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That truck driver....
August 5, 2011 8:27 PM   Subscribe

That truck driver you flipped off? Let me tell you his story.
posted by nevercalm (105 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was actually just adjusting my hair.
posted by Miko at 8:33 PM on August 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


I didn't flip off anyone! Was it one of you guys? Fess up.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:35 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Me neither. I was just waving my cell phone around trying to get a better signal.
posted by sneebler at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


just to survive
I drive 65.

good story.
posted by clavdivs at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2011


I don't think I've ever flipped anyone off while in a car. Nope, that I do while walking down the street. If I'm going to go to the hassle of trotting out the big guy, I'm going to make sure he gets more than a split-second of face time. Truck drivers just aren't worth the effort.
posted by phunniemee at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2011


PS: don't we have trains for hauling stuff around?
posted by sneebler at 8:39 PM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by Winnemac at 8:40 PM on August 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh, man. It sucks that the sisters of every truck driver who got flipped off today died. What a freaky coincidence.
posted by chimaera at 8:42 PM on August 5, 2011 [43 favorites]


..and where you see one set of footprints, it was because I carried you.

Thanks Guideposts.
posted by docpops at 8:43 PM on August 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


Truck drivers get nothing but a wave and a honk pull motion from me. It's the stubborn sonsabitches who wanna drive 64 in the left lane get my ire and my finger.

2 lanes?
Keep right at all times, except when passing. Like the trucks do.
posted by carsonb at 8:43 PM on August 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


Every day, experienced and qualified drivers give it up because the government, the traffic and the greedy companies involved in trucking have drained their enthusiasm for this life… They… are replaced by an inexperienced youngster… [leading] to late deliveries, causing shortages and higher prices at the store, and crashes that lead to unnecessary deaths.
The example of government draining his enthusiasm is requiring a break after 11 h of driving. I would like to see data comparing collisions caused by inexperienced truckers with those caused by truckers who have been driving for too long without a break. Until I see that data, I'll take my chances with limiting truck drivers' break-free hours behind the wheel.
posted by grouse at 8:43 PM on August 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


What about the truck driver that flipped me off? What's that asshole's story?
posted by bondcliff at 8:55 PM on August 5, 2011 [23 favorites]


I love driving, and carry a bit of a torch for the whole OTR trucker thing due to being young in the era of Convoy and BJ & The Bear. I've dreamed on and off for decades of going in and getting my CDL and hitting the road for a few years while I live in my truck and earn enough to retire early.

Except I know it isn't the truth. I've done my research, and while that may have been possible 15 years ago, now it doesn't happen much. Trucking is mostly missing deadlines and heavy regulation and time limits right and left and rising diesel prices. And while it wasn't ever the romantic fairy tale occupation it may have seemed when I was a child, it certainly isn't the great job choice now that it was a decade ago. I know more than a few truckers who drove like hell for a decade and then quit and now don't have to do anything, but that was back then, and now is different.

As a professional driver (although not CDL, and certainly not with huge freight), I know what the score is when it comes to being on the highway every day. It's almost never the professional drivers who are making the bad choices while flying down the road at 60mph. But it's regularly the professional drivers who are making big compensatory driving maneuvers to keep themselves and others safe on the roads. I watch it happen every day, and live it while I watch it.

So, yeah. Good for the author of the piece in this FPP. There's a lot more going on while driving down the highway than whatever you personally have happening in your life, and the road should be shared not owned. Be a droplet flowing in the stream, and we'll all get there safely.
posted by hippybear at 8:57 PM on August 5, 2011 [35 favorites]


Two wrongs don't make a right.
posted by koeselitz at 8:57 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My brother drives a truck. He could probably tell you stories about what he's missed in personal terms and how hard he works to keep his job, because he loves the open road and it pays well if you take routes that put distance between you and home for stretches of time, and require you to keep ridiculous hours. He is scrupulous about road manners, getting enough sleep, and following the rules that help keep him, other truck drivers, and others on the road safe.

There are jerks on the road; the vehicle size doesn't usually matter (add stereotypes about small cars and SUVs here).

He would tell you these things but he's probably pulling a night shift.
posted by datawrangler at 8:58 PM on August 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


/soapbox
posted by datawrangler at 8:59 PM on August 5, 2011


bondcliff - that driver that flipped you off was just cantankerous because he is pissed at having to work at a knife's edge due to staffing cuts (and all the other that was mentioned in that story, short of the dead sister) to maintain the bosses profits, just like most working people in this "rich take all" economy. I am beginning to truly hate the society which bred me....
posted by pdxjmorris at 9:00 PM on August 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


the article reads much better when you sing it to a twelve bar
posted by the noob at 9:03 PM on August 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


I feel as sorry for that truck driver as I feel for the UPS driver who works for a company whose business model depends on illegal parking. Yeah, I know you got a route to finish, but blocking a lane during rush hour really, really isn't OK.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:05 PM on August 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


He left out the part where the trucker pisses in plastic bottles and leaves that shit on the side of the road or in parking lots. Fuck that guy.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:08 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder why these guys don't unionize. They're one of a handful of professions which could believably threaten to shut down the American apparatus, yet they're basically driven to death by their bosses, and they make ~$70 a day "if all goes well"? Hell, you couldn't pay me $70 to drive 11 hours if you threw in a bottle of Jameson 1780.
posted by vorfeed at 9:10 PM on August 5, 2011 [29 favorites]


I learned all I need to know about sharing the road with truckers from Duel.
posted by katillathehun at 9:13 PM on August 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


What about Teamsters?
posted by stroke_count at 9:14 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have to be honest, I have seen many drivers flip out because they had to disengage the cruise control as a result of a speed-limited truck passing another truck. These drivers are my friends and my family, and while they are normally very nice and reasonable people, they somehow manage to lose their shit if they have to disengage the cruise control. Like, the world is your oyster, man, but really, chill the fuck out about this one.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 9:24 PM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like truck drivers.

I used to drive dump trucks. New ones. Long distance, sometimes. It was a sweet gig. I'd deliver one and then I'd hop a bus back home.

So, of course, it was important that the truck arrive unscathed and I had to drive like my grandpa, so I'd trundle along in the slow lane and watch cars whizz by me.

People have NO IDEA how to fucking drive. Once you're in their rear-view mirror, you don't exist. Even if you're a dump truck with a rather extensive braking distance. Even if the road is wet and you are heading towards a line of traffic. And then there are the fools who like to tailgate. Dump trucks. People tailgate dump trucks. It's unbelievable.

Once I was delivering one of five trucks. I was third in line, I think, and we hit Atlanta morning rush hour traffic. Some consummate jackass jumped out right in front of the lead truck, who had to swerve off the road to keep from hitting him. We caught up with the guy a few miles later in traffic. He was in the middle lane. Big mistake. Lead truck got in front, second truck went right, I went left, and the guy behind me pulled in behind him. We kept that motherfucker boxed in all the way through downtown Atlanta.

Yeah, birds were flipped. But I'll bet that's the last time that idiot fucked with a convoy of dump trucks. :)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:30 PM on August 5, 2011 [164 favorites]


Time for some Dave Dudley!
posted by mazola at 9:31 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't mind waiting while one truck passes another. I mind significantly when, on a two lane part of the highway, one truck stays right next to the other so no one can pass either of them for half an hour while they are going 10mph under the speed limit. (This used to happen to me a lot when I was on part of the NY Thruway regularly.) Perhaps it is because I do not have the trucker soul, but I don't see why you would do that unless you're fucking with other drivers. And sure, maybe one other driver does deserve it, but this screws up the entire road.

On the other hand, stopping in rest areas filled with trucks when I need to take a(nother) nap always feels very safe.
posted by jeather at 9:36 PM on August 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Maybe I'm just a really nice guy, but I never feel the need to flip off trick drivers while on the freeway or wherever. But I'm sad to hear that sisters dying is a generalizable condition of truck drivers across the country.
posted by subversiveasset at 9:38 PM on August 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have a friend who trucks, and like bitteroldpunk said, it's the fuckers who take advantage of the gap in front of trucks that he gets really heated about. Rush hour traffic and they want that lane and they say "aha there's an opening", fly into it, and then brake suddenly.
posted by hypersloth at 9:39 PM on August 5, 2011


Looks like we got us a Convoy.
posted by Flashman at 9:45 PM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I also don't feel sorry for bus drivers who feel that maintaining their convoy is more important than, say, stopping for red lights. I will cut you off in my tiny little Scion if I have the green, because, you know, I'm on my way to my sister's funeral.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:45 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I wonder why these guys don't unionize

Um. They did. After a whole lot of illegal deals came to light in the 60s and 70s from people like Hoffa and Roy Williams, in '79 the US Congress deregulated the freight industry, and over time independent operators took over the majority of the work. The teamsters shot themselves in the foot repeatedly, and it was the drivers that ended up paying the price.

My father was a long distance truck driver for several years, and the job was hard on all of us. I rode with him a few times when I was a lad, and even back then, the hour logs, mileage tracking, and the pressure of getting to the next drop or pickup was clear to me even then. We had a great time though, and I got to see all sorts of things all over the country, and we just spent some great time together. I also know about the other side of it, getting stuck in snowstorms and locked into long runs that kept him from quite a few holidays with us at home. I knew he was doing the job to provide for us, and as much as he loved wandering the country, he didn't like all the time he had to spend away from us. So, after a few years, he sold his truck and got back into the business he was in before the driving job was necessary.

I have a lot of respect for long-haul drivers. Sure, you'll have a 'jackass percentage', just like any other group, but when you see the constraints they have to work under every day, some clearly for the safety of everybody, or some just for the profit of the shipping companies, you should give them some slack. They're doing their best to handle the things that are in their control, and their frustration is coming more from the things they can't control: like traffic, idiot drivers, eager quota-striving highway police, timetables, and sometimes almost impossible demands from their employer/contractor.
posted by chambers at 9:46 PM on August 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


To paraphrase Thelma & Louise, truck drivers are some of the best on the road. I'd drive along side one of them any day of the week.

But SUV drivers? They can suck my ass. (and move the the right, please.)
posted by contessa at 9:47 PM on August 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


PS: don't we have trains for hauling stuff around?

We used to. In our infinite wisdom, we decided it would be a good idea to make each individual car in each of those trains it's own gas-guzzling vehicle. Vivat Homo Stultus.
posted by steambadger at 9:59 PM on August 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


What about the truck driver that flipped me off? What's that asshole's story?

Give him a break, his sister died.
posted by Pacheco at 10:03 PM on August 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


In our infinite wisdom, we decided it would be a good idea to make each individual car in each of those trains it's own gas-guzzling vehicle.

Mostly because railroad workers were unionized.
posted by goethean at 10:03 PM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Worth reading: A Fleet Of One: Eighty thousand pounds of dangerous goods from John McPhee.

I met a tanker truck driver that had a story about being cut off right before an intersection. The light turned red and the car driver stopped short. The trucker hit the breaks and thought he stopped in time. He was hauling 7000 gallons of milk, hitting the brakes creates a oscillating wave that makes for a very jerky stop so he didn't even feel the impact hitting the car in front of him. He couldn't see the car over his hood, he thought at first that he was able to avoid the collision or the car driver make a crazy right turn at the last minute.

But the car driver was banging on the cab door as soon as he was stopped. The truck had run up on top of the back of the car, smooshed in the read end, collapsed the trunk, caused both rear tires to explode while pushing the car about 100 ft.

Give them plenty of space is my rule of thumb.
posted by peeedro at 10:25 PM on August 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


I only flipped him off because a little kid with cancer is collecting flippings-off and asked me to flip off a truck driver from every state for him before he died.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:39 PM on August 5, 2011 [30 favorites]


Um. They did. After a whole lot of illegal deals came to light in the 60s and 70s from people like Hoffa and Roy Williams, in '79 the US Congress deregulated the freight industry, and over time independent operators took over the majority of the work. The teamsters shot themselves in the foot repeatedly, and it was the drivers that ended up paying the price.

Sure, but the country has become more and more dependent on truckers since '79, even as they've become less and less independent. That opens up a whole new reason to organize.
posted by vorfeed at 10:39 PM on August 5, 2011


I only buy goods delivered by rickshaw. I'm breaking the sister killing cycle with my conscientious living, man.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:40 PM on August 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I only flipped him off because a little kid with cancer is collecting flippings-off and asked me to flip off a truck driver from every state for him before he died.

"Breaker, one-nine, is anyone there? /
Come on back, truckers, and talk to Teddy Bear."
posted by mazola at 10:45 PM on August 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Line of trucks around the world, JB Hunt pulls out to pass.
posted by pianomover at 11:00 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"PS: don't we have trains for hauling stuff around?"

Railroad companies basically aren't interested in anything but intermodal and bulk cargo. And for some reason (probably money) smaller centres aren't getting intermodal terminals. Take for example where I live. We've got both CN and CP in town. CN has a huge yard available and CP is building a new yard. Either could easily incorporate a significant intermodal yard but they don't (both have minor intermodal service). Instead containers are routinely loaded on trucks 360kms away and are driven here.

grouse writes "The example of government draining his enthusiasm is requiring a break after 11 h of driving. I would like to see data comparing collisions caused by inexperienced truckers with those caused by truckers who have been driving for too long without a break. Until I see that data, I'll take my chances with limiting truck drivers' break-free hours behind the wheel."

It's not laid out in the write up but the government complaint is directed at the paper work every state makes driver maintain. And regulations are rarely integrated or even consistent from state to state. Pretty well the only thing that has been deregulated in trucking is routes.

vorfeed writes "Sometimes I wonder why these guys don't unionize. They're one of a handful of professions which could believably threaten to shut down the American apparatus, yet they're basically driven to death by their bosses, and they make ~$70 a day 'if all goes well'? Hell, you couldn't pay me $70 to drive 11 hours if you threw in a bottle of Jameson 1780."

Deregulation broke the union. Drivers are competing nationally against every O/O need to keep his truck rolling and you'll never get significant solidarity as too many people are too hungry for work. Plus the general disdain, distrust, and outright hostility many Americans have for organized labour.

contessa writes "truck drivers are some of the best on the road. I'd drive along side one of them any day of the week."

Hopefully not literally. Cruising along beside a truck is a dangerous place to be.
posted by Mitheral at 11:33 PM on August 5, 2011


sneebler: "PS: don't we have trains for hauling stuff around?"

We used to but the trains pulling up to the bodegas at night pissed people off.
posted by Splunge at 11:39 PM on August 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


And there it was again, the four-word phrase, in the third paragraph, that's driving me loopy every time I read or hear it, "you do the math." Ugh, I almost quit reading at that early point. But reading a reiteration of the trucker's unfortunate lot is worth it overall. So I suppose I'll forgive the hackneyed phrase.
posted by Ralph at 11:54 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's early November, 2010. My flight got back to Indianapolis near midnight, eyes dry and itchy, I had a fever and sore throat, it had been snowing/freezing rain for awhile and visibility was piss poor, first time I'd driven my new car in bad conditions, and I had a 120 mile drive through rural areas to get home.

Picked a trucker going 55 and followed his every move almost the entire way. He slowed, I slowed. He switched lanes, I switched lanes. Made it just fine, past plenty of cars in the ditch who didn't.

I kind of see them as the sherpas of the road. At least the long haul ones on the major highways. Conditions get tough and I start watching what the truckers are doing. I don't have any problem helping them pass once and awhile.

Now the local guys who keep getting stuck under the railroad bridge... that's another situation all together.
posted by sbutler at 12:04 AM on August 6, 2011 [34 favorites]


This got linked to me a couple of times off of MeFi, but I'll repost my thought from the first time here again:

This basically boils down to being an anecdote, a slice of life about one guy, which is intended to be projected as "why all of these guys are sympathetic." The thing is, it's a fairly specific piece about a fairly specific situation.

Sure, it's not without interest, but you'll find if you slice-of-life anyone's life like that, they have these kinds of issues and frustrations, at some level. There's only a very few people so on top of thing as to not, after all.
posted by Archelaus at 12:52 AM on August 6, 2011


One of the scariest moments I've been through on the road is when I hit stopped traffic on a highway just over the crest of a hill. It was totally unexpected; no warning. (There was construction ahead and I guess they just hadn't anticipated how far traffic would back up.) There was a semi in front of me, and when I looked in my rearview mirror, a semi behind me.

I thought I was going to get squished, but the driver was alert, and stopped in a distance I didn't think was possible. I wonder if the drivers in the traffic ahead of me relayed a warning.

Anyway, I have a lot of respect for truck drivers like that.

The Fed Ex truck drivers, on the other hand, seem to be losing sisters every day.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:56 AM on August 6, 2011


This is why the US needs to invest in rail.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:18 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The math:
How do truck drivers get paid & how much do they make?

So you want to know how much a trucker makes and how he/she gets paid? A typical trucker gets paid by the mile. He/she has to make as many miles as possible to achieve a good paycheck. While that trucker is sitting in dock, traffic, and shops they get paid typically NOTHING. A driver can make anywhere from .19 cents a mile to around .44 cents a mile. Depending on how long they’ve driven and many other variables. So to break it down to how much a driver brings home specifically is difficult but runs around $300 – $1,200 a week.
Let's say you make the top amount, $0.44/mile.

1000*0.44 is $440. At 60 mph (no breaks or meals) that's $440 for 16 hours of travel, or around $27.50/hour.

But. MPG is just 8, and diesel costs $4/gallon.

So 1000 miles/8 mpg = 125 gallons * $4 = $500

Earning you... -$60 for the trip???

I have got to be missing something here.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:26 AM on August 6, 2011


Realistically, trucks are the only way viable of moving freight throughout the country. Roads already criss-cross the country. Railroads don't, and sending just one-two train cars to a small town that only needs 2 trucks' worth of supplies is definitely going to be less environmentally sound than just sending a truck.

We can definitely use trains more for transporting goods, but even so trains are good for getting large quantities across far distances and less ideal for getting small quantities over short distances.

A few months ago I was going to a conference in Nashville and I wondered about taking a train there. Turns out, Nashville does not have a train station. Think about that. If you can't even send something to Nashville by train, imagine getting it to place in Tennessee you haven't even heard of.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:31 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then there are the fools who like to tailgate. Dump trucks. People tailgate dump trucks. It's unbelievable.

Is there something I'm missing here? You're driving a brand-new truck with no dirt or other junk in it, so someone behind you isn't going to be peppered with dirt at freeway speeds. And, being a car, they can out-accelerate and out-brake you by a substantial margin.

Seems to me that being behind a big truck like that would be one of the safer spots on the road, no? He can't make sudden moves that you can't match (short of a full-scale wreck), he's a professional driver and can probably see a hell of a lot better than you can, and that vast bulk will be somewhat protective to you in an accident -- as he goes goes plowing through stopped cars, gradually slowing down, he's clearing a path in which you can brake like hell. Even an extra 20 or 30 feet is going to make a huge difference in accident severity, as you'll be going much slower when you hit him.

And it's not like anything you can really do back there can mess with him much, so I don't see any particular reason NOT to follow a truck?

(I don't mean drafting, which is dangerous, just following a truck at roughly normal traffic distances. But even following fairly closely strikes me as safer than doing the same to a car, because trucks just don't do things suddenly. Not safe, mind, but safer.)
posted by Malor at 2:49 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


BitterOldPunk isn't talking about people following at normal traffic distances. He's talking about the dumbasses who are tailgating you at highway speeds so hard you can't see their car in your mirrors. They are well under a sane two second following distance. Stand on the brakes and they are going to be eating axle before they have a chance to react. And even though someone running into you won't do much but scratch the paint on the truck you have to stop while the police show up. It takes money right out of your pocket (especially if you end up over your hours) and it's a pain in the ass to deal with.

Even stupider are the guys who'll hang there on a two lane road and be swerving out across the centre line trying to line up a pass. Here's a clue: drop back half a dozen car lengths and you'll be able to see around my truck without wandering into traffic.
posted by Mitheral at 3:13 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Deathalicious: Turns out, Nashville does not have a train station. Think about that. If you can't even send something to Nashville by train […]

It seems that Nashville does have a freight rail yard, but you are right that you cannot send people to Nashville by train.
posted by wachhundfisch at 3:21 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Truck drivers are generally okay, and I don't flip people off on the road, because it's a chickenshit thing to do. However, the truck driver I hate is that guy I see tailgating another truck miles ahead (yeah, I know, to conserve fuel and to hell with road safety), who, presumably, sees me approaching steadily in his mirrors, and watches, and waits. For minutes, he watches, and waits. And then, just as I've caught him up and am about to pass, he pulls out, slots into the overtaking lane, and blocks it for five minutes while he crawls past the other truck. That guy makes me quite vexed.
posted by Decani at 3:25 AM on August 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


No, let ME tell YOU a story.

On this very night, ten years ago.. along this very stretch of road, in a dense fog JUST like this. I saw the worst accident... I ever seen. There was this SOUND, like a GARBAGE TRUCK dropped off the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.

...And when they pulled the driver's body from the twisted, burning wreck. It looked like ...THIS!
DAEAEIEEGUHHGHUKBHKHGHGH NBZNBBBTHEDRHAHHAGHRIGHHRHIHR AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHRHRHHGHHH HH HGHAHGLHAHAHHHGWRGGRRRHHMB

Yes, sir. Worst accident I ever seen.
posted by jake at 3:51 AM on August 6, 2011 [22 favorites]


I wasn't flipping off the truck driver. I was flipping off the soccer mom who just swerved her SUV across three lanes of traffic with no turn signal while talking on a cell phone.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:03 AM on August 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I work at an intermodal freight yard. I see it's been mentioned above, but I don't see an explanation of it, so: that's where they move freight, a whole container at a time, between trains and trucks.

Generally speaking we don't get long-haul drivers there, because the train is doing the long haul, but a lot of these containers are going to places an hour or two away, and in any case these are still tractor-trailers, and the drivers still have their logs and their electronic tracking and their legally mandated breaks and so on.

But we do get long-haul drivers sometimes, usually when some stretch of track is washed out or underwater. The freight still moves through the intermodal hub, presumably since it's easier for the freight company that way (from their drivers' perspectives, it's no different from normal) except instead of the container going onto a train, they drop it off and a long-haul driver comes in to pick it up.

So what I'm saying is, even if the railroads are working great, we still need tractor-trailers.
posted by Kalthare at 4:38 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Two years from now this story will be forwarded to me by some relative as a chain email with stock photos of tractor-trailers and very annoying formatting.
posted by lordrunningclam at 4:44 AM on August 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


The truck had run up on top of the back of the car, smooshed in the read end, collapsed the trunk, caused both rear tires to explode while pushing the car about 100 ft.

Give them plenty of space is my rule of thumb.
posted by peeedro


On the Long Island Expressway at rush hour, I saw a guy in a sub-mini car zip into the gap in front of a truck. The trucker didn't see him there at all, and tapped the car's bumper. I could see the car-driver's face. He got all petulant about it, and slammed on his brakes, I guess to teach the trucker a lesson. The trucker still didn't know he was there, probably thinking his own transmission was have a glitch, just kept going forward for about a quarter mile with this little car stuck to the front of his truck like a bug. Pretty soon billows of black smoke were coming from all four of his melting tires, with the car-driver grimacing while he strained to keep his brakes fully depressed.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:47 AM on August 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


Earning you... -$60 for the trip???

I have got to be missing something here.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:26 AM on August 6 [+] [!] [quote]


It's a REALLY HARD JOB!

Do you have any idea how hard you have to work to feed your family when you're making -$60/day?

There must be something missing or incorrect about those figures. The internet says truckers make (positive) $38,000/year on average.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:13 AM on August 6, 2011


Two wrongs don't make a right.

But three rights make a left.

I heard that from a trucker.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:15 AM on August 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why did I flip him off?

He was high on weed, whites and wine,
So I showed him a sign...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:23 AM on August 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just for reference, federal HOS rules require that drivers put in no more than 70 hours in 8 days (or optionally, 60 hours in 7 days - The driver or his company can't mix and match, but they can pick which they use).

They can also reset that counter by taking at least a 34 hour break, an option that exists primarily to allow local-only CDLs to have a regular weekly schedule - But it also means that "If he misses his delivery appointment, he will be rescheduled for the next day, because the receiver has booked its docks solid" actually translates to "He'll get a good night's sleep and have his hours reset as a bonus, unless his idiot dispatcher doesn't give him the extra 10 hours of downtime needed to reach the reset".

So consider me somewhat skeptical of the veracity of this article, that a dispatcher wouldn't know that no, his drivers can't do ten 11-hour days on the road at a stretch .

Not to minimize the job these guys do... In spirit, TFA has it right. But it falls into the "inspirational fiction" category than an accurate account of real events.
posted by pla at 5:46 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Salvor Hardin : There must be something missing or incorrect about those figures. The internet says truckers make (positive) $38,000/year on average.

The missing part consists of having two different types of drivers, where we've incorrectly combined the income for one group with the expenses of the other - Owner/operators, and mere employees of a carrier.

The former (as the article mentions) have to pay for their rigs, their fuel, for pretty much everything. But they make damned good money for the hassle. The latter tend to make a pittance, between minimum wage (for local-only routes) to the low $20s per hour, but they only need to show up and drive.
posted by pla at 5:51 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anecdata of a different sort: I knew a guy in the business for awhile who told me if I knew how much amphetamine/stimulant abuse went on to make those tight time margains, i'd be afraid to drive the highways at all.
posted by availablelight at 5:54 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you a story about the truck driver I flipped off. I was in the left lane, in a tiny little Kia. He was in the right lane, going 5-10 below the speed limit. He came about 3 inches from smearing my car aaaaaaaall over the median. Going below the speed limit? Don't care. Coming into my lane? Okay. Coming into my lane while I'm still there? Scary, but forgivable, because hey, I'm a tiny little car, sometimes I'm hard to see. TEXTING while doing so? Yeah, now you're getting the finger.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:58 AM on August 6, 2011


I drive a tiny car (Chevy Metro). How on earth could you have possibly seen into the cab of a big rig to know the driver was texting when he swerved into your lane and frightened you? I can barely see the logo and company address painted on the driver's door of a big rig when I'm driving next to them. Seeing into the cab is impossible.
posted by hippybear at 6:02 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Back in my wayward youth, my father was convinced that I was meant to be a long-haul truck driver, and backed this up by enrolling me in the local trucker's academy. Suffice it to say, a truck is a very, very complicated thing to drive, and at 18, I didn't have the focus. I ended my trucking education in a spectacular drive through a small thicket of ailanthus trees and red clay on the training course, and even after putting on the brake and dismounting, it took a while for the dust to clear enough for the instructor to find me to dress me down.

"Cleve, that boy's just never to be good for shit on the road," the instructor told my dad, and that was that. My dad's original theory was that driving a truck would connect me with truckstop prostitutes, and he was convinced an aspiring writer (didn't know I was then, but he had an inkling) needed access to the well of stories that you find swirling in a cloud of "goddamn" and "sonuvabitch" in every dusty collection of trucks, pumps, and grits with extra butter out there.

"Those truckstop whores love a gay guy, son. Y'all are the only people who'd never hurt 'em," he said, in one of those awkward bits of wisdom he loved to dole out.

In lieu, he suggested I work at a porno store, but I secretly got myself into college.

As an ursine scootician and motorcyclist, I have to say I've retained that respect for truckers. When they're bad, holy shit, they're monstrously, terrifyingly bad, but most aren't, and by most, I mean that there's a vanishingly small number of them who aren't well practiced at how to get around with as little physical interaction with other vehicles as they can manage. I can judge with far more accuracy what a trucker's going to do than I can fathom from the airheaded middle class in their sedans.

In three years of increasingly shifting my mode of transport from car, car, car to bicycle in town, train for work, motorcycle/scootypuff for errands and for WHEEEEE, on the big roads, I appreciate the sullen routine of the big rig. Cars, on the other hand, follow three rules, particularly as applied to motorcyclists:

1. Actively try to kill you. Drive aggressively, transfer your penile or fiscal insecurities to a DESPERATE NEED TO MAKE TIME, MAN, THIS FUCKING TRAFFIC AAAAAAUGH!

2. Charge along thinking of everything in the world but the driving task. Talk on the phone, yell at the kids in their wretched bubble of drop-down DVD stupidity, worry about work, worry about appointments, and trust in the magical magic of their peripheral vision, because, "Hey—it's been at least five years since I had a fender-bender. I'm a great driver!"

3. Bumble along as a rolling obstacle—responsible and aware, but timid and inclined to hit the brakes in response to any stimulus whatsoever. Be very, very careful to only merge onto the highway at approximately 32 miles per hour, signal dutifully blinking. When in doubt, actually stop at the merge point, and stare into the terrifying rush of life coming your way very, very fast.

On a bike, you're invisible, at a perfect vantage point to realize that American highways are the realm of the hungry ghosts made incarnate, a place where everything stupid, selfish, and grasping is revealed in gruesome details; in the desperate, clawing urge for getting ahead (statistics be damned), in the outbursts of outrage over nothing (understanding be damned), or in the need to save face and honor (humility be damned). If I don't live true, one day I'll wake up in that roaring hell, condemned to drive to work at rush hour in a sedan forever and ever and ever.

Trucks, though? Well, they're the unhappy angels, the great blue whales of the road, just trying to find their way to a home that's always being snatched away from them, and if they're misunderstood, because soulless cubicle farmers can't grasp the fact that an enormous and massively heavy can't handle like a 3000 pound Honda, it's a burden they bear astonishingly well. The anecdotes are profuse, but the actual statistics don't bear out the truth of most people's fears.

As for me? I want our rail system back, and not the ridiculous "high speed" variety, but the original comprehensive network of trains that serviced every town with a little land to spare for a depot, and where passenger trains could sustain a sturdy 80-90 miles per hour without us having to invent new branches of materials engineering for magical tilting, magnetically-suspended, futuristic übertrains like they have in those cool countries. Give me the Royal Blue at my home station and dig all those old freight sidings out from under the pavements, and you won't need so many trucks out there.

For now, though, we're all addicted to something that will never nourish us, so we're doomed to wander the highways of hungry ghosts until we learn something, and we never do, so there will be more trucks, working longer hours, making desperate moves to meet our insatiable need to shove more shit down our already-stuffed maws, but man, there's a big sale at Walmart, so who cares?
posted by sonascope at 6:12 AM on August 6, 2011 [64 favorites]


I remember in the weeks after 9/11 stopping myself from getting pissed off at people's asinine behavior on the road, on the sidewalk, in the stores. I kept thinking that maybe they were so lost in a fog of grief that they were oblivious to everyone around them. I try to refrain from getting angry at strangers, I never know what burdens they carry.

The drivers down here in the South love to tailgate and I'm sure they're not all on their way to the hospital. Instead of giving them the finger I entertain myself by trying to think up the best possible anti-tailgating bumper stickers, like STOP TRYING TO CRAWL UP MY TAILPIPE, ASSHOLE.

One time someone who'd been following too close behind finally pulled up next to me as traffic slowed. She made the sign for "roll down your window", reluctantly, I complied. She proceeded to tell me how much she loved my bumper stickers-I can't remember what they were.
posted by mareli at 6:32 AM on August 6, 2011


Maybe the driver shouldn't waste so much time trying to kill Dennis Weaver.
posted by CarlRossi at 6:46 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is just capitalism in action. Why do you hate America?
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:47 AM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


This Thread at Something Awful contains a lot of interesting tidbits of information about the truckers life.
These seem to be a newer truckers steady descent into madness.
posted by kzin602 at 6:47 AM on August 6, 2011


availablelight : Anecdata of a different sort: I knew a guy in the business for awhile who told me if I knew how much amphetamine/stimulant abuse went on to make those tight time margains, i'd be afraid to drive the highways at all.

Factual data - A "company" must randomly (and without warning) drug test 50% of their CDL drivers per year.

And if you count as a one-person company, well it just gets Kafkaesquely silly (FAA, not DOT, but similar rules apply).
posted by pla at 6:49 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


3. Bumble along as a rolling obstacle—responsible and aware, but timid and inclined to hit the brakes in response to any stimulus whatsoever. Be very, very careful to only merge onto the highway at approximately 32 miles per hour, signal dutifully blinking. When in doubt, actually stop at the merge point, and stare into the terrifying rush of life coming your way very, very fast.

This more than anything annoys the crap out of me as the most dangerous driving out there. More so than the idiot in the BMW weaving in and out of traffic at 85 miles an hour.

There's this point where 17 meets 9 in Los Altos that has a dangerously short collector lane. Can't be any longer than 200 feet. And you have to get to 65 miles an hour to merge safely.

Now I once had to merge coming onto the freeway at that point. Not in my usual 2.5L V6 Sentra. In a borrowed family member's SOHC 2L Honda Accord. My reaction was "WTF? You've got to be fucking kidding me. Well let's do this" as I dropped to second and got to 65 as fast as an F20B will accelerate to 65. My mum who was in the car at the time basically turned and said to me "I couldn't get onto that freeway". She was probably right.

It shits me off getting onto the Interstate in a long line of cars and one of the cars feels that 45 miles an hour is a great speed to merge into 65mph traffic at and I'm stuck at that speed. At that point I stay in third, wait for the lanes to get close enough, check my gap and move over two lanes to the left while rapidly accelerating to 65-70mph to get around the impending clusterfuck.
posted by Talez at 6:57 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a relevant diary that gets reposted -- and sometimes revised and updated -- approximately annually at Daily Kos. It was written by a Kossack who goes by the handle The Baculum King, apparently an OTR truck driver of some experience.

It starts out with the traditional gory scared straight / last prom horror story, but although quite long, it's well worth reading in all of its versions.

He sticks mainly to physics and self preservation, rather than asking one to imagine the tragic backstory that might excuse another driver's annoying behaviour.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:44 AM on August 6, 2011


That waiter your cursed at. Let me tell you his story.
That stylist you refused to tip. Let me tell you her story.
That bell-boy you complained about. Let me tell you his story.
That Dr. you think is treating you porrly. Let me tell you her story.

WE ALL HAVE STORIES.
posted by Fizz at 7:52 AM on August 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Pretty soon billows of black smoke were coming from all four of his melting tires, with the car-driver grimacing while he strained to keep his brakes fully depressed.

Something similar to that happened in the UK, and another driver caught it on film.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:02 AM on August 6, 2011


In other words: be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
posted by gilrain at 8:35 AM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I drive a truck, and my sister is fine, I think.

Does the author know something I don't?

It was said above, don't drive next to a truck. move past and get the hell out of the way, the space next to a truck is a huge blind spot.

The article itself was a an overwrought emotive piece of crap. But we do have a lot to deal with up there in the driver's seat, including the responsibility of looking after all those that share the roads with us. There are cases where *we* can lose our jobs because of something *someone else* does. Typical reasoning for a Safety Manager at a trucking company is "There's always a way to prevent an accident" which in some cases involves parking the rig and going home, but we're supposed to go to those lengths to save insurance claims (and, secondarily, lives).
posted by Sportbilly at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


WE ALL HAVE STORIES.

BOOM! Truth.
posted by liketitanic at 8:52 AM on August 6, 2011


Turns out, Nashville does not have a train station.

That can't be right. What happens if you find out the bright lights ain't where you belong?
posted by maxwelton at 8:57 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nashville does not have a train station. Think about that. If you can't even send something to Nashville by train, imagine getting it to place in Tennessee you haven't even heard of.

Nashville has an enormous rail freight yard. It's probably one of the easier places to get freight to. Freight usually does not go to passenger rail stations in the U.S.
posted by grouse at 9:04 AM on August 6, 2011


That waiter your cursed at. Let me tell you his story.
That stylist you refused to tip. Let me tell you her story.
That bell-boy you complained about. Let me tell you his story.
That Dr. you think is treating you porrly. Let me tell you her story.


NO SISTERS WERE HARMED IN THE TELLING OF THESE STORIES.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:14 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where does Schneider fit in? I remember they got some good PR recently for treating their drivers well... or is it the same story there?
posted by crapmatic at 9:26 AM on August 6, 2011


That was a nice little piece... thanks for posting it.
posted by ph00dz at 9:36 AM on August 6, 2011


There are eight million stories in the naked city... This has been one of them.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the CB radio, getting flipped off is an in-joke with the truckers. When you flip off a trucker - he usually gets on the CB and announces to the other truckers you're telling him he's #1. That's been going on for years.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 11:18 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am not sure why the author of this article decided to address this letter to everybody, as if all non-truck drivers flip off truck drivers for passing other trucks. It made me not enjoy the article even though he makes some good points.

It also reminded me of the time a few years ago when my family was driving up a highway in Connecticut during rush hour, driving behind a truck (at a reasonable distance, we all hate tailgaters), when a huge sheet of metal flew off the truck and soared through the air towards our windshield. My brother swerved to avoid it, which caused us to start spinning in circles in the middle of the highway until we finally came to a stop, still in the center of the road and perpendicular to the quickly approaching traffic. I helplessly watched a car come straight at my door and stop a couple feet before plowing into me.

The truck driver that lost the piece clearly saw this all happen, as he pulled over to the shoulder ahead of us. We drove off to the shoulder to recover our senses for a few seconds, and as soon as we pulled back onto the road the guy just drove off. We didn't even flip off that guy, and somehow I doubt his only sister had just died, whereas my brother's only sister almost died. And yet I will not write an open letter to all truck drivers, scolding them for losing a piece off their truck and nearly killing us and then simply driving off without asking us if we're okay or apologizing, or something. Maybe this was one of the younger, inexperienced drivers the author referred to, and maybe so were all the ones who used to come barreling up behind me and intimidating me out of my lane as I drove up the NY Thruway years ago even though I was already going over the speed limit, but who the hell knows?

Anyway, now when I drive I avoid trucks like the plague because I have a constant fear of something flying off of them and either killing me through the windshield or causing me to spin out on the highway. And while riding the NYC subway is not a perfect experience, aggressive truck drivers are among the reasons that I do not miss driving at all.
posted by wondermouse at 12:59 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


WE ALL HAVE STORIES.

I don't have a story. :-(
posted by LordSludge at 2:08 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Once upon a time, I favourited a comment by Lord S. The end.
posted by sneebler at 2:10 PM on August 6, 2011


Yay! Now maybe people will stop flipping me off!
posted by LordSludge at 2:16 PM on August 6, 2011


"This is just capitalism in action. "

I remember an article years ago that argued that in the mid-20th C. there was a general switch from trains to using trucks for long distance hauling. That made sense because truckers are the quintessential entrepreneurs, and all you had to do was buy a truck and start your own business to participate. Plus trucks use the existing roadways and pay taxes, while railroads receive subsidies and are thus dependent on the State, so it's a win-win. Yay Capitalism!

The downside is that while railroads receive federal and other subsidies, they are more efficient, and their net cost to taxpayers (and probably business) is lower. Trucks are subsidized by other road users and may not pay their fair share of road maintenance costs, and there are a lot of them. Roads are also heavily subsidized by states and tax exemptions. On the other hand, the trucking industry probably provides more (low-paying and dangerous) jobs because it's inherently less efficient than rail. (Yes, trains are dangerous too, but we don't have to share the road with them. Unless they're B-Trains.)

Today, it looks even more like the switch from rail to trucks was a failure in terms of transportation planning, but another victory for Capitalism. Yay!
posted by sneebler at 2:30 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


truck drivers can be a little ... strange, too. (self link)
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2011


I thought the math looked quite a bit off. Truckers get paid more than $500 a week on average.
posted by Malice at 8:54 PM on August 6, 2011


There are real people in the big, big trucks
that you flip off when they get in your road. You get so hacked, that you pay no mind to the great big sign that says oversized load.
You really think they can go as fast, as you in your 87 trans am?
They know you're in such a terrible rush, but they're going just as fast, as fast as they can.

posted by klausman at 9:05 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


kzin602: "These seem to be a newer truckers steady descent into madness."

Interesting - he writes in a similar manner to a guy I dated about 6 years ago, who was a new trucker in 2008. Perhaps they abused the same stimulants?
posted by subbes at 9:29 PM on August 6, 2011


Seconding the McPhee article linked above. It's also published in his book Uncommon Carriers, which contains several wonderful essays.
posted by neuron at 10:01 PM on August 6, 2011


I'm glad there's so many positive stories about truckers, because I don't have any of my own. I frequently have to remind myself that not all long-haul truckers are speed-freaked wife-beating child molesters like the ones I endured for seven years of my childhood. I could give fuck-all about their sisters.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:32 AM on August 7, 2011


I frequently have to remind myself that not all long-haul truckers are speed-freaked wife-beating child molesters like the ones I endured for seven years of my childhood.

Surely this is something you should be talking to the authorities about. You were sexually molested for seven years by tweeked-out truckers who were also beating women? If you haven't actually reported this, you need to.
posted by hippybear at 10:44 AM on August 7, 2011


I flipped off a trucker yesterday. Funny thing is, when I stopped for coffee a few minutes later they told me that trucker DIED TEN YEARS AGO THAT VERY DAY when he swerved to miss a school bus loaded with kids.

So I kept that bird, as a souvenir... of Big Joe and Phantom 309.
posted by evilcolonel at 12:20 PM on August 7, 2011


I just wish they didn't litter. Most probably don't, but too many heave bottles of pee out the window, too busy to stop somewhere. yechhh.
posted by theora55 at 6:25 PM on August 7, 2011


I wonder if a person could make money selling paper urine bottles at truck stops. Like these but with some sort of plug. They'd quickly disintegrate/biodegrade anywhere that gets even a little rain while still being toss-able.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 PM on August 7, 2011


Regarding the hours-of-service rules, I came across some of the studies the federal government used to justify those rules. The increase in risk after 11 h of driving is dramatic.
posted by grouse at 3:37 PM on August 8, 2011


Why Obama's New Fuel Rules for Trucks Are a Huge Deal
posted by homunculus at 2:41 PM on August 10, 2011


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