First off, a big congrats to former trucker Ed Miller on the publication of a memoir of his trucking days long in the making. His “A Trucker’s Tale: Wit, Wisdom, and True Stories From 60 Years on the Road” has finally found the publisher it needs in Apollo Publishers and is available in both handsome hardcover and ebook format. Regular readers will recall that in 2015 Miller sent in three parts of the book and was gracious enough to sit in as a guest on my blog here when I was out for a week that summer.
Stay tuned for more about the book and Miller’s history in a future edition of Overdrive Radio — I’m just now digging into the volume, and I’m planning a proper talk with him about it all once I’ve finished. For now, though, know that Miller’s trucking life extended from hauling businesses into motor carrier policy with the Maryland Department of Transportation beginning in 2003, before a 2010 retirement. He grew up in North Carolina, attended East Carolina University and served in the U.S. Navy Seabees. He lives in Rising Sun, in Maryland.
What follows here is a re-run of the original Part 1 published here back in 2015 — you can check out the current version with purchase of the book, available via this link.
From Miller’s original Channel 19 guest post:
Trucking has been an integral part of my life for over 60 years, and this book is an attempt to share many of my fondest memories from times throughout these trucking years. These events are humorous, sad, hilarious, unbelievable, and some even came about as the result of plain stupidity. Most, if not all, of you fellow truckers will have experienced similar events and situations, and I am fairly certain each of you will be able to identify with either the people or events contained herein. I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I have enjoyed relating them. All these things actually happened, although I will ask your indulgence if some sound too absurd. Surely, you truckers know that each “fishing story” grows, and becomes more interesting, each time it is retold. As an example, think of the truck driver who stopped along the highway and helped the proverbial little old lady who had a flat tire. By the time the trucker had told his tale a dozen times, the simple tire change had turned into a fanciful recollection in which the old lady was accompanied by her gorgeous, blond, 21-year-old granddaughter. Yes, the granddaughter spent a few days riding with the driver and she fulfilled every imaginable sexual fantasy the driver could have imagined. My “fishing stories” have never grown to this extreme level, but everyone out there has had to listen to some awfully tall truck driver yarns.
I was born into a trucking family, and as soon as I could talk, I began pestering my dad with this question: “When can I ride with you in a truck?” Each time I asked, he would remind me that I could ride with him when I was old enough to climb into the truck by myself without any help. Although I do not remember my exact age, I must have been five or six years old when I climbed onto the running board (without cheating) and crawled up into the Mack. From that first day, I have been addicted to the smell of diesel fuel, diesel fumes and anything else having to do with diesel.
Even before I was in my teens, my dad gave me the following advice, “Whatever you chose to do in life, just stay the hell out of the trucking business!” It seemed that he was not the only trucking father to offer this advice. Several years ago, I was privileged to be the dinner speaker at the Maryland Motor Truck Association’s annual Truck Drivers Championship awards ceremony. I began my talk by asking how many of the several hundred truckers in attendance had grown up in trucking families. The majority of the drivers raised their hands. My next question: How many of their fathers had also told them to “stay the hell out of the trucking business”? Damned nearly every hand was again raised, and the room immediately filled with the laughter. None of us had taken our dad’s advice.
I am pretty sure my father offered this advice because he knew how damned aggravating the trucking profession could be sometimes. He understood the nature of trucking, in that just when you thought things were going great, unseen forces always seemed to throw the proverbial “wrenches” into your tasks, whether they presented themselves as flat tires, lights going out, hoses bursting, bad weather delaying your trip, or those cursed weigh stations no trucker enjoys.
You kindred truckers have all experienced these unseen forces, and although you know damned well they are going to continue dogging you, you are still behind the wheels of big rigs. Evidently, we are all gluttons for punishment! How many of us have heard nontrucking folks ask, “Why do you do it if you complain about it so much?”
Well, those folks will keep asking, because they will never, ever, understand why we keep on trucking. Most of us are not even sure ourselves, but I suppose it is that once it gets into the blood, we’re hooked, and love it or not, most of us stay at it our entire lives.
Vacationers and businesspersons see some of the landscape while traveling, but only the truck drivers get to enjoy the grandeur of the United States, and Canada, from high up in a truck. While crossing bridges, the tall concrete walls and jersey barriers prevent the four-wheelers from the marvelous views of the lakes, rivers, or gorges they are crossing.
How about the views you observe, although it is extremely hard to adequately describe them, such as driving across Staten Island at daybreak, when you crest a rise in the highway and are treated to the sight of the sun as an enormous fiery red ball perched dead-center between the two supports of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge? Imagine the 40-year-old photo image burned in your brain after you topped the hill on I-70 West in Hancock, Maryland, about a mile before the intersection of I-68. Just after midnight, the numerous, very tall halogen highway lights are glittering off the bare limbs of the neighboring apple orchard, very recently completely covered by sleet and freezing rain. The scene resembles an ice forest!
Hardly a day goes by that you truckers are not treated to sights such as these, and it helps to make the job of truck driving fun and interesting.
Truck drivers also learn to conquer the types of fear other drivers are lucky enough to not experience. Imagine coming down Jellico Mountain in a freezing fog so thick you cannot see anything ahead but for a very faint glimpse of the road’s white lines. All you can do is creep down the mountain in a very low gear. You certainly cannot see what is behind you, although you have your four-ways flashing to warn those drivers.
You cannot pull over and stop on the shoulder, mainly due to not being able to see the shoulder, but also because you are afraid another truck will think you are still traveling and hit you from behind. What thoughts go through your mind when you finally run out of the fog at the bottom of the mountain, and are then amazed to see the 3-4-inch-long horizontal icicles attached to, and sticking straight back from, your side mirrors?
Well, you wipe the sweat from your brow, and you might even have to change into a new pair of pants. You probably add one last prayer to the list of prayers you offered all the way down the mountain during your scary ride.
One of the first things a new truck driver learns, and the one lesson which should always be the most important, is the ability to drive safely around those pesky car drivers we all know and love. The majority of the four-wheelers don’t think they are doing anything wrong when they pull in front of a big truck — just before traffic comes to a screeching halt. They are totally unaware that they did something wrong, or stupid, or inconsiderate. Some four-wheelers act, and drive, as though they are the only cars on the highway, but I truly don’t believe they realize that they have just pissed off a truck driver. It is scary to think that there are folks who drive this way, but we see it more and more each day.
Car drivers would not believe that truckers have several near misses each on-duty/driving period. These same car drivers do not realize, as they approach a hill while hugging the left lane at the speed limit (or below) that trucks need that extra couple of miles-per-hour just before going up an incline. Without being too ugly, it is probably more prudent to say that truck drivers are the professionals, while car drivers still need a helluva lot more practice. Until the four-wheelers become proficient at driving, which we doubt will ever happen, truck drivers will just keep doing what they do best — driving responsibly — while being ever mindful of that carload of kids who have the misfortune of having a rookie (their mother or father, I mean) behind the wheel.
Once, while traveling one of Ohio’s secondary roads to pick up a load, I arrived at an accident scene just after a trucker had done this very thing — saved the lives of a carload of kids. The mother driving the car had run a red light, and rather than hit the car broadside, the trucker had somehow kept control of his flatbed load of steel and steered to the right of, and missed, the car. When I got there, the rig was sitting in perfect alignment, some 100 yards away, mired in a previously harvested, muddy cornfield. The tires were just about completely buried, and the bottom of the flatbed was sitting on top of the mud. The deep, straight, muddy furrows made by the rig were truly a remarkable sight. As I drove away from the scene, the woman and kids were laughing, crying and hugging the truck driver who had saved their lives. There is no telling how many wreckers it took to pull that truck out of the mud!
These experiences, and many others like them, are some of the reasons we all continue working as truckers. We develop thicker skins every time we have those narrow escapes, including the “damned-near” incidents we are thankful to have survived.
I will say it again — truck drivers are the professionals of the highways. To borrow one of the American Trucking Associations’ mottos, “Without trucks, America Stops,” and you truckers do a damned-fine job of keeping America humming right along!
Find Part 2 of our 2015 series via the link below. Ed Miller’s final Apollo Publishers version of “A Trucker’s Tale” is available via this link.