December 31, 1999

It is the one year anniversary of this web site, the end of the century, and coincidentally the ten year anniversary of my career in trucking, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate all three than to get out of trucking. Starting on January 3, 2000 I will be starting my new position as a local driver for the same company I’ve been working for all these years. So you see, I am not really leaving trucking, but in another sense I will be, because in the eyes of many, what I’m doing is not “real” trucking. They are right... and they are wrong. It doesn’t make any difference, because I think if I get any happier I am going to explode.

This change has been in the works for some time. The anniversaries are just a coincidence. Over-the-road trucking is a very unhealthy lifestyle which has taken it’s toll on me. Surprising, given the superb physical condition I was in when I started, and which I maintained for several years after I started driving, but nevertheless, this past year I ended up in the hospital for a massive blood clot in my leg and abdomen, as well as a pulmonary embolism, a direct result of an almost completely sedentary job. As trucks have gotten more plush and comfortable, as trucking firms eliminate loading and unloading responsibilities (as they should, I’m not complaining about that), it follows that drivers have nothing to do but drive, which means sit, for 10 or more hours a day. That’s the prime receipe for blood clots. Oddly, I have not heard of a single driver in my company or any other that has suffered from this... they were all too busy dropping dead of heart attacks. I guess the smoking got them before the sitting could. Seriously, we lost more good hands this past year than I could keep count of. I’m not ready to join that statistic just yet.

You might be asking yourselves, those of you not familiar with trucking, how this change will help me. Simply put, I will not be sitting. I will be climbing in and out of a truck dozens of times a day, dropping and hooking trailers, and doing the myriad things that help keep a large trucking operation going. Or at least one branch of it.

Of the few people I have discussed this with, each has asked the same question: “Are you going to miss it?” and I have answered each the same way: “No.” I used to quote an old song that went “I’ve been everywhere, done everything, had every conceivable thrill; I won’t know whether to tell the preacher I do, I have, or I will!”. That’s not quite true. I have seen much, but not all. I never made it to Maine or the Western provinces of Canada. But what I have seen and done would fill many travel books (and a few of a less savory genre) if I were the writing kind.

“Yes, but aren’t you going to miss the freedom?” I won’t be missing it. One of the first things I discovered when I started trucking ten years ago is that there are many kinds of freedom, and the freedom of the road is just one of them. What most people are referring to are the long stretches of unsupervised time that comprise the bulk of OTR trucking. Yes that’s nice, but it’s also a big drag being on call 24 hours a day. You learn ways of disguising that aspect of it, of fooling yourself into thinking you have some time to yourself, but you’re never really quite out of reach of the satellite. I feel a kind of reverse freedom now. I “only” have to give them 9 hours of my day and every third saturday. The rest of the time is all mine! The times I was happiest were when I had very long runs and a long time to get there, so that my entire week was planned out in advance. This is going to be exactly like that, except that my phone bills will be a lot lower. And I won’t get to drive any more of the long stretches of deserted highway that I love so much.

There are a lot of changes on the horizon for the trucking industry: changes to the hours of service regulations, Mexican trucks expanding into the U.S., traffic congestion approaching unbearable levels in many areas, and last but not least, trucking has become something of an asshole magnet. The prevailing attitude seems to be do it to the other guy before he does it to you. But that’s a subject for another day.

So I’m going to sit out the coming year on the sidelines and enjoy a little domestic bliss and physical rejuvenation. I’ve got a little house on a hill in the country. My backyard is a 300 acre farm, and when I wake up and look out my window I see black cows, green grass, and blue sky. Not too shabby. I have shot thousands of frames of film in the last ten years. I shot 75 frames in the last two weeks, on my “farewell tour”. In the coming weeks I hope to present some of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen in the last decade.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. I plan to celebrate by eating a roast goose, go riding 4-wheelers with a buddy of mine, and sit around with a bunch of cowboys and watch football. Not necessarily in that order.

What about you?

The Iconoclast

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