Just a sample of a random car cutting off a random big truck. Image from livetrucking.com
We’re Big and Slow; You’re Small and Fast – We Get It
Let’s pretend I understand. You’re the driver of a small, fast vehicle. You’re in your sedan / hatchback / SUV / pickup truck –or on your motorcycle – and you want to get where you’re going as fast as possible. You’re willing to put up with some traffic, stop signs and lights and even a bit of bad weather. You’re even prepared to cope with smaller delivery trucks, garbage trucks and the like.
But evidently, from my experience, you’re not much ready to deal with the big boys of the road: the space-hogging tractor-trailers — the very same vehicles that bring all the things you love including food, clothes and cars themselves, to the places where you flock to buy them.
I appreciate that you don’t want to be behind, or even beside or near, one of these monsters. They’re huge, they move slowly (especially when gearing up), they need extra space to make wide turns and they’re scary to be nearby because they will crunch you in a collision.
Maybe most annoyingly, they often block you out even when they don’t intend to. Continue reading
Somewhere on a mountain highway in Virginia or West Virginia
Driving along I-77 in West Virginia and Virginia can be riveting. The green mountain scenery is astonishing, the air is fresh and cool, the highway curves are long and well-marked and there are several well-maintained roadside rest areas. As a rookie truck driver, I can see that stretches like this are what driving a tractor-trailer is all about.
While many friends and former coworkers are nestled in restrictive office cubicles, I’m out on the open road, enjoying the vistas while maintaining good speed and keeping a cautious watch for bad or distracted drivers … in cars, small trucks, motorcycles and even other tractor-trailers.
Eager for Enjoyment
I’ve been driving on my own for over six months now. Each week I head to North and South Carolina to drop off and pick up an interesting array of goods, including machinery, auto parts, clothes and toys. In this time, I’ve found there’s one thing that sticks with me and comes second only to safety: the desire to enjoy this career and all its trappings. Continue reading
A Test of Patience
This is a reminder to me, to make everyone feel safe when I’m driving.
Damn all of the tests and exams I did in high school, university and college. Yes, I graduated from all three institutions. In doing so, I succumbed to the opinions and whims of many teachers, professors and instructors.
You want to know what’s the most damning? Look where all that learning and eternal quizzing got me: a career path that’s disheveled and endlessly discouraging. Sometimes I long to live out the rest of my years on an Nepalese mountainside, actively practicing Buddhism. This past summer, I decided on a career path that’s designed to rescue me from visions of eternal career failure. Guess what I unwittingly pitted myself against? That’s right: more tests and exams.
In the truck driving business, you get trained to get tested. Yeah, I realize life in general is like that. But for the longest time I was evaluated on the type of work I was very good at: writing and relating. Continue reading
Driving Beyond Fear
Where will the road take me now that I have my truck driver’s license?
A few months ago, I hastily vowed to do something every day that scares the stuffing out of me. I was thinking along the lines of ordering a drink at Starbucks that I’d never tried before. I figured I’d work my way up from there. Eventually, I would try something like parasailing. Then along came this goofy idea to become a truck driver. It was my vision for salvaging my career, post journalism.
It’s a good thing I’m a little fearless. Otherwise, the last two months might have overwhelmed me. Driving an 18-wheeler is not for the faint of spirit. I learned to do it through many hours on the road and in the trucking yard. Recently, I learned that as scary as it is to drive the giant truck with an instructor beside you, it’s even more daunting to take a driver’s test with an examiner next to you, critiquing your every move.
If that’s not scary enough, how about driving a big rig with manual transmission, when you’ve never learned stick shifting in a car? Upshifting and downshifting is tough enough, but try doing it while still paying complete attention to all 70-plus feet of your tractor-trailer. That’s my current challenge. Judging by the buildup of tightness in my neck muscles, it’s been arduous. Continue reading