How about a view from an actual long-haul (OTR) driver? Specifically, ME
I drove OTR for almost 8 years, 1,000,000 miles (more or less anyway, exact figure is unknown), 43 of the 48 continental states plus Canada (missing
OR, WA, ID, MT, ND), and was regularly out for periods as long as a month at a time. I worked for Burlington Motor Carriers, Celadon Trucking, U. S.
Xpress, Parrett Trucking, Southern Cal Transport/Eagle Motor Lines, Paschall Truck Lines (PTL), Gulf Coast Transport, and J. B. Hunt. I think I know
something about the truck stops.
First I want to address the occupation. Truck driving is an exercise in complacency. If you tend to look for a fight at the drop of a hat, you'll
last about 2 hours. On the other hand, if you try to avoid confrontation at every expense, you won't last long either. There is a middle ground there
where most drivers fall: don't start no trouble and there won't be no trouble. We tend to overlook a lot
especially from 'civilians'. If we
didn't every driver would be dead of a heart attack within a year of driving. There is no way to communicate the pure unadulterated idiocy that
happens on the road, and I would hazard to say that every non-commercial driver here contributes to it, plus a good percentage of commercial drivers
off duty for a day.
It is rush. rush, rush, then sit and wait, wait, wait. The load is scheduled, then it goes to the carrier, then to the planners, then to the
dispatcher, and finally to the driver. When the driver gets it, the load is usually already close to being late (I have had loads that required me to
drive 200 miles in 30 minutes; obviously that is ridiculous and I refused to accept the schedule). Then, when the driver manages to get there on time,
the workers are in absolutely no rush to load or unload the truck. Some places want the driver to stand there at the side of his trailer for no reason
other than 'company policy' for 2-6 hours, rather than getting some much-needed sleep in their truck so they can do their job on time. Complaints
about ridiculous practices like this are often met with threats of complaints to their companies or banning from the facility (which in some cases
would be more like a reward
). Schedules are changed without notice to the driver on frequent occasions, and it is common for a driver to be
refused for being 5 minutes late (even if due to road closings or weather closings or major accidents) and then expected to wait for up to two weeks
(without pay) to make another appointment.
Yet, somehow we manage to make the loads on time, most of us at a rate of better than 99%. And to make it even more fun, we do it despite restrictive
laws and regulations specifying when we can drive, how fast we are forced to go (ever tried doing the truck speed of 55 mph in a state where everyone
else gets to go 70 mph?), a lack of parking, and some of the silliest local ordinances you could imagine (I know one driver who was fined $1500 for
stopping for less than 5 minutes on a wide off-ramp shoulder in IN so he could check his directions and not get lost in a residential
So sure, truckers are a special breed. They are typically a bit on the rough side, since they have to spend long nights in that truck (a space smaller
than what OSHA requires for someone working in an office for 8 hours), with no sanitary restroom facilities (and in most states, peeing behind a bush
carries a whopping fine now), any outside source of food, and in some states now, without any electricity, heat, or cooling. We are targets for
opportunistic thieves, vandals, robbers, DOT officials with a quota that needs filling, or even road-raged civilians with a grudge against a truck
that they tried to run off the road three days ago.
But we are not murderers. We have the perfect opportunity, sure. On a rural highway at night, we could go off and kill dozens of people with a twist
of a steering wheel and disappear into another section of the country. We don't. We don't because we are normal people, just like you, who happen to
perform a very hard and valuable job to serve those who do not stay away form home for that month at a time. The average city has enough food on hand
to last a week. That means if the trucks stopped running, people would have nothing to eat left after one week. Some places would be bare after a
couple of days. To do this job, to keep you able to eat three meals a day, we give up time at home with our families, put up with the attitudes dock
workers seem to have as a part of their work contract, deal with unfair and grievous regulation, accept that we might make a living this week, or we
might go hungry, freeze in the cold weather and sweat in the heat so you don't have to think about carbon dioxide killing you (
), and basically
take our place as second-class citizens less important than a dog.
If there was ever a job which screamed for someone to flip out and go on a murderous rampage, trucking is that job. So to start with, 500 drivers out
of the tens opf thousands who do their job is a low number considering the stresses and the opportunities that are part of the job.
Secondly, the truck stops themselves are probably the culprit if there is indeed a preponderance of violent crime associated with them. Not in that
they exist, but in how they have to operate. You have acres upon acres of truck parking (necessary for the high volume of trucks and their size
individually), usually dimly lit if at all (since the cost of electricity to light such a large area is prohibitive), a constant influx of transients
(including both drivers and others), a lack of security (which most drivers are happy with, since they have just spent all day dealing with idiotic
rent-a-cops anyway and really want to not be disturbed unnecessarily), the general public perception of truckers as wealthy and an easy target for
swindlers, hookers, and beggars (which may be true for some drivers, but definitely not for the majority), and the fact that since the faces change so
often, it is easy to hide in plain sight.
Those with the least to lose in a truck stop would not be the truckers. It is instead the non-driving transients, such as the people who try to beg,
bum, borrow, or steal a few bucks to manage to get a meal and like to take a nap in the back of the truck stop. These people are the dregs of
humanity, working their tails off to avoid working. They live on the outskirts of society, not tracked by any financial system nor cumbered with a
job. If you want to look for someone to blame for an inordinate number of deaths in and around truck stops, these are your prime suspects. The problem
with suspecting them is that they cannot be contacted through their employer, nor tracked by their bank account. It takes actual work and effort to
find them. So I guess I can understand why some would like to just blame the truckers; it's easier.
As to the drug use? USDOT regulations require the following drug tests, administered by a Federally-licensed facility, at the following
- Upon employment
- Any time there is a DOT-reportable accident (defined as any collision in which a vehicle is towed or an injury is reported)
- Any time there is 'reasonable cause' to suspect illegal drug use or alcohol use
- Randomly from 10% of the companies fleet of drivers each year without notice
This is the absolute minimum that must be complied with for any
company (even a single owner-operator) to maintain authority for operation of a commercial vehicle in the United States. Any violation of this policy
is met immediately with either serious fines (in the millions of dollars) and removal of authority to operate (closing the company via force of law).
Should any driver refuse to submit to a test within 24 hours, regardless of reason, it is considered a failed test and the driver is not allowed to
operate a commercial vehicle for a period of time (I believe, but am not 100% sure, which is 6 months). That means you lose your job, since you cannot
perform the job.
Trucking companies are required, again by USDOT regulations, to maintain complete logs on their drivers, including all GPS information from the trucks
(which is now common and soon to be mandatory), any tickets/fines/legal issues, fuel stop locations and amount purchased, and other information. Oh,
yes, and I should mention that the ticket info includes all tickets, whether in a commercial vehicle or a personal vehicle.
In addition, possession of a CDL (Commercial Driver's License) means that state and local DUI laws no longer apply. Instead, you come under USDOT
regulations, which are much stricter: 0.04% alcohol level is considered intoxicated as opposed to the 0.08% commonly used by most states. ANY
trace amount of illegal drugs is considered a violation and and therefore an immediate disqualification to drive. In addition, precious few companies
will hire a driver, regardless of this other qualifications, if he has either refused or failed a drug test in the last 10 years. No one will hire you
for one year.
So to walkswithfish: Truckers already go through much more extensive drug/alcohol testing than anyone else in society. Do you want more?
Thirdly, this story is from the LA Times. California HATES trucks! California would be more than happy to toss every person who ever stood within 10
yards of a truck into the deepest, darkest prison cell imaginable if they could get away with it. If it wasn't for the fact that nothing in
California would be able to exist without the constant truck traffic, they would actually outlaw them. Please don't waste your breathe telling me I
am wrong or even exaggerating; I have been to Cal many times in a truck, and I have seen that attitude over and over with my own eyes. Cal hates
trucks, truckers therefore hate Cal.
This story is just a (truck)load of bull excrement.