Driver, it’s not your job to decide who gets paper products and who does not. It’s your job to get the shipment to its destination on time and without any incidents. Driver, we don’t want to hear any excuses – now get started and don’t come back till it’s done. No one cares if you don’t feel good today, because this job is for better or worse, in sickness and in health, now get going! Most of us have heard these words. And some of us have repeated these same words followed by, “I do!” Now, if you’re one of them, you learned quickly there is a price to pay for comments.
Whether it’s in our family life or our professional associations, commitment and dedication are two of the qualities, along with honesty, that set those good operators apart from the rest. The whole trucking industry has been turned upside down in the month of April. I had written an entirely different article for this month then, after some crazy miles and a few long nights, I decided to change things up and to lighten the mood by looking for some positive stuff. So, if you’re expecting to read earth-shattering facts or see life-changing material this month, I’m sorry. Not today.
Where do we start? First off, with a hearty “thank you” to all the drivers and their peeps for carrying the nation in this time of need. It would not be fair to single out any one group since all of us are needed to make the world go around. Two months ago, I was an unwanted, unnecessary, loud, rude inconvenience on the highways of America – boy, what a difference no toilet paper makes. As soon as there was a run on the local supermarkets, we started to see folks treat us better. We can only hope they remember who it was that pushed hard through the dark of night and ran uphill both ways in the snow to get Charlene her Charmin.
Not only did you drivers get the stores restocked, but you did it faster and safer than anyone ever could have guessed. Now drivers, it’s okay to smile and shake your head – oh, go ahead and take a bow, you earned it. This “atta-boy” goes out to all the families that have gone without their loved ones at home through this, too. There is a whole host of support staff that has kept the wheels turning. On any average day, we drivers just look out the window and stay inside the cocoon of our cab, oblivious to much of the world outside. That was until a couple weeks ago when everything went to heck.
To the average consumer, all those groceries, materials and dry goods they have become accustomed to seeing in the stores just disappeared one day. Who ever thought that could happen here? This is ‘Merica – home of the brave and the land of the free. Well, that was until most states started shutting down and people stopped going to work unless they were “essential” (whatever that means). It means you, driver. Finally, after all these years of providing on-time quality service delivering goods and services to the average person, we are recognized as being essential. When all hell cut loose, they were looking for someone to save them. That’s right, they were looking for Big Riggers to save the day – again!
I haven’t seen anyone wearing a cape yet, but I do see many wearing gloves and face masks, in conjunction with government guidelines. Even a few of you outlaws are following the rules and helping fellow drivers. That is a welcomed sight. I can’t remember a time when I have seen more drivers of all stripes being courteous to each other. Most of you know I’m and old guy, so I must look feeble to some folks. Come on, I’m only gonna be 85 in another 20 years, but thanks for checking on me and looking out for me. I really do mean that. Just the simple acts of holding open doors and speaking to me brightens my day. If you aren’t able to shake hands or don’t speak the language, at least nod your head and wave.
How many of you are experiencing the new normal of less traffic? I know I am, and I could get used to it, if given the chance. I don’t believe it will last much longer, but let’s give a shout out to all the safe miles driven during the FMCSA’s exemption of the HOS (hours of service). Once again, gentleman, take a bow, and ladies if you will, curtsies. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I do hope that the people in high places are taking notice of this and will possibly give us a break when this is over and drop some of the burdensome regulations that now govern our every move.
I have also noticed that, even with the lower volumes of traffic and the urgency of freight schedules, most of the drivers out here are still using good driving practices. By lifting the 14-hour rule, I think a lot of you have slowed down and been much more courteous to each other. I used to only get “the wave” from other LCOs (large car operators), but in the last few weeks, I see most of you are doing it. This is a good thing, since we are all members of the same brotherhood (ladies, that includes you, as well). When we take time to recognize each other and make eye contact as we pass, there should be fewer accidents and less road rage between drivers.
Maybe some of you have been the recipient of the free lunches for drivers that have popped up all over. If so, enjoy and take the time to pass your good fortune on to others. I haven’t gotten a free lunch anywhere, but just tonight, at the Pilot in Wellton/Yuma, Arizona, they did give all the drivers (myself included) free drinks. That may not seem like much, but if you add up the cost of every driver that goes through there, it’s a bunch of money. I only mention this because food has become hard to find at times. I don’t like fast food, and for those of us with food allergies and other disorders, this can be concerning. I tend to use the smaller fuel stops, and only a few of them have restaurants – most of which are now closed, since there is little carry out business for them.
Folks like me, the older set, may not be too tech savvy, so ordering online is more than a little challenging. Just last week I tried to order from Burger King’s to-go menu, and something went wrong. Instead of getting a Whopper with pickles and no cheese, I called in an Army air strike on the T/A next door! I’m only kidding. No pets or fancy trucks were injured during the writing of this article. It is nice to know, however, that some of you are helping fellow drivers to cope with this by placing orders for us or getting through to the restaurants what it is we drivers really want and need.
Oh, what I would give to set down at the T/A on Friday night and order the Cajun Blackened Fish. Make that the all-you-can-eat, please. Sure, bring on the hot black coffee, and can I get Texas toast with that, too? All this to-go food is getting old, and I’ve been questioned twice by the local police for loitering. True story. I’ve had to explain that for weeks I’ve sat in the cab, behind the wheel, and forced myself to eat cold sandwiches and canned meat three times a day. I think many drivers, including me, are starting to experience cabin fever. Both times the officers have offered to take me someplace to get food, but sorry, there’s no place to sit down and dine, which is really what I want.
When all this self-quarantine is over, we must remember to use the truck stop restaurants, and try to make up for all their lost wages. If we don’t, those places will close for good, and then we will be standing in parking lots and eating sack lunches for a very long time. Should you happen to see one of your favorite waiters or waitresses working in the truck stop, doing other duties, don’t be afraid to tip them just like you would in the restaurant. The stops are doing their best to keep some of these people on the payroll, so do your part and help them out. Most of us are still driving, and our wages haven’t seen that much of a decrease, so step up and help. And I’m not talking about flipping them a quarter. Traditionally, a trucker’s tip has been $2.00, but now I think I will be dropping them a fish ($5.00). Come on, you’re a big-time roller, you can afford it!
I would like to send a special shout out to the Texas Roadhouse for the great job they have done to accommodate us. Between providing parking for our trucks and feeding us some incredible meals, they have gone way beyond the call of duty. Personally, I am voting to make them the official non truck stop restaurant of the year and give them the “Truckers Choice Best Stop” award when all this is over. I have not been in an area where I could take advantage of their services, but when I do get home, you can bet that Aunt Barb and I will be ordering from their menu and sitting in a dining room close to home.
There have been many restaurants and service centers that have stepped up to service us trucker, and they all deserve an “atta-boy” from everyone, but the drivers, specifically, should be the ones giving back to them. It’s wonderful to hear the President of the United States call us out and thank us for delivering the goods, but don’t forget all those support people who help us to look cool on the stool and neat in the seat, as we stroll down life’s highway. This has been a group effort, and we aren’t done yet. So, stay on task and keep rolling those rigs through the countryside. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber on the road, drivers, because America is now watching the new Knights of the Road being born. Now roll on, 10-4!