What It’s Like to Be a Trucker (Hard, Mostly)

What It’s Like to Be a Trucker (Hard, Mostly)

What It’s Like to Be a Trucker (Hard, Mostly)
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Drivers are often ignorant of the value and lifestyle of truckers. Especially among younger people, truckers are seen as ignorant rednecks, doing the only job they’re suited for and inconveniencing everyone else on the road. Like most generalizations, this is total bunk. 

The truth is that truckers move more than 70% of goods transported in the U.S, and 5.8% of full-time jobs in America are related to trucking. If long-haul truckers stopped working, most grocery stores in the U.S. would be empty in three days. Despite the fact that the trucking industry has revenues higher than the GDP of 150 nations, its workers make below-average pay, and those regulating them have zero experience as truck drivers. Oh, and experts think we need to hire 900,000 more to meet our needs. 

The end result? Truckers fill a hugely important and largely invisible role in North American life, often for poor pay, while being overworked and ordered around by people who have no idea what they need to do their job. It might sound familiar to you.

Truckers also don’t want to be in your way any more than you want to be in theirs. If they’re going slow (or fast), there’s a reason for it. And due to the sheer number of hours they spend on the road and the professionalism required of them, it’s a safe assumption that if there’s a conflict between you and a trucker… you’re probably in the wrong. 

Yet they’re insulted and stereotyped by much of society. Truckers are artists, activists, lovers and haters, fighters and pacifists, and everything in-between. It’s hard not to have such a wide variety when you’re talking about so many people.

So, with that said, it’s important for us to think about how we can help truckers… and keep ourselves safe in the process. Below, you’ll find some easy tips to play nice with truckers.

How to Play Nice with Truckers

Pay Attention when You Merge!

Trucks are heavy. Incomprehensibly so. One major effect of this is that it takes them much longer to stop than a regular car. Even slamming on the brakes, they won’t stop for at least 390 feet, and that’s on level, dry ground with fresh brakes. Your car can do the same in 120 feet. 

Truckers aren’t interested in killing anyone, so they try very hard to have more than enough distance between the front of their vehicle and you, so that even if you came to a dead stop, they would have time to react. This means that you need to give them way more room than you think when you merge. 

One tip, courtesy of the Over the Road podcast, is this: look in your rear-view mirror. If you can’t see the entire truck in it, it isn’t safe to merge. And when you’re driving up to merge, keep your blinker on the entire time. More on that later.

Don’t Tailgate, and Be Careful of Blind Spots

One of the most important things a trucker needs to keep you safe is visibility. Likewise, it’s something you desperately need to keep yourself safe. So, if you’re running up the rear of a truck, then you’re putting both of you in danger. With a truck in the way, you won’t see anything stopping them before it’s too late. 

The easiest way to prevent this is to look at their mirrors. If you can’t see the trucker in their side mirror, they can’t see you. The same is true for blind spots. And if you can’t see their mirror at all? MOVE BACK!

Use Your Signals. Ahead of time. Yes. Those Ones You Rarely Touch.

A lot of people ignore their turn signals, especially when merging. It feels like a small shortcut you can get away with. This is a great way to cause an accident. Doubly so where trucks are concerned.

Truckers are driving big, heavy vehicles that are not built for manoeuvrability. Even a small swerve can cause it to tip over, killing or injuring the driver and others. Not only do they need you to use your signals on every single occasion, but they also need you to do it far ahead of time. It’s not enough to hit the turn signal as you’re moving. Do it once you know you want to merge. 

Truckers Like Kids: Don’t Discourage Your Kids from Waving at Them

Truckers—especially long-haul truckers—may see their kids once a fortnight or less. Many of them are devoted parents and family people, and this is extremely hard on them. As a result, most truckers love kids. 

So it’s always a little disappointing when parents tell their children not to wave at the trucker driving next to them. Trust me: it puts a smile on their face to see that kid grin.

Buy ‘Em a Snack

The lives of truckers are getting harder and harder, for the same reasons that many of our lives are. Some are making poverty wages for a job that won’t let them see their family. It’s not easy. So, my last tip to you is about generosity.

Next time you see a trucker at a gas station or something, offer to buy ‘em a snack or a soda or something. Not out of pity, but out of kindness and generosity. 

It might make their day. 

One Last Note

I’ll admit, I was one of those ignorant people I described at the beginning of this article (sans the grumbling and cutting them off). I learned more about trucking through a podcast by Radiotopia called Over the Road and found myself intrigued.

If you care about economics or just want a good listen, you should hit Spotify and go through the podcast. It’s a great listen, and you’ll earn a new appreciation for truckers. 

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