Ambassador Tom Kyrk: Life on the Road

We have all seen the movies illustrating the life of a truck driver. It shows two stereotypes, the first is the outlaw driver and the other is a romanticized version. Like most things Hollywood, that is not an accurate portrayal. As in every industry, we have a few renegades out there, but we aren’t also the romantic heroes. However, both of these are exceptions rather than the rules.

The vast majority of truck drivers are just like anyone else. We work to support our families and earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. We just do it a bit differently than most. Truck drivers are responsible for the transportation of nearly everything used in our daily lives. When you are driving on the road and see trucks carrying freight, they fall into two broad categories, Over the Road (OTR) and Local and Regional Drivers. OTR drivers tend to be out for several weeks at a time, while Local and Regional Drivers tend to be home nightly or at least every weekend.

As a result, most drivers look at our trucks as our homes and not just a place of business. We carry home entertainment devices, appliances for cooking and other comforts of home. I have several friends who are very much into the tiny house movement, and they often say that truck drivers are among the modern tiny house pioneers. The average driver will have all the comforts of home in their truck minus a bathroom, and some may even have that as well with trucks called super-sleepers.

To give you some perspective, we live and work in a roughly 7.5’ x 10’ box. This will include the driving compartment, which takes about a third of the space, and the living quarters that usually include bunk beds and storage compartments. Many drivers have a co-driver with them so imagine two adults living and working 20+ hours a day in a space of that size.

As a result, drivers bring personal touches into their trucks. The modern truck driver has a plethora of electronics in their vehicles, including smart phones, laptops, tablets, TV’s, microwaves, exercise equipment, and some small kitchen appliances. Virtually everything a non-driver would do at home, we have figured out a way to do so in our trucks.

Most truck drivers, myself included, tend to be pretty good at spending large amounts of time alone. Yes, we have devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops and CB Radios to stay in contact with friends and family, but still, we have multiple hours a day, every day that we spend by ourselves. As a result of this seclusion, we look for ways to be part of the community. Some drivers interact with the trucking community by attending trucking industry events, such as truck shows and convoys to raise money for charity. Others are active in their local communities with volunteerism or find other ways to contribute.

Each year, truck stops and truck shows across America raise money for various charities. These charities range from St. Jude’s to Children’s Miracle Network, as well as local and regional camps, such as Camp Kentuckiana and the annual Mother’s Day Make-A-Wish Convoy in Lancaster, PA. Two good friends of mine, Henry and Allen, have said it best, “Truckers have a heart and the Make-A-Wish convoy is where the heart of trucking is best seen. You go here once, and you will be changed and be back year after year.” Allen said, “truckers can be some of the most generous, giving people you will ever meet. They have been known to give the shirts off their backs for others. Yet when a trucker knows that a charity is all about helping kids, they will do almost anything to help a child smile and have a better day.”
The driver’s themselves are the heart and soul that is between the seat and the steering wheel. The vast majority of drivers are just like you. They work hard to support themselves and their families. Yet they sacrifice a great deal while on the road, missing holidays, family events, birthdays, and anniversaries to deliver the items people use every day on time. So next time you see a truck driver, give them a wave and make way for them on the road so we can all get to our final destination safely.