Smart Driving

Max Kvidera | July 01, 2010

R & R on the road

A little planning and a sense of adventure can turn downtime away from home into rewarding experiences.

Mark Kathrein and Wendy Wing mount a log in a Redwood forest in Northern California.

Many truckers don’t know what to do with themselves during downtime. They may be between loads, waiting for a delivery time or far from home during a 34-hour restart — often in an unfamiliar place. The majority end up hanging around the truck, catching up on sleep, cleaning and fixing their rig, socializing and eating.

Barriers to spending meaningful time on the road are many. Pulling a trailer behind a tractor limits mobility. “A lot of what we do is based on being close to that truck,” says Scott Kinley, an owner-operator leased to Landstar. “If you’ve got a load, you’re not going to wander far from that load.”

Money is another problem. The economic downturn has tightened the belt for many operators and forced them to spend more downtime in or close to the truck.

Joe Fenwick finds inexpensive pursuits when driving, including visiting Virginia mountains and crossing the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas.

Yet some truckers point out that many activities and pleasures cost little or nothing. Walking doesn’t cost anything and offers exercise and a respite from the noise and emissions found at truckstops. Owner-operator Joe Fenwick, leased to Mercer Transportation, spent two days in the Virginia mountains, time which included participating in a tour.

 

Here’s how some other truckers spend their downtime on the road.

 

Walking

Linda and Bob Caffee find time to stay active during downtime. The owner-operators are members of the health-focused arm of the Trucking Solutions Group, which arranges walks at trucking shows. Bob says the group holds weekly conference calls to discuss best practices and features guest speakers, while Linda says health group members share ideas on how to exercise on the road. They also are on the driver advisory council to the Healthy Trucking Association of America.

In addition to taking care of their truck, Bob and Linda Caffee stay in touch with other expediters on the road.

Linda frequently walks during their downtime. She says she often finds interesting places to walk, even at truckstops. “One of my favorites is in Flagstaff [near the Little America truckstop in Arizona], where there are a lot of walking trails through the forest and along streams,” she says. “When we’re in Portland, you can walk along the [Columbia] river [near the Jubitz truckstop].”

When the Caffees were staying at the Flying J in Carlisle, Pa., she started walking and ran into the Appalachian Trail a mile away. Bob says they often consult the Rails to Trails website (www.railstotrails.org). Once, when they were waiting two days for repairs to their truck, they found a trail across the road from the shop and did an 8-mile trek each day.

Linda writes a blog for Expediters Online and says expediter teams often get together for barbecues on the road. The couple also often visits family when near a delivery stop. Having “family scattered around the United States” and being drivers, she says, the Caffees “get to see them a little more often than if we had 9-to-5 jobs.”


Rhyming and quilting

To pass the time, Wayne Dollar tells stories. As he rolls along, the Mercer-leased owner-operator turns his experiences into stories told in rhyme that are “99 percent true,” he says. He’s created enough to fill three CDs, with another planned this summer (http://www.truckingaround.com).

“Before there was satellite radio and only having CB radio to talk with each other, everyone was telling the same old thing night after night about what they were missing,” he recalls. “It was boring just listening. I started telling these stories to entertain these drivers.”

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