People often picture truck drivers as the cowboys of the highway, riding the open range in 18-wheelers. Outsiders think life on the road involves adventure, travel and a chance to see the country. While there are perks involved with a truck driving career, there are hardships, too. The next time you see a trucker barreling down the Interstate, consider the realities of life on the road instead of the mythical picture of the trucking life.
While truck drivers are often painted as the bad guys of the highway, people don’t consider that car drivers are frequently at fault when accidents or near-accidents occur. Many car drivers cut truck drivers off, pull out in front of them and cause them to stop short, or ride too close to their rear bumper. Car drivers fail to realize that the stopping distance of a loaded truck is considerably longer than that of a car. Trucks are several tons heavier than cars and stopping on a dime is impossible. No driver wants to injure others on the road, but sometimes stupid maneuvers by car drivers make accidents unavoidable.
Time Away from Home
Trucking companies often require drivers to be out anywhere from two to four weeks at a time. The average amount of home time is one day off for every seven days out. After 14 days out, two days off is not sufficient. By the time a trucker winds down, does his laundry and gets back into the swing of things at home, it’s time for him to leave again. If most people were asked to work for two to four weeks straight with little or no time off, the answer would probably be a resounding no.
The general public is mostly unaware of restrictions on truckers known as anti-idling laws. These laws were enacted as a way to protect the environment from engine emissions, but fail to take into account the safety and comfort of truck drivers. Anti-idling laws force drivers to turn off their trucks when parked for certain periods of time, such as overnight while sleeping. Drivers often have to sleep in freezing cold or boiling hot conditions, unable to use their heat or air due to these laws. If they idle the truck to maintain climate control in the cab, they’re subject to expensive fines when ticketed. Complying with the law makes good rest difficult and results in a fatigued driver the next day.
People often think truckers are rolling in money. Not so. While some may make the big bucks, many others are struggling to survive. Out-of-pocket expenses such as costly meals on the road eat into a trucker’s salary. While tolls and costs of weighing the loaded truck are reimbursed by the company, truckers may still be short on cash after making those payments. Most truckers work 70-hour weeks legally with all time off spent in the truck. If you divide the pay received by the actual hours worked, it often works out to be shockingly low, and there’s no such thing as time and a half for work over 40 hours.