Patience Driver

Green Bay, Wisconsin

We dropped our trailer of paper towels this morning at 0700 and bobtailed six miles to Green Bay, Wisconsin, the worldwide headquarters of Schneider National Inc., where they have an operating center, showers and laundry but no cafeteria, only vending machines and a microwave..

Greg is asleep in the truck, I’m in the OC (Operating Center).

I was treated to another sunrise over Wal-Mart this morning. Purple and pink and early since we’re close to the Canadian border. We have seen more sunrises and sunsets since March 22 than we have in ten years. Greg got caught up in major road construction last night between Chicago and Milwaukee – by the way we hate Illinois, and Ohio because they are 55 mph truck limit states, we’re getting used to the 65 mph driving.

Greg’s intention was to drop the load last night about midnight, but by 2:30 this morning he was still an hour away. Wisconsin is full of tiny truck stops, but we aren ‘t experienced enough yet to see them far enough off to pull in.

In Manitowoc, Wisconsin, he thought time for a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. When he arrived six other trucks had already settled in for the night. Wal-Mart, we are beginning to see, has become America’s stand-by truck stop.

Everything depends on trucks, everything, food, clothing, furniture, we’re pulling America’s jobs and there is a dearth of truck parking across the country. Cities want the economic development that trucks bring, but don’t stop your truck here! is the message.

Driving eight hours a day gives one a lot of time to think so I’ve been thinking about core principles from trucking. I’ve come up with three: multi-tasking, patience and forgive yourself and move on.

I always thought I was a good multi-tasker, driving a big truck more requires more multi-tasking in five minutes than I’ve done in week and we’ve had one big worry eliminated, shifting gears.

Multi-tasking is watching the six sides of the truck, front, back, sides, above and below, watching for obstacles, watching for traffic, watching for signs, watching the gauges, watching the speed, watching nut cases speed up and swing around you when you’ve indicated that you are switching lanes and are mid-lane switch. It’s a lot to watch. The hardest part for me is watching for traffic and street signs. They are always too small, hidden behind trees or worse, buildings and don’t say what you think they will say.

Patience. The joke around the training school is – how many times can you come down a mountain slowly? Answer: As many times as you want. Take everything slowly, ten seconds to switch lanes, if the speed limit on the 6% grade says 37 mph, do 37 mph. Back up slowly. Paperwork to report the accident takes longer. The truck is in charge.

And finally forgive yourself and move on. Almost every day there’s a little screw up. Too close to the curb, didn’t see the lane ending, didn’t get over fast enough, didn’t see the sign. They told us at Schneider school that it takes years to learn to drive a big truck, what they do is teach us to be safe so we can learn to drive.

The biggest pitfall is losing focus. So if something isn’t quite right, but you didn’t hit anything, forget it and move on. If you get distracted berating yourself about the minor screw up, you’ve lost focus and the screw ups multiple.

This will be a good thing for me to learn, someone who tends to obsess about things, and turn everything over in her mind, a million times and can’t quite leave the bone after a few hours of chewing.

Who says truckers don’t have insight, intuition and instinct, they pegged me from the first day as a thinker, someone who thinks too much. I don’t see myself as a thinker, but what they call a thinker, might be an over obsessor, and that category fits me well.

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