or puddles when you’re doing your mid-trip inspection, you might be a little “off” sometimes, too. Sometimes truck stops aren’t conveniently located, and that can exacerbate the problem. But since truckers are, as previously stated, often the face of the company whose products they’re hauling, usually they will find a truck stop as soon as possible – one with a shower – and clean up before they become overly offensive.
- They Do – Um – NASTIES in Bottles
You may have heard the term “trucker bomb.” This refers to a plastic bottle, filled with urine, tossed out the window of a big rig that, with luck, lands on the road or in a ditch. There was actually a study done in the state of Iowa that concluded almost a million of these “bombs” were discarded on the highway in any given year. That’s pretty disgusting. But think about this – how many places can a truck driver actually stop in order to urinate? There really aren’t all that many rest stops, and they can be hard to find at night. And when you can find a rest stop, it could be taken up with other trucks. A “stop and start” can take about 20 minutes of valuable time, and when you’re only allowed to drive so many hours a day, those stops can really add up.
The good news is that companies discourage truckers from dropping “bombs,” and the problem is on its way to being corrected. Responsible truckers still use bottles, but they dispose of them at rest stops.
- Truckers are All the Same
They’re not. You’ll find young and old people, men and women, people from every ethnic background, and every education level driving trucks. If you talk to a trucker, he or she will tell you about meeting former CEOs, investment bankers, teachers, lumberjacks, and just about every other type of person, all on the road. There are good truckers and bad truckers. Most of them are good people who want a good life, and believe that they can find it behind the wheel of a big rig.
Next time you see someone on the road, moving freight, offer them a friendly wave. They’re people just like you and me.