What you don't know about the truck driver you just flipped off

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Illustration for article titled What you don't know about the truck driver you just flipped off

Let me tell you a little about the truck driver you just flipped off because he was passing another truck, and you had to cancel the cruise control and slow down until he completed the pass and moved back over.

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His truck is governed to 68 miles an hour, because the company he leases it from believes it keeps him and the public and the equipment safer.

The truck he passed was probably running under 65 mph to conserve fuel. You see, the best these trucks do for fuel economy is about 8 miles per gallon. With fuel at almost $4 per gallon — well, you do the math. And, yes, that driver pays for his own fuel.

He needs to be 1,014 miles from where he loaded in two days. And he can't fudge his federally mandated driver log, because he no longer does it on paper; he is logged electronically.

He can drive 11 hours in a 14-hour period; then he must take a 10-hour break. And considering that the shipper where he loaded held him up for five hours because it is understaffed, he now needs to run without stopping for lunch and dinner breaks.

If he misses his delivery appointment, he will be rescheduled for the next day, because the receiver has booked its docks solid (and has cut staff to a minimum). That means the driver sits, losing 500-plus miles for the week.

Which means his profit will be cut, and he will take less money home to his family. Most of these guys are gone 10 days, and home for a day and a half, and take home an average of $500 a week if everything goes well.

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Everything you buy at the store and everything you order online moves by truck.

You can't tell by looking at him, but two hours ago he took a call informing him that his only sister was involved in a car accident, and though everything possible was done to save her, she died. They had flown her to a trauma hospital in Detroit, but it was too late.

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He hadn't seen her since last Christmas, but they talked on the phone every week. The load he is pulling is going to Atlanta, and he will probably not be able to get to the funeral.

His dispatcher will do everything possible to get him there, but the chances are slim. So he has hardly noticed your displeasure at having to slow down for him. It's not that he doesn't care; he's just numb.

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Everything you buy at the store and everything you order online moves by truck. Planes and trains can't get it to your house or grocery store. We are dependent on trucks to move product from the airport and the rail yards to the stores and our homes.

Illustration for article titled What you don't know about the truck driver you just flipped off
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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 take a job at a factory if they can find it, and are replaced by an inexperienced youngster dreaming of the open road. This inexperience leads to late deliveries, causing shortages and higher prices at the store, and crashes that lead to unnecessary deaths.

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It is even possible that is what led to the death of this driver's sister.

This is a true story; it happened last week. The driver's name is Harold, and I am his dispatcher.

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Dan Hanson is a fleet manager for a Minnesota trucking company.


This story was originally published in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Aug. 3, 2011, and was reprinted with permission of the author. Photo Credit: bradleygee; J Jackson Photography

DISCUSSION

potbellyjoe
PotbellyJoe and 42 others

Let me tell you about the reader you just wrote that for.

He's calloused to the whining of this world as he realizes he is abused in his cubicle 60+ hours a week with no overtime pay thanks to his salary structure. Working hard to lessen his fear of not working, taking 3 vacation days a year and working most weekends. His wife stays at home to watch the kids because daycare is $2000/mo and her take home was only $2600/mo. So he has 4 mouths relying on his bread. He missed a week's vacation offered to him by his parents because of deadlines, he has missed weddings, funerals, and birthday parties because of the long hours, high stress and uncertain job market that makes him unable to transfer positions, or move to a new company. He commutes 30 miles in each direction, a commute that when he started 4 years ago took 35 minutes, now taking an hour thanks to that truck he just flipped off for hogging a lane not passing on a road the trucker wouldn't take if it weren't that he were avoiding the toll road.

Life sucks for everyone right now. Might as well take it out harmlessly.