In one incident in his book, Wilson recounts being woken up in his truck in the middle of the night by an old, cranky customer with a bleached-blonde wig who wants him to the move his truck into a dock space. Shoeless and in his underwear, Wilson backs the truck into the space for the first time.
“Spin the trailer on tandems, pull forward to straighten … Done, and it is beautiful. First dock door I ever backed into, and it is perfect. I’ve not seen anyone do it that well wide awake and in broad daylight, much less half asleep and the middle of the night. I pat myself on the back for a job well done.”
Between angry drivers and the science of the perfect cheeseburger, Wilson kept a daily journal during his training and developed a collection of people, places and incidents on the road. Although Wilson had never written a book before, he decided to write about what he thought most ordinary people had never done – live in a truck.
“I had overlooked a large but quiet subculture of the American people,” Wilson says. “My book is a collage of people and experiences that don’t fit inside a bracket that the general public has.”
From his relationship with his trainer to his appreciation for professionals, or “million-mile drivers,” Wilson looks at life on the road. He details truckstops and traffic, and what the country looks like from the top of a trailer. In Arizona, Wilson meets a burly driver who sold his house to live in his truck after his wife died. Moved by the guy’s decision to keep driving after tragedy, Wilson tells of the strength he saw in this man.
“He made an impression on me early in my career,” Wilson says. “He didn’t just suffer through it but made the best of it. He didn’t just mope, even while he was missing a life partner.”
Wilson addresses his obvious changes in grooming on the road, but he says that American people have misconceptions about truckers when it comes to style. The author says only a small percentage give the remainder a bad name by not obeying generally accepted standards of cleanliness.
“These guys are out on their own all day and have no one to impress,” Wilson says.
Wilson likens drivers to mountain men or beach bums in dress but has serious respect for the profession. So much respect, in fact, that he has been driving a tanker for Enterprise Transportation in Houston since he finished training.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he says.
But his slow acceptance into the boys’ club has been a negative aspect of his experience. He separates the million-mile drivers from the “steering wheel holders,” but says that he has not yet been accepted as a professional.
“Of all the groups of people I have met in my life, I have found it hardest to be accepted by truck drivers,” he says.
But the job is still rewarding, Wilson says. “I learned that every day we have the opportunity to save people’s lives. Every night people go home to their families because a truck driver did his job.
Driver is available for $22.95 at all major bookstores and many truckstops around the country.