A Week in the Life of a Lady Driver
Sandy Long is a long time truck driver, advocate, activist and writer within the trucking industry. Long is a senior life member of OOIDA, charter member of the Women In Trucking Association and a member of the Truck Writers of North America. Long has contributed articles to Landline Magazine and The Canadian Trucking Magazine along with various trucking websites and her own blog ”˜Just a Lady Driver’ at Word Press.com. Her two books Street Smarts: A Guide for a Truck Driver’s Personal Safety and Arriving Alive are available at Amazon.com. In 2012 Long was Women In Trucking Association’s February Member of the Month and was a finalist for the Jason Rivenburg Making a Difference Award. 2013 Long was a nominee for the Women In Trucking Association Most Influential Woman in Trucking Award. Long still drives truck and is a staff writer for On Time Media.
While I used to run coast to coast, about four and a half years ago, I hit a time in my life that many female, and some male, drivers hit; my elderly mother needed a little more assistance and more of my time. Therefore, I quit running coast to coast and looked for a regional company with flexible, weekly hometime and a pet policy to work for.
The company I found was Weston Transportation out of North Kansas City, Missouri, a 28-truck general commodities company with a focus on hauling just in time auto parts, expedited freight, using exclusively International semi trucks and 53-foot Wabash dry van trailers. The truck I drive is a 2011 International Prostar+ with the Maxxforce engine and a 10-speed transmission; I call him “Charlie.” Charlie and I have been teamed up for a little over two years now and he has 300,000 miles on him, just barely broken in.
I have come to hate Sundays, this is the day that I have to take a shoehorn and pry myself out of the house after my restart for the week. Depending on whether I am outbound or inbound from Kansas City, I leave early on Sunday morning or early Sunday evening to make my destination in time to get in a 10-hour break before delivering on Monday. Every week is different; let’s look at this last week.
It was Easter weekend, a long weekend for me, got home early on Friday morning, did what most of us do when we can, napped most of the day away. Saturday was in town errand day that took most of Saturday morning. The rest of the day was laundry, hanging up the birdhouses in the tree for Mom’s Easter present and working on the computer doing what else but writing! Sunday was getting ready to leave day, you know how it goes, the more one tries to get done, the more there is to do.
We, Charlie, Lilly my fur kid and I, left out in the evening to be in Lawrence Kansas (just west of Kansas City) for an 11 a.m. delivery appointment on Monday. My dispatchers are good, rarely do we sit long waiting on a load, and Monday was no different, they had a load for me out of Grandview Missouri going to Hamilton Ohio.
We do this run quite often so I have gotten to know the ladies in the office of the shipper. They were so impressed with me the first time I was there that they called the broker, who called my boss to relay the information, bragging on my professionalism. While this was not something new in my career, it does not happen often so I was a little shocked when my boss called me to compliment me; I had not done anything different than I ever do. What impressed them was that I had my pick up number, my trailer number, who the broker was and where the load was going when I checked in. Hmmm, this is impressive? Here I thought it was just a trucker doing their job, obviously not. The ladies later told me that it is extremely rare for them to have a driver with the information needed to check in who actually was pleasant to deal with, imagine that!
I love spring, grass is starting to green up, a daffodil or two starts poking their heads into the sun, the swans are back on the ponds, the farmers are back in the fields and the trucks are shining more often rather than being dim from salt dust. Of course, the color orange is also popping up everywhere as construction barrels out and road crews are starting. I-70 in western Indiana is in perpetual road construction it seems, I avoid running it usually, but on Tuesday morning did not have much choice. You ever notice that ”˜merge’ is just not understood? Delivered on time and got reloaded back to Kansas City.
I have never figured out, in 40 years of driving, how a forklift operator can break up so many pallets removing freight from a trailer and still get the load off. As I shut my doors after unloading in Kansas City, I sure wanted to ask him though. As usual, dispatch was on the ball and had a load for me up in St Joseph Missouri. However, it was a food grade load and the trailer was not clean enough to load it. Off to our drop yard to get under one of the brand new trailers just put in service the week before. The shipper was one that I had hauled out of before and usually did not take more than an hour or two to get loaded. Wednesday was a Murphy day for them I guess because it took me over three hours to get into the dock, then an hour to get loaded and get my bills. The load was scheduled to deliver in Canton Michigan, Detroit area, Friday morning at 5:00 a.m. eastern time, grocery warehouse, ho hum.
Stopping to fuel, I found that the shipper’s Murphy day had attached itself to me. As I was fueling, I was checking under the hood. The tank on the driver’s side is smaller than the one on the passenger side of Charlie, so when the driver’s side nozzle clicks off, I finish filling it while the other side catches up. That day was no different, and as I was standing there, holding the nozzle, I heard what no fueling driver wants to hear, the sound of liquid hitting the ground.
I ran to the other side and sure enough, the nozzle had not shut off and diesel was spewing out of the tank neck. I grabbed the nozzle and shut it off then called in to the fuel desk for them to send out dry up material. It was not a terrible spill, about two gallons, but looked worse than it was. Four bags of kitty litter dried it up. I finished fueling and went in to get my ticket.
I told the manager that they needed to shut down that side of the fuel island until they could check the nozzle to see why it had not shut off. She called me a liar telling me that I had obviously not had the nozzle in properly and that was why it jumped out. I tried to explain to her that it had not jumped out, that the nozzle never left the tank, it had not shut off, but she was not hearing it. I paid for the kitty litter, using my driver’s points, and left. They lost a good customer, I fueled there two or three times a week, not anymore, I do not lie and do not like being accused of it.
Our loads are 99% out to somewhere and then back to Kansas City. Because of the auto parts focus at our company, we run the Detroit area a lot. I have gotten to know Detroit fairly well in the last four or so years. Michigan is a strange state in some ways with their traffic rules. You can turn left on a flashing red light on the signal if there is a left turn lane and light and at times, you have to do a Michigan ”˜turn around’ to turn left. I think Michigan was where the saying ”˜you cannot get there from here’ came from. On some four lane streets there are no left turns at intersections. One must go past the intersection to a ”˜turn thru the median’ place in the median and turn back the other way so you can make a right turn instead of a left turn. Are you confused yet? It takes getting used to for sure. The nice thing is that these ”˜turnarounds’ are clearly marked, usually.
Funny thing happened when I was waiting to check in at the grocery warehouse. Was standing with the other drivers in line to check in, when I got to the window, the receiving clerk said, the lady’s room is in the break room. I said, “Excuse me?” As I handed my bills in the window to her, she laughed and said that they get so few women drivers in there, that she thought I was one of the other driver’s wives. Thankfully, that does not happen often these days, we both got a good chuckle out of it.
The trip home was uneventful. Sunny skies, dry roads and made it thru Chicago before rush hour. No deer jumped out in front of us, no drunks on the road after dark and I got home within my hours without having to take a break 30 minutes from the house. Best of all, those pesky Missouri DOT officers that like to work highway 36 between Hannibal and my home exit were not in evidence. Overall, a good week for this driver, at least it was a normal one.