By Day or By Night

By Day or By Night

By: Dalene Davies-Smoot

By Day or By Night…

Truckers move America. We all know this and if we don’t just look on a public

Facebook page, where several times a day, we are reminded by the ardent supporters

of the industry. But when is the preferred time of day to move the goods by the

goods movers? I wondered which – daylight or nightlife – is when drivers (if given

a choice) are more likely to do what they love and love what they do.

In my findings through scientific research and available data – aka I asked my

driver friends – if their preference was daytime, there wasn’t a strong “gotta drive in

the day or get outta my way” response. It was more of a general statement of day.

Period.

However, for those that love the nightlife of the blacktop, their

reasons are firm, adamant and truly do reflect the “I drive at

night and so get outta my sight” attitude. A bit sassy, a bit

classy, and all professional even with the bit of satire in their

comments. “I can Nascar the corners.” “In the day Log Book’s

at bay; in the night Log Book’s locked tight.” “More chicken

coops are closed at night than during the day.” And by far the

most popular one and not surprising by any stretch of interstate

– “Less Traffic!”

For the non-nocturnal lovers, daylight means: “Able to see better, especially in

inclement weather.” “Usually can find a parking spot better whether it is in a rest

area or a truck stop.” “Better chance of navigating surroundings to avoid potential

hazards.” “I want to sleep when I know my family is sleeping.” “Fewer shower

lines, shorter fuel island lines.” “More alert and less chance of fatigue.” And then

there are those who love the day into night schedule: “I won’t drive all night so I’ll

start my day at noon and end at midnight.” This driver gets a bit of the best of both

worlds. And there is the Super Trucker attitude: “The load determines the drive;

gotta go no matter what my preference is. The sooner I get it there the sooner I get

another one. It’s that simple.”

No matter the preference, most truckers know that it’s time to shut it down when

they begin seeing the black dog, a hallucinatory sign of sleep deprivation needing

to be remedied by much-needed and deserved slumber. Seen as a warning of sorts,

seeing the black dog is regarded as the time to make safety a priority and call it a

night or day.

The transportation industry has received a bad name in several venues from

accidents involving 18-wheelers emphasized by the assumption that the truck

driver was at fault, to television documentaries likening truck drivers to serial

killers and the perceived compatibility between the two. Increasing freight loads

over the next 15 years (when some reports estimate the world will be inhabited

by eight billion humans) will require hiring a million new drivers in that same

time period to move and deliver the requirements of the world by that time. More

drivers then to replace the baby boomers who are retiring now and also to take

the place of those leaving the industry today because of the stressful conditions,

low pay, and little family time. What does this have to do with day or night

driving preferences? There may come a time when a preference means nothing.

Technology has replaced the old-school way of doing things and the very nature of

trucking has become a joke among many who don’t even rank it on the job-hunting

spectrum. And it’s not just increased loads in the next 15 years – traffic congestion

will undoubtedly increase making it nearly impossible to deliver during daytime

hours unless the highways and byways can keep up with the demands of wear and

tear from vehicles and not just those whose total empty weight is between 27,000-

35,000 lbs – 80,000 lbs loaded (legally).

In addition, there are almost two million trucks moving goods in the U.S. and one-

third of them are registered in California, Texas, and Florida. With those being

high states for retirees and snowbirds, traffic patterns will not lend themselves

to day time driving especially since these areas are already known as slow to go

areas. If you are one of the over four million drivers, you will need to adjust to the

increased demands of driver responsibility already perpetrated by four-wheelers

whose understanding of trucks is slim to none at best. The belief that a big truck

can stop on a dime is one of naivety and somewhat stupidity – the brutal reality is

that trucks need at least 40% more length of time to stop. Hardly stop on a dime

actuality.

No matter whether you’re a numbers person or a laid-back-just-do-my-job task

master, if you’re a truck driver you’ve more than likely been both at some point

in time either individually or simultaneously. You have to make it work to make

money – you have to be spinning tires and wheels to see a paycheck – and you

have to adjust to a changing world where you will always be needed too much and

appreciated too little.

In the words of Stephen King, Wolves of the Calla, “It was the possibility of

darkness that made the day seem so bright.” So whether you look forward to the

dawn for your day to begin and your night to end, or whether you look forward

to the dusk for your night to begin and your day to end, ready your path, do due

diligence to your career, and mind the black dog.