By Bill Hudgins, columnist
After a swell Thanksgiving dinner cooked by the wife of my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe, he and I kicked back on the couch with some iced tea to watch football. As the teams lined up after the opening kickoff, Rufus observed, "You know, trucking is an awful lot like football."
"How do you figure?" I asked.
"Think about it. That ball is like a good load, and there are 22 guys either trying to get the whole thing, keep someone else from getting it, or at least trying to lay a hand on it.
"After they kick off, you don't know where they'll set the line of scrimmage – just like a lot of truckers don't know where they'll find their next load. All they know is it has to get from Point A to Point B – the goal line – for them to collect.
"The quarterback is like a dispatcher. He's trying to figure out the best routes, who's most likely to get the ball there, what roadblocks they'll run into, and what to do if that idea doesn't work.
"So he calls a play and maybe the receiver or running back goes all the way. More likely, he only gets a few yards. Sometimes, the whole thing falls apart, and the dispatcher and the ball carrier get behind. That's when the load gets hot, when it's 3rd and long and the clock's winding down.
"So the quarterback thinks, maybe someone else should do something with this load. And he's jumping up and down and glaring at the other guys for not doing their jobs.
"But the other team's good. Some of them are big guys, like the big fleets who can just muscle their way in to shut out the little guys. Their low rates are the same as muscles. Some are fast, like hotshots who can intercept some loads with promises of quick delivery.
"Then there are all the rules and regulations. That QB sees some of his guys are open, but they're not supposed to carry the ball. If one of them gets too far downfield, it's a moving violation. Cross the line of scrimmage too soon or touch the sideline – boom, ball's dead right there.
"Why, they've even got equipment violations!
"And the officials – some of them got 20-0 eyesight – they see everything some guys do but nothing the other side does. Those guys could clip and grab facemasks all day long and the refs wouldn't even see it on the Jumbotron.
"Then there are the fans. Everybody's all excited as long as their team delivers. Things don't go so well, and all of a sudden they're the experts on what's going wrong. No loyalty, no appreciation for the 11 guys beating their brains out to make a living."
He paused and I said, "That's pretty harsh, bud. How would you go about fixing things?"
"Well, trucking's always going to be hard, or anyone could do it. But if it was me running things, I'd figure out a way to make it at least pay better," Rufus said.
"Maybe truckers could get endorsements … you know, like big decals for oil or tires or truck stops. Fleet drivers could get 'em, too. I mean, individual football players can do endorsements whether the team does or not, right?
"For sure there'd be a preseason training camp for new drivers … no more walk-ons or three-week wonders. Make things safer out here for all of us."
"Sounds good," I said. "But you left something out."
"Cheerleaders." He grinned, and we clinked glasses.
Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often.LL