Still holding the wheel

By Danny Schnautz, OOIDA Senior Member

Sometimes we look out of the windshield, and sometimes we look in the mirror. My odometer recently clicked over another decade, and so I looked back. Back to see what once was, and where we are today. Trucking. Moving America’s goods. Shelves are still stocked by the man or woman in the seat, squinting into the sun, swinging out for turns, making minute-by-minute predictions of what is ahead. What we do is the same. How we do it has seen some changes.

Conversations with younger drivers around me make clear some of these changes. They expect to be in touch. I expected to be out of touch. I started driving knowing that once I hung up that truck stop pay phone, I was on my own, unless dispatch could reach my callback number before I walked out of the door. And my family – if someone needed me – they had to wait until I called in the next time. Today, we are in touch enough that the law has to restrict it. That is change.

Our cities aren’t closer to each other, but the way that we get between them has changed. Our quiet, smooth trucks are the norm today. How frequently do drivers today drive without power steering, search for an AM radio station at night, or face a summer day without air conditioning? Speed limits have gone down (remember 55?) and now back up again. Trucking basics, lights and tires, are more reliable than ever. We used to stop at every open scale house, but now by the magic of technology we sometimes drive right by – legally. All unheard of when I started driving.

Though we may miss “the old days,” I would not go back. Not back to days of limited information, like about the storms on the road ahead, loading times, or driving directions. Not back to hunting for pay phones and tube-type tires.

Today we have so many advantages that help the driver, but have not changed the driver. Steering

40 tons across America in wind and rain remain the charge of the driver, who in the midst of change remains the driving force of American trucking. LL