By Randy Grider
Rounding a long curve on Interstate 59 between Birmingham and Chattanooga, the steering wheel in my hand suddenly felt different. At first I thought I had a front tire going down on my old Dodge Durango.
But after trying to turn the wheel both ways, I quickly realized that my power steering – or lack there of – was the problem. It’s one of those things you take for granted until it’s gone.
I pulled in at the next exit and found a convenience store with a couple of diesel pumps out back. I figured I’d blown a hole in the pressure line going to the power steering pump. Not a huge problem, but one that could give me quite a workout in my arms if I couldn’t get it fixed soon.
I had a flight to catch in Huntsville, and I couldn’t spend a lot of time piddling with the problem. By the time I got out of the vehicle, a sizeable puddle of power steering fluid had already collected on the ground.
Ready to fly to Cincinnati, I wasn’t really dressed for crawling up under my SUV. But I at least wanted to see exactly where the leak was. A man coming out of the store noticed my problem and came over. I crawled under the vehicle and was quickly joined by the man, who seemed to want to help.
Within a minute, we found the problem – my return hose had come loose. The man, who introduced himself as Danny Bolden, was a trucker. He lived in Hanceville, Ala., and hauled regionally.
He went to his truck and returned with a pair of pliers. Despite the fact that he had arthritis in his hands, he insisted on helping me. Within five minutes, he had the hose back where it belonged and the clamp secured.
He crawled out from under my Dodge with a good bit of dirt and power steering fluid on him. I tried to pay him for his inconvenience, but he wouldn’t take anything.
“If you ever see me broke down on the side of the road, you can return the favor,” he said.
I hear all the time that there are plenty of drivers out here, just not enough good drivers.
If you look at the overall trucking picture, I believe there’s some truth to this claim.
When you hear this kind of statement from a recruiter, it’s because they see a lot of those who are testing the waters or those who are career job-hoppers. These drivers don’t stick around long enough to get the seat warm before moving to another career or another fleet.
When you hear this from drivers, a wide range of reasons follow: rudeness, messiness, carelessness and laziness. Probably some of this could be attributed to rookieness.
Veteran truckers sometimes complain that the camaraderie among truckers has changed. I’ve had drivers tell me that in decades past, if you broke down on the side of the highway, every driver who came through would offer to help. Today, some truckers tell me many drivers pass without even a holler on the CB to see if everything is OK.
Following the hose problem, I spent the next three days at truckstops and a trucking company talking to drivers for different stories I’m working on. Most of them I caught on the spot and struck up conversation. While I heard a lot of complaints about different aspects of trucking, each driver I encountered was friendly, polite and helpful. I also saw a couple of truckers helping other drivers back into their parking space at truckstops.