"The United States economy depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S., accounting for $671 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods transported by truck in the U.S. alone." -- TruckingInfo
Every single day, 24 hours a day, truck drivers haul freight. This freight carries everything people use on a daily basis. Everyone is familiar with sharing the road with these big rigs but most people don't know what these drivers go through to get us those fidget spinners we love so much.
Truck drivers risk their lives (considering accidents are the number one cause of death for ages 1-44) and their livelihood. I interviewed 2 drivers at Alabama Motor Express to gain a better understanding of what they go through and hopefully a newfound respect for these drivers.
Here are their tales:
Meet Richard Hale, an AMX driver with 30 years of experience in driving under his belt.
For Richard, his days are anything but typical. Every day is a new day. And, no two days are alike. He may have a delivery set for 9am or one at 9pm. He doesn’t know his schedule until the day before.
Every day before he sets out on the road he starts out with a 15 minute pre-trip inspection and a coffee (of course). After that, it’s on the road, drop the load, then pick up the next one.
Detention is a major part of life as a truck driver. Richard said he's been forced to wait as much as 6 hours for a load. And, a 6 hour wait is a major problem when drivers are only allowed to work for 11 hours at a time. If he happens to miss his delivery time, due to traffic or any other reason, then he doesn't get paid for the time he has to wait.
Smart phones have made waiting a lot easier. They also help drivers stay in touch with their families. Some drivers are away from home and away from family for 2-3 weeks at a time.
On average, Richard picks up and delivers 4-5 loads a week as an over-the-road driver. With each load around 800-1000 miles, he ends up driving up to 3200 miles a week. His favorite views are the sunrise over the mountains. One of his favorite routes involves Interstate 81 through Pennsylvania and Virginia.
With views similar to this:
Of course, ultimately his favorite thing about being an AMX driver is the money he makes, but he does enjoy the solitude of the drive.
His advice for new drivers is to find a seasoned driver and shadow him. In his experience, you can't learn everything you need to know about driving without on-hand training alongside someone with experience.
Also, don't wear your pajamas inside a truck stop! :)
We also interviewed Michael Budnik. A driver with 22 years experience hauling freight.
Here are some examples of different types of trucks he's driven for AMX:
His advice to new drivers is to know what you're getting into before committing. It can be very lonely on the road. Unlimited calling and data makes it easier on relationships but he urges potential drivers to talk to their significant other before getting into trucking. Also, always mind your surroundings.
Unlike Richard, Michael brings his wife and his dog along on some of his trips. But, like Richard, he doesn't have time to waste on roadside attractions and tries to drop a load and get home as fast as possible.
Michael's regular route is from Alabama to Tennesse, then Tennessee to Texas, and Texas to Florida, which usually takes up the whole week. AMX has been working hard to get its drivers home as much as possible. Michael used to only be home every two weeks but now he gets home every weekend.
Since he spends so much time on the road, he witnesses a lot of cars and car troubles. When he sees a car with a tire that's going flat, he tries to alert the driver to the danger. He'll also get on the CB radio to tell other drivers to alert the car too so they'll realize sooner rather than later.
Safety technology has improved tremendously since he started driving. He mentioned knowing a driver who has a lane departure warning system installed on his truck. At first, the driver was wary of the new technology until he realized it made him a better driver. Staying in the lanes can be very hard for a big rig driver. Michael said he's been pulled over for suspected intoxication because the trailer he was pulling was empty and it was a particularly windy day.
I started this blog with the intention of entertaining people with quirky stories from big rig drivers. What I didn't realize is how difficult it is to be a driver and what they sacrifice every day so people, like me, can have the things we want and need. I've gained new respect for these highway soldiers and their struggle. Hopefully, you've learned something new as well.
We would like to thank all drivers. Read about National Truck Driver Appreciation Week in our blog!
AMX is working harder than ever to make the life of a truck driver better every day. Besides working to get drivers home to their families more often, we also offer health insurance, a 401k, and the newest, top of the line equipment. Join the AMX team today!