The words in italics below was written in 2019. The thing is, if anything has changed, it is that my feelings about those who drive and what they endure are stronger than ever.
I don’t get to talk to those I know who drive as much as I did when my late husband was alive, or even in the time following, but I still see. I never unsubscribed to the emails from the various sites dealing with trucking..just because. I’m not a driver, don’t want to be one. I hate backing my car, trying to back a fifty-two feet long trailer into place, especially some of the places I have seen they do, is what I call a nightmare. In fact, doing what they do on a regular basis, are challenges I don’t think I could handle.
Think about it for a moment.
They get in a truck and leave family, friends, home behind. Over the road, long haul drivers are gone weeks and sometimes months at a time. They deal with issues most of us never even think about. If the weather predicts snow, we run to the store for bread, milk, and every snack food known to mankind. They start planning out a safe route and hoped for safe parking. They look to see which places require chains and whether it is simply best to park their rig for the time and start again once roads are safe.
When road conditions are bad, they are not merely dealing with weather, be it rain, snow, high winds or any other variation, they are dealing with those who drive regular vehicles who do not realize or many times care, the problems they are creating. They do not understand the dangers and how much at risk they are putting themselves, the truck drivers and the other drivers around them.
For example, consider this. Every vehicle has blind spots, so do those big rigs. The thing is, there are more of them and they are larger. Don’t ride directly behind the trailer. Don’t pull up beside that truck and ride there. When you pass a truck, keep going, do not immediately pull in front of the truck as they can’t see you. That area directly in front of them, is their buffer zone. Let them have that for your safety. Those wide turns, remember that long trailer they are dragging? They need those wide swings to not take anything out, like you if you arrogantly and ignorantly pull up beside them.
They deal with the lack of parking. If you are on the road in your car, you can go home. If you are on a road trip, you can pull into a hotel for the night. The drivers of those big trucks do not have that option. Forced to follow laws that restrict driving to certain hours they must find somewhere to park that rig. There are only so many truck stops. Many rest areas, especially those with room for the big trucks have closed due to Covid. Once upon a time you would see those rigs parked along on ramps, but now many places have outlawed that, even as the government ramps up the fines for not following the hours of driving laws. Businesses with large parking areas have created barriers or have trucks booted for daring to try to find somewhere safe to rest for a few hours.
Finding food. Many drivers have ways to prepare meals in their trucks. Some do not have that option. They are left with fast food options at some truck stops or a snack cake at a rest area, or nothing. Every once in a while I see where a driver has been able to actually get the opportunity for a sit down meal. Something that is a very real treat for them.
Most of their runs, have strict time requirements. They are expected to arrive at a shipper or a receiver at a set time. Whether that is an hour away or days. Whether travel is easy or not. They deal with dock workers that have no care or respect for the driver’s time. At the end of the day, the dock worker will go home. It isn’t their problem if they have completely screwed up the truck driver’s schedule.
They deal, with being alone. Oh they talk to other drivers who may still have a citizen band radio in their truck. They may talk to the folks at the shipper or receiver. Someone along the way may strike up a conversation. It isn’t family, or friends. The ones who are back home, thinking of them and praying for their safety.
For most, it is a career of their choosing. For my husband it was largely a choice of desperation and a little bit of romantic dreams. The highway cowboy jockeying that rig from town to town. The highway his kingdom, his freedom. He learned quickly there is little romance and a lot of headache and heartache. Many know what they are getting into and will be facing.
That doesn’t matter. What matters is that those of us who do not drive, remember what they are doing is not easy. It comes with a great price. One they pay every time to open that door, every time they turn that key and that engine fires up. Every time I hear the sound of one of those big trucks, every time I hear the sound of jake breaks, I remember. In those memories are the thoughts and knowledge of what drivers endure. Every time I remember, I think I need to remind others, that there are real people driving those trucks. They aren’t simply machines out there trying to get in your way. They are not deliberately attempting to slow you down and be a problem on your commute to where ever. They are people, like you and me, no a bit better because they are out there doing a job that requires something we can’t do.
The one thing that has haunted me for almost two years now, is that my husband was alone in that truck and so very far from home, when he was called to his Heavenly home. In my overly imaginative mind, I can see him sitting on that bunk, bending down to tie his shoes when the call came. I can see, that last breath. With everything that I can see in my mind, I can’t see myself there, with him, comforting and taking care of him when he was feeling so bad. I do know, that when one is absent from the body, they are present with Jesus. I know that when you take your last breath here, you take the first one in Heaven. We said good-bye, all of those who had gone on before, were greeting him, welcoming him home. The one thing that helps, is that my husband was found so quickly. When his driver manager couldn’t get hold of him, someone was sent to check. I will always feel badly for the one who discovered him, but thankful as well. This is one of the reasons I have such a concern for other drivers out there. I have felt the pain of loss, I would not wish that on anyone. It is a constant prayer, that all drivers get home to their friends and families. It is a constant hope, that they are safe. As time passes, the pain eases. As time moves on, I have stopped listening for the sounds of that truck, or for my phone to ring. As time passes, maybe, just maybe, those thoughts and visions, of him in that truck alone, will fade. Shiny side up y’all, and keep it between the ditches. Your family is waiting..