Windshield Time

There are numerous things that happen to a driver who stays out on the road for weeks at a time.  Being lonely, having no one to talk to, staring at a line on the ground for hours, days, and weeks, can really play mind games with some people.  Some types of people really aren't cut out for driving Over-The-Road.

I've met people who simply have mental breakdowns after weeks on the road.  They think they can drive from one town to another, so it must be an easy job right?  Sure, driving a hundred miles in a day is easy, but try driving a thousand miles in a day and then doing it every other day for 3 straight weeks.  Now start adding those weeks together and make them into months and years.

Usually in a day, the average person interacts with other people at work, in their family, or their circle of friends. Truckers, on the other hand, can go 2 or 3 days between social interactions and then it can be as limited as simply signing for a trailer load of freight.  Trucking is a solitary enterprise.  Successful truckers should be able to exist and pay attention to their surroundings without all of the modern devices that are available.

Modern day truckers have cell phones and computers to keep their minds occupied on the road, but the freedom to use these devices is being threatened by lawsuits and accidents. The fact is that there is still only one way to be a safe Over-The-Road truck driver.  It involves not using any modern devices.

It involves paying attention every second of the day that you are anywhere near the truck.  No distractions.  One wrong distraction can cost lives.  That isn't something you want to be responsible for.  Driving a semi-truck is NOTHING like driving a car.  The only similarity is that there is a steering wheel and pedals.  Outside of that it is impossible to compare the two.  The mental games that truckers have to deal with in the course of their day can range from lying support personnel in the form of a dispatcher who needs to get the driver to do something for the company to false information from the shipper or receiver regarding anything to do with a load.

If a driver lets anything cloud their judgement on the road, it isn't going to end well.  I know a retired driver who spent just about every evening reading the regulations pertaining to his trucking business.  He knew the regulations so well, that he would teach the Department Of Transportation officers how to do their jobs better in his spare time.  He spent his life knowing his truck, his environment, his customers, and the law.

When I started this line of work, there were none of these distractions in the form of technology.  They are nothing short of a modern day menace.  The cell phone rings, and you take your eyes off the road.  You stop the truck for the night and stare at a computer screen for a few hours instead of sleeping or going for a walk to get some exercise.  Smart phones show facebook updates at all hours of the day and night.

I prefer to turn the phone, the computer, and even the radio off when working with a semi-truck.  As tempting as it is to have all of them available, they take attention away from the road.  In my opinion, if you can't stand paying 100% attention to your surroundings while operating a semi-truck, you have no business behind the wheel.  I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to playing with the new technology as it hits the market, but not while operating a semi-truck.  There is a time and a place to entertain yourself, and it certainly not when you are driving 40 tons down the highway.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You are absolutely right. Driving an 18 wheeler is nothing like driving a car. A truck driver has to be like a general in battle. He has to see the big picture instead of like the soldier, who is only seeing his next adversary. You have to look ahead, paying attention to strange lights, brake lights 2 miles ahead, if the area you are driving through starts to look like there are more and more driveways you have to notice that and be ready for anything. When you are in your car, you can set the cruise, turn on the radio and chill. Not in a truck. In a truck, you should always be like a deer in hunting season, always looking, listening, every nerve pricked up, knowing that eventually, something, a car, a trooper, an animal is going to get you. Being a paranoid trucker will save you. Always be vigilant, always be ready, never let your guard down, never settle in and relax. Relaxing is for when you get to a truck stop. But if you are driving, eyes ahead, both hands on the wheel and pay attention to every sign, taillight, driveway, workzone and weather.