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Truckers have to trust each other every day

Truckers have to trust each other every day

Have you ever watched a movie and heard the bad guys talking about the concept of “Honor Among Thieves?” Every time I hear it, I think, “What the heck is up with that crap?” I mean, clearly if you’re a thief, your moral compass must’ve fallen out of your pocket while you were hiking out in the woods. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Honor Among Thieves concept, it’s basically saying that there is an unwritten code that even an untrustworthy group of people can abide by to get along. I’ve know for quite some time that there was something similar in the trucking industry. An Honor Among Truckers if you will.

Now let me get one thing straight here. I’m not saying truckers in general are an untrustworthy lot, but let’s face facts. Some of the characters out here don’t exactly look like you could trust them any more than you could trust a pit bull while wearing a meat scarf. The odd thing is, for the most part, we drivers do it all the time. Trust, that is; not wear meat scarves. We smell bad enough as is. Today, we’re going to discuss three of these situations:

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #1: Parking

Truckers have to park every night in cramped spaces. Whether it’s a truck stop, a rest area, or a crowded exit ramp, we’re constantly leaving ourselves to the mercy of other drivers. Nearly every night at the truck stops, you’ll see drivers sitting behind the wheel and staring off into space. You’d think that we’d all be paranoid that someone is going to hit our truck while backing into the parking spot next to us. Yet we aren’t. Under normal situations, most of us just sit there and let the other driver do their thing. We trust that he or she is capable of doing the job without taking out our front fender. That’s Honor Among Truckers. Granted, this doesn’t mean we trust everyone equally.

Even a non-experienced driver can see when a fellow trucker is having trouble backing into a parking spot.

I've got $100 that says that ain't Gatorade

100 bucks that says that ain’t Gatorade

That’s when we toss our trusting nature into the trash bin along with all the piss-filled milk jugs (photo). We all know that there are times when it’s not only wiser to get out and guide the other driver, but it’s also the friendly thing to do. That being said, I think many times these well-meaning guiders are doing more harm than good. Listen dudes and dudettes; unless this troubled backer is a total rookie, they really don’t need you to tell them which way to turn the wheel by making giant circular motions with your arms. Seriously, you look like you’re having a conniption fit, so just knock it off. No, what most drivers need in this situation is for you to simply stand by the parking space and give a shout if they’re about to hit something. But again, the point is; if they don’t need help, we just sit there and trust that they’ll accomplish the task without smashing one of our mirrors.

Then again, this Honor Among Truckers can sometimes jump up and sock you in the Adam’s apple.

Case in point. A few weeks back, I parked at a Flying J in Missouri to run in and grab a shower. I did so for two reasons. One, because I’d been wearing a meat scarf, and two, I was trying to avoid the torture that is the inspection bays at our company shops. You see, I was heading home and the last thing I needed was for some overly zealous mechanic to find something wrong with my truck that would inevitably keep me there overnight. Been there. Done that. Wasn’t gonna risk it.

So I needed to kill a couple of hours. An extra-long shower took care of most of that time. I killed the rest of the time watching NCIS in the trucker’s lounge. But when it was finally safe to roll toward the yard, I found a surprise waiting for me by my truck. There was debris all along the driver’s side of my trailer and there was a 6-foot section of the lower side rail that was totally demolished. After I picked my jaw up off the peelot, I went back to look at the rig that was parked beside me. There wasn’t any damage on the rear of their trailer, so I went up to see if I could find a note on my truck somewhere. Nope. It was a hit-and-run. Probably some owner-operator who didn’t want his insurance rates to skyrocket. I asked around, but just like in NYC, no one claimed to have seen anything. Didn’t matter much, as my company just asked a few questions and never said another word about it. Guess it happens more often than we might think. Makes you think about trusting other drivers so much, huh?

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #2: Driving

Professional truckers are called that for a reason; we’re trained to drive defensively. Rarely do you see a trucker do something completely unexpected. Like the parking scenario, we just trust that the other driver knows what they’re doing. When a trucker switches lanes beside you, you just assume he knows you’re there. For the most part, you don’t feel the need to honk, flash your headlights, or swerve like a slalom skier to get away from them. You sure can’t say that about 4-wheelers. They’re always freaking out like we’re going to come into their lane and reenact the opening scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Likewise, we just assume a trucker entering a freeway on-ramp knows what to do. Again, not so much when it comes to 4-wheelers and their cell phones.

But just like the parking, sometimes driving trust can backfire too. Early in our careers, The Evil Overlord and I were tooling along on I-10 near Ontario, California. As any trucker knows, those lanes aren’t all that wide. We were cruising along at 60 mph in the second lane when we felt a jolt and saw pieces of our passenger-side mirror go flying. Another trucker had clipped our mirror as he flew by us at about 70 mph. Before we could get pulled over to the side of the road, the other driver took the next exit ramp and vanished through a truck-sized wormhole. Now had that been a shiny orange truck, we could’ve reported it and my company would’ve given Schneider a call. But this was an indistinguishable owner-operator. I’m sure this was a quickly-realized factor when the driver made his split-second decision to do the right thing or hit the exit ramp. So yes, trusting others truckers can suck sometimes, but what are you gonna do? Just like the hit-and-run, this was a freak accident. That didn’t mean that I didn’t trust the next driver who passed me. I did, albeit looking in my one good mirror a bit more often.

Honor Among Truckers Scenario #3: Thievery

Honor among truckers in action

Honor among truckers in action

Any time you see trucks in a truck stop, you’ll also see lots of empty trucks. Every trucker out there knows that these trucks have all sorts of valuable stuff in them; computers, TV’s, iPods, GPS units, video and photo cameras, and even game consoles like Playstation and XBox. So any trucker could have a field day out here. Most of us know that trucks aren’t all that hard to break into either. We know this because many of us have locked our keys in our trucks at some point in our careers. With a coat hanger in hand, we could’ve been back in our trucks in 10 minutes if we hadn’t spent those minutes cussing and questioning our intelligence level. So what’s to stop a driver from cashing in? Honor Among Truckers.

Personally, I’m kind of amazed at the amount of trust we have. Now I’m a trusting person by nature, but being married to The Evil Overlord for almost 20 years has caused some of her paranoia to rub off on me. She was raised near a big city, so she doesn’t trust anyone. While I’m content to lock and deadbolt our apartment door, she goes even further by locking our bedroom door and keeping a loaded .44 Special on her nightstand.

So that means that I’m possibly a bit more cautious than the average trucker. For example, here again we come into all the truckers sitting in their driver’s seat at the truck stop. Many drivers sit there with their laptops propped up on their steering wheel as they busy themselves with email, watching movies, surfing the web, or, as most of us can attest to; watching porn. Everyone can see this. That’s just waaaay more trust than I can muster.

My thief magnet

My thief magnet

Any time I’m on my computer, I’m always in the bunk area. Now during the daytime, I do leave the front curtains wide open to let some light in. But at night, I shut them tighter than a frog’s bunghole. Why? Take a look at that picture. That’s why. As many of you know, I gush on-and-on about my beloved MacBook Pro. God is #1 in my life. The Evil Overlord and my Mac are fighting it out for the #2 spot. Anyway, I’m not about to prop my glowing-like-the-full-moon Apple up on my steering wheel where everyone can see. That’s because even Apple-haters know that Macs are more valuable than the average PC. This is not Apple fanboyism. This is fact. At some point, I’m going to have to get out of the truck for something. And some trucker who is watching is going to know it. I faced something similar to this the other morning.

I was at the Flying J just north of Houston, TX and I was jonesing for a shower. I pulled my front curtain closed, packed my shower bag with fresh duds, and headed towards the truck stop. As usual I could see truckers who saw me vacating the truck. Some were in their trucks while others were walking about. That’s when the crazy-eyed guy approached me.

He was a thin black man in his late 50’s. He was dressed kind of ratty and he had that eye condition where you couldn’t tell what he was looking at. His left eye appeared to be fascinated with the cloud structure over my right shoulder, while his right eye appeared to be checking to see if my shirt had pit-stains under my left arm. He pointed at my truck and said, “Did you just come out of that truck?” Since I knew he just saw me get out of it, I warily said, “Uhhhh… yeah.” He went on, “Do you need any help today? I can help unload trucks and stuff.” My thought was, “Yeah, I’ll bet you’ll unload my truck.” I politely declined the offer and we went our separate ways. Just as Journey had. sings – How we touched and went our Separate Ways.

Well, like I said, The Evil Overlord has rubbed her non-trusting mojo onto me. Normally, I like it when she rubs on me, but not in this case. 😉 I soon paused, hidden by the nose of a Peterbilt. It wasn’t hard to remain unseen, as you could hide a moose behind one of those friggin’ hoods. I watched him as he walked off. He kept glancing backward and all around. Was he looking for someone else to help, or was he remembering where my truck was? He finally vanished around the end of the line of trucks. I started to walk on in to the truck stop, but I paused. Something was nagging me. I couldn’t get over the thought of having all my crap stolen when I could have prevented it. What if this were the time that I was too trusting? So I did something I rarely do. I went back and packed up all my valuable crap. And since my fully-crammed shower and computer bags weigh about 90 tons and I was parked in the back of the parking lot, I’m counting that as a daily workout. I have gone to this extreme a few other times when some seedy-looking character was walking around the parking lot. I like to say; trust, but don’t be naïve.

Well, in the end, I should have trusted old crazy-eyed Joe. I later saw him approaching other drivers outside the doors of the truck stop. If he had broken into my truck, at least he was nice enough to lock it back up and leave my clothes and my ratty old tennis shoes behind. That was very thoughtful of him.

Personally, I’m kinda baffled about this whole Honor Among Truckers thing. On one hand, it gives me the warm pink fuzzies to know that we truckers trust each other so much, especially considering the circumstances that we’re in. It shows a trust in our fellow man that doesn’t exist in this world much nowadays. But that still doesn’t mean I’m going to trust anyone that might even remotely be eyeballing my MacBook Pro. You can have The Evil Overlord though. There. Priorities set. 😉

About the Author
I'm a 22-year truck driver with an interest in tech stuff. I do the Trucker Dump podcast and blog, which is all about life as a trucker. I have also written two trucking books, "Trucking Life" and "How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job."
4 comments on “TD92: Honor Among Truckers
  1. What a great blog post. You really put a lot of thought into this. You should keep posting too!

    1. Todd McCann says:

      Thanks for the compliment there. I’ll try to keep posting. Although if you keep saying stuff like “You really put a lot of thought into this,” you’re going to raise the expectations of my readers/listeners. And we wouldn’t want to do that. 😉

  2. J.D. Barr says:

    Great blog! I stumbled upon it while laying over for a day in some nameless seedy truckstop in FL with pay parking. I started driving in ’95 and have noticed the honor, what little there ever was, is indeed rapidly fading away.

    Warning, I’m an owner/op and do drive a long nose Pete, so don’t hate! My clearcoat paint is peeling off my hood, so I am kinda hoping to get a free paint job courtesy of . It’s the least they can do for ruining a tolerable profession in their race to be the bottom feeder carrier of the century.

    I better get out and do some people watching, or free security work, while I waste more time in this armpit called a truckstop. Later.

    1. Todd McCann says:

      Ah yes, J.D. The seedy truck stop in Florida. Been to many of those myself. The Evil Overlord (the wife and ex-codriver) stopped at one somewhere out on US27 near Miami one time. It was extremely muggy (as always) and we really wanted a shower. We had to wade through about 20 cats to get to the cinder block outbuilding where the showers were. There was mold all over the walls and raw pipes were sticking out of the walls. Although lucky we couldn’t see it very well due to the one, lone, light bulb hanging in the middle of the room like a torture chamber in a spy movie.

      I hope you’re wrong about the honor fading away. It would really make the trucking life even harder if we couldn’t trust each other not to break into each other’s trucks to steal us blind.

      That’s an interesting comment you made about your company racing to be the bottom feeder carrier of the century. It’s really got me curious as to who they are. But hey, since my company’s name is taboo online, I guess I can’t rightly expect you to spill the beans. Oh well. I guess if they’re that bad, then I’m behind you on getting your Pete’s nose painted. Cuz that thing is so big, it might bankrupt your company just to put it in primer. LOL

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