Gene Autry, “The Singing Cowboy,” penned and sang the words-
“Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging
word, And the skies are not cloudy all day.”
Professional truck drivers have been referred to as the last of the American Cowboys. There are many modern day parallels in their lives. For instance, let’s substitute road for range in Autry’s ditty and look at a driver’s job and life cycle from the prospective of “home, home on the road.” I think most people who have tried to make long haul truck driving a career and found out quickly it was not for them, just couldn’t adapt to the concept of the road being their life away from home. Our million mile drivers not only adapt to this lifestyle, but embrace it. Dan Baker says “the easiest thing about being a truck driver is driving the truck. It’s the mental, emotional, spiritual, aspects of the job that eats a guy’s lunch.” As usual, there’s a great deal of wisdom and insight in that quote. It’s the windshield time that drivers have to deal with first off – hour upon hour of driving time – time to think, cogitate, acerbate, meditate, self-talk, and worry. To deal with this day after day, mile after mile a driver has to like himself and enjoy his own company and thoughts. He must somehow turn loneliness into self-reliance and independence, and view himself as a professional - not merely a truck driver. Many weeks he’s looking at 60 hours of driving in seven days, or 70 hours of driving in eight. Those driving hours have to be 100% quality, alert time to take care of his load, his personal safety, and the safety of the driving public.
During all the non-driving hours of his week, he’s got to deal with parking and securing his truck several times per day, waiting to get his load on or off the truck, fueling his truck, taking nourishment and other personal necessities such as bathroom time and showering, and then of course resting and restoring to face the day ahead. He can’t rely on anyone else to help him with his schedule. He must take care of his day himself. The only thing he can count on for sure is that every day, every leg of every trip, will be a new set of challenges in flux that differ from the day before or the last time he made the same trip.
Hopefully, at the end of his 60 and 70 are his 70 and 80, he’ll be making that most important downwind, downhill, leg of his trip, home – his true place to rest, restore, recreate, and recharge for in no more than 48 hours, he will have to do it all again.
The million mile driver develops a yearning, an ache, an itch to as Willie Nelson’s saying, “to get back on the road again.” If the road warrior, the American truck driver doesn’t develop this persistent, nagging, compulsion to get back in the saddle every week our distribution system and economy do not work.
The armchair quarterbacks, intellectual snobs, safety Nazi’s, and sleep specialists all opine smugly from the warm and sterile confines of their studies that drivers just need to plan their trips better when things don’t go exactly right. In this business, the planning and the doing are almost always out of sync. The only part that needs to work every time is the safely getting home, getting paid, and getting restored part – that’s the million mile drivers’ plan.
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