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An Epiphany

Hello Truckin Family!
 
big-truckGoodness! I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I posted an article. This oversight must be corrected right away :).
 
As I write this, Jai and I are sitting in a Texas rest area just south of Dallas, doing a switch-over. We’re on our way to Kentucky.
 
The last couple of weeks have been filled with epiphany’s for me. Especially in the late hours at the end of my drive, as I pass those tiny towns that cling, for their lives, to the edges of the highways.
 
Does anyone else have these sorts of things happen to them while driving?
 
Rather than “white line fever”, I’d rather have an epiphany or two 🙂
 
One thing that surfaced is the reality that people who don’t drive anything professionally, are essentially *bad drivers* (though they’d never believe it).
 
I too was one of those “bad drivers” for years… and never knew it.
 
Until I started driving an 80,000 pound vehicle, that requires nearly two football fields to stop, I simply had no idea!
 
I thought – even when I started CDL school – that I was a good driver.
 
I had no tickets.
I *essentially* obeyed traffic laws and felt I was conscientious and aware while driving.
 
The thought I was a “good driver” was however… an illusion.
 
Let me explain…
 
CDL school lasted 4 weeks.
 
Finishing (training) lasted 8,500 miles behind the wheel of a big truck with a trainer at my side.
 
Through a large part of all that training I still held that I was a “good driver”.
 
However… toward the latter half of finishing I began to realize that I really wasn’t a “good driver” for all those years at all.
 

The effort it took to build real “attention” was astonishing.

I thought I used my mirrors, was aware of everything around me, was certain when I made a lane change that I had looked…
 
As my training continued, I realized just how much effort it took to remain in a constant state of awareness.
 
In those first weeks is was literally exhausting to pull myself up to even the beginning level of being truly attentive.
 
Previously, as a “4 wheeler”, I wasn’t “aware” or “conscientious” or “attentive” or “paying attention” NEARLY as much as I thought I had been all those years. Not even close.
 
Over the last 18 months my co-driver/husband and I, have (together) racked up over 320,000 miles as professional truck drivers.
 
I have come to see that paying attention CONSTANTLY, is a habit that must be practiced, practiced, practiced and then practiced some more.
 
For attentiveness to become a constant behind the wheel, it takes a mammoth effort. Once it becomes instilled, it gets easier and easier to stay in that mode…. but at first? It’s HARD!
 
The ONLY way attention can happen, is by doing every single day. Mile after mile. Hour after hour. Day after day. Week after week.
 
When you drive 500-600 miles PER DAY it does begin to become a true habit. A reality.
 
No one drives as much as a professional OTR driver. Well… you know what I mean by that.
 
A driver who spends 24/7 in a truck, 6-8 weeks at a time repeats habits at a rate the average “4 wheeler” could simply never understand or comprehend. It’s simply not possible.
 
A person might think driving across country to visit a relative or to go on a vacation is a “Big Drive”.
 
It’s not.
 
For most people, a drive across country is enjoyable for little while but it’s going to end (thankfully) and they’ll be where they’re going.
 
They look forward to that comfortable place on the other end… that comfortable chair to relax in, the comfy bed to lie down in… the places they’ll go and things they’ll do when they “get there”.
 
It’s not about the drive per se… it’s about where the drive will end up.
 
For a professional driver, the drive itself is the journey — and — a constant teacher.
 
I am a professional truck driver. But I’m a 4 wheeler too… when not in the truck. The habits I’ve developed in the truck stick when I’m in a car. They’re so strong, they simply don’t go away. But this is rare for 4 wheelers for the above mentioned reasons.
 
I THOUGHT I was a good driver before I went to CDL school and started driving a truck.
 
While it’s true I didn’t have any tickets and my driving record with the DMV was “clean”… I really was NOT a good driver.
 

I had no clue how much attention it takes to drive on the roads safely.

I had no clue how much I DID NOT look around me at what was going on – FRONT – BACK – LEFT SIDE – RIGHT SIDE.
 
I had no idea what total awareness in a moving vehicle felt like.
 
I’m sure I have passed Big Trucks too slowly over the years. Hanging just behind or to the side… a very dangerous thing to do.
 
I also got over in front of Big Trucks way too soon – not giving enough room for them to stop if the need had arisen.
 
While I never followed trucks too closely (just something I never thought was a good idea), I’m quite sure I made life difficult for at least a few truck drivers along the way.
 
Now, as I get behind the wheel each day, I watch people do the craziest things on the road. They don’t realize they’re doing something silly or downright dangerous. For most people, they honestly do not know.
 
And if it were possible to have a conversation with some of these drivers right then, they wouldn’t have a clue that what they did was so life-threatening.
 
Some people? Yes. They know they’re pushing the envelope.
 
But, the average, everyday guy or gal who drivers back and forth to work? The one who jumps in the car to head for the grocery store… the person who spends a few hours in their car each week… some 15,000 miles per year (at least in a city like LA, CA), they really don’t know just how often they literally put their lives on the line, in their vehicle.
 

So, it occurs to me that it is ALL THE MORE VITAL that I act courteously in traffic.

Why?
 
Because I know what 190 million drivers in this country mostly DO NOT KNOW.
It occurs to me that competition has ZERO place on our nations road ways.
 
It is my duty to acquiesce when a competitive driver wants to challenge me.
 
I have NOTHING to prove… even if every fiber of my being wants to react emotionally and teach him/her a lesson for being so stupid… I must climb out of that basement mentality and get back on track.
 
There is no doubt in my mind that any – ANY – car, truck or van that comes up against 40 tons of rolling steel, will lose.
 
Proving that would have no meaning.
 
Proving that is unnecessary.
 
How can you prove to the guy or gal in that pick up truck they think can “beat me” on the roadway… is tougher… is wrong?
 
If we face off in a challenge on the road way they WILL lose.
 
Every time.
The proof could come with a dire outcome. The person might never know they lost. They’re family would but they would not.
 

EPIPHANY SUMMERY

So… in summation of this particular epiphany.
 
This is what became clear to me in the late hour, on a dark road, wending my way across the country…
 
Like so many things in life, we humans like to “win”.
 
We all like the feeling of being the victor.
 
When it comes to the highways and byways of our beautiful nation, the ONLY way to truly be the victor… is to do whatever is necessary to be sure every driver, of every vehicle you share the road with… gets wherever they’re going …safely.
 
It means you can be safer than them… FOR them.
 
Sometimes it means you must choose to:
  • back off
  • slow down
  • move over
  • get out of the way
  • make room for yourself AND them
  • be attentive when they’re not
  • be aware for them when they are not
  • be conscious of what’s going on
  • even if others are daydreaming, talking on the phone, texting, fighting, disciplining they’re children, raging over something going on their life… and a million other things that keep folks from being fully engaged on the road.
 
And this applies to other “truckers” too… not just “4 wheelers”.
 
There is no road way battle worth giving your life for… OR …taking a life for. (Even if, at that moment, you think they are the stupidest, idiotic person in the world and deserve to be “bested” to teach them a lesson)
 
DON’T.
 
There’s an old saying: “HE WHO HAS THE MOST LIGHT GETS TO USE IT”
 
In short, this means that if you have more understanding than others involved, YOU get to use it.
 
Don’t expect *them* to do what *you* cannot.
 
I spent $4,000 to go to CDL school to learn how to drive a big truck.
 
Conway turned around and spent thousands more to be sure I got trained to drive on our nations highways SAFELY.
 
SAFETY is part of my job.
 
Not just for me and my truck… it is an effort to be safe for the sake of thousands of drivers around me on a daily basis.
 
If EVERY trucker in this nation had this kind of epiphany, the Big Trucks I see tailgating cars would never happen again… no truck would purposely cut off a brother or sister trucker… no truck would stay in the right lane when a truck is down on the shoulder… no veteran trucker would call a rookie trucker an idiot (instead he or she might be helpful instead)
 
…and maybe — just maybe — the “4 wheelers” in this country – and their children and grand-children – would once again realize that princes and knights (which includes the ladies) are roaming the country at all hours of the day and night to bring them the goods that make life possible and do all they could to make their jobs easier when they see them on the road.
 
Who knows… anything is possible.
 
Keep YOUR shiny side UP!
Andrea
 
 


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Andrea Steward

Andrea Steward

Before driving professionally for Con-Way Truckload, Andrea was (and still is) a professional photographer/musician/singer/artist/writer and serial entrepreneur. She has written and produced 5 albums (available on CD Baby). Now... she's driving in a husband/wife truck driving team and LOVIN' IT with passion. "Life in America depends on truckers... my Grandaddy did it for 45 years, it might be in my blood!" - Andrea
Andrea Steward

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Andrea Steward
About Andrea Steward (145 Articles)
Before driving professionally for Con-Way Truckload, Andrea was (and still is) a professional photographer/musician/singer/artist/writer and serial entrepreneur. She has written and produced 5 albums (available on CD Baby). Now... she's driving in a husband/wife truck driving team and LOVIN' IT with passion. "Life in America depends on truckers... my Grandaddy did it for 45 years, it might be in my blood!" - Andrea
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4 Comments on An Epiphany

  1. Andrea, this was so poignant and you are truly a gifted writer. I hope you don’t mind that I shared this on my FB page.

    Love to you and Jai

  2. Fabulously written Andrea. This should be a must read by every driver of big rigs and four wheelers alike. I just went through orientation week and they talked about this very subject. It can’t be stressed enough. I just wish all drivers would realize the seriousness of being on the road with these monster trucks. One of my instructors in school said to drive like every other driver out there are snakes trying to get you. You have to navigate around each snake without getting zapped. I will keep this in mind as well. I would like to copy this for FB as well with your permission. Please stay safe out there! Happy Trucking, Maggie

    • Hi Maggie. Brings a big smile to my face to think of you in orientation! Exciting. And yes… I would love for you to share on your FB page. An honor! Let’s see if we can keep this message circulating. Certainly it’s worth reminding everyone (and ourselves) regularly. It’s easy to forget. Emotion has a way of sweeping it all away for a second LOL. So yes… please do.

  3. Zena Sue… thank you for those very kind words. I love to write. It’s better to me than talking LOL. I’m honored that you shared it on your FB page. Thank you for that too. And remind of this article whenever I need it LOL – KYSU – Andrea

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