It's a Team's Life
Backing is Hard on Marriages
Backing up any vehicle is a learned skill, just as learning to drive forward took time and patience. Backing requires looking in mirrors, and if you have one, a rear camera and using your 4-ways to let people know that you are backing as if the high pitched ear-splitting noise of the backup alarm would not warn everyone around us.
It might be hard for those of you not in a team situation to believe that backing a truck is often very trying on a marriage. Great restraint is often used not to set the brakes, get out of the truck, walk back, and strangle the person waving their arms around like a mad person. I am sure it is also true of the one directing that they not jerk the driver (spouse) out of the truck and back up.
If you ever want to watch this in person, go to an RV Campground and watch as usually, it is the wife who directs the husband to back in a narrow spot next to a pole with outlets. As we have watched this over the years, it is quickly apparent the husband does not know how to back a trailer or a larger vehicle, and the wife has no clue how to direct. These maneuvers do not look like a good way to start a vacation.
We seem to get ourselves into many more precarious places in a straight truck than we ever did in a tractor-trailer. We end up in areas that are not truck friendly with a customer who thinks we are like the local delivery person and that we should fit in their driveway or park in front of their store with a low overhand.
When we receive a load, one of us will look at the earth’s view on Google Maps to see what we are getting into. If we are fortunate, we see docks, but if not, we know we can use our lift gate to create a dock. We also try to call the customer to see if they have any special instructions before we arrive. Often their idea of what is coming is more like a small van, and they are a little shocked at the size of the truck that is often unloading a small parcel.
Too often, we have heard the customer say, “we get trucks in here all of the time” they usually do not see or recognize that we are 40’ long, and the trucks they are used to seeing are small delivery trucks. One of the fun things about being an expediter is seeing a problem and getting the job done.
There are times as I drive by our delivery or pickup location and say, “Nope, I am not backing in there,” and we find another way to make the pickup or delivery. Other times it takes both of our eyes to watch for obstacles and back safely into a location. Customers do the funniest things around where they want their freight, cars park where we need to pull up, trash cans and dumpsters are often a problem, lines are drawn on the ground that leads to nothing, or they have planters we must maneuver around.
Once we have decided how to get into one of these locations, the fun starts. The driver gets into the correct position to begin backing, and often that is not where the director would have positioned the truck. At this point, the arm movements are small and gentle as they motion for the backing to begin. The stress mounts as the truck gets closer to the destination, and the arm movements start to look like a windmill. Exaggerated motions to move the truck's rear to the left or to the right and then back again. At times the director acts as if he has an imaginary steering wheel and pretends they are turning it in the direction they want the driver to turn it.
When the spouse is the director and you want to continue in a team driving situation it is usually best to follow their directions when possible and to ignore at other times. There is a very strict hard line before backing and that if I can not see you in the mirrors, the truck does not move. This rule can also lead to exaggerated hand movements, but it is safer for all that if you are not seen in the mirrors, the truck does not move.
Bob has been guiding my backing for the past forty years, and there are still many times when we both get frustrated. The key is still we depend on each other and as frustrating as it might get at times we both know the other has our back, and we will continue to work this way as long as possible.
Bob & Linda Caffee
Saint Louis MO
Expediters since January 2005
Expediting isn't just trucking, it's a lifestyle;
Expediting isn't just a lifestyle, it's an adventure;
Expediting isn't just an adventure, it's a job;
Expediting isn't just a job, it's a business.