- Allen Czermak
Keeping Our Professional Truckers Happy
As we all know there is a trucker crisis going on in this country and with the additional issue of the high cost of gasoline it doesn’t look like this situation will end anytime soon. Have we even begun to appreciate those devoted trucking and logistics drivers who maintain the flow of containers throughout the country?
Have you ever seen large haulers parked on the side of the road or in your local Costco’s parking lot? You may wonder initially if they are allowed to be there at all since when is the side of the road or a closed super store’s parking area the place for truckers to sleep overnight? This is because there is an immense shortage of parking space in the United States for long-haulers. Practically all professional truck drivers surveyed by the American Trucking Association describe not being able to find safe overnight parking. Many times, they have to adapt by spending their long-needed night’s sleep on dangerous highway ramps, vacant lots or other illegal venues.
Yet, if we think about these same truckers as human beings who are members of a family with a wife, children and maybe a dog, we can empathize with these hard workers and wonder where they can shower and eat while on the road. Truck drivers have specific rules and restrictions of how long they can drive because of the dangers of overtired drivers at the wheel. Federal safety rules were started in the 1930’s and since 2013 more stringent laws have been enacted that make it even more complicated for drivers to arrive at their destinations on time. For example, with some companies’ drivers are permitted to drive for sixty hours maximum for seven days or for seventy hours over eight days. So that is why you will find a large hauler in your local Costco parking area if that is the place where his hours allowance is up that is where he will stay overnight.
It is surely not fair for these hard-working individuals to have to not only sleep in their long haulers but to eat dinner and wash up somehow in their trucks. Besides being lonely it is downright uncomfortable! Their trucks serve as offices, kitchens, and bedrooms and if you peek into their cab, you can see them facetiming their families while eating dinner or trying to relax. If a stranger can just peek into their truck, then what kind of privacy can these poor drivers have?
Think of all the simple chores that a family goes through each week. You wake up in the morning, get out of your bed, take a shower, go into the kitchen to eat breakfast, and then go to work where either you sit in a chair or walk around if you do physical labor. When you come home in the evening you open your fridge to take a drink or a piece of fruit, then go into the kitchen either to make dinner or eat the dinner that is placed in front of you. You may go for a walk weather permitting or just have a quick game of basketball in your driveway. If you are an apartment dweller, you may head to your local gym to exercise and don’t forget to put a load into the washing machine so that your dirty laundry does not accumulate.
Look at the various actions listed above, and you can begin to understand what a professional driver goes through to get these basic home accomplishments done. Taking a shower is not as easy as you would believe for our dedicated professional truck drivers. Although truck stops or travel centers have been around for a long time, this does not mean that our driver will find one when his resting time approaches. How does our truck driver take his meals? Does he simply pull out a granola bar and eat while he’s driving? What about his lunch? How many days will a healthy homemade sandwich last on the road? When can he possibly exercise or take a walk when he needs his time off for sleeping? What about laundry? A driver could be on the road for weeks at a time and may not have enough spare clothing or the room to store it in his truck or he may drive through different climate zones and need to keep changing his garments. The activities that most of us take for granted are treasured moments that these drivers don’t do on a constant basis. Therefore, it is so important that travel centers are increasing in quantity all over our country.
Not only are the owners of these centers giving professional drivers a place to shower and eat but some are being built or newly renovated to make them inviting and cheerful for a tired long hauler to welcome him or her back to civilization even for a short time.
The Petro Travel Center
Venues such as The Petro Center in Ontario, California along route Interstate 10 is trying to change the hardships the truckers go through in order to be fed, rested and clean before embarking on another sixty or seventy hours of driving along dark and lonely highways or conversely on crowded traffic filled ones.
The entrance to the Petro Travel Center is equipped with the usual standards of a rest stop such as food and bathrooms. What makes this stop different is that in addition to the usual amenities of a rest area there is a laundromat, gym, lounge, and most importantly real showers that the trucker can actually stand up in and let the hot water flow. Some stops such as Petro allow you to use the shower as long as you want or for at least for thirty minutes. Some have an inclusive package while other stops charge for the shower separately. How much water would a trucker have on his truck even if he was fortunate to have some type of bathing accommodations?
Bryan Tyson Galbreath, a forty-one-year-old veteran long- haul driver identifies stops such as Petro Travel Center as his home away from home. There are at least 550,000 drivers like Bryan who have become invaluable especially during the pandemic when so many of the drivers were sick. This truck driver shortage continues today together with supply chain problems putting these drivers under additional pressure to get to their targets on time. Not only is parking and sleeping at the side of a highway dangerous, but the noise prevents the truckers from having a good night’s sleep. “You have vehicles that are traveling at speeds of 65-70 miles an hour, you can feel them when they run by you, rocking the truck.” complains Bryan. No way can a trucker get a good night’s sleep with all that noise, and he can’t very well take a sleeping pill since he has to be alert for his next sixty or seventy-hour stint of driving.
The Iowa 80 Truck Stop
This trucker’s oasis situated in Walcott, Iowa, calls itself the biggest truck stop in the world boasting 900 parking spots for trucks. Places such as these nicknamed temporary cities for truck drivers and each driver has his or her own take on these places. Many truckers report back to their families about their lack of healthy eating habits because most of their eating consists of greasy fast-food fare unless they keep a small fridge in their hauler where they can make their own salads and store cold yogurts.
Studies have noted that truckers have more than the usual chance of becoming overweight, suffering from diabetes, back problems and fatigue. Pursuant to The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2020, 4,842 fatal truck crashes took place and 107,000 crashes involved serious injury to the driver. Even if they would have access to superior and healthy foods, their pay does not allow them the luxury of superior eating. Anthony Johnson, a thirty-six-year-old trucker explains that he just can’t keep going to restaurants on the road even if his route is full of high-quality eateries.
Professional truck drivers have enough challenges on their heads that a pleasurable reprieve from their travels is welcomed. With limited hours of driving causing long hauls on the road away from family, it is commendable that there are places such as travel centers to uplift their moods. In addition, the threat of self-driving trucks is increasing, and professional driving is all that many of them know and care about. Drivers try to adapt to the difficulties they encounter such as bad weather, inferior food and sleeping on the side of the road. Whatever we can do to help those people who we depend on for our life sustenance is truly required. Since the pandemic, there has been a desperate shortage of drivers, and with congestion at the docks with waiting shipping containers, we need to have good places for the drivers to relax and chill. Keeping the drayage companies' service running efficiently to get vital shipping containers to their destinations as quickly as possible will be a tremendous relief for professional truck drivers.