May 22, 2017

"What’s the best part of trucking?"/"Freedom. Oh my God, I cannot tell you."

From a NYT collection of interviews with truck drivers: "Alone on the Open Road: Truckers Feel Like ‘Throwaway People’/President Trump ignited a national discussion of blue-collar jobs./Truck driving, once a road to the middle class, is now low-paying, grinding, unhealthy work. We talked with drivers about why they do it."

The "throwaway people" line came from a 54-year-old man who is the one interviewee who doesn't appear in the photograph that goes with his words. The line I quoted in the title came from a 33-year-old man who is a co-owner-operator.

50 comments:

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose...

Clyde said...

The bad news for truckers, cabbies, bus drivers and anyone else who drives for a living is that autonomous vehicle fleets are not that far off in the future. A lot of people are going to have to find a new way to make a living.

traditionalguy said...

On the road again. Just can't wait to get on the road again.But we need to fix the bridges, repave and and widen the roads.

The only thing stopping President Trump's infra structure bill is Globalist Republicans leading Congress...because he is a secret Russian Agent, or some such total BS.

Michael P said...

"A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic." - Sherlock Holmes

CJ said...

Trucking used to be about freedom - pop some Dex, stay up all night, and get the load to the destination on time. As long as the load made it on time you could spend the rest of your route time at the whorehouse.

Now the trucks are tracked and governered and you have to pull off after 8 hours on the road.

That's not freedom.

Inga said...

Some essential jobs are so undervalued, day care workers among them, along with care givers, off the top of my head. I doubt we can depend on Trump to push for increased wages for these workers. I recall Trump saying on the campaign trail how people were paid too much in the context of raising the minimum wage.

Rene Saunce said...

What did Obama do about care giver pay, Inga? Anything?

Captain Billy said...

Inga said...
Some essential jobs are so undervalued


Pray tell, how does a job become undervalued?

David Baker said...

When I was young, long-haul trucking seemed adventurous, even romantic. Pay me just enough to live, and I'll do it. But you soon learn that the road ends at the Pacific, then back again. It's an endless circle. But thankfully, every once in awhile something breaks the monotony…

Bay Area Guy said...

Busted down on Bourbon Street
Set up like a bowling pin
Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin
They just won't let you be

You're sick of hanging around, you'd like to travel
Get tired of travelling you want to settle down
I guess they can't revoke your soul for trying
Get out of the door, light out and look all around

Sometimes the lights all shining on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long strange trip it's been

Truckin' I'm a going home
Whoa, whoa, baby, back where I belong
Back home, sit down and patch my bones
And get back truckin' on


--Truckin', Grateful Dead (1970)

Amadeus 48 said...

I have a friend who is deep in the autonomous vehicle world who says truly autonomous vehicles are far away. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Will autonomous vehicles be like wind generated power that requires gas-fired power facilities to back it up? Will they need a stand-by human pilot? He says yes for a long, long time.

EDH said...

"Freedom. Oh my God, I cannot tell you."

Maybe speaking like a teenage girl helps you remain forever young?

MadisonMan said...

Looming over the horizon is a future in which self-driving trucks threaten to eliminate many drivers’ livelihoods.

Am I the only person who read Stephen King's short story about Trucks?

tcrosse said...

There are some insurance issues yet to be resolved before the autonomous vehicle becomes commonplace. They may prove to be more intractable than the technical issues.

Bay Area Guy said...

"President Trump ignited a national discussion of blue-collar jobs. Truck driving, once a road to the middle class, is now low-paying,
grinding, unhealthy work. We talked with drivers about why they do it."

The NYT is so clueless they can't even frame the story properly.

Revised NYT intro:

"A buncha dumb-ass blue collar truck-drivin' morons voted for Trump, causing us much anxiety. We ignored them for decades, and if Hillary had won, we woulda continued to ignore them. But Trump won, so, reluctantly we felt obligated to talk to these rubes, to find out why the fuck they voted for Trump, when their lives suck so much."

mockturtle said...

I've never been a trucker but I love the freedom of the open road. The fact that I won't likely be around to see the autonomous vehicles take over is a blessing. Here in the West, driving is a rite of passage, a way of life and often just a pure pleasure.

mockturtle said...

Bay Area Guy nails it. The NYT really IS clueless about America and its people. And they don't care, because only those within the NY bubble--and those who would like to be--really count. I wonder if they realize how many of us don't care.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Inga said...Some essential jobs are so undervalued, day care workers among them, along with care givers, off the top of my head.

Let's see: native low-skilled workers like "care givers" and day care workers compete with hundreds of thousands (millions, really) of low-skilled immigrants and that increase in supply (a shift of the S curve to the right--meaning more supply at any level of demand due to a large increase in the labor available w/few other options for work) drives down the clearing price of that labor, meaning lower wages for everyone in those industries.
The solution you seem to want, "simply mandate higher wages!" not only won't work in general (as fast food workers being replaced by robots in high minimum-wage cities are finding out) it's also completely unsustainable in the face of CONTINUED immigration/entry of low-cost labor into that market!
One of the few things that might help increase the wages of those people currently working in those industries, Inga, would be to restrict entry of new employees into that labor market. The primary way to accomplish that, Inga, would be...to restrict immigration of low-skilled workers and/or increase participation of current illegal immigrants in those labor markets.
Hey, isn't that something Trump has proposed and that he campaigned on?

[NB: I'm not arguing that using regulation or national policy to restrict labor entry/participation into a given industry is a GOOD policy--the increased wages paid TO workers are also increased costs paid BY others in those markets, and the distortionary effects of the policy would almost certainly result in a net loss of one sort or another to the nation...but people like Inga who assert that "the government" must do something about low wages paid to certain low-skill workers should be made to acknowledge that tightening those labor market by cracking down on immigration is one of the few ways to actually accomplish that goal.]

The Cracker Emcee said...

"There are some insurance issues yet to be resolved before the autonomous vehicle becomes commonplace. They may prove to be more intractable than the technical issues."

That's the least of it. Autonomous vehicles are a political hot potato that will be pulled out of the fire and tossed around for decades to come. The first time an AV fails to react correctly to a child running out into the street, just watch the firestorm.

John said...

"The bad news for truckers, cabbies, bus drivers and anyone else who drives for a living is that autonomous vehicle fleets are not that far off in the future"

As mentioned, it may be more far off than we might think. Besides the infrastructure in many places - think "last mile" - consider the hacking threat. If some believe hacking had a horrible impact on the election, think what could happen if someone were able to hack into an autonomous delivery system and control multi-ton, unmanned vehicles on city streets and highways. Might they be used in some nefarious ways? We have some work to do.

urbane legend said...

CJ said...
Trucking used to be about freedom - pop some Dex, stay up all night, and get the load to the destination on time. As long as the load made it on time you could spend the rest of your route time at the whorehouse.

Now the trucks are tracked and governered and you have to pull off after 8 hours on the road.

That's not freedom.


Exactly. Did it 30 years. Glad I don't do it anymore.

Fen said...

What do you get when you cross an autonomous fuel truck with GPS coordinates for CNN Headquarters?

John said...

Inga said..."Some essential jobs are so undervalued, day care workers among them, along with care givers, off the top of my head."

HoodlumDooddlum NAILS this! The problem I find with most on the left is that everything (especially as it fits their narrative) is mutually exclusive. The either can't see the connection between open borders and low wages or they refuse.

buwaya said...

Theres more to the idea of artificially increasing day care worker pay, in its social effects.
Raising the cost of day care will drive many women out of the labor force, making them stay home to take care of the kids.
So, some reduction in the labor force, and wage competition.
Whether this will offset the loss of jobs in the day care sector, who knows.
On the flip side, its certain both the direct and the opportunity cost of having kids will rise, making children more expensive, reducing breeding.

David Baker said...

A true story lived years ago:

After studying the map of Wyoming and Utah, I decided to take a shortcut. I was headed to Logan, Utah, with a load of IBM mainframe computers. It seemed the shortcut would save me a few hours - enough time to catch a nap in the sleeper before a morning delivery. But somehow things didn't go as planned, because I soon found myself climbing up the Wasatch Mountains, with only one way down.

At the time, I didn't know I was entering the "Wasatch Mountains." Just another "hill," I thought, maybe a little steeper than others, and maybe a bit more snow than my idea of usual. I also didn't know that the road I was on was officially closed, the month being March, the winter snows still falling. Beyond this brief description, there's no way to explain all that happened, how I escaped still alive. There was no way I could turn my Kenworth around, the road so narrow, the snow now too high.

But for some reason a giant plow had very recently cut a narrow path all the way to the top, maybe 7,000 feet up. I say "giant" because the snow was so deep around me, at times I could barely see the stars. And not single car, not a single truck, not a solitary hint of modern man; I knew I was in trouble. If I get stuck, if my way is blocked, I'll be dead before the spring thaw.

Yet, the gods were with me that late night - the snow almost disappearing when I finally reached the top. And there, before leaving, I entered another world - when the images and voices rose from the Wasatch Mountains...

Etienne said...

What I hate, is those bastards driving 18-wheel trucks in the inner city.

I have to keep buying more big nails to sprinkle along my wife's store, so they don't go down the alley.

Etienne said...

Freedom went away when they installed GPS, and started tracking drivers. Now it's all about shipping time.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

I tell each of my six grandchildren to get a CDL as soon as they are 18. Always have something to fall back on if the newest job goes south ..

mockturtle said...

Buwaya suggests: Raising the cost of day care will drive many women out of the labor force, making them stay home to take care of the kids.

This would be fine if there were another breadwinner in the family. All too often, the working Mom is unmarried. Therein lies the dilemma.

Wilbur said...

David Baker, a great post.
_______________________________________

Oh, the feel of the wheel delivers me
From a life where I don't want to be
And the diesel smoke with every stroke
Sings a song with a heavy note

And rambling is the life I chose
Sitting here between these doors
A yellow line keeping time
The things that's a-running through my mind

Tank said...

Tank drove a truck for about five years after high school before going to college. It was a great life. No cell phones or GPS back then so, once you left the factory, you were on your own. I drove mostly 16-18' straight jobs, many with 200 pound boxes of scissors.

Even though I could have wasted time, I was "a worker," I liked to work. I would jump in the truck, get out to where I was delivering or picking up, and jump in the back and start throwing boxes around. Great job for a 22 year old, but I did realize I would not enjoy it so much at 50.

My trucking days gave me an opportunity to see all sorts of things I never would have seen if I went straight to college, and to mix with and work with all sorts of people I would not have come in contact with. Overall, a great experience.

David Baker said...

Many thanks, Wilbur.

"...The things that's a-running through my mind" - I sense that you've been there, too.

rcocean said...

Yeah, I was a co-driver with a long distance trucker for a couple summers in the early 80s. It was a great life. We'd pick up a load in Oregon and drop it off in Miami 5 days later. And then 5 days later drop off the Miami load in LA.

No one cared what you did or where you went as long as you picked it up and dropped it off on time. Of course, the $$ incentive was to get their as quickly as possible, so you could deliver another load. IRC, you weren't supposed to drive more then 8 hours a day, but the primary driver would usually do at least 10 hours and then me spell him.

Seeing Red said...

If I wanted my DL, I had to learn to drive stick. Dad said if you drive stick, you can drive a truck. Dad, I don't intend to drive a truck.

So how's the market today?

Virtually Unknown said...

I always said Trump was "Rubber Duck."

Comanche Voter said...

What strange truck driving beasts are these that voted for Trump? The ninnies at the New York Times want to know.

rehajm said...

...once a road the middle class, is now low paying, grinding, unhealthy work.

The math of a vibrant economy that in a generation created 100 million jobs in high paying fields changes the location of the mean. Bad for a truck driver worried about their place on the economic ladder but not for those 100 million other people.

rehajm said...

The lawyers will kill autonomous vehicles if the public's fear doesn't.

Jack Wayne said...

Had a great conversation a couple of nights ago with a man who makes a very good living hauling RV's, trailers, boats or anything that can be hauled by a big pick-up truck. He goes from manufactory to the dealer, sometimes to an individual who bought direct. He determines his own schedule and really loves the life. No wife, no children. Hauls all over the US, even went to Newfoundland once. I had never considered how that is done but I see these guys on the road all the time. He loves his life.

John said...

Blogger Inga said...

Some essential jobs are so undervalued, day care workers among them, along with care givers, off the top of my head.

Undervalued by who?

Not the people who do them. They accept the job and do it because they value their time less than the money on offer.

Not the people they get paid by. They value the service more than they value their money.

In a free society, the only ones who should have an opinion on the value of child care, for instance, are the buyer and seller.

You seem to have been sucked into Marx's theory of objective value, based on the quantity of labor "crystalized" in each commodity.

This is what bakes the murder into socialism. You don't seem very well informed in general but neither do you seem like a murderer. I'll chalk your views on value up to ignorance rather than evil.

You really need to think things through a bit better.

Have you ever read Marx? Capital, in particular?

John Henry

John said...

"There'd be no truck drivers if it wasn't for us trucks" Dave Dudly. @1972

John Henry

David Baker said...

Through the amazing miracle of the Internet, here's an actual picture of the very last truck I drove before leaving the road for good.

It's a Brockway, Seminole Transport's #193 - conventional cab, 350 Cummings diesel, 10-speed Roadranger. With its short wheelbase and powerful engine, a real hill-climber, too. But you had to be young to drive one of these, especially going across I-20, which back in '72 was a bone-jarring, tooth-cracking, washboard.

I remember the advice of an old road-trucker I met outside El Paso, about never driving east of Texas. And his test was a cup of coffee, that if it stayed nice and still riding on the "doghouse," the road would not ruin your kidneys. (in a cab-over tractor, the "doghouse" is the compartment between the seats that covers the engine)

Sage advice, but the more I thought about, and after getting bounced around inside that hill-storming Brockway for awhile, even becoming the editor of the NYT seemed better. Or waiting tables, or selling shoes, or operating automatic screw machines, even going door-to-door peddling Fuller Brush(es). But don't get me started, because the list of jobs goes on and on.



Jim at said...

"Some essential jobs are so undervalued, day care workers among them, along with care givers, off the top of my head. I doubt we can depend on Trump to push for increased wages for these workers. I recall Trump saying on the campaign trail how people were paid too much in the context of raising the minimum wage."
--------------

Inga,

Is there ANY damn subject you can't tie to your hatred of Donald Trump?

Anything? At all? Ever?

And just why in the hell is it the president's responsibility to push for increased wages for any occupation?

Peter said...

"Some essential jobs are so undervalued, day care workers among them, along with care givers, off the top of my head."

The top of Inga's head apparently does not understand why a glass of gem-quality diamonds is worth far more than the same glass filled with potable water. After all, what is more essential than water (or less essential than diamonds)?

Of course, it is terribly unfair that, other things being equal, important jobs tend to pay less than less important jobs (because people mostly prefer doing important, meaningful work).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_value

Scott M said...

Now the trucks are tracked and governered and you have to pull off after 8 hours on the road.

That's not freedom.


Ten hours. So that's two more hours of freedom than eight. And, yeah, it can be perceived of as draconian or heavy-handed, top-downism, but driver fatigue is a real thing and it gets pushed and pushed hard constantly. With the new electronic/GPS logs, there's less and less of it, but it's still out there. There's still guys that will assure you they can deliver next day when it's 900 miles point to point.

Scott M said...

Freedom went away when they installed GPS, and started tracking drivers. Now it's all about shipping time.

O/O's are were the freedom truly is and always has been. Anyone else was skating on the company dime. The fact that technology caught up with them doesn't make it the technology's fault. If you own a fleet of trucks, it's your right to know where those horribly expensive rigs are.

JML said...

David Baker. Nice. Thanks for sharing.

David Baker said...

You're welcome, JML.

Happy to do it, too, kind of a last hurrah before fading into the sunset. And a hundred stories go with me, the things I've seen, the places I've been. But such stories are true of everyone, even more so.

Meanwhile, for those who are interested, driving restrictions were easily overcome - usually by maintaining two - even three - driver logs. I remember being pulled over one night in Arizona, two troopers, who poured over my "log" like two math whizzes. Also my "co-driver's" log, whom I said was fast asleep in the sleeper. "Well, wake him up," one of the troopers said. "Come on guys," I implored, "he's an old man; if I wake him up now, he'll fall asleep behind the wheel tomorrow."

With a little more fast talking, they let me go. And the "old man" in the sleeper? Well, he's still out there and he's still snoring away. And lucky they didn't look or I might still be in jail;)

Rance Fasoldt said...

After my computer and communications career was through with me, my wife and I moved from the East Coast to Montana. I found retirement wasn't for me and wound up out here on the blue-collar spectrum driving my truck and climbing roofs as a property adjuster. The freedom is awesome, because I can work or not work as I choose. And the scenery is spectacular, working in Montana and Wyoming. Here's another benefit: I was coming down from a steep roof in a stiff wind in Cody, Wyoming, and as I was putting away my rope & harness, the owner, an ex-DEA agent who is about my age (I'm 76), said, "Can I ask you two questions?" Sure. "Do you have a card?" and "Do you have kids?" As I reached for a card in my truck, he said, "Do your children know how big your balls are?" I had to laugh, and I texted it later to the three daughters I raised. My eldest responded with, "Wow. You must have a big chest now too. :)" So, yeah. Enjoy the scenery, and take compliments when offered.

Rance Fasoldt said...

Lotta driving. That's why I post late. Came home through Yellowstone today.