For most drivers on highways in the United States, there is a negative impression of truck drivers – or at least their driving – but the importance of the trucking industry regarding the economy of the United States cannot be overstated.
Larry, a truck driver from Texas, said that “Nobody wants to follow a truck – they want to pass you – but then they do and just sit right in front of you going so slow it’s stupid because a truck weighs more than a car – it takes longer to stop once it gets going – and you really don’t want me on your bumper.”
Without the miles put in every day by truck drivers, the economy would collapse. Robert, a truck driver from Oklahoma, stated, “Everything you own, build, drive, or wear – everything on the shelves has been trucked at some point in time.”
Robert had some of the same ideas as Larry about problems on the highways regarding the mix of trucks and cars. Robert said, “Nobody wants to ride behind a truck, but they won’t stay out the way, so when a trucker finally passes’em, all of a sudden they think we’re driving like a bat out of hell.”
Robert’s chief complaint about trucking is “being on the road all of the time”. In addition, he said, “It’s a madhouse out here – regardless of the traffic. It only takes one maniac to cause problems for everybody on the road, and driving all day, it doesn’t take long to find ’em.”
Robert stated, “I was in Illinois a few days ago, and I saw a truck layin’ in the river.” He laughed with a tinge of disappointment and said, “I guess somebody drove it off in there somehow,” then described how several large cranes were trying to remove the 18-wheeler from the river.
Despite being a truck driver, Robert admitted, “Truckers are driving just as bad these days – I can’t make excuses for’em. Everybody is just looking out for themselves, whether in cars or in trucks – and that’s the biggest problem out here for everybody.”
Despite the oftentimes negative impression of truck drivers by the public, Robert said that the best part of driving a truck is the independence. Others may schedule his load and designate the location and deadline for delivery, but it is his responsibility to drive those miles and to actually make it on time.
Robert said that when a truck driver who works for a company is late in delivering, then the company fines the driver and takes money out of his or her paycheck, which is incentive enough for him at least to be punctual. He commented that in his opinion those who “truck for themselves” as opposed to company-drivers are in general “more courteous, more hard-working, and get along better.”
He detailed that there are weigh-stations along the highways to ensure safety, but it is the trucker’s responsibility to check his own weight at truck-stops before ever getting on the road. He also assumes the responsibility of checking other people’s work, such as the security of the load on some of the trailers he pulls.
Robert said that along with regular fuel-prices around the country, the price of diesel gasoline has increased dramatically as well. He stated that in previous years, there was a larger variety of gas prices around the country, while “these days, it’s just about the same everywhere.”
Robert said, “Income is not necessarily about how much money you make, it is also about how much money you have to spend – because I spent over $40,000 just in fuel last year, and I’m on track to spend $60,000 this year, if that tells you anything about the increase in fuel-prices.”
Robert stated that in addition to inconsiderate drivers and high cost of diesel, drugs are also a problem in the trucking industry, but he said, “Really, they’re probably not any worse in the trucking business than they are in the rest of society. Drugs are a problem in most places, not just the trucking business.”
He stated that drivers face periodic tests to ensure that they are not using drugs to work the long hours and drive the endless miles they need to cover in order to make a living.
Robert said, “A good trucker doesn’t need drugs to drive – but needs to be attentive, alert, and know what he is doing at all times – just like everybody else in any kind of vehicle on the highway.”