The State of Perpetual Motion

While I was in Murray for some much-needed maintenance a couple months back, I had a chat with a fellow employee about life on the road. When I told him I was a blogger, he was delighted, and said he wanted to give me a “freebie” idea to write about.“Find out the population of truck drivers in the United States,” he said, “then find out if it compares to the population of a city or a state.”

A good idea, for sure. So I took some time and did the research. According to the American Trucking Association, there are approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States, and an additional 7.3 million people employed by the trucking industry that are not drivers.

The city with the highest population in the United States is New York City, with 8.1 million residents. The trucking industry dwarfs this city by about 2.7 million. Even the drivers alone comprise a higher population than Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S.

But this doesn’t really give a good idea of the magnitude of the industry. After all, for most of us, who aren’t from such massive cities as New York or Chicago, the word “city” implies a small fragment of a much larger state. So how does the trucking industry measure up to the population of U.S. states?

With a total employment of about 10.8 million individuals, the trucking industry would qualify as the 8th largest state, with a greater population than Georgia. Drivers alone comprise a populace the size of Connecticut, the 30th largest state in the union.

Let me take a moment to shift gears a little bit, if you’ll pardon the pun. I want to talk a little about life on the road. Christina and I have already discussed this topic some in previous posts, but I want to really drive home what this life is really like for people like us who drive for a living.

We have no running water. No private bathrooms or showers. For those of us who drive as teams, we typically have to sleep in a noisy, vibrating room on a mattress that’s too small and too thin to really be comfortable. For company drivers who don’t own their own trucks (like us), we live at the whim of our company, driving where they tell us, working when they tell us, taking breaks when they allow us to, and never being able to leave work behind (because we live in the office). Getting good exercise is a challenge, because we rarely stop long enough to get a good work-out. Staying hydrated is a challenge because we are expected to drive for hours on end without breaks, and if we stop to urinate too many times, we might deliver a load late. Finding healthy food is difficult, because the only food available at truck stops is pre-packaged garbage, fast food or high-calorie food. If we want to eat healthy, we have to make our own food, but even this is a challenge, especially for teams because when you finish working, you go right to sleep, and when you wake up, you get right back to work. We don’t have regular opportunities to visit grocery stores, and most grocery stores don’t have truck parking. We are able to shower maybe two or three times a week, when we have the time available to take a short break. In other words, this is a tough job. Even living on a Navy ship at sea is cozier than this – trust me, I’ve done it. Granted, the work is harder in the Navy, but at least you know you’ll have a hot meal in the galley and a shower every night, plus a guaranteed twelve hours per day that you won’t have to work.

Tell me, what do you think would happen if the entire state of Connecticut were denied running water, had to take showers and use the bathroom at public facilities, and were forced to work 12 hours a day with only two 15-minute breaks to use the bathroom and one 30-minute lunch break where they were only provided with high-calorie fast food unless they brought a lunch from home? What would they do if they were forced to sleep in noisy, vibrating, undersized beds in a tiny closet at work, and were only allowed to take one day of un-paid home-time for every seven days they lived at work, and this home-time had to be requested a week in advance, and there was no guarantee they’d get home at the time they requested? What would they do if they were forced to work 12 hours, but only got paid for 9? What if they were restricted from having social contact with friends or loved ones except via phone calls and the internet, and could only visit face-to-face during the aforementioned home-time?

I bet people would be protesting in the streets, fleeing the state, demanding that Congress and the President do something about the unlivable conditions they were forced to endure. If the state of Connecticut were forced to live in these conditions, I doubt they’d stand by and do so silently.

Yet this is the life Christina and I, and every other truck driver in the United States, have voluntarily adopted. We live in Truckerland, the State of Perpetual Motion, a state as big as Connecticut, spread out all across the United States, working day and night to haul the freight you depend on every day.

Look around you. Practically every single thing you see was brought to you, in some way, thanks to the hard work and dedication of truck drivers. Your clothes, your food, your technology, your house, your car, your gas, your bed… All of it was on the back of a truck at some point. All of it being hauled by people living in a state of perpetual discomfort, working grueling hours with few creature comforts.

Try to remember this the next time you see a truck driver. We provide a vital service while living in conditions most would find appalling. Sure, we get to listen to music at work, and the view out the office window can’t be beat, but that doesn’t negate the hardships of the lifestyle.

(Don’t get me wrong, though… This is a tough job, but I enjoy it. As Christina has pointed out before, she and I are looking at becoming Owner/Operators, which won’t fix all of our problems, but will alleviate many of the worst ones. Hopefully, when we own our own rig, we’ll be able to take more time off at home and have more control over our workload, which will enable us to eat better, sleep better, and take better care of our bodies. And, best of all, we’ll be able to come home more often and see our beloved fur-babies (the cats) and our friends and family.)

Thanks for reading. I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend! We just drove from PA to CA to GA, and will be coming home around the 19th for a dentist appointment, so we’re looking forward to some well-earned time off.

Much love! Talk to you all again soon.

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