Clash of the generations

Carolyn Magner and Misty Bell | July 01, 2010

Trucker Steve: I’m a very technological truck driver. I have just about everything you can imagine in a truck. I come from a technology background. I keep the CB off most of the time. A lot of guys fight and complain, and I think really that’s part of the downfall of the trucking industry, or at least the public’s perception of the trucking industry. That’s bad, too, because you miss hearing a lot of the camaraderie between truckers and how they really feel for each other. But I’m an old-school truck driver at heart. I still use a map to plan my routes, if I even need to look. And I don’t have a GPS or anything like that, but I believe in it. I think technology is a great thing as long as you don’t become complacent with it.

Chad: I use my phone and never listen to the CB. It’s all business. I also dispatch and broker out loads, so I’m pretty much on the phone. My phone is on 24 hours a day. I have two of them. That’s pretty much all I have time for.

Jayme: I run a GPS, XM Radio, CB radio and, of course, my cell phone. I don’t have a computer in the truck for several reasons, because they’re expensive and I don’t want to tear one up. But I use my cell phone primarily for business, and I’m on it a lot. But on the other hand, I leave the [CB] radio on because I find it to be a helpful tool to alert you to road hazards and various obstacles that other drivers can see that maybe you’re not gonna see until you get up on it. I also use the GPS as a guide — not for planning routes. I’m also old-school in the fact that I do all of my route-planning with maps.

Lacey: I think we’ve got too much technology out there. They’ve made everything so easy that the driver doesn’t think anymore. They don’t know how to read an atlas. They don’t know how to plan routes. They’ve never had to do anything. All they have to do is push a button, and all it says is “Go from point A to point B,” and then they watch the screen. Ask one of them how to read a map to actually figure out how to get there, they look at you like you’re stupid. They don’t use their brains enough anymore.

Trucker Steve: I have to agree with her. I have a couple of friends who have been driving for 25 years, another one for 40 years. They took a trip to Las Vegas — and these are guys that have been using GPS — and they couldn’t find their way out of a parking garage. You’re a professional driver who’s been driving for 25 years, and you don’t know how to find your way out of a parking garage without a GPS?

Kathy: Well, I’m a second-generation trucker, and I grew up with my dad, who had the old kind of CB that looked like the telephone. I’ve always had a CB, and I listen to the AM/FM radio. I also have a computer, but I do not like the GPS, so I do not have one. I think technology is great in some instances and not great in others. I do use my laptop to keep in touch with my family. I talk to friends. I go down the road trying to do what I can to stay awake if I have to at odd hours behind the wheel. That’s not often, but when I do, I like the technology they have in the trucks today.

John: I carry a laptop with me. I communicate with family and friends/dispatch with my laptop. I’ve designed a program in Excel to keep track of my cost per mile. I depend on Google Maps for mapping. I use my cell phone a lot and watch a lot of movies. I have Sirius satellite radio and do not go on CB radio. I hate the way truckers trash-talk on the CB — some of the stuff is sickening. I don’t bother with it.

Mechanical Expertise

TN: Old-school drivers say newbies don’t know jack about mechanics. Evaluate your mechanical skills.

Chad: Well, I guess you’re only as good as you want to be. I’ve been riding in the truck since I was in diapers. I pretty much do everything. There’s nothing that I can’t do. I learned from other guys on the road. There were things that I didn’t know that I picked up by watching and listening. A lot of times I may know what’s wrong — I may not be able to fix it, but I can at least acknowledge what’s wrong.

Chris: I don’t know how to rip an engine apart and put it back together, but I can get by out here on the road. I learned from the older guys. Back years ago, if you blew a tire on the road you would have four or five guys on the road helping you out, and you learn from that. Then you sit down and you have coffee and you learn some more. I don’t think [the newer drivers] know how to do a proper pre-trip inspection, to be honest with you. You ask one of the new guys how much tire pressure to keep in there, and they say “Enough to keep it round.” I have yet to see one of the younger guys in the morning at a truckstop take the 15 minutes to check the air in their tires. And some of the older gentlemen are the same way. I know a few old-timers who have told me I’m crazy for doing that.

Trucker Steve: I have to agree with Chris. Experience is something that doesn’t happen necessarily over time. Every time I get up in the morning I do a proper pretrip beyond what they actually require to pass the test. I don’t think that has a lot to do with young or old out here. I think it has to do with your prior background, your upbringing, your previous profession. I don’t think number of years out here necessarily means experienced or not experienced, professional or not professional.

Jayme: I work on all of our own trucks. I would say I’m very mechanically inclined. I attend seminars, plus we ordered the same trucks, so we have matching transmissions, matching engines. Pretty much I learned how the system works, so I can work on any of our trucks and many others as well. But it surprises me at the age of some people, with the experience they have, that they don’t know how to figure their own fuel mileage. It’s really surprising some people’s attitudes about that. And I’m not saying it’s all generational. I carry enough tools in my truck to work on my own truck and another one. It’s my truck, and I’ve got to pay the shop bill — so I’m going to do the work myself if I can.