Tuesday, February 8, 2011



FORT WORTH, TX.  - We took off in Jan’s Freightliner T2000, affectionately referred to as “Pretty Boy” or “Big Blue Truck.”

The first stop was the Swift terminal in Lancaster, Texas.  Jan drives as an owner/operator for Swift and had hoped to get another load immediately so we could leave first thing in the morning.

The terminal consists of a large building, parking for terminal employees, truck parking, gas pumps, and weigh stations.
The parking area was lined with empty and full trailers waiting to be hooked up to a bobtail truck, which is a truck that doesn’t have a long trailer attached – just that abbreviated nub off the back.

An example of a Bobtail
 The main structure contains offices but also a driver’s lounge with TV, vending machines, tables and chairs, recliners, internet access carrels, washers and dryers, and bathrooms including showers. Drivers filled the lounge. Almost all were men with the exception of a woman or two.

Unlike other male dominated occupations the Women’s Movement has yet to make much of a dent in the trucking industry. Not surprisingly all the female drivers including Jan, are independent, confident, assertive, capable of taking care of themselves, and living life on their own termsWe sat outside in the cool evening. Jan introduced me to the people she knew. There were chuckles when they found out I was not a driver but a passenger who had never traveled by big rig before.

It is a pretty exclusive club; sleeping in the bunk of a truck and showering on the road probably doesn’t appeal to a lot of people.
Our society stigmatizes the long haul driver as well.

Nevertheless, new scenery enchants me; my eyes are always looking for the next landscape or attraction. There are many things that are different on the open road and missing any of them is just not an option.

While my role on this trip was that of an outsider, everyone we met was kind, no one was rude. In fact all those I met were enjoyable.

They were a variegated crew of married and single guys, all trying to make a, living, wanting to take care of their families. They were from many different states and from all walks of life.

Jen, one of Jan’s road friends, is part of a driving team with her husband Jim, a driver of over twenty years. The pair has journeyed together for most of themAt some point Jen decided she was going to drive as well and went to school at Swift. She was in the class just ahead of Jan. Now they run into each other from time to time out on the road.

Jan completing the  paperwork required
for each load of freight she hauls and delivers.

Driving a truck is a way of life. It’s an occupation that you won’t be truly happy doing unless you were born with a knack for it or born into it. Wanderlust has to be part of who you are.

Jan began to worry that I might regret agreeing to go with her because we were going nowhere fast. The loads she was offered were of the “short distance” variety.

The problem with “short distance” loads is that a long-haul driver won’t earn enough unless the short haul takes them to freight going cross-country. Unless there is a payoff at the end of the short hall, it can actually cost the driver money.

Later we retired to the bobtail.
After a comfortable sleep the new day offered more of the same. Jan’s cell phone alert sounded often but all offers were short haul loads.

The odds of our leaving anytime soon seemed bleak at best.

That evening we gathered outside once again with other drivers. There was a cool breeze blowing as some in the group laughed at the comedians on someone’s laptop and others talIn the morning we lounged in our pajamas and drank coffee in the truck. Jan has a portable coffee maker that she fills with hot water made in a thermos-looking device that plugs into an outlet in the cab.

The on board computer displayed a couple of loads that looked promising but they didn’t work out.

We'd started our journey on Sunday and it was now Tuesday. Jan was flabbergasted at this point. At some terminals it’s not unusual to get stuck for a length of time but not at this one.

The likelihood of getting out of there that day began to fade. It was early afternoon now and Jan went to the office window to speak with one of the office guys named Tony.

He dug around and found one that had goods going to Denver.


I organized the bobtail for the journey while Jan did her pre-trip paperwork. She called her supervisor Steve in Albuquerque to give him the good news.

The load didn’t have to be in Denver until Friday so Jan asked him if she could drop it off there and have someone else deliver it (“Tcall” is the term for this.) He said he’d get back with her.

She asked me if I wanted to go to Albuquerque and possibly Phoenix. Heck yes! I told Jan that I had only been through one corner of New Mexico and never to Arizona. Before long, Steve called her back with the go-ahead.
Soon we were on the road. The direction and route took us right past my neighborhood and I waved as we went by.
Later that night we stopped at a brand new rest area off of Highway 287 just south of Amarillo.

It had been a long day and we were tired. We cleaned up in the quiet rest area building then went back to the truck and straight to sleep.

Our first full day of travel was just a few hours away and we didn’t want to miss a minute of it.

Please return next Tuesday for another episode of Claire's life on the road...
To ask Claire a question, please leave it in the comments section.

Claire Hickey is a member of Greater Fort Worth Writers Group and writes for the communities of the Washington Times.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible to post these episodes sooner than once a week. I'm loving them. Can't wait for the next one.

Claire said...

Thank you Nina! I'm so glad you are enjoying them.

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