Reference 8 Yellow Snow’s trucker rant:
Almost all truckers are paid by the mile. Mile hauling cargo, that is. They don’t earn a cent dead-heading home, waiting for assigned loading dock times, sitting idle in blizzards or bumper-to-bumper traffic, stopping for meals, filling out paperwork and log books, or pulling over for mandatory rest periods. They can’t do much about the first three situations, but they can do something about the last three. They can eat while they’re driving. They can write or enter data while they’re driving. And they can cheat on the rules governing hours of driving and rest. Sure, they get inspected, and sure, getting inspected is a disincentive to cheat . . . but many do, and odds are they’ll get away with it.
The truck drivers you share the road with aren’t just driving: they’re taking instructions from dispatchers on SATCOM or cell phones; using the CB to monitor traffic, road conditions, weather, and law enforcement (and bullshit with other truckers); and steering with their knees while they drink, eat, and type log entries onto their laptops. Downright scary. In fact, what could be scarier? This: about 25 percent of these multi-tasking truckers are dead tired, nodding off, or actually asleep at the wheel.
This past summer, I delivered motorhomes for a major West Coast RV dealership. The job required a commercial driver’s license and we had to comply with CDL rules, just like any truck or bus driver. But motorhome delivery drivers aren’t inspected, and no one audits the log books. The result? Cheating on rest is standard operating procedure.
As in the rest of the trucking industry, our drivers were paid by the mile, but only when delivering the motorhome. On a one-way delivery, you got home on your own dime. All the more reason to get there and back home again as quickly as possible, in order to bag another delivery. Some of these guys – and I am not exaggerating – would routinely drive 16 to 20 hours at a stretch.
Because I was a new driver, our dispatcher would send me on trips with other drivers, operating in caravans of multiple motorhomes. At first, I stayed in trail with the other drivers, but one night, after driving 14 hours straight, a kangaroo leapt across the road between my motorhome and the one in front of me. Since I was just south of Bend, Oregon at the time, I figured I was hallucinating, and decided then and there to quit cheating on mandatory rest. After that I refused to drive more than 10 hours straight, and made sure I got adequate rest – one good thing about delivering motorhomes is that there’s a comfortable bed in back!
Anyway, 8 Yellow Snow, and all the rest of you drivers, here’s my advice: be afraid and drive defensively. That truck driver you’re about to pass might not just be distracted by a cell phone call, he might be taking a nap.
© 2005 – 2006, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.