All That's Trucking

New York Times Paints Portrait of Truckers' Lives on the Road

Blog Commentary by Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief

June 12, 2017

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Screenshot via New York Times website.
Screenshot via New York Times website.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran a piece about the lives of truck drivers that didn’t do much to help raise the profile of truck driving as a potential career, but it and a follow-up piece did paint a colorful portrait of the lives of truckers.

In “Alone on the Open Road: Truckers Feel Like ‘Throwaway People,” Times reporters visited a Petro truck stop in Effingham, Ill., and interviewed truckers they found there.

“At a moment when President Trump has ignited a national discussion of blue-collar labor and even climbed into a truck during a White House event, trucking, which was once among the best-paying such jobs, has become low-wage, grinding, unhealthy work,” wrote Times reporter Trip Gabriel.

“We’re just like cops. Everybody needs us, but nobody wants us,” said Greg Simmons, 54, Hastings, Fla., a driver for 27 years. He was also the source of the “throwaway people” line.

“You forget how to communicate with people,” said Ayisha Gomez, 39, Riverside County, Calif., a driver for three years. She’s only doing this long enough to pay off her daughter’s college loans.

“Any one of my grandkids do it, I’ll kill ’em,” said Ron Carrabis, 70, Las Vegas, who’s been driving 30 years for the same company.

Yet it wasn't all bad.

“Every day, you wake up somewhere different,” said Susan Zimmerman, 48, Danville, Va., who’s been driving two years. “You have sunrises and sunsets. Yeah, it’s the same sun, but it’s different everywhere — the colors, the textures.”

Michael Gallant, 22, of Biddeford, Maine, who’s been driving for eight months, told the Times, “Truck driving is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid. I love it. There are some times when it’s kind of a crappy job, but other times it’s great.”

Even better, the Times followed up last week by publishing more voices from the road, having asked truckers to write in and say what they would say to drivers of four-wheeled vehicles if they got the chance.

“Responses came in by the — well, by the hundreds, let’s just say, with practical advice about highway safety, fervent pleas to put down those smartphones and requests to be treated with dignity.”

The photos paint a colorful portrait of the trucker's life. There’s a dog with his paws on the steering wheel and a sock monkey moose zip-tied to the passenger-side door; an in-cab crock pot and a passenger-side seat and floor filled with bananas and Doritos; the comforts of home ranging from a plant seat-belted into the passenger seat to a bicycle hanging above the sleeper bunk.

The article shares drivers' thoughts ranging from how to share the road safely with big trucks to the need to quit texting and driving; from the essentiality of trucking to the loneliness of the job; from the music they listen to on the road to pleas for a little respect and appreciation. This story was probably an eye-opening one for people who have never really thought much about the drivers behind the wheel of those big trucks they share the highways with.

What do you think? Did these NYT articles hit the nail on the head with the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a truck driver, or did they do a disservice to trucking?

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Author Bio

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Deborah Lockridge

Editor-in-Chief

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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