Everyone has their own version of what a truck driver looks and acts like (and sometimes what they might smell like). I'm even guilty of having an image of what a truck driver is. Although, once I became a driver, that all changed. I think the typical image of a truck driver includes a middle-aged male who is tired, dirty, hasn't showered in a week, hopped up on drugs (legal or otherwise), and searching for prostitutes while wearing an old torn flannel shirt and ball cap. Most people think truck drivers are uneducated too. While there are definitely some truck drivers that meet this description, it's usually far from the truth.
But how did we get that image? Drivers used to be considered "The Knights of the Highway" since so many truck drivers helped out stranded motorists and people in trouble. Drivers used to be looked up to by young kids, always wanting to hear the driver blow the air horn and maybe, just maybe, get a peak inside that huge monster. I can't speak for all females, but how many males out there have at least thought about becoming a truck driver once or twice in their life. Hitting the open road, just you and the truck, traveling the country. I think most males have had it cross their mind, but most never take that leap. What has happened over the last 20 or so years to tarnish our image so bad? Now we're just disgusting, uneducated jerks driving large, slow vehicles that nobody wants around their town.
Well, I've only been driving for 4 months now, but I have theories. I can't say what went on 20 years ago, but I'll state what goes on now. If you ever go into a truck stop and looked where all the trucks are parked, you'll be sure to notice a certain smell almost instantly. That lovely cologne you're smelling is a mixture of exhaust, rotting trash, and urine. The "home away from home" for truck drivers is the truck stop. It's always in a different place, and we always have roommates. Unfortunately,some of our roommates don't care about our home at all. They will urinate on the lot, throw their trash where they want, empty their ashtrays into a big pile next to their truck, and have no care for the smell or visual condition of the truck stop. Just pure laziness.Some truck stops are worse than others, but it's always a good idea to avoid stepping in puddles when you walk around. You never know what it might be. When somebody who isn't a truck driver stumbles onto the lot, just how does that make us look?? I've seen drivers dump trash on the ground even though a garbage can was less than 25ft away. No reason for that.
Also, there is a term out there that doesn't help our case. The lovely term known as a "trucker bomb." If you're not familiar with this, a "trucker bomb" is a plastic bottle filled with urine. The state of Iowa did a study last year that showed almost 1-million of these "trucker bombs" scattered along the highway in just one year. I forgot the exact number, but that's something like 2 "bombs" for every single mile of road in that state. Not only is this disgusting, it's toxic. When human urine sits in a closed container in the hot sun for a prolonged period of time, the urine becomes toxic. To add to that, the pressure builds up in the bottle, so when the landscaping crew runs over it with their lawnmower, the bottle explodes (hence the term). How would you like to be covered in warm, toxic, human waste? Now, granted the term "trucker bomb" should actually just be called a "urine bomb" since truck drivers aren't the only ones guilty of throwing these containers out the window. But nonetheless, it's easy to argue truck drivers are the main culprit.
While many people think it's totally nasty to urinate in your truck, it's really just a personal choice. We can't just swing off the highway, pull into a small gas station, and take a leak. It's even harder at night. For those of you who aren't drivers, check out rest areas after 7pm and see how much truck parking is available. Usually trucks are overflowing onto the ramps by the time it gets dark. For us to stop and do our business, we're talking about 20 minutes or more down the tubes. Not to mention the aggravation. So I'll never judge somebody if they make that choice to use a bottle from time to time when needed, but let's dispose of it properly! How hard is it to dump the bottle out on the grass somewhere and throw the bottle away. It's just another reason our image is tarnished.
The best way for the general public to start thinking we're horrible people is to simply turn on a CB radio to channel 19. If you're anywhere near a truck stop, you'll get to listen to all sorts of cussing, womanizing, racial slurs, gay bashing, random screaming and yelling, burping, and all sorts of other things you'll wish you never heard. Give bored, stressed out truck drivers, who are alone almost all the time, a way to talk to the "outside" anonymously, and you have a mix for disaster. The shame is, the CB radio could be one of the best safety devices on the truck. But many drivers simply leave them off, since the select few ruin it for everyone else.
I won't get into the specific about how we drive and why we do certain things on the road (that'll be in another post), but the general public often times gets upset at us for doing certain things on the road. While there are definitely some poor truck drivers out there, usually we are simply misunderstood for driving certain ways. But regardless, this also hurts our image. There's nothing drivers can do about that, but it definitely helps to tarnish our image.
Some movies and TV shows, along with things people see and hear in the news leads them to believe there is a huge drug, alcohol, and prostitution problem in the trucking industry. This is one that I believed myself. But really, this is perhaps he biggest misconception. Are there truck drivers who do drugs? Absolutely. Are there some truck drivers who drink when they aren't supposed to? Yup. Are there some truck drivers who hire prostitutes? There sure are. But this is not the norm! The vast majority of truck stops don't have any of this going on. Or if it is, it's kept pretty quiet. Other truck stops, like Ontario, CA, Nashville, TN, Gary, IN, and some others are crawling with "lot lizards" (truckers term for prostitutes). Those are the truck stops that don't care and simply turn a blind eye to the problem. The drivers who are into these things know where to go. And the ones who aren't into it know what truck stops to avoid. Thankfully, most truck stops don't need to be avoided.
As far as drugs and alcohol is concerned, truck drivers are subject to drug and alcohol testing at any time. No probable cause is needed. Any weigh station can test you. Some police officer can test you. And our companies are required to randomly test us. Those who use drugs or alcohol usually won't last long. Fellow truck drivers want them off the road just as much as everyone else. Drugs and alcohol are not part of the trucking culture anymore. It used to be more prevalent, but things have been cleaned up dramatically in the past few decades.
The truth of the matter is, truck driving has to be the most diverse industry in the country. I've met young people, old people, men, woman, people of just about every race, people from big cities, and people from rural America. I've met some who have had felonies on their record (yes, they told me for some reason), and some who preach the word of God to everyone. I've met some who never graduated high school, and I've even met a driver with a doctorate degree (he was previously a dentist - he had all his teeth!). I've met some folks who have been doing this their entire lives, and I've met some who were previously cops, teachers, construction workers, and CEO's. Truck drivers are plucked from the general public with all different backgrounds. Just like there are good cops and bad cops, good politicians and bad politicians, good CEO's and bad CEO's, there are also good truck drivers and bad truck drivers. And like always, the bad ones ruin it for everyone else. The vast majority of truck drivers are good people who work very hard to maintain safety and service. They sacrifice a lot for what they do, but do their part in keeping this country moving. If you bought it, a truck brought it. Truck drivers have a lot of pride in what they do, even if we are treated as if we're bottom of the barrel.Please share the road with us, and remember we don't all fit the stereotypes.
Until next time, drive safely.