For my second driver interview I would like to introduce Paul Tarin or Slimeface as many of you may know him on Flickr and Twitter. I met Paul through Flickr a few years back, and I have to say that before I ever knew a thing about this guy his soulful, eye-catching pictures of the road drew me in. I wanted to know him. I wanted to know how he did what he did with a camera! He took pictures of what I have felt and seen over the years as I’ve drove all over the United States and never could put into words or into a photograph.
Over the past couple of years we have gotten to know one another via Flickr and I have to give him all the credit as the guy who gave me the idea to do these interviews on drivers as he once did the same for me. Please check out Paul and his magnificent work and I hope you enjoy his thoughts on trucking! Not only is he a professional driver he is quite the artist!
How many years have you been trucking?
My trucking experience began in 1974 in the form of sweeping out trailers and working the loading docks. I didn’t get behind the wheel until a year later and have been trucking for most of my adult life.
How far do you run?
I have run the contiguous 48. I haven’t traveled in Alaska or Canada, but would one day love to drive the Alcan Highway!
Is trucking today what you thought it would be when you first began?
The fundamentals are the same; getting freight moved safely from origin to destination and on time hasn’t changed. But who could have imagined the exponential growth this industry would experience? I never did!
Do you have family that you spend time with?
Yes! I have lovely bride (of many years), daughter, grandson, and mother, all living with me in Florida!
Can you tell us some of the hazards of trucking that you see out here on a daily basis?
The biggest concern I see is in the increased number of vehicles on our highways. The roads and interstates have not been able to keep up adequately to support the volume of traffic we are experiencing today.
Another hazard is the distractions modern technology brings along. We have never had it so easy with such powerful telecommunications all at our fingertips. But the proliferation of cell phones, onboard satellites, computers, GPS, and other electronic devices have also come at a price, having diverted attention from the road. A recent statistic shows over 800,000 people were texting, making calls, or using a handheld cell phone while driving in the United States, killing nearly 6,000 Americans in 2008. This number is alarming.
As you know my truck has a name. Do you have a name for yours?
I don’t ever remember calling my trucks by name, but have always been passionate about each and every one of them. Like women, they’re all beautiful with their own distinct style, beauty and personality.
What kind of things do you do to get ready for your runs? How do you care for your truck and yourself while out here on the road?
Typically, I check weather forecasts for my intended routes, restock my truck with food, water and miscellaneous supplies and give my truck cab a good cleaning. All the basic stuff, but most importantly, I try to relax.
I have always been a company driver, so routine maintenance has been performed for me. Other than daily inspections, I rarely need to make repairs. My two favorite and most indispensable tools over the years have been a can of WD-40 and a roll of duct tape. If it moves and it shouldn’t, I use duct tape. And if it doesn’t move and it should, I use WD40.
Preventive maintenance is vital for both truck and driver. I don’t have a special routine regarding taking care of myself physically. Of course I would like to do more, but the most important care I give consideration to is mental. The stresses professional drivers have on them are very demanding. Keeping a positive attitude is of paramount importance to your physical health.
What kind of loads do you haul?
I have hauled an assortment of commodities throughout the years. Items I haven’t hauled are livestock and explosives. My most recent loads consisted of Food “Grade A” products, such as milk, cream, liquid eggs and assorted juices.
Do you have to have a special license to haul what you do?
I currently possess a Class A license with endorsements to drive tractor-trailers including “Tank” and “Combination Vehicles.”
There are a lot of people who think trucking is just sitting behind the wheel driving down the road. What does your job entail? What are your daily responsibilities?
Sitting behind the wheel driving down the road IS a major part of truck driving. But doing so, day after day, without accident or injury to you or others around you is what counts the most! Safety has always been the professional driver’s number one responsibility.
If you could, what would be the one thing you would change about the trucking industry as it is today?
I would like to see more truck parking available around the country. Many times truckers are left to park on the side of the roads due to a lack of parking facilities. I would suggest enlarging the existing parking lots at weigh stations, many of which are closed at night, to allow truckers a safe and legal alternative to the dangers parking on the shoulders of our interstates create.
What advice would you give to those interested in becoming a truck driver?
Go for it! Trucking is an exciting lifestyle unlike any other! Read and study “Pedal to the Metal: The Work Life of Truckers” by Lawrence J. Ouellet. It will make you a smarter trucker, better looking and way ahead of your class!
What kind of hobbies do you have when not trucking?
As a private pilot for 18 years I enjoy aviation. Another passion of mine is photography, which continues to grow and evolve everyday! I am in the process of publishing my first book about trucking including images I have taken from across America.
What would you tell non-professional drivers sharing the road with you to help make your job safer?
Stay alert! Be aware of the large blind spots truckers have on both the right and rear of their trucks!
What is your most rewarding part of trucking?
Trucking has been very good to me. It has afforded me the successes of both material wealth and good fortune. But the most satisfying by far have been the freedom and independent lifestyle. I have also met some of the best people driving around this beautiful country. Trucking is attitude and just like many things in life, it is what you make of it!