The Last Of A Dying Breed
My trucking adventures from Maryland to Utah with Bullfrog. A little back story included and my speedy typing skills in keeping up with his trucker rants
You know growing up I always heard my daddy say, “I’m the last of a dyin breed!” We would all chuckle and snicker at him walking around the house in his briefs after getting home from a long week or two of being out in the truck. Whenever he was hauling locally my baby brother and I would be able to take turns going out on the road with him. My biggest memory is hauling to the charcoal plant a county over or the time he was driving a tri-axle and he let me hold my head out the window in a rainstorm and I would be excited to come up on big puddles of water that we could splash through! Now, of course when I would get back to the house or wherever we were meeting my mother at, she wouldn’t be too happy. I would be soaked near head to toe and smell god awful. My mom would always exclaim, “Mark!” He would dumbfoundly reply, “what?” with a smirk and laughter, which never helped much and she would continue to shake her head and tell me how I was going to end up sick.
Now, this was before my teenage years when I was swamped with high school, college, friends, and a job at a restaurant. Once high school started I never climbed back in the truck with my dad. I guess I was too cool and too busy to hang my teenage head out the window in the rain anymore. Today, seventeen years later, I sit here with Bullfrog (the driver) in the passenger seat of a Champagne colored 2014 Peterbilt 389 Glider Kit. A glider kit is the cab and chassis, you take a cab and chassis and a motor of your choice, typically older (CAT, Detroit, Cummins) and put them together. The reason people use glider kits are that they are cheaper to maintain and cheaper than buying a brand new one from a dealership. Considering that a new truck costs approximately $180,000 depending on the specs. A company or trucker can save about $20,000 going the glider kit route vs. buying brand new. They still come with a warranty this way and you are cutting out the headache of dealing with emissions; California happens to be one of the states with the toughest emission laws.
Over the CB radio, the outrage and disdain truckers have towards hauling into California is clearly made known almost daily. It is evident that truck drivers absolutely have zero interest in hauling into California. Bullfrog said that from a mechanics point of view it is costly to worry about emissions, it causes too much down time, which is money lost; it causes a pain in repairing the massive vehicles, and costly to repair or manage emissions for states with strict emission regulations.
Respecting Bullfrogs wishes, he has something he would like to directly say about emissions:
“For whoever is reading this and has a problem with emissions for our truck drivers, stop buying shit and we’ll stop bringing you shit and you won’t have to worry about emissions!”
Bullfrog also has his own truck already picked out, at least how he wants it designed. He wants a purple truck with a white frame and he wants to name it “This One’s For you”, in memory of his brother. Long wheeled based, flat top Pete and by that let me transliterate that into, “Big purple people eater,” per Bullfrog. A flat top is a truck has a sleeper, but you cannot stand up inside of it- which means the roof of the top is flush (level) with the cab (the part where people ride inside). This was discovered after my many attempts to get him to describe to someone what a truck was and it’s parts, particularly for someone that does not have any prior knowledge of trucks. As for the long-wheeled base portion of the truck, that would be the gap you see between the cab of the truck and the trailer it is hauling. When I tried to explain to Bullfrog that I needed a way to describe it to people, he said “if you wanna know what stuff is about Peterbilts go on Google, we ain’t got time to see here an explain that shit!” “Long that’s all it is, long-fuck…make sure this sounds right when you’re readin it; ten-ten come on.” Ten-ten is trucker talk for yes or thing synonymous to it.
BF & QP: The Sleeper Conversation in Utah
The following is the most accurate depiction and exact conversation that we had, I was keeping up as fast as I could type, which is only about 70wpm. While waiting to catch some sleep after a long day of driving and breathtaking views of the West, we decided to kick up our feet and talk about trucker life.
BF: “If I tell ya that the blueberries are ripe, whatya do?!”
QP: “What do you mean, blueberries?”
BF: “If I tell ya that the god damned blueberries are ripe, ya grab a bucket and go pick them!” “people can Google the shit and figure it out if they aren’t sure about whats what on a Peter!”
How do you feel about your job, what made you want to be a truck driver?
I have always liked trucks, ever since I was a little, since I was about five years old. Every time my mom would ask me what kind of toys I wanted I would always ask for trucks…or trains, that was my thing. I always looked at truck drivers as someone cool, doing something that not everybody could do- or at least that is how I looked at it back then. I liked trucks so much that I would be able to tell you what kind of truck it was just by looking at it’s headlights or the grill or the way the stacks were on it, even at night.
How old are you now?
I am twenty six, I will be twenty seven in a couple months.
What were you doing before you started driving truck?
You know it feels like I just started driving truck and I have been with this company for three months. “No matter how cocky you get, you never forget where you came from” I started out as a mechanic, making $12 an hour and thought I was top shit. I just got tired of being a mechanic and I was with a woman that didn’t want me to drive. So I tried to find something local, but by the time that happened we had already split up and that was over. I bounced around doing some local stuff and I don’t knock any of the jobs that I had because they were all experience and they got me to where I am at now. First time I started driving I didn’t have my CDL’s, but the company I started driving for said I could drive anything under 26,000 pounds and that in the meantime they would work on getting me my CDL’s. It took me so long to get them because my driving record was so bad. I had multiple reckless driving, speeding, two license suspensions, and I liked to drag race, which is part of the reckless driving thing. I would get frustrated with myself over it, but I was the only one to blame. I was the only one that was keeping me from getting to where I wanted to be.
The best day of my life was the day I got my CDL’s, it was something I always wanted to do. I feel like I accomplished something.
It was hard to get a job driving in Morgantown, WV because of my driving record, so I took whatever I could get and I went back to being a mechanic on night shift.
QP: Is that when I met you?
Yeah, in that time frame. I thought I had a job driving, so I turned my job notice in and then the company called me to say they couldn’t hire me because of my driving record, it’s hard as hell in the state of WV to drive if you have anything on your record. Luckily, I was able to get my job back until I started driving back at the job I originally started out at mechanicing years ago. I was there for a couple months until I was talking to a friend of a friend of mine and she was telling me who her dad drove for. I met with them and they were a big family based company, they are amazing people, they talk to everyone, they sit down with,they aren’t just worried about moving freight, they don’t put money before character and quality. They started me in a brand new truck and everything, it was like riding in a Cadillac.I work hard, that is just how I work and the company I left to come here for this company told me I could go back if this job didn’t work out. Life is about opportunity and I believe it was all of those opportunities that got me to where I am. When I showed up, we sat down and talked about working for them. They told me I could be home every weekend and he asked me if I would drive over the road and I said yes, I didn’t even hesitate. It is a learning curve, it is something that you have to adjust to. When I first started he took me out to the lot and showed me two trucks and told me to pick which one I wanted and of course I picked the orange one because orange is my favorite color. It’s just like anything else though, you have to take the good with the bad.
BF: Listen don’t put nothing about Swift truckers in there, we don’t care for them. They are always fuckin up! Swift drivers know it! Swift puts people in big ol’ trucks after only having one month of training and then they go out and they can’t drive. It’s honestly just not Swift, but they get in the way. Their trucks are set at 63 mph, you cannot even drive the speed limit- it’s messin up runnin down the road. When you are places like where we are at right now (Utah) the speed limit is 80mph, now what-a-ya do when this Swift driver pulls out in front of you and they top out at 63 mph, trucks don’t stop on a dime and it’s ridiculous. Swift advertise in house training and etc., but you see they are one of those self insured companies that do alot of stuff for insurance purposes and they aren’t safe. If they are back home in the mountains it’s not so bad for them to max out at 63 mph, TMC is another one that is set at 62mph. I’m not saying that all those guys drivingin are bad drivers, it’s the company. I’m not trying to bash anyone, it’s just how it is. Most truck drivers are some of the nicest people you could ever meet They have a high turnover rate because they don’t care about their employees, they will just get more. They have a bunch of trucks sitting around, if they don’t get taken care of or they get wrecked they just throw them in another one. It’s not like that for other places, we can’t have our trucks down. That means someone isn’t able to work and that means making money to pay their bills or feed their family. So, we take care of our trucks, we care about our driving records, and we don’t want to be out of work. Ya know I work for the kind of company that my boss invites us to the lakehouse and our families. It would take one hell of a deal for me to leave this company,they would have to guarantee me all kind of stuff. I am where I want to be in life, I don’t make the best money,I dont go home every weekend, but that is my choice. I had a talk with my superior about being at the age that I might want to start settling down and they understand that I might want to do that and decide I want to be home more and they will do that for me. You don’t see that unless you run with a smaller company. I told him I don’t have no one at home, I don’t have a girlfriend and until I find someone that is okay with what I do I am just fine out here doing what I love to do.
How do you feel about being called trucker trash or negative stigmas placed on truckers?
I’ve never been called that. Anyone that thinks truck drivers are bad people, I say stop buying shit. We are out here sacrifices our lives to make sure things get delivered. Those tankers you see, you like getting gas dontcha? All these Amazon trailers they are out their delivering your packages. What am I doing right now? I am hauling parts for the oil industry, you use oil dontcha? Think about it the next time you are in traffic and you cut off a big truck and cause an accident. Think about that five seconds you idiots try to save by swerving in and out of traffic because you don’t want to wait behind a big truck. We don’t stop on a dime, we can’t turn around easy, we don’t get going easy. Your life is going to be there at 7:00 the same as they are at 7:05, but if you make the mistake of trying to cut off truckers you are going to get someone killed. 9 times out of 10 the man behind the wheel of that truck has a family at home, they want to get home to see them to. Most of us that have families this is all we know how to do for a living and truckin is how they take care of their families.They don’t get to go home every night and see their kids. Now, I like being gone all the time and I like driving. I am tired, but I am not tired of my job. I want to get up and go to work every day.