5 things members of the general public don’t know about truckers

| September 19, 2013

truck highway

Private-sector businesses in the U.S. employ an estimated 8.9 million people in trucking-related jobs; nearly 3.5 million of those jobs are that of truck driver. The United States economy depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually, accounting for $671 billion worth in manufactured and retail goods transported by truck in the U.S. alone. Add $295 billion in trucked trade with Canada and $195.6 billion with Mexico, and this represents an enormous portion of the economy. Nearly every single thing you eat, touch, wear, or use on a daily basis once sat in a truck. 

Wendy Parker writes the George & Wendy Show blog, appearing several times a week on OverdriveOnline.com, dispatched from her ridealong position in the truck with her owner-operator husband, George.

Wendy Parker writes the George & Wendy Show blog, appearing several times a week on OverdriveOnline.com, dispatched from her ridealong position in the truck with her owner-operator husband, George.

You know that, and I know that, but the general public still seems to be confused by it. They seem to believe all truckers are “Smokey and the Bandit” types, breaking laws and running from enforcement constantly. After questions about the bathroom, we are asked most often how fast George runs and how many hours he stays awake at a time.

I put together a little article for your non-trucking friends and family (and mine), just a few tidbits of knowledge about the industry and the professionals who staff it, to help people understand it’s a business as much as a lifestyle.

Here are five things the general public doesn’t understand about the most important job in the world:

CSApromoMaintTruckers do more than drive
Following a route is not the only thing a professional driver does. Because of federal weight restrictions, a driver has to maintain a fine balance between fuel and freight weight. This requires mileage calculation, precise time management and route familiarity. Hours of Service rules require drivers to keep strict time logs, which must coincide with fueling, driving, sleeping, loading and unloading times. Drivers are responsible for knowing the variations of axle-weight requirements in each state and have to adjust their axles or loads accordingly, which also requires adjustments in fuel requirements, mileage and necessary stops. A driver is always changing his or her time calculations as well, based on road conditions and traffic flow. Their drive hours have been described to me as “a constant game of chess, with ten possible options and outcomes for every move.” 

Most large fleets have governed speeds on their trucks
Contrary to popular belief, truckers do not burn up the highways at alarming rates of speed. Out of the top 10 trucking companies listed in the CCJ Top 250 this year, at least half are governed at speeds between 62 to 68 miles per hour. Four of the truckload companies in this list considered on their own represent close to 50,000 trucks using the American highways on a daily basis. Running 80-90 miles an hour while hauling 45,000 pounds is prohibitively expensive, and something rarely (if ever) done by professional drivers.

Truckers work more unpaid hours than any other profession
“If the wheels ain’t turnin’, you ain’t earnin’” is an old saying among those who rely solely upon paid mileage to make a living. Most long-haul truckers earn a per-mile rate, many without time paid for loading or unloading. Waiting time at some docks can be as long as four to twelve hours, with most companies starting detention pay at somewhere between hours two and six. This, factored in with time spent sitting in traffic, give the profession more actual clocked and unpaid hours than any other.  

Drivers are educated
It’s estimated that 35 percent of the professional drivers who have been on the road for more than seven years have extended educations, and are trained in professions other than driving. This number jumps to 45 percent in polling of drivers who have been on the road fewer than five years. Companies actively recruit returning military veterans, and the Troops to Truckers program estimates they will fill 30,000 trucking jobs with ex-military personnel by 2014.

Images like this are less and less common with diesel emissions technology advancements over the past decade and more.

Images like this are less and less common with diesel emissions technology advancements over the past decade and more.

Trucks are not as bad for the planet as you think
According to a 2013 report from the Diesel Technology Forum about 2.5 million of the 8.6 million trucks in the U.S. are powered by “clean diesel engines.” These engines employ 2007 or later emissions mitigation technology and output almost no particulate matter or nitrogen oxides. Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the DTF, says, “Emissions from today’s diesel trucks and buses are near zero thanks to more efficient engines, more effective emissions control technology and the nationwide availability of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel.” 

  • guest

    Facebook: Truckers To Shut Down America has 2 million hits already..only 3 days old! Shutdown is scheduled Oct 11-13 and Convoy to DC is planned.

  • Dave

    Any proof reader openings at Overdrive? What the general public does”know”,is that our education levels are dropping faster than any other industrialized country. The past tense of does is doesn’t,and it is a plural reference.

  • guest

    They make ALOT of mistakes…I dont think they know the difference…almost everyday you see mistakes..as if they are hillbillies in a cabin putting out this rag…really funny….The CEO figures we are all rednecks with a 6th grade education….

  • mousekiller

    The biggest reason the industry is in the shape it is in today is due
    to the lack of action of drivers over the years and now it is
    complaining time. Today it is bash Overdrive. They print the story the way it was written. It was not Overdrives story. Wendy Parker . Writer, story teller Best thing is to start your own mag and go for perfection. I am sure three or four other drivers will appreciate it.

  • Dave

    More efficient engines??? Then how is it I burn more fossil fuel with my 07 Cummins than I ever did with my 3406E Cat?

  • David McGaugh

    I gotta say I agree with everything in this article. But good luck trying to get the overall mass of mindless sheep on this county to ever take you seriously. If you went to a shopping mall anywhere and tried telling random people this stuff, they would walk away laughing and saying “Who are they trying to fool. Trucks are nothing more than big slow objects in my way when I’m trying to get home and should be removed from the road to make it safer.” Thanks to large fleets hiring anyone who can bobtail without jack knifing, the general population thinks now that all truckers are mindless robots and that damage is irreversible. Also like to add, as an owner and driver of a pre-emission 6NZ cat, no one will ever convince me my truck is worse for the planet than the piles and piles of DEF jugs in every fuel island I pull into but if blaming trucks is the solution then I will tell law makers to choke on my smoke.

  • David McGaugh

    Ha ha ha… kinda funny how that works ain’t it. I have an 03 6NZ and will keep overhauling it until I retire just for that reason.

  • Dave Nichols

    I is a waste of time to try and educate todays “public” Just remember who is in the white house and who put him in there and you can see my point!

  • Dusty

    I agree with David McGaugh in re:our pre-emission engines not being worse for the planet. My N14 doesn’t smoke like the “clean” engines of today! The old Pete in the photo attached to your article, smokes less than alot of the so called “clean, emissions mitigated” engines. And, Wendy, the general public has no clue what “adjusting an axle” is.
    Is that a button that you push? LOL!
    I feel so left out…you didn’t even mention, oversized loads, using ramps, and levelers (That weigh over 100 lbs), permits, tarps, bookeeping, billing, rates, searching for loads, etc. Oh, sorry…the article was limited to FIVE things, NOT the five most IMPORTANT things.

  • David S. McQueen

    Do you REALLY think that coercion will be good PR? A general strike will only hurt professional trucking, not help it. Two things: education and political activism. Tying up traffic isn’t going to win you any friends. Write your rep/senators. Write to the FMCSA.

  • Todd Dills

    Actually Dave, past tense of does is did, and plural for does not is do not, hence “don’t.” I assume you’re referring to the headline, anyway. Subject is “members… don’t” not “general public doesn’t”… Try again.

  • Todd Dills

    What Dave is attempting to point here is not in fact a mistake, if he’s referring to the headline.

  • Truck Driver Inst.

    Wendy, I always enjoy reading your blog posts. Truckers are too often taken for granted. A little education is always a good thing in my book. Keep it going.

  • Wendy Parker

    I cannot agree more about the waste from DEF and the production of it. This was all based on statistical information, and comparisons of particulate emission, which in fact, is better with the newer engines.

  • mousekiller

    All but the last truck shutdown worked to some point in gaining higher wages and better work conditions and benefits but the last one. That one in 1980 turned into a loss due to one star timer from Pittsburgh that sought head lines and his name in the news.He stepped in and accepted promises from Congress instead of action.

    Mike Parkhurst did a darn good job of informing drivers of industry related news and offered help in various forms. He did get drivers involved in changing things.He enlisted the help of business’ like ” The dump ” truck stop off the mass tpk and others to further our direction to improve. Since then things have been going down hill at a steady rate caused not only by carriers reducing their hiring standards but the new breed of driver with little or no work ethic or personal pride.. 5 minutes at any fuel island will prove that point easily..

  • you’reacunt

    Says the intolerant ass. Grow the fuck up, you manchild.

  • Crimewave

    You’re a true dickhead! I bet you don’t even vote. Yes, you too can vote an absentee ballot. What the hell anyway, Your Rules of Service changes were not the fault of the current administration. The rules were put in place by very conservative sons of bitches who saw a clear opportunity for you to make less money and make the general public “feel” safer. If you don’t think your company was as pissed as you are about Elogs, figure again. We don’t have to like it, every place you work has some sort of work rules. If you, cowboy, continue to drive your no poster child for trucking. Remember, the people you deliver to IS the public. You are the stupid bastard that gives all of us a bad perception with the public.

  • Crimewave

    Over the years I have seen all of our enthusiasm for a shutdown of freight to make a stand. I even worked for a company who embraced the idea. THEN, when the time comes to shut off your truck, your Qualcomm lights up. First it is your dispatcher. All of the ass kissing you had to do for him to give you good miles and lanes is just about to come to an end. Well, next is a company wide message telling you that if you don’t like your job, do something else to occupy your time. Then you have the trucker with a young family who depends on that paycheck just can’t take a day’s pay out of his check. You can get the picture. I did shut down for a day one time, and found that the trucks beside me at the truck stop changed names many times that day. And like all truckers, it is in our blood to drive, not sit. I am all for letting people know how important trucking is in their life, but it never happens.

  • Shannon

    Here are a few other things that most of the general public are unaware of. Truckers medical histories are an open book to the government. Truckers must keep logs to prove to the government that they have not broken laws. Single owner operators who have their own authority and run the business from their home are subject to pop inspections at anytime. I guess with what we are learning about the NSA it is now the general public’s turn to sacrifice privacy for safety.
    Good Luck.

  • jaybird

    yea like the EGR , that was a big lopping lie at the end. after how many trucks it was put on….

  • Paul Haller

    I know this is a neg. comment but it doesn’t do any good telling truckers what people don’t know about truckers…

  • Paul Haller

    You lost your brain Dave,,, If the Dynasty was still in the drivers seat diesel would be $6.25 per gal…

  • Paul Haller

    I’m on board.. SHUT DOWN Oct 11-13..

  • Paul Haller

    Wendy who?

  • USMC 69-75

    I can see from the three previous posters, that they are real small minded individuals, that don’t have a clue about trucking, with very low self-esteem, and lack of vocabulary skills!

  • USMC 69-75

    You mean like global warming…..LOL. Everything out of DC is a lie….

  • John Nettles Sr.

    Thank God that he is in the office! Now to get rid of the anti-christ republicans

  • Lynn, Mass liberal

    I found the article interesting and informative. My daughter shared the link on Facebook – so the article certainly reached the non-trucker public. Every career has its issues – and since we all share the roads I think a little education about your reality is worthwhile.

  • USMC 69-75

    John…..you need to get your head out of whatever orifice you have it stuck in!
    What is your potus barry…….? A muslim, his words, and ACTIONS not mine!

  • guest

    I WAS going to share this article on Facebook to emphasize to my friends the life of a trucker and stave off the negative opinions out there regarding truckers. Then I read the first few comments and realized the people that read this and have commented (first few anyway) are foul mouthed and inconsiderate. Too bad the industry gets a bad reputation from people like this.

  • Bruce at 1600 Watch

    There has been no global warming for at least the past 15 years – this is an elaborately expensive con job – nothing more, and is designed to undermine private property rights and weaken the United States financially.

    We should realize that truckers as part of we the people are on our own. The Establishment Right and the Marxist Left are just two sides of the same Globalist coin nudging all of us to a Totalitarian Socialist Dictatorship by our own uninformed votes. The international conglomerate monopolies now have regulatory protection and are running our Fascist psuedo-government. We the people have no protection or respect.

    Our so-called regulatory agencies are being used to “control” us, not protect or defend us.

    We ought realize as liberals or conservatives, that neither group is the problem. The problem is a corrupt, bloated Federal government, raging out of control and strangling what was once a Constitutional Republic that recognized our unalienable rights and allowed a free opportunity for anyone willing to work, risk and sacrifice for it.

    Opportunity in the U.S. is dying and many of us are ignorantly voting for it with our uninformed votes. We need to wake up and throw the Elite pigs and RNC/DNC pawns out of Washington D.C.

    It’s time to stand up on our hind legs and say NO!!!! DEFUND ALL OF WASHINGTON D.C.

  • USMC 69-75

    I know Bruce! I was using that as a farce on DC and all these regulations pertaining to our trucks and cars.

  • MercenaryMan

    its amazing how short some folks memorys are…

  • MercenaryMan


    Just wait till the Impeach Obama and Truckers Protest, Alex Jones and Pete Santillis all roll into Washington with about 200 trucks and attempt to obstruct traffic the General Public will be sure to LOVE truckers then….ROFL…

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  • Rich Charles

    Thats odd Paul,,,why is diesl still so expensive,and gas isn’t $1.95 yet. Your communist hero is no better.Wait on next year when your health insurance is cancelled and your forced to buy illegally coerced insurance from the king,at 3 times your original cost.And,if you work for a company,their mandate kicks in in just a few short months.You won’t have your precious company paid insurance anymore.As usual,the media has blinded you from reality!!

  • dickhead

    anybody who votes republican should hang a burning tire around there fucken neck

  • fred

    Was this how most truckers react?
    Hi This is some interesting reading….so I was jogging my dog near our grammar school very slight grade road. when school is in starting it had a flashing light for 25 mph sign. i jog this road for years i know what 25mph looks like. this fully loaded logging was going way to fast so i motioned him to slow down and pointed to the flashing light 25mph sign. next to my astonishment he locked up his breaks smoking wheels and all , stopped the truck in the middle of the street jumps out and starts screaming he was doing the speed limit and throwing F bombs and Ahole bombs at me in front of kids at school, i yell 25 mph and point to the sign…..more F bombs from trucker. he gets in his trucks and leaves…so i measured his skid marks and it was 85 ft so my question is how fast approx was he going?

  • Elizabeth Huckeba Walker

    Yep their vocabulary defines then quit well, they can’t express themselves with cursing. Their thoughts and words all about cursing because they don’t know another way.

  • liz

    I, for one, believe EVERY person who receives a DL should be mandated to take a life like simulation of what it takes for us to stop while loaded with 45k or better in the box, on the bed, or in the forks. Whatever the case my be for whatever everyone hauls. I’ve hauled all of them, and also ! did recovery for the drives that either fell asleep due to over exhaustion and driving on ppr logs and those trying their best to avoid causing major harm and harming themselves instead of others because the “basic public” has no kind of common conception of us drives.

  • USMC 69/75

    After you!

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