Have you seen this “Honey Boo-Boo” TV show everyone’s talking about?
My curiosity got the better of me the other night. Although I had a sneaking suspicion what I was in for, I decided to watch it. And it didn’t disappoint. I made it all of seven minutes into the show: right up until the little kid – Honey Boo-Boo herself – sneezed and blew a wad of snot into her hands and then proceeded to try and figure out what to do with it while the camera rolled blissfully on.
I was cooking dinner at the time.
Something similar happened to me not too long ago at a TMC Conference, of all places. The Maintenance Council Conference is where all the sharp fleet managers gather a couple of times a year to discuss and refine the science of keeping fleet vehicles on the road and profitable.
Not surprisingly, some of the presentations can be a little dry and heavy on minutia. So I don’t know what I was expecting when I decided to sit on one called “In-cab cleaning solutions.” We’re always looking for story ideas. And this sounded like something promising, I suppose.
But much like the “Honey Boo-Boo” TV show, it turned out to a horrifying, disgusting spectacle that was virtually impossible for me to take my eyes off of.
The presenters — who shall remain anonymous in this blog — took this matter very seriously. They noted that their drivers live and work in those cabs for weeks on end. And drivers are already hard enough to hang onto. You don’t want to send a guy out onto the road in a truck that’s dirty.
But merely “dirty” it turns out, would be a blessing compared to some of the stuff these guys have seen.
It seems that some truck drivers – notice that I said “some” – are pretty nasty. Not just slobs. Hell, I’m a slob. You should see my office. Or the interior of my pickup truck, for that matter.
But this session transcended mere sloppiness. The presenters took pains to note that some drivers were actually very neat and tidy. And the trucks they drove needed little more than a good wipe down and vacuuming and they were ready to go back out on the road.
But, unfortunately, when some trucks roll back onto the yard after several long hauls, they are – literally – environmental disaster zones in the cab and sleeper areas. Nasty to the point that the cleanup crews tasked with going into those cabs and sleepers had to wear HazMat biological suits like you see in James Bond or zombie movies.
On the low end of the scale, one of the presenters told of a driver who loved to have fried fish for dinner. So, he carried a deep-fryer with him and fried fish in the sleeper every night. As you might expect, this created a rather smelly, greasy mess inside the truck.
But they were just getting warmed with that story. Before we knew what hit us, we in the audience were knee deep in blood, uric acid (that’s urine or “pee” to you and me) other assorted, um, body fluids, vomit, fecal matter, mold, bacteria, rotting food, garbage, pet stains, bed bugs and lice. And just think for a second of all the little nooks and crannies there are in a truck cab for all this stuff to ooze down into!
And that was just from drivers who were living in the trucks. There was also a discussion concerning all the blood and gore found in a cab following a violent accident.
And that was just the first half of the presentation. The second half was devoted entirely to odor control and dissipation. And it wasn’t much better.
In most cases, simply running down to the Dollar General and grabbing a bottle of Pine Sol isn’t going to cut it. The crews had to use industrial-strength, hospital-rated cleaning solvents to have even a fighting chance of making the cab livable again.
In some extreme cases, the cabs were condemned: Literally unbolted from the chassis, trashed and replaced with a new or refurbished one.
Now look: It’s still a free country. So if you own your own truck, you can keep live chickens in the sleeper area as far as I’m concerned. And as long as they’re not a safety hazard while you’re driving, that’s nobody’s business but your own.
And we all know – and understand – that accidents sometimes happen. That’s just human nature.
But if you’re a fleet driver and you’re routinely leaving behind a trail of blood, vomit, urine, fecal matter and other substances in the cabs of the trucks you’re assigned, just stop it, ok?
Nobody wants to deal with cleaning that up. And nobody wants to drive a truck that’s been treated that way after you’re through with it.