Dealing With Down Time on the Road


I’m about to say something extremely profound. The economy sucks. Yes, I know that you all didn’t have a clue. I know that without my great wisdom and insight, you would have never known. Don’t thank me. I’m sure you would have found out eventually.

Seriously, the economy is hitting America like a mobster with a baseball bat. We’ve been feeling it this weekend. We delivered a load in Columbus, OH Saturday afternoon. That’s where I wrote my last blog post; the one about truck idling laws. We’ve been here ever since.

It was kind of a surprise. For some odd reason, despite the economy we had been getting load after load with no delays for a couple of weeks. So I was a little shocked when we didn’t get another load immediately. I figured it would be Sunday morning at the latest. Nope. Then I thought, surely we’d get a load Monday morning. Well, we finally did. Only problem was, the load we received didn’t pick up until Tuesday morning. So that’s over 84 hours we sat at a truck stop.

Down time is just one of those things in trucking that you’ve got absolutely no control over. As a trucker, you just have to learn to deal with it. It happens in thriving economies too. It’s just worse in a recession (or depression – depending on who you talk to).

When we were just starting out in trucking, we used to fret and worry when we didn’t get a load. However, it didn’t take long to figure out that we may as well take a chill pill. But saying we should chill out is totally different from actually doing it. At least it was for me.

My biggest problem was that I didn’t have a way to take my mind off the fact that I was sitting longer than a diarrhea sufferer. The Evil Overlord didn’t mind it so much because she’s a reader. Always has been. She quickly learned to just relax and enjoy a good book when we were waiting for a load. As she would tell you, I’m not that bright.

I’d freak out and ask my boss what was going on every hour and bite my nails down to stubs. If we had a load, but it was taking a long time to get loaded or unloaded, I was constantly on the dock asking the forklift driver how much longer it would take to get me moving. Trust me when I say that that’s probably the worst thing I could have done. When you badger people, it only annoys them, and then they miraculously move slower than ever. Life would probably have continued that way if The Evil Overlord hadn’t got tired of my whining and moaning and actually did something about it. She forced me into a hobby.

What she did would make many a man jealous. She forced me to buy a Playstation 2. I was such a cheapskate that I didn’t want to spend the 300 bucks on it. I told her that I hadn’t played video games since I played Asteroids on my old Atari 2600 ages ago, and that I had no interest in it. I truly didn’t. Sometimes it’s good to have someone in your life that knows you better than you know yourself. It transformed me into a video game junkie.

As a result, I didn’t care how long I went without a load or how long it was taking to load/unload my trailer. Heck, I actually started getting a little annoyed when my company actually wanted me to drive. And that’s how I learned to deal with down time on the road. I was forced into it to shut me up.

My point is this:  if you ever find yourself driving a truck for a living, do yourself a favor and find a hobby. It doesn’t have to be video games. It could be anything. I’ve seen ladies doing needlepoint or knitting. Some guys like to shine their trucks to waste time. Take a walk, read, or count your chest hairs. Ladies, if you’re doing the latter, please pluck those suckers as you count. Whatever it takes to keep your mind off the fact that you’re sitting at a truck stop instead of making money. It’ll keep your blood pressure in check and your body out of the casket, not to mention, possibly save a marriage.

In my humble, but always correct opinion (pshhhht), if there’s one investment you can make before you hit the road, it would be a good laptop computer. Armed with a laptop you can play video games, surf the net, stay in touch with friends and family via e-mail or online social networks, watch movies, take online college courses, or write blogs. It’s a perfect weapon against boredom. And if down time on the road is anything, boring just might be the word.

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