All Together Now

| August 01, 2005

Ridealongs can mean family fun, but they carry an extra set of risks.

For some truckers, bringing family members along for the ride makes driving feel less like work and more like a vacation. And for the passengers, it’s not only a way to keep the family together, it’s a way to travel and see what the trucking life is really like.

But ridealong rules change from company to company, and even if you are following them, an accident can turn family fun into a nightmare.

“I like seeing the country,” says Debra Burton, 44, whose husband Donald, 48, hauls general freight for Contract Freighters, Inc. “I’ve always been kind of a history buff, and I like seeing things I’ve only read about in books.”

Debra and their Pomeranian, Marshall, ride along with Donald full time. He started trucking five years ago, after their two children were grown. Now they are living the dream they always talked about, riding around the United States together.

But it’s not always a perfect dream, Debra says.

“Learning to live together in the truck is tough,” she says. “I know we argued more in that first year in the truck than we had in 20 years of marriage.”

They share the small sleeper of a Kenworth T600; the bigger T2000 sleepers usually go to team drivers.

The couple usually gets home every three weeks. Until this year, they maintained their own house, and the kids or other relatives took care of it. Now they stay with their married daughter when they come home.

“The grandkids are always glad to see Grandma and Grandpa come home with some new toy,” Debra says.

CFI lets Debra ride along for free, but some companies require small monthly payments to help cover the additional insurance liability.

Arrow Trucking, a national general commodities hauler, charges $13.50 a month for rider privileges. “The extra pays for the insurance in case something happens,” says Arrow Orientation Coordinator Debbie Bell.

Arrow and CFI, along with most companies who allow passengers, require riders to sign a “hold harmless” agreement, waiving their rights to sue if something goes wrong.

If anyone under 18 wants to ride along, both the driver and the non-driving parent have to sign and notarize the permission slip.

“It gives the kids the opportunity to see the United States with their parent over the summer,” Bell says. “A lot of these little kids love going on the trucks.”

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