Hank's Truck Forum

Trucks and Driving => Wee Willy's Truckin' Tales => Topic started by: Wee Willy on July 23, 2018, 09:13:36 AM

Title: The Way It Was
Post by: Wee Willy on July 23, 2018, 09:13:36 AM
 This is more an opinion piece based on my observations during the 70's and 80's than a story, the transition period from truckings last years of the hay days.
If you have something to say about any era of trucking, by all means post your thoughts.

The Way It Was

Way back when I was a young driver, things were much different than they are these days.
(why does that sound so familiar)

 The trucks were different, the roads were different, the political climate was different, the laws were different, music had become a powerful tool, and for a short period of time in history people had been out in masses protesting war/violence/hate, standing up for civil rights and freedoms, and voicing their concerns to huge audiences via the media! 
The trucking world was a culture all it's own, a grass roots movement of sorts, it had its own rules, and it's own music, which eventually was sensationalized by the movie and TV industry, which to me, was not a truly accurate portrayal of real life truckers and assisted in the destruction of the culture.

 It  started out not too badly, but in my mind it turned into a circus of unbelievably trashy content, which helped fuel the notion that truckers were a pack of wild, drunken, pilled up speed demons that ruled the roads like a gang of maniacal outlaws, showing no respect for the law, or the citizens who shared the roads.
(sex, violence, explosions, comedy, sensationalism, rebellion, it all sells, reality not so much)

This is my point of view based on what I observed and experienced.
Technically, outside of the established LTL companies, those without union or government ties, influential representatives if you will, we were all outlaws of sorts.
We had to be like outlaws in order to survive in the trucking industry.
It had nothing to do with disrespect toward the law, the government, the industry, the citizens.

 We were rolling revenue and a lot of people wanted our money, whether it was justifiable or not.
 We liked our money, and did what we could to hold onto it!
If that meant dodging a scale here and there, running a few hours over what the law allowed, or becoming a tourist and disappearing from the radar for a day or two while traveling the back roads to your destination, then so be it!

Every state, every province, county, township, city, village, and highway, seemed to have it's own set of rules which presented your average long distance driver with an overwhelming set of barriers and potential loss of earnings,  and sometimes uncalled for disciplinary actions.

 You would be driving down back roads while traveling east to west, or west to east, while attempting to sneak past the "Iron Curtain", (states who remained at 55 feet and 73,280 pounds), trying to avoid scales and portables, and bypassing counties and states where the law was slightly less than welcoming, to avoid being processed and parting with your hard earned cash!

 There was no internet or cell phones, so by the time the authorities were done dealing with you, it could cost you a lot of money and downtime if you were unfortunate enough to be apprehended where they had a hate on for trucks, and believe me, there were more than a few of them!
 For the most part, truckers and cops were both doing their jobs, that was understood, and most knew how the game was played, were civil, and respected each other.
 It truly was a game, and the players knew the rules!

We had our fair share of the real life version of the so called "Outlaw Truckers", they were few and far between from my perspective, but seemed to increase in numbers after deregulation.
 Deregulation and the big clamp down on the pharmaceutical industry came into being about the same time.
 At this point, the harder home brewed and dirtier illegal drugs started showing up, as well as the legal substitutes that started appearing in magazines, as well as truck stops.
 Some folks might remember the cards sitting on the fuel desks, phone in delivery services for the legal substitutes.

 Shortly after, the appearance of driving schools and lease to own programs by trucking companies became more visible.
 Many were subsidized by government, the opportunists began jumping on the band wagon to make a profit off the new wave of truckers filling seats, seats that had been abandoned by many old schoolers who took city jobs, changed occupations altogether, or retired.

Getting back to the "bad boys."

 Many of these so called outlaws were excellent drivers who knew their limits, they would push their limits, but they knew when to quit pushing and when it was time to pack it in.
 These drivers were on tight schedules hauling fresh meat, produce, perishables, livestock and other time sensitive or high priority cargos, sometimes they drove fast, but not in a dangerous manor as some would have you believe.
 Many of these drivers likely chewed the odd goober here and there, but they were still plenty safe behind the wheel.

 More often than not, they drove really steady rather than really fast, as most of them had enough power to maintain a 65 mph road speed under most conditions, as in heavy wind, uphill, downhill, whatever the case may be, top speed didn't really matter at the end of the day, where consistency was more important relevant to delivery times.
 If you knew you could average 50- 55 mph over a distance of 2000 miles, including fuel stops and washroom breaks, without exceeding 65 mph, you were making big miles and could predict with extreme accuracy as to when you would arrive at your destination.

Another group of these cowboys were young drivers who didn't have enough experience to know any better, like myself when I first started, (but I learned quickly), and we hadn't learned the truckers code of conduct yet.

Brothers Of The Road
"Safety, Honesty, Respect, Courtesy, Honour, Diplomacy, Professionalism, Loyalty, Patience, Stealth, Awareness, Vigilance, Understanding, Tolerance, and a Sense of Humour."
(I made that up, if you know the real code, let us know)

 The rest of the wannabe outlaws usually had attitudes, they were loud, bragged and swore on the CB radio, some drove way too fast, took too many risks, they were genuinely dangerous.
These truckers had very little respect for anyone or anything, and are the ones most people associate with the term "outlaws."

 Rather than condemn an entire culture for the actions of a relative few, I think the law should have hunted down the clown truckers, who were very easy to spot, (and still are), and gotten them off the roads, rather than deprive millions of drivers of rights and freedoms by condemning all, declaring that anyone who can't pass a urine test, or recite the regulations, or operate a computer, or doesn't have 2 gallons of windshield washer fluid in the truck, is a danger to society and a menace on the road.
 It's almost seems like the governments, along with big players in the trucking and insurance industries, north and south of the border, did this intentionally, a very grand plan!
 It's like they engineered the whole thing, a brilliant plan to erase a subculture by turning loose the flood of new age drivers and technology, creating previously untapped sources of revenue to profit from!

Over the years I have observed that many people in the trucking biz are dishonest with themselves as well as others, and cannot be trusted to make, logical, rational, reasonably intelligent decisions, or do the "right thing" under any circumstances, and it has nothing to do with substance or alcohol use, (or abuse), that's just the way it is.
Humans are weak animals, selfish, greedy, opportunistic, narcissistic, dishonest, stubborn, ignorant, lazy, easily misled, and it's a tough job to be a straight shooting, righteous, virtuous, polite, upstanding citizen of the highway in this day and age, too many regulations and not enough mentors left to carry on and rebuild what has been lost.   

 Unfortunately, the dead wood stick's out like a sore thumb and make's the entire industry look bad in the eyes of those who regulate on behalf of the vocal public, and for them it's a lot easier to just paint us all with the same brush.

A good number of truckers back in the day, myself included, kept a bottle of liquor in the truck, and carried around a little pill jar containing five or ten goobers, and even a little weed, but not because we were drug crazed killers in trucks, it was more like an emergency kit.
 The liquor went a lot quicker than the pills did in most cases.
Most truckers I knew who carried drugs would rather not use them, and if they did, they had a pretty good reason, like a Ukrainian wedding that could go on for a couple days!

 I knew a few cow haulers in my time, and these dudes ran long and hard between feed lots to insure the animals were fed, watered, and rested as per the laws.
The boys would load cattle in Alberta, then run 24 hours straight, all the way to Thunder Bay, about 1200 miles on the first leg to S Ontario or Quebec, or other. 

 These were seriously dedicated professionals, and I'm willing to bet that most of them carried a couple goobers with them.
 I've said before that their skills and professionalism are obvious, just follow one for a few hundred miles through N Ontario along #17 highway, if you pay attention you'll understand, and you may learn a trick or two.

Lots of drivers I ran with carried around the same handful of pills for two years or more, and were comforted knowing that if they were overly tired and needed to be somewhere, they could do it, safely.
 Personally, if given the choice of riding with two tired out truck drivers, one with a bag of sunflower seeds, and one with a few of his wife's diet pills, the driver with the sunflower seeds is on his own!

 As for liquor and weed, being stuck in a truck in the middle of nowhere, and having to wait out a flash flood, a landslide, or a seriously nasty blizzard, it's always more enjoyable when you have company and a little buzz on to numb the boredom or take the edge off, it's a time to relax.
I don't condone the use of alcohol or drugs, and I do not judge those who do use them, it would be hypocritical.
  But……, being able to understand the difference between use and abuse, it's a choice the individual makes, and not my place to say.
 A person is either strong and can resist temptation or moderate themselves, or is weak and cannot resist or moderate, be it alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, gambling, cars, computers, ......... whatever, we all have weaknesses, some to the extreme.

Sometimes us truckers were stuck in one place for days before the carnage was cleaned up and the roads opened.
 It was a time to socialize and get the stress out, play cards in one truck, watch television in someone else's truck, get on the CB and yak with the locals, enjoy your beverage of choice, just a bunch of people making the most of a bad situation and blowing off some steam.

In a pinch you could use whiskey to sterilize a knife, or a sewing needle and thread, in the event you run across a situation where roadside surgery might be required, booze has number of other uses not related to drunkenness.
 Many of us carried other pharmaceuticals for emergency use as well, pain killers, antiseptics, analgesics, foot powder, bandages, medicinal alcohol, eye drops, septic pencils, and a whole lot of other things that could come in handy on the road, but as I said previously, and some may be unable to understand, these were things we carried just in case!

 We also carried food, water, extra clothing, a variety of shoes and boots, several jackets, rain gear, office supplies, tire chains, jacks, tools, filters, knives, axes, saws, hibachi grill, all the things we needed to be self sufficient if we broke down a couple hundred miles from civilization, or just got laid over somewhere for a couple days where there was no access to convenience.   
(I've done three days in snow storms, floods, and small towns in the boonies that close at 5:30 PM)

 A seventy-four inch, (BBC), cabover gets a little crowded with all the extra stuff, but that's what made it your home, you had everything you needed to survive the elements, repair the truck, or entertain if the situation arose.

 That's how it used to be on the road, we were prepared for anything, be it a lengthy layover, a roadside social event, or a horrific accident.
 Between two or three truckers we had most situations covered, including doing an in-frame in a parking lot, or changing a transmission on the side of the road!

 If a group of truckers were laid over in a city, the last thing we wanted to do was spend that time in a truck, so we would chip in and get a room or two for the weekend, sometimes a communal rental car, and we used the room for a home base.

 You had a telephone, a clean washroom, a television, sometimes a pool, a restaurant, which were all luxuries to a trucker who lived in a truck for weeks on end.
 Sometimes there were 5 or 6 drivers sharing the room, some would clean up then leave, others would arrive, but everybody pitched in their fair share to cover the cost, and the drivers staying the longest got to sleep in the room.
 It was an opportunity to unwind, clean and grease your truck, tighten a few bolts, maybe have a wonderful meal in a nice restaurant, catch a movie, go for a swim, meet a new lady friend, quality time.
There was a bond that existed amongst most truckers back in the day, the unwritten code of the road if you will, a vibrant and thriving culture that still exists, however small the circle may have become.

  My generation is the last of the "real outlaws", once we are gone, only their children and apprentices shall carry on the tradition, and they will be the best in the industry, their skills and knowledge will surpass the industry standard by leaps and bounds, because they learned from some of the best operators that ever ran up and down the highways of our nations! 

 Perhaps someday the culture will grow and become strong again.
The odds are against it, but every once in a while history repeats itself.
Lets hope for the best, whatever that may be.

The End 
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: Oso2 on July 23, 2018, 10:05:08 PM
Thanks Willy. That was a nice write up.

But I'm going to play the contrarion and throw something out: perhaps the lack of population and traffic in those days had a lot to do with the trucking culture. Let me put it another way: I bet a lot of those old time professionals were weaving down the road at one point or another. But they got off because there weren't any other cars on the road to hit! I've talked to some older guys who said that there wasn't anything like Toronto's 12 lanes of rush hour traffic 24 hours a day. You can't tackle that kind of thing unless you are fully rested. There's no way you could do it on 2-3 hours sleep.

So that's my theory: there are more rules because there's more stuff to hit.
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: Wee Willy on July 24, 2018, 07:21:58 AM
Nice theory, but wrong.

What does Toronto have to do with it?
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: Oso2 on July 24, 2018, 09:16:33 AM
I was using Toronto as an example of bad traffic.
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: Mister TyZo on July 24, 2018, 02:55:39 PM
Good Read Willy... While My Driving Career was 33 yrs in the Public Transit Industry, I did have a Childhood Friend who started out in 1970 and Did very well at it.. Then came the HOS rules and Computer age, as your 11th paragraph stated He had enough of the Big Road and went Local... Cheers
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: charlie on July 24, 2018, 03:06:28 PM
I've missed your stories Willy.......keep 'em coming. ;D The days before cell phones & internet were much better in some ways yet it's good to have them........I guess. :-\
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: doug mckenzie on July 25, 2018, 09:19:19 AM
Thanks Willy. That was a nice write up.

But I'm going to play the contrarion and throw something out: perhaps the lack of population and traffic in those days had a lot to do with the trucking culture. Let me put it another way: I bet a lot of those old time professionals were weaving down the road at one point or another. But they got off because there weren't any other cars on the road to hit! I've talked to some older guys who said that there wasn't anything like Toronto's 12 lanes of rush hour traffic 24 hours a day. You can't tackle that kind of thing unless you are fully rested. There's no way you could do it on 2-3 hours sleep.

So that's my theory: there are more rules because there's more stuff to hit.

Knew you'd run into trouble with this.
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: doug mckenzie on July 25, 2018, 09:20:26 AM

Very well said Bill.
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: peterbilttrucker on July 29, 2018, 03:56:01 PM
What a great read and boy how nice it would be if all the guys that were driving back then were still out here now. Not to sound like a bitter old has been, but even just in my nine years of driving, it has changed so much (for the worse). Obviously, the big one is my new e-log. Now, I never used the paper logs in order to hurry back and get another load and make more money (well, not very often, haha), but I would work it so I could have more home time for sure! You could leave home later than you showed or get home earlier than you "should" or you could just have the flexibility to stop and enjoy a meal with a friend in the middle of the day without paying the price in wasted hours. Now we have to run like machines to keep schedules and make money. I felt like I ran harder this last winter making six hundred miles a day on an e-log than I ever felt running a thousand miles a day (occasionally) on paper. When I first went over-the-road, that's how the flatbed worked. Didn't matter if you loaded early in the morning or late afternoon, or if the load only went three hundred miles or nine hundred miles...it was expected to be there the next morning to unload, reload, and do it all over again. I never felt dangerous doing it...if I got tired, I could sleep, and then make stuff look good on the book when I woke up and still make it on time. Had time to stop and get the truck washed and polished, serviced, fix tires, help someone else, whatever. Now we've gotta put everything off until the weekend and hope for the best. Gotta drive hard and push the truck, make stupid choices...all because that clock is ticking on the dash. However, I might as well have an e-log now because they take your picture and log you in at almost every weigh station in the west anymore...get an audit and your fuel times better match the credit card report...shippers and receivers put your in and out times on the bills and sit you there for five hours. It's a joke. Used to run right down US89 around the scales here in my hometown and be overweight and everyone knew it, but if you stayed out of trouble, they left you alone. I feel like I came into the industry just at the tail end of the good times. Soon, most that take pride in their work will be pushed out of the industry because they can't enjoy it anymore and then we'll only have the C.R. England driving school rejects out hauling the nation's freight and we'll see what's REALLY more dangerous between the "outlaws" and the idiots.

...and before anybody gets on my case, in that nine years, I've had a total of ZERO citations and ZERO accidents on my record and was loyal to the first outfit that hired me for eight years.
Title: Re: The Way It Was
Post by: Wee Willy on August 01, 2018, 04:59:24 AM
I'm glad you folks enjoyed the read, thank you.

Knew you'd run into trouble with this.

Made me laugh! ;D ;D

Howdy Ryan.

I think you might be one of a handful of young drivers that get it.
A lot of the old guys get it, but not a whole lot of younger folks do.
You have the passion and have come up the right way, at least in my mind.

Back in the day, when tach clocks were all the rage, if a driver did something they didn't want the company or officials to know about, they would toss the tach card out the window.

Back then, the fine in Montana for a log book violation was $50, and if you didn't have a log book the fine was $25, a bargain to be sure, the ditches were littered with log books on both sides approaching scales.

Have you tried tossing the ELD out the window?  ::) ;D

 Also, when the speed limit was lowered to 55 mph, in Montana, if you were caught speeding and below the old speed limit, (70 or 75 mph, can't remember), the fine was $10 with no points and a percentage of the ticket went to good causes and charities.
 Truckers were happy to get caught speeding in Montana! 8) ;D

Things are really different now that I think of it. :P