We are all familiar with some of the reasons that the professional truck driver is under attack. Although I see these drivers out on the road too, I want you to know there are more top notch drivers out here than you may think. As a professional driver, I am very proud of what I do and the people I have come to know out here on the road over the years. Besides teaching people what a drivers life is like, I am trying to introduce you to the cream of the crop of truckers. The Kings and Queens of the road. These are the people that are out here on our roadways. You could ask them for help, and you would get that help tenfold.
Today, I would like to introduce Doug, or Saltydoggie as he is better known.
How many years have you been trucking?
Well, I started my first driving job in 1971, so I reckon that would make 39 years later this year. That first job was hauling groceries to a major food chain, 7-11 stores, and small rural food markets here in the Southwest. The job paid $2.30 an hour and time and a half over 40 hours. Normal hours were around 80…so for the day I guess the pay was pretty good for a single fellow.
What state do you reside?
I reside in the State of New Mexico
Is trucking today what you thought it would be when you first began?
No way. Today’s regulations are very restrictive compared back then. The federal government and the state’s both have regulations covering almost every conceivable aspect of the trucking industry. Don’t get me wrong, there were regulations when I started but the enforcement of the regulations were almost non-existent compared to today. Unfortunately, most states have found it extremely lucrative to there failing budgets to pick on the trucking industry and it’s drivers.
The equipment nowadays compared back to then is a WHOLE different ball game. Trucks today are like Cadillac’s that have all the modern amenities–sound, comfort, some even with automatic transmissions, electric gadgets of all varieties etc. Back then it was basics. No power steering, no air conditioning, some trucks did not even have air ride seats, no air ride suspension, no forgiving transmissions–twin sticks–main and brownie boxes and the rpm had to be right on. PERIOD. Most modern drivers would not have the foggiest notion how to operate them correctly. There was a pride that was down to the bone. Mom, Dads, and kids travelling the highways revered the American truck driver.
Do you have family to spend time with?
Yes I do. My daughter Kathryn first started trucking with me at the tender age of 2 and a half. I strapped her baby seat into my 1984 Peterbilt 359 and away we went. As with most Dad’s, my little girl was the apple of my eye and I was so glad to share my work and time with her.
My wife of 32 years was a truck driver also in her early years. We met in a truck stop where she was a waitress. She hauled taters out of Aroostook county in Maine down the eastern seaboard. We are a very tight family to this day, thanks to the good Lord.
Can you tell us of some of the hazards of daily driving?
Yes, People really need to think about some of their actions. Passing a tractor-trailer to exit right ahead and hitting the brakes in front of the truck is a very dangerous move. Please stay behind for a few extra seconds and exit safely. When passing a big truck, do not cut right back in front. Should an problem arise to brake quickly, the truck will not be able to stop before running over the four wheeler. Remember people, it takes 3 football fields for a tractor trailer grossing out at 80,000 pounds to stop at 55mph. Today’s speeds are much higher and it takes longer. Please give professional drivers the respect and the courtesy that they deserve. Professional drivers will try to give you all the room that you need. Please use your turning signals…they are put there for a good reason.
Pre- tripping a run
Most drivers are very serious about their equipment. We are constantly looking for defects while walking around or loading or unloading the truck. This is our job and our responsibility to the motoring public and us. Not only that but finding a problem can alleviate many hours sitting on the side of the road due to a breakdown. I can honestly say that I spent very few hours on the side of the road because inspection of my equipment was a big priority. Safety is no accident.
Do you have a special license?
Yes I do. I carry a class A CDL with the TX endorsements. This means I can run Double trailers; triple trailers, hauling tanker trailers and hauling hazardous materials in any of these combinations. I have always been very proud of my abilities and my record in a tractor-trailer. I have over 5 million accident free miles in a tractor-trailer. This record can only be achieved by being a safe and courteous driver. Barr none…
What kind of advice would you give to a non-professional that would make your job safer?
Safety Tip…many drivers fail to take in the whole picture. By that I mean, do not concentrate on just the car ahead of you. Look way up ahead as well. If traffic is shutting down up ahead, you will see it and take immediate response–turn on 4 way blinkers and get your vehicle slowed way down. If you wait till the driver ahead of you locks up their brakes, you are going rear end him big time–and the dingbat behind you is going to slam you. Truck drivers are always looking way ahead to see potential problems and taking appropriate actions. This is SAFE driving.
Lack of courtesy is the biggest problem on the road today. Seems like many drivers (big trucks and cars) have adapted the “screw you” philosophy. This creates nothing but animosity and extra problems. Please let us all share the road.
What kinds of loads do you or did you haul?
Over the years I have pulled dry van, refrigerated, tanker, flatbed, and car haul equipment–hauling groceries, produce, carpet, empty milk jugs to dairies, meat, liquid propane gas, butane, anhydrous ammonia, new and used cars and trucks— and the list goes on and on. Truckers haul every conceivable product that the consumer purchases. As the saying goes, America moves by truck…or without trucks, America stops.
What advice would you give to those wanting to be a trucker?
Many people get into trucking for a variety of wrong reasons. It will quickly weed out those who are not serious. The hours are long and getting home is not the priority—moving the freight is. The bottom line is that you must have almost a burning desire to become a professional driver. I knew when I was a little kid that I was going to be a trucker. It was either that or a heavy equipment operator. In other words, don’t just do it cause you hear the pay is good. Like any other occupation, the bottom line is that you have to LIKE what you are doing…or you will not succeed or be happy.
If you could, what would be the one thing that you could change about the trucking industry, as it is today?
I would definitely change the unfair practice of shipper’s and receiver’s requiring a driver to pay a lumper to load or unload their freight. All shipper’s and receiver’s should load or unload their products for no charge to the driver or their company. I feel this is nothing but a rip-off occurring within our industry.
What is the most rewarding part of truck driving?
To me the most rewarding part is getting the job done and done safely. In trucking, there many unknown obstacles that occur on a daily basis. It could be traffic, it could be severe weather, it could be a long wait to get into the dock, it could be the dispatcher changing your load, it could be a blown out tire, and the list goes on. A driver does not really know what kind of challenges the day beholds. But as they say–that is trucking. I find it very rewarding to meet all these daily challenges and GET THE JOB DONE. In other words, no two days are alike. On most other jobs, the boss is always looking over your shoulder. In trucking, when you pull out of the gate, YOU are the captain of your ship. Get it Done.
Also, the sound a good horse purring under the hood and the sound of the pipes as I am easing through the gears gives me a great feeling that I cannot put into words.
In conclusion, for the right person, trucking can be a super job that will get in your blood and will reward you immensely.