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Driver Lifestyles

Expediter's Year-Round Survival Kit

By Jeff Jensen and Lee Kurtzmann
Posted Jun 18th 2002 12:00PM
It seems that all professional drivers have those favorite items they take along when they hit the road. It could be their favorite audio tapes or CD's, their favorite snack foods and beverages, movies they enjoy watching again and again, maybe even their favorite blanket or pillow.

I can recall one sports-minded expediter I met a number of years ago who, in addition to his set of golf clubs and frisbee golf discs, carried a pair of snow skis and poles, because he figured, "in this business, ya never know where you're gonna wind up, or what the weather might be." (By the way, he was in a cargo van.)

Those items, even the skis, make the list of take-alongs because they provide comfort to the driver and maybe add just a touch of home.

For some drivers however, the comfort items receive more thought and consideration than the essentials. We've all seen some of the hapless drivers whose idea of a "survival kit" consists of a pair of pliers, some duct tape and a wire coat hanger. Don't forget the hammer.

For this type of driver, if it ain't on the list of required safety or cargo securement items required by their company or the government, it ain't in their truck.

For some drivers, it's a simple lack of mechanical skills or know-how; they figure they wouldn't know how to use a set of tools even if they did carry them. For others, they can't picture themselves on the side of the road in a snowstorm, crawling under their truck with a flashlight to effect repairs - that's the time to call for the hook.

Before we concentrate too heavily on the repair tools and items on our list, we have to include other "survival" tools as well. Just as a few turns of duct tape on a split coolant hose can be a life-saver on a below-freezing night, a simple candle and a warm quilt or comforter can be equally important when you have no power on that same night.

We contacted a few veteran expediters for their thoughts on this topic and asked what items they consider to be essential components of their survival kits. Many listed the common items, but some had different ideas on what to take on the road and some of these items demonstrate innovative thought by these road veterans.

Comfort Items/Cab Essentials

Terry O'Connell,Cargo Van Expediter, says jokingly, "A pocket full of change for the Illinois toll booths. Actually, I have an I-Pass sticker for Illinois in the window along with an EZ Pass for most of the states in the Northeast. These have been very worthwhile."

Other survival items that Terry considers essential are: A handheld palm device for contact with friends and family an alarm clock and replacement bulbs for every light in the truck.

Terry's better half, Renee, says Baby Wipes are a must have item. She adds that each of them has a freshen-up kit consisting of toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, etc., for the quick trips into the truck stop washrooms.

Pat Hinnegan and Jereld Bunzey, both Cargo Van Expediters, tell us that for wintertime, an extra thick comforter can't be beat for helping to take the chill off and they carry candles in their vans as a defense against freezing in the cab in the event of a no-power situation. (A single slow burning candle can warm a sealed van cab by a surprising degree.) Jereld also includes a cell phone, laptop computer and butane heater for wintertime.

Cargo Van Expediter Bob Worthington says that his list of survival comfort/cab items includes two sleeping bags, canned goods such as vienna sausages, a big Thermos of water, a Blockbuster video store card and his harmonica. For his co-driver Hooligan, he pack's a jacket, food, and a Harley-Davidson squeak toy. (Hooligan is a Jack Russell Terrier)

As far as tools and mechanical repair items, Bob tells us that, "I don't have much mechanical ability so I take American Express!"

D unit owner/operator Rich feels that Heater Meals are a great addition to the list - "When you need don't have time for a restaurant meal, all you do is add water, and you have a hot entree right there in the truck. Also, you can store them for many months."

Rich also carries a small Polaroid camera to document poorly loaded freight or other issues of liability and also in the event of an accident.

George McDonald, another 6-wheeler expediter tells us that his cab items include: First aid kit, road map, water, emergency rations, long johns, an extra pair of glasses, an extra pair of shoes. George also keeps extra log books, bills of lading and extra Canadian Customs Forms to help other expediters in need.

I suppose when the title of this article was mentioned, all of the responding expediters thought cold weather survival. I would propose that a warm weather survival list should include: bathing suits, sun screen, beach towels and things to take to the beach or motel pool.

Tools, Repair and General Items
Most of our expediters agree on common survival kit components with a few different tools or items thrown in:


Socket set
Assorted screwdrivers or, a multi-bit screwdriver set
Large and small vise grips
Large and small adjustable wrenches
Hammer and mallet
Multimeter, or electrical test light
Flashlight with extra batteries
Roll of 12 gauge wire
Nylon Tow ropes with hooks
Tire gauge Heavy Duty Jumper Cables!


Gallon of antifreeze
Oil and fuel filters
Tire plug kit
Assorted light bulbs
Solderless connectors
Extra fuses


Maps, maps, maps
Wiper blades
Butane lighter - To heat a key and insert in frozen lock
Extra fan belts
Duct tape - A 1001 uses
Electrical tape
Tube of silicone - for waterproofing
Work gloves
Rubber gloves - for chemicals
Auxiliary generator parts
Sand, salt or kitty litter - for traction enhancement
Old carpet strips - to slip under wheels when stuck in rutted snow
Large sheets of cardboard - the poor man's creeper
Two fire extinguishers - Jereld Bunzey feels you should have a backup extinguisher,
First aid kit.
Paper towels or rags
Waterless handcleaner
Non-perishable foods, like chocolate bars, fruit, etc.
Military Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MRE's)
Emergency supply of prescription drugs if necessary

This list of survival kit basics is a compilation of what our expediter contributors carry with them on a regular basis; there are probably some items that you and others might feel should have been included.

If so, just email your additions to the list to: and we'll make sure they are included next time around.


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