Trucking Now and Then
By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm
These days it seems that everyone can be quick to complain, we thought that maybe we should take a few minutes to run down a few things to remind the older drivers how far we’ve come and to enlighten newer drivers how “it used to be”, in order to really appreciate how much we have compared to those times not so long ago.
We can start with the equipment. When you climb into that new (or used) truck, it is probably going to have power steering, not that old “arm strong” steering of yesteryear. It was called that for a really good reason, and if you ever drove one of these you would know exactly why! The engines and transmissions of today are SO MUCH more forgiving than they were back then too, your shifting abilities HAD to be much more precise or you completely lost a gear! RPMs and road speed rose and fell much faster on older models so the shifting needed to be done so much quicker than today.
The ride you have today on the roads, rough as some of them are, would be a lot worse if your truck and trailer were still spring ride. Slow down and hang on driver. Not to mention the fact that many Interstates were not yet complete when we began our careers! The parts that were finished were really nice, but imagine the backups we endured when you had to exit and go through towns where it wasn’t finished. Not only did we have to contend with that, but also with differing weight and length limits from state to state. The long tractors and trailers of today (which allow for a better ride) weren’t a reality across the entire country.
If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of driving a cabover and getting dressed laying down, I promise you would appreciate the luxury of standing up in all that room with all those modern conveniences around you a lot more. Imagine a little closet and shelf, at the foot of the bed you are laying in, being pretty much it for keeping your personal stuff. The only way we had to keep our drinks cold was to put them in a cooler. I remember how thrilled I was when they came out with the first ever 12 volt model! We could actually carry cold cuts and soft drinks! It was a pivotal moment. I believe it was 1985. We had JUST gotten our very first “double wide walk in” W900B model Kenworth, one we could actually stand up in (well, I could, it WAS a flat top, stand ups were not available yet.)
The invention of satellite radio changed the life of many drivers. You can enjoy your station all across the country without interruption! Oh how I remember the days of finding a radio station only to lose it 50 miles down the road and have to hunt for another one. If you ran the same route you learned where one station started and where you lost it so you could flip to the next one. In some areas there wasn’t a station and you listened to your cassettes. Yes, I said cassettes, (Kimmie, I listened to 8 tracks!) talk about taking up space!
Today’s truck stops, for the most part, have paved parking, private showers, truckers’ lounges and many other amenities. Some of the great truck stops offer gift shops, styling salons, doctors, dentists, movie theaters, doggie washes, chrome shops, food courts, full service restaurants, along with a shop and truck wash. Back when we started we didn’t even have the “luxury” of a private shower. By comparison, many of today’s restaurants offer healthier choices on their menus along with fresh fruit in the convenience stores. More and more truck stops are also offering gym-style workout rooms and/or walking paths to help drivers get or stay healthy.
We’ve come a long way drivers! It keeps getting better in some ways and we should take a minute to appreciate the strides that have been made. If you are just getting into the business, you can’t fully appreciate what some of us had to experience. Take our word for it when we say that today’s a much easier and more comfortable road to run.
Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!
Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.