Hitting the road

Sunglasses? Check. Springsteen and Mellencamp on the radio? Check. Diesel tanks full? Check. 2000 miles of road ahead of me? Check. Let’s Roll!

A lot of my posts end up talking about my faith in God and my relationship with Orthodoxy. I mean that’s in my name, Orthodox Trucker. I’m an Orthodox Christian and a truck driver. But I don’t always talk about truck driving, at least not as often as I talk about Christ and my relationship with him. Today’s post is going to be a little different. It’s just going to be about truck driving, my thoughts on this career and some of the little things that truckers experience that the average person might not know about.

A lot of truckers, especially those who run over the road, dont get paid by the hour.  Rather, we get paid by the mile. That’s how I get paid at least. 45 cents per mile, it may not sound like much but for someone who drives 3000 miles a week, that’s a decent chunk of change.  However, when you’re only running local runs, back and forth on mileage pay, and most of the time is spent sitting and waiting, your paycheck is going to hurt.

Today I am driving through the middle of Wyoming, on my way to Ohio. I picked up my load in Walla Walla, Washington and after a terrible day of mishap, I finally got going. The trouble started when the shipper put the wrong load on my trailer and when they had to take it off and put the correct load on, six hours had already passed. They started loading at 9 a.m. but because of the mishap, I didn’t actually leave the facility until almost 4 pm.  When I finally hopped on Interstate 84 near Pendleton Oregon, one of my trailer tires ruptured causing another three-hour delay. Luckily I’ve had smooth sailing since then.

I have to admit that I have forgotten how much I actually enjoy over the road driving. My regular Canada account was good, but it was very predictable, because it was the same thing over and over again and what I’ve doing now is new and exciting and kind of fun. At the same time however, I’m farther away from my family than I’ve been in a while and I don’t know when I’ll be home next. I really miss my wife and son. The daily pictures and video messages are awesome, but they’re not the same thing as loving on these people in real life. You really have to commit to keeping the relationship and the communication going, especially when you are gone for weeks and weeks at a time. I know that my wife and I have had troubles in the past with me going over the road because of a lack of communication.

So what’s it actually like being an over-the-road trucker? It’s hard but easy. Fun and miserable.  Exciting and boring. It’s literally everything. In some ways I’m like a professional tourist. I get to travel across the country seeing all the different sites and meeting new people, and other times it’s nothing but playing the hurry-up-and-wait game with either dispatch, breakdown, or the customer.

As a trucker we have to deal with every type of person. The good, the bad, and maybe even the ugly. Some people are absolutely friendly and will go out of their way to help you out. Others are just so rude they won’t even lift a finger for you. Being a trucker means long hours behind the wheel.  Yesterday alone I drove 10 hours and 34 minutes, and 628 miles. We’re allowed to work a max of 70 hours in an 8 day rolling period.  And on a daily basis we are given 11 hours to drive and an extra 3 hours for anything else that is on duty.  It can get really tiring after a long day behind the wheel working these kind of hours.

When it comes to staying clean, we struggle. We don’t always get to shower everyday and when we can it’s usually at a truck stop. If you’re not cooking your own food on the truck, most likely you’re eating out of the truck stops, and that means fast food. I had to give that lifestyle up because I was gaining too much weight.

The biggest frustration that I and other truckers have is actually a lack of respect by other motorists on the road. Besides rude DOT officers, the motoring public is actually one of our biggest headaches.  I can’t tell you how many times a day I get cut off by a little sedan or someone flips me off because I’m going too slow. Sometimes I’ll have an impatient driver ride my tail for a good ten miles just to quickly pass me and then take the very next exit. Talk about frustrating! Truckers haul the food you eat, the clothes you wear and the electronics you use. Not to mention medicines and building materials and other various items.  If it’s at a store, a trucker brought it there. So don’t forget to thank a trucker, oh and please be patient with us.

When it comes to rules and regulations, truckers have to be be on top of that as well. We have to be aware of not just how heavy the load is, but what our individual axle weights are as well.  If you are over the single weight limit on either your gross vehicle weight or on your axles, that can be a big ticket. Not only that but we also have to know where we’re going and be aware of low bridges and specific routes that may or may not be designed for trucks. Truckers also have a stereotype of being uneducated, however this job does require a decent amount of brains. We use a lot of math figuring out how much fuel we can get on the truck based on the current weight, figuring out how many miles I have to go before I have to get fuel again. Figuring out how many hours we have left before we can take a break or before we can shut down for the night.  And even if the truck stop provides refuge, we have to be aware of the dangers present at the truck stop. People who aren’t paying attention and who might hit your equipment while backing up their own trailers. Unscrupulous people like truck stop prostitutes or scalpers, who will either try to steal your money or sell you stolen goods are frequent occurrences within the industry. In fact I was actually solicited by a truck stop prostitute this afternoon! Lord have mercy upon these poor souls. 

Truckers also have to make sure that the truck stop they’re staying at is in a well-lit and safe area, because the last thing any trucker wants is either their freight stolen or their life taken away. I have read too many news articles about truckers who have been murdered in truck stop parking lots.

So why truck driving? What is it about this profession that keeps me behind the wheel? To start with, I didn’t initially choose to be a truck driver. It wasn’t what I wanted to do in my life. What I wanted to do was be an archaeologist. I studied anthropology, history, geology and just couldn’t get enough if it. The problem was I kept changing my major every year. I went from being a geology major to an anthropology major to a history major back and forth, back and forth. I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to study. In truth I was actually three years in with a mediocre GPA and still far behind in my degree. I realized I wasn’t going to get it done and with over $30,000 in debt already, it was time to just enter to the workforce. My first career was customer service. I was involved in a customer service / call center industry for over 5 years. I worked for some pretty big clients including American Express, Verizon Wireless, Bowflex and T-Mobile. It wasn’t until I lost my job in Olympia and spent the summer unemployed that I decided to change careers.

My wife and I were sitting at the dining room table looking at jobs trying to figure out what both of us were going to do when I saw the ad from CR England it said “become a truck driver no experience needed we will train you and help you get your CDL!” I looked over at my wife and said hey honey what would you think if I became a truck driver? She laughed. I said I’ll show you and submitted my application. Four days later I was on a greyhound bus to Salt Lake City to begin my training.

Apart from a short stint of call center work after my time with CR England, I’ve been trucking ever since. All together, I’ve been driving for six years now. I got my CDL in 2013, and took a year off after leaving CR England. During my time as a trucker, I’ve had several questions from family and friends about what it’s like behind the wheel. What’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen? Where do I sleep? How do I do my laundry? Is it tough being a trucker in the winter?

For me life behind the wheel is for the most part, pretty fun. I really enjoy seeing new sights and meeting new people. Sometimes when I do a particularly difficult backing maneuver and I nail it on the first try, it’ll make me feel really good. I’m proud of the job that I do and am thankful for the job I have. One thing I like about meeting new people is I actually get to talk to a lot about Orthodoxy, and that you know is part of my mission.

I’ve also got audio books & music galore. I’ve got a nice selection of orthodox music and other hymns that I can listen to to help keep my faith going.   As for crazy sights that I’ve seen? I have plenty of those kind of stories. I’ve seen UFOs in Nevada, beautiful scenery on the East Coast, and alligator skulls for sale in Louisiana! Once when I was in Canada, I saw a man in a full Santa costume walking down the highway in the middle of July using a hockey stick as a cane.  I’ve seen humanity at its best, and at its worst.

I’ve seen several truck wrecks and have had a few close calls myself. Thank goodness I haven’t had too serious I’m a situation otherwise I wouldn’t be in this rolling monastic style of mine. My truck has everything I need. I have a bed inside the truck with me that allows me to get a full night’s rest. I also have a microwave, a mini fridge with freezer, an electric skillet so I can cook my own food… basically everything I need to eat and live on the truck. If I have to do laundry I can do it at a truck stop or if it’s a real emergency I have a 5 gallon bucket and a couple gallons of fresh water and so I can do a quick laundry session in the bucket. When it comes to weather, winter time can be rough, especially when the roads get icy and snowy. I’m to the point now where I’ve chained up enough times and I never want to do it again. If the road says chains required that means I pull over and wait out the storm. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

There’s probably a lot more that I could say about trucking but I don’t want this post to take 10 minutes to read. I don’t think I’ll be a trucker forever. Maybe one day my writing career will finally take off, or perhaps I’ll go back to school. Perhaps one day I might even try to enter Seminary. Only God knows. But until then, I’ll keep on rolling.

Well my friends, I think that’s it for now. My lunch break is over and I got to hit the road again. Thanks for reading I hope you have an awesome day and I’ll see you next time.

-Orthodox Trucker

Roll on highway, roll on along
Roll on daddy till you get back home
Roll on family, roll on crew
Roll on momma like I asked you to do
And roll on eighteen-wheeler roll on!

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