Fuse control

| February 01, 2006

“They were getting even with us,” says Laura’s husband, Chris, who’s a company driver with Southern Refrigerated Transport.

Laura says she’s ridden with Chris “every mile since day one.” She recounts instances of retaliation when other drivers sought “revenge” against her and Chris. “Cars like to fly off the get-on ramp, and they think trucks ought to stop for them,” she says. “We move over when we can, but sometimes they expect you to move over or stop when you can’t.”

Traffic merging from an on-ramp can be scary, a perfect breeding ground for road rage.

“The worst ones are the ones that will do it to you and laugh,” Kennedy says. He recounts an incident on I-10 in Mobile, Ala., where the driver of a four-wheeler deliberately harassed and taunted him by pulling in front, hitting the brakes, and then dropping back even on the left and laughing.

Dr. James might say the driver, enraged to the point of cruelty, used his car as a weapon. “He did it four times,” says Kennedy, who acknowledges fear from the near collisions and then anger at the offending driver. “Maybe he was trying to get run over that day or something,” Kennedy says. “He sure came close.”

Kennedy acted professionally: stayed calm and backed off. “I just gave him as much distance as possible.”

With 17 years of experience, he’s seen plenty of bad driving but exercises maturity and James’ “attitude of latitude” to safely reason through his anger. “In actuality, if you’re a professional driver, you look out for those kinds of people just as much as you look out for yourself. That’s part of the job,” he says, adding that this philosophy gets him back home safely to his wife and three kids. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s what’s important,” he says. “Get the job done and make it back home.”

Some truckers don’t agree and drive like it.

“Four-wheelers are bad, but other truckers do it, too,” says Chris Rogers. “Other truckers tailgate when there’s no reason for it,” he says. “They cut me off and cut right in front of me. It’s inconsiderate.”

“It’s not just four-wheelers,” Housel agrees. “It’s other trucks, too. Just as many trucks come up (in the hammer lane), sit beside me and box me in,” he says. “It’s getting to the point where trucks and four-wheelers are one and the same.”

Like most experienced drivers, Housel says there’s more rudeness among drivers now, and that only makes the job tougher. “When I started driving, you could pull into a truckstop, get your fuel, pull up and pay, and then leave,” he says. “Now you have drivers who park in front of the fuel island.”

Drivers who park at the pumps and run in for “a quick cup of coffee” can wind up waiting in lines at the coffee counter and the cash register. This has sparked road rage’s ugly cousin, fuel island rage, more than once.

All drivers acknowledge that one factor of road rage is stress, and trucking has its share.

“You’re dealing with people stress, company stress,” says Kennedy. “You got your dispatcher wanting you to do something, you want to get home, you got delivery times to make,” he says. “You’re dealing with all that stuff, so when somebody cuts you off, it’s like a catalyst. Every fire needs a catalyst. It just takes the one extra person to cut in front of you and slam on the brakes.”

“A lot of aggravation is from guys out there driving their 11 hours, and at the end of the day they can’t find a place to park, can’t get a shower, can’t get a decent meal,” Housel says.

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