Ten Questions for Truckers

 

Among the posts I most enjoy reading on Ricochet are those from contributor Dave Carter. Not only are they well-written and entertaining, but they come from a unique perspective born of fascinating life experiences. I say this not in any condescending way (ah, you’ve got to love those “real Americans” out there), but as someone who’s always been interested in what a trucker’s life is like. Assuming I’m not alone in that interest, I thought I’d presume to put some questions to Dave, in no particular order, about life on the road. Dave, I’m sure you’ve been asked most of these a hundred times—and you should feel no obligation to answer any, much less all, of them, but these are some of the things we non-18-wheeler-drivers think about as you pass by.

In these days of cell phones and other new technologies, are CB radios still important to you? Do they provide anything that other modern technologies can’t provide, or are they held on to in some sort of “romance of the road” sense?

When kids try to encourage you to blow your horn, do you do it? I assume kids still pull down on an imagery cord imploring you to sound off for them. Do you ever oblige?

How much of trucker-to-trucker talk involves things like short skirts spotted in passenger cars? Or is that only in the movies and on TV?

Is the food at truck stops any better or worse than the average food on the road? And, by extension do you guys really know the best places to eat?

What are some of the worst things other drivers do to make your job more difficult or dangerous? I really try to consider truckers when I’m on the road, rather than think of their rigs as merely impediments to my travels.

What goes on at weigh stations? I’m guessing they’re pretty boring, but they seem really cool to the rest of us.

How big a safety concern is sleep deprivation? In a business where time is often money, do a lot of truckers drive when perhaps they shouldn’t?

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about truckers? These questions might reflect a lot of them.

Are police any harder or easier on you? I assume it varies quite a bit, but I wonder if there’s a general attitude one way or the other.

Is there an overall trucker policy on hitchhikers or motorists who need help? Hitchhiking used to be a lot more commonplace than it is today. It would seem to be a risky proposition for truckers.

And, in the spirit of “turnabout is fair play,” I’ll answer the question most asked of me about my fascinating life: no, Vanna doesn’t get to keep her clothes.

There are 46 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MichaelTee

    Why do you pass each other on I-85 or I-81 by going 0.0001 mph faster than the truck in the slow lane?

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    @HumzaAhmad
    Pat Sajak: And, in the spirit of “turnabout is fair play,” I’ll answer the question most asked of me about my fascinating life: no, Vanna doesn’t get to keep her clothes. ·

    Do you get to keep any of yours?

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    @Pilgrim
    Humza Ahmad

    Pat Sajak: And, in the spirit of “turnabout is fair play,” I’ll answer the question most asked of me about my fascinating life: no, Vanna doesn’t get to keep her clothes. ·

    Do you get to keep any of yours? · Sep 21 at 6:25am

    Do you get to wear any of hers?

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    @user_19450
    Michael Tee: Why do you pass each other on I-85 or I-81 by going 0.0001 mph faster than the truck in the slow lane? · Sep 21 at 6:23am

    Amen to that, Michael.

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    @Franco

    I think they do it on purpose.

    Songwriter

    Michael Tee: Why do you pass each other on I-85 or I-81 by going 0.0001 mph faster than the truck in the slow lane? · Sep 21 at 6:23am

    Amen to that, Michael. · Sep 21 at 6:32am
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    @DaveCarter

    Pat, it will take awhile for me to hit all of those, but I will, trust me. I’m leaving Poratge, WI this morning with 40,000 lbs of perfume oil that is supposed to be in Pineville, LA tomorrow, so time is of the essence. For now, yes indeedy, I hit the air horn for the kids, assuming traffic is light and no one will think I’m blasting for another reason. For now, I gotta roll. More to follow.

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    @PatSajak
    Dave Carter: For now, I gotta roll. More to follow. · Sep 21 at 7:29am

    10-4, good buddy. (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

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    @DaveCarter

    On the passing thing (I couldn’t resist this one), many of our trucks are governed at certain speeds. Mine is governed at 60 mph, for example. But I’m sure that even if it was restricted to 45 mph, some genius would drive at 42 on general principle. So I try to pass when safe, but I can’t rocket to a high speed. Now, the problem is aggravated by the varying weights we carry, which is aggravated still further in hilly areas like I-85 or I-81, among others. A truck weighing 80,000 lbs crawls up the hill, so lighter trucks will try to pass. But these things aren’t sports cars, so it takes awhile. I usually back off the throttle when another truck is passing me, ’cause I’m nice like that, see? What drives us batty is when a car overtakes us on an incline, and then gets in front of us going 52 mph on the downside when we really need to build up some speed for the next mountain ahead. As long as the brakes hold, everybody gets to go home.

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    @SteveMacDonald

    Dave, I run a trucking company in the UK. I don’t know if you are an independent or work for a transport company. If it is the latter, what to they do that annoys you the most?

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    @MelFoil

    Another interesting variation is the husband and wife driving team. Frankly, I don’t know how they keep from killing each other after so much time together in tight quarters. Maybe it works because one is awake and one is asleep. I knew a couple that did that, before they got divorced.

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    @AaronMiller

    Police along I-10 occasionally perform stings on truckers (for speeding, I presume).

    Dave Carter: As long as the brakes hold, everybody gets to go home. · Sep 21 at 7:44am

    Some people are too impatient to wait at a traffic light when no traffic is passing through. I spoke with a trucker once who had some idiot run a red light in front of him in the middle of the night. He told me he was standing on the brake for what felt like forever, but he just couldn’t stop all that weight. The person in the car died.

    Be safe, folks.

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    @HumphreyBenjamin

    “I really try to consider truckers when I’m on the road, rather than think of their rigs as merely impediments to my travels.”

    I used to be in the impediment camp until the recession. I now use truck traffic as anecdotal evidence of economic strength. The more trucks I see on the highway (and train whistles I hear in the distance) the happier I am.

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    @MarkWoodworth

    I heard an anecdote that Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a Nobel laureate physicist, claimed to have ‘written’ most of his books while driving back and forth between Yerkes Observatory in Geneva Wisconsin and the University of Chicago. There is something meditative in that altered state of consciousness called windshield time. I don’t expect to become a long haul driver any time soon, but I have felt a pull in that direction.

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    @

    Do you mind if I draft off your truck, if I promise to be real careful?

    (I once had to do this for over 1000 miles– I was moving to a different state, in the summer, in a dinky little car pulling a U-HAUL trailer, and it was not meant for that. The only way I could avoid overheating the poor engine, and probably the automatic transmission too, was to draft behind trucks most of the way…)

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    @

    When someone flashes their brights instead of a quick on off to say thanks makes me laugh…after my eyes clear up! Speed pass makes weigh stations tolerable. Truck stop food better be good, or it ain’t gonna last long!!! CB’s are in full effect…Galaxy 9000 with a amp and swing kit, echo set on a hollow reverb…how bout them smokies southbound…works better then looking at your cellphone and not knowing any ones number going south!

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    @tabularasa

    Dave: I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on your favorite places to drive; and least favorite. And why?

    I drive the SLC to Denver route with some regularity (usually I-80 across Wyoming). Lot’s of trucks and lots of up and down. I’ve never had a bad experience with a trucker. They really are the best drivers on the road.

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    @Misthiocracy

    Dave’s comments are encouraging me to take the train more often. ;-)

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    @PaulDeRocco
    Pat Sajak: Is the food at truck stops any better or worse than the average food on the road? And, by extension do you guys really know the best places to eat? ·

    As a non-truck-driver who’s been across country many times in a car, I’ve always found that to be a myth. If you’re in a normal sized vehicle, your best bet for good food on a long haul is to go into a city and find a restaurant in a Marriott or similar hotel chain.

    • #18
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    @DaveCarter

    Pat, greetings from Cape Girardeau, El Rushbo’s hometown. Great place, and friendly folks. I told the folks in the truckstop that I had to get back to my rig because I am having a conversation with Pat Sajak, and they gave me the number to a reputable therapist. Oh, and my sincere apologies to Chris Deleon, for butchering the spelling of your last name, sir. I’m using the virtual keyboard on my Droid phone, and it is so smart that feels at liberty to substitute another word for the word I actually type. I’ve spoken to it about this, and like the President, it is oblivious.

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    @DaveCarter

    Back to the questions: Have cell phones, etc., made CB radios useless? Not really. We still use them for traffic updates, accident information, police whereabouts, etc. The language has gotten more coarse, and there are times when people just try to start fights, etc., so I don’t use mine consistently. But if there is a traffic jam or if I’m lost, if I’m entering a truck stop and need to know if the parking lot is blocked somewhere, if I’m in a major city or in a major storm and need to stay on top of conditions, I use it. I also hear some pretty good jokes on it from time to time, like the one about this guy who walked into a bar and … wait, I can’t tell that one here.

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    @DaveCarter

    How much truckers talk involves passengers in short skirts, etc? Secrets of the trade. Actually, it depends on the situation, …and the passenger. The chat is just as likely to involve another vehicle who executed a supremely, dangerously assinine maneuver that almost got someone else hurt. Someone passing on the right shoulder is annoying. Someone passing on the right shoulder and coming upon a car parked on the same shoulder is hilarious and the subject of much commentary. About looking at passengers, some females have been known to flash truckers. I’m not sure why they do it, …maybe it’s to keep us awake for reasons of public safety.

    • #21
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    @DaveCarter

    Is truck stop food better or worse than the average food elsewhere on the road? As a general rule, no, not any better, and sometimes significantly worse. Those who have been on the road any length of time know most of the good places, and where to avoid. My favorites tend to be the locally owned truck stops that are not part of the big chain stops. There is one in Vermont that serves a chicken and vegetable soup in a bread bowl that is out of this world. Frog City, in Rayne, LA, has the most friendly people and the best gumbo around. Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tette, LA, isn’t much to look at, but the red beans and rice with alligator sausage is food of the gods. Plus they keep a live tiger on the premises, and a stuffed tiger over the buffet, and how many restaurants can make a claim like that?

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    @DaveCarter

    The worst things other drivers do to make my job more difficult or dangerous? I don’t think it is their fault really, because they just don’t know, but failure to respect the space we need to operate is the biggest danger. It can take a couple of football field lengths to come to a stop at highway speeds, and people that cut right in front of us are in real danger. I once had a family in a little hatchback cut in front of me in Orlando and stop on the interstate to wait for an opening in the exit ramp to Disneyworld. I stood on the brakes, a wall of smoke going up from my tires and blinding traffic behind me. The faces of those children looking up at me from the back seat is seared in my memory. Their idiotic driver cut into a gap in traffic, avoiding my truck by less than a second. I had to pull over after that one and let my nerves settle.

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    @HumzaAhmad
    Dave Carter: The worst things other drivers do to make my job more difficult or dangerous? I don’t think it is their fault really, because they just don’t know, but failure to respect the space we need to operate is the biggest danger. It can take a couple of football field lengths to come to a stop at highway speeds, and people that cut right in front of us are in real danger.

    I will keep this one in mind; thanks for letting us know.

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    @DaveCarter

    A couple of other points about other drivers before I call it a night: If an 18 wheeler signals that he needs to make a lane change, it’s probably for a good reason, so please give him space. Often times, I can see an emergency vehicle on the shoulder, or an RV with someone trying to change a tire right on the white line, or a road crew working in a lane, …things that the cars behind me just can’t see that prompt me to use the turn signal. But before I can safely put The Beast in the next lane, a whole platoon of cars have rushed up to block me in the right-hand lane, endangering other people simply because they don’t want to get caught behind a truck. Are a few more seconds of waiting worth someone’s life? By the same token, if an 18 wheeler ever tailgates you, move over, let him pass, then write down the phone number on his trailer and report him to his company. He is playing with your safety and has no business on the road. This concludes your safety briefing for tonight. Excellent questions, Pat, and I’ll address the others tomorrow.

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    @PaulDeRocco
    Dave Carter: Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tette, LA, isn’t much to look at, but the red beans and rice with alligator sausage is food of the gods. Plus they keep a live tiger on the premises, and a stuffed tiger over the buffet, and how many restaurants can make a claim like that?

    Doesn’t that mean “fat head”? No, wait…

    I assume the stuffed tiger over the buffet keeps the live one on its best behavior.

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    @DaveCarter

    Quick stop here to fuel and stuff groceries down my neck, but I want to answer Chris Seldom’s question about “drafting,” also known as tailgating. If you want to do it, go for it, but there are some things you need to know. If my trailer tires blow out, a huge piece of tread might cause catastrophic damage to your car. If I have to hit the brakes hard, you may not walk away from that one. My one blind spot is about 75 ft directly behind the trailer, so I might not even know you are there. And even if I see your shadow or the reflection of your headlights, if someone cuts me off in front, I have decide whether to brake hard and let you hit me, or run them over to protect you. I’d rather not have to make that decision. Likewise, if you pass an 18 wheeler, don’t be shy about it. I saw an accident scene recently where a big rig had a steer tire blow out. Driver lost control because he couldn’t steer, and the truck rolled, crushing the pickup next him. Stay alert and stay safe. Must run now. The asphalt beckons…

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    @livingthehighlife

    When I was 20, I started driving 18-wheelers and did so for a year and a half. That was almost 20 years ago. It was a wonderful experience, eye-opening, and challenging. And I decided then that as part of a driving course to get a driver’s license, everyone should get behind the wheel for a little bit. Then maybe people would appreciate that 80,000 pounds doesn’t start, turn or stop like a Corvette. I still have immense respect for all truckers – they are the backbone of America.

    Thanks for what you do, Dave. Drive careful.

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    @PatSajak
    Dave Carter: Excellent questions, Pat, and I’ll address the others tomorrow. · Sep 21 at 8:09pm

    It was a travel day today (flying instead of driving) so I just got to your answers. Really interesting stuff, Dave. I’ve learned a few things. Look forward to more.

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    @DaveCarter

    Pat and gang: Sorry for the delay. I made it from Cape Girardeau, MO, down to Pineville, LA today. A trip that should have taken 9 hours took almost 11, thanks in no small measure to dozens of construction zones courtesy of the American Recession Retrenchment Act, or whatever it’s called. Pat, hope you had a good trip. After the day I had, airlift is rather appealing. Where were we now…

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