I desperately wanted a job or a story to sell.
Basically, I wanted money and something to do. I was still searching for a second career and running out of options.
I was hoping to”think outside the box” in hopes that I could find a second career with the abilities some human resource specialist always tells me are”transferrable,” but not understands any company that’s hiring someone with over 20 years’ experience in another industry. I was frustrated, tired, irritated and just plain bored.
I needed to do something, even if it was wrong. I’d always done all the right things during my life, but even a stupid person knows that you can’t keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results.
Looking for a job was not getting me a job. The odds were against me. There are too many unemployed people with great skills, education, and tons of expertise and, still, too few jobs to spread around. I believed if I could ride along in the second seat of a semi-truck, it would give me an opportunity to actually learn what the job was about before I spent time and money into getting my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and looking for a company willing to cover an over 40 year-old woman to push for them. I would still have to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical test also. I worried that age might be a barrier also. With so much to worry about, I had been finding it difficult to prioritize what to worry about most.
So, with this in mind, I went to a local truck stop to interview a few of the drivers. I was contemplating driving a semi-truck as a potential second career because my dad had been an over-the-road truck driver when I was young.
Then, a couple years after, he taught me a few basic maneuvers like how to drive the tractor around a warehouse parking lot and dock the trailer so the warehouse guys could unload it. That was how I had spent one Saturday afternoon.
So, on this particular Sunday afternoon, I rode the bus to the nearest truck stop in Denver. I stood back and watched. I watched as the truck drivers carried their luggage and shower kit from their semi-truck through the rear door reserved for”professional drivers” on their way to the 24-hour restaurant, the coin-operated laundry room or to purchase a $12-ticket for a private shower.
I watched as the motorists fueled their trucks. I watched them drive through the parking lot and back their big rig at a slot. A truck driver is judged, not by how fast he can drive on an interstate, but how easily he can back his trailer between two trucks. I watched the other drivers observe the other drivers.
Mostly, I was amazed by how many female drivers I saw climb out of the truck. I was encouraged to see them climb out of the driver’s seat. I spoke to a few of the girls as they headed towards the back door.
Most of the women I talked with were over-the-road (OTR) drivers which meant they drove long-distances, cross-country and, therefore, were not home often. All of them were solitary; many of them traveled with a dog for companionship. One of the women traveled with a dog and two cats in her truck. She had been an independent driver with her own truck. She drove”solo,” she said, and favored her animals to people as companions. She had been driving for years and wouldn’t return to office work for love of money. That’s pretty much what they said.
As I stood and watched the truckers fuel their tractors, inspect their trailers and try to find a parking spot for the night, I tried to imagine what it might be like being a professional semi-truck driver. I was hopeful that my limited understanding about the fundamentals of semi-trucks and the trucking industry might give me an insight into a new industry where there might be a job available for an over 40 year old, white female, with no kids and no need to return to a home base to visit family or friends. This was my hope anyway.
Road to Employment
I thought I might have found a new road to employment. I was anticipating a new job which would permit me to work independently in the comforts of a semi-truck with a combination trailer complete with surround-sound stereo, a mobile 24-inch flat-screen satellite tv, a midsize fridge, a microwave and, of course, a full-size sleeper. What more could a woman want? There was an onboard International Positioning System (GPS) to help me map my way across the United States. With a single touch, on the 7-inch touch-screen, I could find the nearest rest stop, truck stop or my final destination.
The job was starting to sound ideal – especially considering my current situation.
It was a job that would allow me to see the countryside without needing to pay for an airplane ticket or a Greyhound bus ticket. It was a job where I could eat, work and sleep in 1 vehicle. I could travel the country, with a paycheck in one hand and a steering wheel in the other. I wouldn’t even have to go home to visit family and friends because after being unemployed for so long – I didn’t have anything better to do. I could work day and night and package my savings account with money.
I closed my eyes as I tried to picture myself sitting in the driver’s seat, enjoying the scenery, while listening to my favorite music as I traveled the countryside from one country to the other. I had noticed some of the newer models that one man called a”condo cab.” He said they’re called condo cabs since they’re large and have almost as many conveniences as a recreational vehicle. A few of the men told me that some of those interiors are custom designed and, of course, are really fine. I didn’t get to see the interior of one though. I did talk with one female motorist, however, who called her standard-size sleeper a”bedroom suite” because she enjoyed it so much. She confessed to having it”out-fitted” in pink with goose-down cushions, a goose-down comforter, floor rugs and curtains to match.
The thought of driving a semi-truck with the interior decorated in pink was attractive to me. I was beginning to get caught up in the decorating while still trying to consider the actual task of driving. It was starting to work for me. I could combine my desire for the comforts of home with the need to earn a paycheck and that I would not even have to give up my notebook computer.
Global Positioning System
The on-board email system shouldn’t present any significant problems either. Half of my problems were resolved. The thought of transporting about 80,000 pounds of cargo in an aluminum trailer during rain, hail, sleet and snow rarely happened to me. I could drive by day and write through the night. I thought this might be the perfect solution. I could solve two problems with a single job. I could make a paycheck daily and use my computer at night to freelance my writing career. The key is in the decorating.
Besides decorating my tractor-trailer combination vehicle in calm, soothing colors, I could have my name painted on the side and look really cool. The majority of the tractors can be recognized by the writing on the driver’s door that identifies the owner or operator of every vehicle. Many motorists will have their name printed on the driver’s door. Other drivers paint a favourite expression or scripture which usually complements the custom paint job. All vehicles have to have custom amounts; nonetheless, these are provided by DOT. It appears the Department of Transportation (DOT) insists on it. I guess that is a regulation or something. But, that is fine, black goes with everything. It never clashes. Besides, it is going to make the large, black tires noticeable and provide a more”grounded” appearance to the vehicle.
The newly designed, aerodynamic “scoop hood” and “scoop roof” are really cool too. Salesmen will tell you that they help the air flow over the tractor and trailer and, therefore, reduce wind drag and improve fuel mileage. I think they just did it because it looks cool and gives more head room inside the cab.
More headroom allows the trucker to actually stand inside the cab. More headroom also gives a great open feeling to any space; which appealed to me and my sense of the outdoors. The extra space also allows the trucker to more easily open and close the fridge door while he sees satellite television on his new, 24-inch flat screen tv, with an integrated DVD player.
Most truckers reported that they particularly like the remote control that enables them to change television channels while sitting on the sleeper. This allows them to stay seated and, thus, not need to stand or move to change the channel or insert a new disc.
The fridge is typically located next to the sleeper, which is also convenient. This permits the driver to open the refrigerator to grab a drink or a snack without getting up. Only a guy would think to engineer the cab of a truck this way. Men live in their trucks the same way they live at home; food in one hand and the television remote in the other.
The Automated Power Unit (APU) was also considered by the majority of truck drivers to be a popular feature. It’s responsible for making all of these appliances and comforts works so readily in a semi-truck. The APU provides power to the fridge, microwave, lights and other electric type things which make living in a truck more pleasing. All the truckers wanted an APU. The APU makes luxury happen.
The dashboard within a semi-truck is cool too. It has a judge for all. The inside of these trucks look like the interior of an airplane. They have enough gauges to track almost everything on the truck or trailer. They’ve gauges to monitor fuel levels, oil levels, manifold pressure as well as the gross weight of the cargo in the trailer.
State patrol inspectors are also fond of their weight gauges also. They especially like the burden gauges that they can monitor while sitting inside the”shack” in the port of entry. The state patrol can now monitor a semi-truck’s front and rear axle weight”in-motion” as it passes the port-of-entry. Even the port-of-entry is automated these days. The highway department put scales underneath sections of the interstate which allows the state patrol to check the weight of the cargo as the semi-truck travels past the weight station. The truck drivers no longer need to stop at every port-of-entry when entering a new state; rather, they can just drive-by while the state patrol monitors the burden on a computer screen. If the freight weight is too thick, based on Federal regulations, the state patrol still gets to get in their cars, turn on a siren and chase the truck driver to give him a ticket. Some things have not changed. The truckers watch the state patrol and the state patrol watches the truckers.
While riding in a semi-truck, I learned a lot about the trucking industry. I learned so much that I decided to get my CDL license so that I, also, could haul cargo across the country. It’s a difficult task, but does have the main advantage of not having a boss inside the cab. Having a boss within the cab is comparable to getting a back-seat driver who wants to tell you how you can drive. This is the advantage that promotes many truck drivers into becoming truck drivers. They get to control the truck, their routes and, if they provide on-time, they get paid to drive. They also get to select which radio channel they prefer to listen to while they travel the countryside. It’s important when choosing a trucker to ride with, that you select someone with similar taste in music. This is quite important.
Logged 10K Miles
I rode with one trucker for over two months and, according to his log, we logged over 10,000 miles in his semi-truck. I think I criss-crossed the United States five times during these two months. I enjoyed it.
But after talking to many recruiters and truck-driving schools, I learned that there isn’t a high-demand for women; but they were willing to give me a opportunity. I applied to work for a motor carrier that is known to hire inexperienced drivers. I borrowed money from a friend, took a Greyhound bus to another country and, after one failed attempt, I got my license to drive a semi-truck. Sadly, the school was not what I was expecting. After two weeks, I dropped-out, took a bus back home and began looking for jobs in my career field. I also went back to writing and chose to do what I planned all along – to compose a short-story about my experience traveling cross-country in a semi-truck for two.