As noted ahead of some of the past year’s installments in the chronicle of longtime former owner-operator turned company driver Wes Memphis and his transition to e-logs, known for embellishment, coffee-shop/truck-stop philosophizing and more, the pseudonymous Memphis is based in the Midwest. Memphis also might be the first-ever trucker whose decision to haul was instigated by reading a poem in a college English class. Catch Memphis’ previous pieces is his series of guest contributions to Channel 19, which officially sunset last year but which like many a trucker before him has come out of retirement this first half of the year, at this link. The following is his latest update:
Thinking too much has always been the great occupational hazard of the gear-jammer. For that reason, and others, back when it was allowed I would lump every load I could. It wasn’t just for the money. There was something about the simple, repetitive act of throwing freight that emptied the mind, washing away your worries until you were cradled in a sore, sweet numbness, free for a time from the neural itch that you just couldn’t scratch. Then you would reload, and beat feet back to the house, and you knew down to the marrow you had left the cave, killed something and were dragging it home. You were a man. You were the man.
But that was then. Today, as an e-logger, in the absence of physical struggle the real challenge is boredom, distraction and the lack of purpose. It’s kind of like leaving the life of a hunter-gatherer and becoming a suburbanite.
Back in the day, when you finally got the carrots loaded in Bakersfield, and you were needed in Indianapolis in 36 hours, man you were somebody. You were in that hypercaffeinated, nicotined state of pure focus. Every mile counted, every second was economized. You had to struggle, and in that struggle there was meaning. We all need to be needed, even if it’s in a sick, exploitative way that commoditizes us.
Damnit those were good times. While there were no marching bands or ticker tape parades to punctuate your triumphant entries into those seedy sections which housed the harvest you hauled, you knew deep down you had brought in the herd, you had protected the women and the children, you were, in your purple pearl-snap Ely western shirt and Wranglers, John MF-ing Wayne.
But that was then. Today as an e-logger, the biggest push I’ll make is attempting to walk a mile while waiting for my ten-hour break to end. I’ll probably go about half a mile and say, “What difference does it make?” before I hit the buffet line. Yet these people keep figuring out ways to create miles, and I keep making more and more money. This year on e-logs, I am tracking to make more than I did last year on e-logs. I feel terrible about this, because it completely shreds the last vestiges of my outlaw cred.
Meanwhile, I somehow have stumbled back into creditworthiness, after years of IRS problems, having walked into a bank last month and in a matter of minutes secured a car loan.
Maybe OOIDA was really onto something back a dozen or so years ago with their “Run Compliant” campaign, in which they urged truckers to use the hours of service rule to their advantage and “resist forced noncompliance.”
Maybe, if we constrict the amount of miles that are collectively available, rates will soar and we will see a new golden age of trucking.
I did something else this week I thought I’d never again do. I picked up the phone and called a guy about a truck he had for sale. Maybe I’m just not happy unless there’s a struggle. –Wes Memphis