Confessions of a Truck Driver

It's hot, dry and dusty on a spring day at the Port of Los Angeles, but driver Hugo Salcedo is getting his feet wet as he hoses down the hood of his 80,000 lb truck. It's routine maintenance and just one of the tasks Salcedo, 37, has done every week of the seven years he's been driving. Being a truck driver may seem an unforgiving career to some, but to Salcedo it gives him the freedom of the road and a lifetime of travel.

Best time is baseball season, he says. Though today he sports a USC Trojans hat, the profession that takes him across 48 states allows him to catch the Red Sox in Boston, the Marlins in Miami and his hometown Dodgers in Los Angeles. Over the course of several months his job will take him from "Long Beach to Kentucky, Kentucky to New York, New York to Florida, Florida all the way across the country to Hayward, California."

Jealous yet? I was when he told me the other reason he finds trucking a rewarding profession: Money. He gets $1.55 for every mile he drives, even after the fuel surcharge. "You do the math," he says. That adds up pretty lucratively when you consider he can drive 4-5,000 miles in an average week, though he says a trucker's returns can be slim once they've paid between $60,000 and $120,000 for a new big rig.

I wonder if he suffers from loneliness on the road, but he says no. He has Internet and TV in his cab to keep him company. The most serious issue he faces on a daily basis is safety. "No. 1 you have to be safe, period,"he says. "For you and everyone around you. With an 80,000 lb truck, you gonna hit somebody you're gonna kill somebody. "It's something you're supposed to do whether you drive a car or big rig, to be safe on the road, to have the knowledge of the road, the highways and how to control a truck in an emergency situation."

As a profession, truckers are perhaps most at mercy of weather conditions and occasionally it is a tough, but vital, choice as to whether to bed down for the night, or carefully navigate a serious storm. "You gotta make changes, slow down, or don't drive at all. It's a choice you make, during the wintertime, you either gotta stop and put chains or keep going, or say, do I stop and wait til it's over?"

Sometimes, the choices Salcedo makes can put him in danger. One time, late at night, he found himself "head-on" with a car coming the opposite director, Salcedo chose to take evasive action and ended up in a ditch. He rolled, his truck traveled "150 feet" on its side. Fortunately he escaped injury but his freight – he usually carries paper in bulk for Kimberly Clarke or Wal-Mart – was ruined after it scattered along the highway.

A harrowing tale indeed, but Salcedo laughs as he tells it. He shakes his head at the thought and, as he pushes up the hood of his truck, says he's got to hit the road. Before he goes, he leaves me with a lesson trucking has taught him that perhaps applies across the career spectrum. Every time he's finds himself in a tight or challenging spot, he says, he goes with "Experience. You're not taught that. If you were taught that, everything (would) be a lot easier."

And one more lesson for working life? "Hold on to your seatbelts," he says.

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Filed under: Confessions
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October 11 2011 at 5:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
smith

I spent 3500 on truck driving school, got a cdl, and sat on it .I'm glad I did.6 classmates in all.1 dead-2 divorced.I make $24,000 as a cook.I'll stay in an apron.

May 04 2010 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Susan Mintzer

I'm learning from all you men and women. Thank you.
Interested in new regs: ie: black box. Do you think
this will change your travel on road?
thank you. Stay Safe. xxxoooS

April 19 2010 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
r wilson

36 years, now retired, don't miss it at all. It was a good living while I was doing it but it was time to hang it up. To anyone that is thinking of driving for a living, check it out completly before you do. It can be a wonderful life or one of the biggest mistakes you could make.

April 19 2010 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bubba

to all you truckers out there.
I resd some truth and some BS in the comment section
take it from someone wit years 43 years driving over the rd
hauling HAZMATE. no wrecks, and only 6 tickets in my career.
over 3 million miles, and it is not fun anymore.
too many regs and ticket happy cops to deal with
good luck to you all

April 19 2010 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gabriel

This goes out to Jason. I read and figure that you know what you are talking about when it comes to owner operators. I have a few questions, I hope you take the time to respond to. The reason, I'm thinking of goind owner operator. First, you said paying the truck is first priority, is it better to buy a used truck or new truck. I was figuring new hoping to have less maintenance expenses the first couple years. Versus, a uses truck which may require maintenance expenses right away. What is your take on that? Typically, what would you say is the annual expenses for the truck in a year? If the truck is new, how much of a down payment is required? How soon would you attempt to pay off the truck?

November 19 2009 at 9:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ace

I have to laugh at some of you. Your still young and what i call still wet behind the ears!Some of you I need to put on my boots cause it getting deep! I've been driving for 23 yrs now,and yet to lay one over or put in a ditch. I'm good at what i do and do it with safty. I know when to hustle and when i need to slow down. I know how to read the road and my surroundings. I'm not saying i'm the best, for there is always someone better and room for me to learn somthing new! Been around since i was 17 yrs old starting out by pumping fuel.I must say been shown by some of the best at that time. Most of them are not around anymore, either retired or the pills got them. Ive seen laws and rules change so much over the years its a wonder im still driving.I dont like the changes, especially when it comes from some damn pencil pusher who never drove one of these in there life! Why the heck dont they just leave us alone. At times I thought of buying my own rig, but why? why the headach. I come home i want to enjoy it , not have to work on a truck. More power to you owner op! Let me say this, and this comes from a very good sorce with conection to washington, The cheating, lying, falsifying,and all the loophole you may know, will be in the past! In about 2 yrs or sooner all trucks will have to comply with the black box which includes electronic logs ! So them 660 miles you are doing today, will be the past, for with electronic logs im lucky enough to get 600 miles, and thats pushing it! So you all get ready, enjoy what your doing for its coming to a hault ! No, i dont drive for J.B. , Warner, or Crst. Three C's to you all, Be Cool,Calm, and Careful.

September 11 2009 at 7:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MICHAEL

I SPENT 23 LONG HARD YEARS OUT THERE, RUNNING EVERYTHING FROM A FLATBED TO A VAN AND A REFER AND EVEN WIDE-LOADS FOR ABOUT 4 1/2 OF THOSE YEARS. I HAVE A LITTLE OVER 2 MILLION MILES ON DOT LOG. I RAN TEAM FOR 10 YEARS, 5 OF THOSE WERE WITH MY WIFE. THOSE WERE THE GOOD YEARS, FUEL WAS CHEAP AND I HAD THE LOVE OF MY LIFE WITH ME. I BOUGHT MY FIRST TRUCK IN 1972, RIGHT OUT OF SERVICE AND BEFORE REGULATION. BACK IN THOSE DAYS WE DID RUN 5,000 - 5,500 PER WEEK AND WERE BEGGING FOR MORE. YOU HAD TO RUN LIKE THAT TO MAKE A LIVING AND SURVIVE OUT THERE. MY RECORD FOR BEING GONE FROM HOME WAS 9 MO. AND 1 DAY, THAT WAS BACK IN 1984. I GOT STUPID AND BOUGHT 2 MORE TRUCKS. THAT MADE 3 COUNTING THE ONE I WAS DRIVING. I PUT A COUSIN ON 1 AND A GOOD FRIEND ON THE OTHER, NEITHER OF THEM LASTED 6 WEEKS. I WENT THRU 7 DRIVERS THAT YEAR BECAUSE NOBODY WANTED TO STAY OUT THERE AND RUN. SO I STAYED OUT FOR OVER 9 MONTHS STRAIGHT TRYING TO PAY FOR ALL 3 TRUCKS. ALMOST LOST MY WIFE AND FAMILY DURING THAT TIME. COME JANURARY '85 I SOLD THE OTHER 2 TRUCKS AND REANALIZED MY LIFESTYLE. I WENT HOME MORE OFTEN AND HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 42 YEARS NOW TO THE SAME WOMAN. LOVED WHAT I DID BUT DON'T MISS IT NOW. I DON'T EVEN DRIVE THE CAR NOW, I LET HER DRIVE EVERYWHERE WE GO. FEEL LIKE I PUT IN MY TIME AND BEAT THE ODDS SO I JUST LEAN THE SEAT BACK AND ENJOY THE RIDE NOW......

September 11 2009 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
camone

to many typos to be taken seriously.smells like someones cookin' up some spam!!!

September 11 2009 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Diane

People, please....Jason is correct about the DOT regs and the miles for the week. Reggut is correct as well about the 34 hour rule for the following week. Yes, it is a lifestyle and yes you can make good money. After 10 years of doing electronic transport (I was a specialist) I made great money but wanted to go to school and left the industry. I miss the open road and the money but now have something I love better. BTW....I didn't even start my truck for under $4.00 a mile but then again I had to load and unload and there were NO excuses. It got there in the same shape it was when I picked it up. My customers knew I was the most dependable person they could get and the more sensitive the electronics the more they paid but it was worth it to them. So, sir, please remember that each and every career has its ups and downs. There were times I wanted to cry because I was tired, cold, bored, frustrated and just didn't want to do it any longer. Many times what got me through was seeing a customer who had been on a 4 year waiting list getting what they needed. Good times and bad and no, I wouldn't trade those 10 years for anything. I believe you might be able to be a drop and drag freight hauler but you'd never make an electronic transport specialist. Good luck!

September 08 2009 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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