Observations of a n00b trucker

16 05 2008

A friend of mine just changed careers. Again. (Let’s see: army, history teacher, school principal, security guard, trucker. That’s 3, maybe 4, very different career fields, 5 different careers. Actually that’s about right for the average American: 4 or 5 career changes in their life time.) So I talked to him the other day after his first cross country run about his observations as a new trucker. What did he like, not like, what did he find surprising. Here are his observations.

Driving is fun, and the seat height gives a great view of the surrounding area. There is so much to see, the scenery is beautiful. Driving cross country reminds me of the fact that America is a vast area, and very diverse geographically and socially.

Truckers are nice. Everyone was very willing to be helpful to a new driver, taking the time and patiently explaining things; other professions seem to have people who are not as friendly or helpful. Not a single trucker was belligerent or negative.

Trucking is long hours.

It is interesting to pull into a parking lot with 1000 other trucks. It is a small city, and impromptu city, with all the things that go on in a small city.

Truck stop food is better than he expected, but it’s not home cooking! The showers are clean, and there is plenty of hot water, and after several days driving, it is wonderful!

No one uses CB handles as was common in the 70’s, or as you might expect by watching Smokey and the Bandit.

Trucks move along nicely at 75 & 80 mph. The big ol’ diesel engines are made to work well under a load, and that they do very well.

Trucks brake better loaded than they do empty, and a truck with to trailer brakes even worse. (I guess it’s kind of like a loaded pickup truck keeping its back wheels on the ground when it has a load, or a car with a couple bags of sand in the trunk for driving in snowy/icy weather.)

Fuel (that’s diesel to us car drivers) was running $4.10 a gallon, and a normal truck holds 300 gallons. Money for fuel adds up quickly!

Traffic out west is great! Virtually non-existent. Which is a pleasant change to what he is used to on I-95 and I-81 in the east.

However, downtown Chicago is no fun to drive during Friday afternoon rush hour.

Some trucks have “EZ Pass” type thingies hanging in their cabs. Weigh stations make use of them to identify a truck before it gets to the weigh station, and can use the lights on the thingie to tell the driver to continue without stopping or come in to check papers. (You may have noticed a street light type thing hanging over the interstate a little ways before a weigh station: that is the sensor that reads the “EZ Pass” thingie and sends the info to the control center in the weigh station.)

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