Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quesadillas in a Truck

Eating on the road can get expensive.  If you eat 3 meals a day at a truck stop, you can plan on budgeting somewhere around $25 per day for food.  That can 'eat' into a driver's budget quickly and make a dent in your income.

Most drivers opt to only eat in a truck stop occasionally, and find less expensive alternatives.

A refrigerator or cooler in your truck really helps.  You can prepare food at home and take it with you, and stop from time to time for some basic groceries.

Even without a refrigerator you can carry quite a bit of food with you to help keep costs down.

This is all for survival.  We all have to eat.

But I have another challenge.  I also like to cook.

So I asked Diann to keep her eyes open for some time of small appliance I could use on my truck to do some basic cooking.

It wasn't long until she found me a sandwich maker at a thrift store.

It plugs into the power inverter in my truck, but they are also available in 12 volt models for those without power options.

The first chance I got I fired it up and tried it out.

You can use sliced bread, but this time I used Tortillas.

20150921_213102

A bit of shredded cheese

20150921_213126

And some precooked chicken.

20150921_213214

Folded it over and closed it up.

20150921_213232

20150921_213248

And then just waited.

It took about 90 seconds.

20150921_214431

In no time at all I had a whole plate of them.

20150921_21362220150921_21373520150921_21430320150921_215130

Easy to make and easy to eat, either sitting at a dock or driving down the road.

When I cook in a truck, I try to make food that wont end up on my shirt.

This one was a success.  I’ll be making them again soon.

And I can use whatever I happen to have on hand.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Looking at the World Through a Windshield

I’ve been all around this country and seen almost all of it through a windshield at one point or another.  Every state, every region, every part has its’ own beauty, from the cities to the prairies to the mountains to the bayous.  Each is unique, each has its’ own characteristics and each is part of what makes up the USA.

20150910_185551

 

The world looks a little bit different when viewed through a windshield.  If you are paying attention, you usually see what’s coming toward you, then, when it gets there, you see it in a blink of an eye and once it’s gone there’s no looking back.

Sometimes, someone cuts in from a side road or behind an obstacle and you have to take evasive action to avoid catastrophe.  But if you are prepared and organized, alert and aware, you do what you need to do, and keep on trucking.

20150914_193423

Occasionally, you may find yourself on the same old road, back and forth, seeing the same things, watching the same trees go by.

20150911_154341

Sometimes, if you drive along for too many miles in flat country, with nothing to break up the scenery, you may get a bit complacent. You may not be quite as alert as you could be, you let your guard down.

That’s when it happens.

A tire blows out. A truck drifts into your lane. A deer runs across the road. A car swerves to miss the deer, coming right in front of you.  An oncoming drivers falls asleep and crosses  the median.

If you aren’t ready for it, things can get ugly real fast.

20150908_144544

In a blink of an eye everything changes, and suddenly you find yourself using everything you have and pulling on strengths and tapping into inner reserves you didn’t know were there just to stay upright, pointed in the right direction.

By the time you think about it, it’s over and you are either OK, and you move on, or you or somebody else is left trying to salvage the pieces from the wreckage.

20150908_162641

Life is like driving a truck.

We see a lot of things, each unique and individual, we get to enjoy a lot of different experiences, and we have some that are not so enjoyable (kind of like driving a truck through Atlanta, or Chicago.)

If we look ahead and pay attention, we can usually see things coming toward us, we do what we need to and then when they reach us, they are over in the blink of an eye and generally there is no looking back.

Often something will pop up unexpected, but if we are alert we take a little bit of action and keep on trucking.

But like driving a truck, if we aren’t careful, if we get stuck on that same road, seeing the same trees, and not paying attention, we get tunnel vision.

2015-09-09 18.15.14

When the unexpected becomes reality, we are left using everything we have and sometimes more, just to keep upright and not be the ones picking up the pieces.

Enjoy today, enjoy what you see through your windshield, But don’t let yourself fall asleep at the wheel.

Stay alert, Be sure of where you are going and be safe!

20150919_113101

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Ones Behind The Ones Behind The Wheel

Concrete cowboys. Heroes of the highway. Modern day drovers.

You hear a lot of different terms used to describe the drivers that pilot the rigs that move the nation.  Especially in September , when we celebrate Truck Driver Appreciation Week. (Sept 13-19 2015)

It's a demanding job. It requires commitment, strong work ethics, dedication, and yes... sacrifice.

A trucker misses out on so many things.  Birthdays, holidays, family functions, little league  games, that first word/step/tooth/day of school.

Even local drivers make sacrifices. If you work a traditional 9-5 and have to go home early, its usually not a big deal. For a trucker to go home early it can be a logistical nightmare involving an entire team, as planners, dispatchers and support staff, shuffle loads around to get the truck and the freight to where it needs to be.

A successful driver has a successful team behind them, and soon we will talk about some of the things that team can do to make life better, or worse, for the drivers who work with them.

But today I want to talk about an even more critical support staff.  The people at home.

Over the road trucking can be destructive to a relationship. Being apart for long periods of time, the reputation the industry has, the long working hours and the stress of the job,
the financial challenges of having to maintain what in essence amounts to two separate households, the distraction and the uncertainty all take their toll.

Any trainer will tell you that the majority of new drivers who don't make it through the first year, quit, not because they can't drive the truck or handle the job itself, but because of the pressure from their significant other. Once they realize what loving a truck driver entails, its not as exciting any more.

Yes, being a truck driver is tough.

But not as tough as loving one.

As a driver I give up my home life, and that isn't easy. But at least I trade it for something.

I get to travel, see new places and things, explore the country and do it all while "playing trucks."

My wife, on the other hand, trades her time with her husband, for an empty chair at the table, an empty spot in her world.

This job requires dedication and commitment from me, but it also requires dedication and commitment from her.

Without that, I wouldn't be able to do what I do.

I'm not saying every driver needs to be married, or be in a relationship. But if they are, then the other person in the relationship needs to be just as committed to keeping that truck moving.

Without that commitment life turns into a constant battle between the job and home, where eventually they both suffer, and everyone loses out in the end.

If you are thinking about becoming a driver, please make sure the people you love understand it will require you to miss important days, be away for long periods of time,  be awake when they sleep and asleep when they are wake, and not always available to talk, chat, or text.

If you love a truck driver, please understand that just because they aren't always there it doesn't mean they love you any less.  If they don't immediately answer your text or phone call it doesn't necessarily mean they are mad at you,  and if they are grumpy after 14 hour day picking up or delivering in Chicago, Dallas, or Atlanta, don't take it personal.

If you work with drivers, as a dispatcher or support staff, please remember they are constantly balancing their commitment to you with their commitment to their home and family. Don't make them choose. You'll only make them miserable.

And if you are a driver, never, ever forget that your loved ones make a sacrifice and take a chance, right along with you, every time you get behind the wheel.

In upcoming posts I want to talk about some of the things my wife and I do to make things a little easier on both of us, and I'm hoping  to talk my wife into contributing as well.

Please take a minute this week, as you are appreciating truck drivers, and say a special thank you to the ones who make it possible for them to do what they do.

Although it probably doesn't take a village to drive a truck, I just want to finish with what I call the Truck Drivers' Toast, dedicated to the 'ones behind the ones behind the wheel.'

Truck Drivers' Toast

Here's  to the the team in the office,
who make sure I always have work.
They all tolerate me,
And try not to hate me,
At times when I act like a jerk.

And here's to the guys in the warehouse,
For quickly receiving my load.
They don't make me wait,
To unload my freight,
So I can get back on the road.

And here's to the crew at the scalehouse,
For watching and waving me through.
We talk bad about them,
But can't do without them.
They have a job to do too.

And here's to the waitress, back there at the truckstop,
Who smiles and calls everyone "Hon."
Her name tag says Velma,
or Norma, or Thelma
She's worked there since '71.

Yeah, here's to the new friends I've met on the road,
And all the great people I've known.
But let's raise a toast
To the ones we love most.
Here's to the folks back at home.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Introduction

1441576824055 

This blog will explore the world of trucking from the perspective of an over the road driver. 

  • If you are a fellow driver, you may be able to relate. 
  • If you are a prospective driver or student in a truck driving school, you may learn some things that help you as you enter the industry.
  • If you are considering trucking as a career, perhaps I can help you make up your mind.
  • If you are a friend, family member, or significant other of a driver, this may help you get a little bit of a idea of what life is like out here. 
  • If you are a shipper, receiver, warehouseman, dispatcher, or member of law enforcement, it may help you see things from the other side of the windshield.
  • If you are none of those things, and just want to read about what it is like, then maybe it will introduce you to a whole new world.

My rotation schedule calls for me to be on the road for eighteen days and home for three, cycling every three weeks or twenty one days.   As the average big rig truck has eighteen wheels, (10 on the tractor and 8 on the trailer) 18 Days on 18 Wheels seemed like an appropriate name.

Over the next many pages, my plan is to discuss  some of the challenges that truckers face, as well as some of the rewards they reap; To explore  some of the day to day life of the driver, trucking lingo and industry news; To show you things a truck driver sees, and help you know what a truck driver thinks and feels.

  I hope that if I intersperse pictures, stories, and thoughts from my own experiences that I can keep it from getting too boring.

20150906_020000

So let me get some of the boring stuff out of the way now.

I got my first professional driving job in 1985, delivering beauty supplies in a panel van in Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden Utah.  I drove a variety of trucks, for a variety of companies, each progressively larger, and was driving a tractor trailer when the CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) was made mandatory in 1992.  I only drove locally, until 1999, when I made the leap to over the road, or long haul trucking.  

A dock accident in 2005, put me out of commission for a while, but after a lot of physical therapy, and with the newer equipment, I was finally able to return to driving in January of 2015.  I have just over 1.5 Million miles of truck driving experience, and currently haul refrigerated freight out of Missouri, to mostly eastern  and southeastern states.

20150904_194138

Over the years, I have driven a wide variety of makes and models of trucks and pulled a variety of different trailers and freight.  As of the date I am writing this, I have driven a truck in 47 of the 48 lower states, and several provinces of Canada.  (I keep hoping for that load to get me to Vermont, but it hasn't happened yet.)

I am proud to be part of an industry that is vital to the quality of life of most people.  No matter what you have, what you eat, what you wear, odds are pretty good that a truck driver helped bring it to you.  It is a proud occupation, a part of the heritage of our nation. 

More than just an occupation, trucking is a lifestyle.

I hope to share a little bit of that lifestyle with you.