We truckers spend the majority of our workday alone. Some consider this a curse, but in my opinion it’s one of the little-known perks of being a truck driver. We literally have up to 11 hours of driving time to kill each day. This is time that we can listen to anything we want. Today I’m going to point you to some free audio content for truckers that you may not know about.
But first, let’s discuss how most truckers occupy themselves on these long stretches of road.
Talking on the phone
I’ve never been a big phone-talker, but in recent years I’ve made some pretty good friends through social media and the Trucker Dump podcast/blog that I can talk to for hours on end. Just be sure you’re talking hands-free. The fine for truckers using a handset is up to $2,750.
- Pros: Phone time flies by and it’s basically free with the unlimited call plans most carriers provide now. It also makes you feel less alone when you talk to friends and family on a regular basis.
- Cons: If you’re somehow still stuck using a pre-paid phone, you’ll run through your minutes quicker than truck stop chili dogs shoots past your colon. Talking can also be distracting, so make sure you aren’t doing it when you’re in heavy traffic. For me, the biggest con is that I lose my voice if I talk for that long. Seriously. When you’re alone as much as most truckers are, your vocal chords just don’t get that much use. And when they do, you pay for it.
There are few things I love more than jamming to some excellent tunes and singing at the top of my lungs while I’m all alone. Heck, I even said that all the way back in TD6: Life Is Good.
Believe it or not, there are still drivers out here rockin’ flip phones. Thankfully, truck manufacturers are still installing CD players in their factory-installed radios. It’s still a bit weird for me to see a guy with a bunch of CDs on his sun visor. Even crazier, I still see truckers with cassette tapes. What.. the… heck?
Many drivers now use some sort of digital media player like their smartphone or an old iPod Touch to store and play their music. Internet-based subscription services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and iHeartRadio are all the rage now too.
- Pros: Music can make the time go by quick and it can make it more fun too!
- Cons: It can be distracting if you’re driver’s seat dancing to “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave or playing air drums to Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” not that I would know anything about that. And even worse than talking on the phone, you’re gonna lose your voice if you’re wailing “Separate Ways” by Journey or worse, attempting to sing in the same octave as Sharon den Adel in Within Temptation’s “Stand My Ground,” not that I would know anything about that either. Music can also get expensive if you buy a lot of it, whether you’re buying digital music from iTunes or Amazon, buying CDs, or subscribing to one of the music streaming services. You need to watch your data usage with these streaming services too. Unlike unlimited talk time, not everyone has unlimited data plans. Those suckers are pricey! I might add that if you’re one of those people who download free music from the Internet because “it should be free,” ? then do yourself a favor and run a virus check on your computer, because you undoubtedly need it. And also ask your company if it’s okay for you to work for free for the next year, because clearly you think it’s okay for a person to work hard at something without getting paid for it. Wow. I didn’t even see that person lift me up and prop that soap box underneath me! Glad they did though.
The Evil Overlord (my wife and ex-codriver) was really into audiobooks, so by proxy I was too. When we were on the road together we used to rent lots of audiobooks on cassette tapes or CDs from truck stops. While it was pretty cool that we could rent at one truck stop and return at a different one, we really don’t need those kiosks anymore, which is good because they’ve gone the way of parachute pants.
- Pros: Audiobooks will make your driving time fly by faster than any other thing I’ve tried; especially fiction. Let’s face it, talking to your wife on the phone while she tells you about her latest trip to the hair salon can get a tad bit boring. But getting wrapped up in a fictional world, well there’s something special about that. Another great thing is that you can sometimes get audiobooks for free at your local library. Just be sure you can return them on time. The last thing you need is an old hag librarian chasing you around with a yardstick.
- Cons: If you’re not getting audiobooks from your library, they can be costly. This is especially true if you’re picky. Libraries don’t often have the best selection, but services like Audible.com do. Isn’t that convenient? For $14.95 per month, you get one credit (usually one book) per month. The problem with this is, it only wets your appetite and you want another one. A trucker could easily go through an average-size audiobook in one day. What now? You’ve used your monthly quota in one day. So you buy more books from Audible until your next credit arrives. Cha-Ching!
The CB radio
Personally, I’d rather get a Brazilian bikini wax from a guy named Ivan than talk on the CB for any length of time, but that’s just me.
- Pros: One of the first things every trucker buys is a CB radio, so it’s basically free at this point. Secondly… nope. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got.
- Cons: Yeesh. Where do I start? I guess we start with the signal. Most CBs aren’t going to reach out further than 3-5 miles. You might get 10-15 if you had a high-end radio and direct line of sight. My CB is an out-of-tune piece of junk, so I can maybe get one mile out if I’m having a good day. Secondly, fewer drivers are on the CB radio nowadays, so if you do find someone interesting you’d better hope they’re heading the same direction as you or else you’re going to quickly go out of range. And thirdly, there is a lot of immaturity on the CB, especially in traffic backups. If you want to hear grown men calling each other “stupid,” racial slurs, cursing, perverts calling out to lady truckers, and for some strange reason, guys whispering “I ain’t got no panties on,” then the CB is your new home. Weirdo.
Pretty much every truck on the planet has an AM/FM radio installed. Yet it sometimes appears to me that the manufacturer forgets to install an antenna.
- Pros: It’s free and you can almost always find a radio station, even out in the boonies. There is a decent variety of musical genres available on FM and you can find some interesting talk radio programs on the AM side.
- Cons: First, the commercials are neverending. FM repeats the same songs in a seemingly never-ending loop. Also, the signal is short range. AM has longer range, but it focuses more on talk radio. If that’s not your thing, well tough noogies. Even with the longer range of AM, you’ll often find that signal becomes a problem. Anyone who has listened to overnight AM knows that just as soon as that paranoid weirdo starts explaining to the overnight host how the anal probe process went; that’s when your signal goes to crap. Bummer. I mean, who doesn’t like to hear about a good anal probe, right? The last thing I’d like to point out is that you’re stuck with whatever they dish up, at whatever time they wish to serve it up. Like The Bob & Tom Show? If you’re driving at night or sitting in rush hour in the wrong city, you’re flat out of luck. And even if you do catch the show, there’s no way to fast forward or rewind if you need to quit listening for a bit.
SiriusXM Radio is really the only option here, so no need to look further. Let’s jump right to the pros and cons.
- Pros: Unlike terrestrial radio, the signal only goes away when you have something like a tunnel or a building overhead. There is also lots of listening options, with over 140 channels of sports, talk, comedy, entertainment, news, and all kinds of music genres, including some you probably didn’t know existed. Many of them are commercial-free too. You can even get the official channels of all the big sports leagues. Pretty cool. Believe it or not, I used to listen to 6 hours of PGA golf coverage every day from Thursday to Sunday. Yes, I’m well aware my cool factor just plummeted. Not that it was ever really soaring in the first place.
- Cons: The service isn’t free. The packages start at $11 per month for their Mostly Music plan and go all the way up to $21 for all the channels. The receiver and antenna may not be free either. Some of the newer trucks have SiriusXM built into the truck’s stereo, but if not you’re looking at a decent chunk of change just for the hardware. Lastly, much like terrestrial radio, you are in large part stuck with what they choose to air. You can change the channel if you don’t like what’s on, so I guess that’s something. But there is no fast forward or rewind. Unlike terrestrial radio, at least now you can catch some of your shows later if you miss them. For instance, The Howard Stern Show now airs a couple of times a day, and if you still miss it, SiriusXM has a cool app that you can stream the show over the Internet any time you want. Not all shows have this option though. And again, you have to remember this is going to use up your cell phone’s data plan, but it’s better than missing your favorite show altogether.
I was using XMRadio before they merged with Sirius. Back then, there was no such thing as “timeshifting,” which is the term used to describe consuming content at a different time than when it initally aired. If I wasn’t awake for my golf tournament, I just didn’t get to listen that day (yes, I know it’s a travesty). I got fed up with paying for a service that didn’t let me listen to programs I wanted to hear when I wanted to hear them. That’s when I found…
Free audio content for truckers
So what is this free audio content and how do you get it? Well, if you chose to click the shiny Play button at the top of this article instead of reading this, you already know the answer.
Podcasts are the best media for truckers
First, I should define what a podcast is. I know some of you out there are shaking your heads, but trust me this is needed. In a push to promote the Trucker Dump podcast, I’ve been walking up to truckers at truck stops and asking if they know what a podcast is. Most of them look at me like I’ve got a pink porcupine crawling out of my left nostril.
Seriously, out of approximately 100 drivers I’ve spoken to, a good 90 of them have no idea what a podcast is. Most of those have never even heard the term before. Maybe 7 out of 100 think they know what a podcast is, but they’re way off when I ask them to describe it. Only 3 truckers I’ve spoken to actively listen to podcasts. Three! But guess what, all three loved listening to podcasts. So what’s that tell you?
What is a podcast?
Podcast: a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.
Now in trucker terms. Podcasts are basically radio shows that you can download or stream from the internet. The vast majority of podcasts are FREE! There are some video podcasts available, but most of them are audio-only. Now I know some of you non-technical people are already freaking out, so let me show you how easy this is before you go curl up in a ball in the corner of a cold, wet, shower stall. Here’s how this works:
How do you download a podcast?
First, you need a smart phone or a computer. I highly recommend doing this on your smartphone to keep things simple. You can listen to podcasts directly from your computer simply by going to iTunes or Google Play, searching for podcasts, and clicking Play, but you’ll have better luck using a smartphone. Not to mention your phone is mobile. Your computer; not so much.
The iPhone comes with a podcast app pre-installed. In Apple’s ever so annoying fashion, they named it Podcasts. Vague much, Apple? L
For Android users, I’ve been recommending Podcast Addict. It’s a free app that has a small ad banner along the bottom. If you like the app but hate ads, you can purchase the brilliantly-named Podcast Addict – Donate (yes, really) for $2.99 to get an ad-free version. ????
Finding a podcast to listen to
It’s really pretty simple. You know how you search for apps to install on your phone? It’s the same idea only you’re searching for podcasts from within your podcast app.
Open your podcast app. In it, you will see a way to search. In the Apple Podcasts app it’s a spyglass in the lower right corner. In Podcast Addict, there is a big box that says “Search.” In the search field, type anything you have an interest in; sports, travel, science, news, comedy, gaming, health, music, or heck, even trucking. Do the search and find a podcast that looks interesting. Tap it and then tap Subscribe. Find the podcast in your app and all the available episodes will show up. Find the Play symbol or the word Download and start listening.
To add more podcasts, you can repeat that process or you can find other ways to search, such as categories, genres, or popular podcasts. Tap the new podcast you found, subscribe, and listen. It’s really that easy.
Now I would like to quickly address the word “subscribe.” This freaks a lot of newbies out because usually when you subscribe to something, there is a monthly fee involved. Trust me here. If a very rare podcast is going to want money for you to subscribe, you’ll know it. So don’t worry about the word subscribe. 99.9% of podcasts are free.
Why are podcasts the perfect audio content for truckers?
First of all, they’re FREE! – Thought you might need me to say that again. FREE, FREE, FREE! But there are lots of other reasons why podcasts are the best media for truckers.
Podcasts let you listen when you want
For those of you hearing the term “podcast” for the first time, think of a podcast like a TV show you record on your Digital Video Recorder (DVR). When was the last time you missed your favorite TV show? Probably a long time, because you don’t have to be at a specific place at a specific time anymore. Even truckers gone for weeks at a time can record their TV shows and binge watch them when they get home.
Now that you have all these podcasts on your phone, you can play them whenever you want. What are you in the mood for today? Sports talks, technology, science, trivia? You can pick anything you’ve downloaded. No more are you the slave of a radio program director who tells you what you’re going to listen to and when you’re going to do it.
Podcasts let you download and save episodes whenever you want
Let’s go to back to our comparison of podcasts and DVRs. I’m guessing you’ve probably got your DVR set to automatically record The Walking Dead, right? Podcasts are like that too, only instead of recording the podcasts you’re interested in, you’re simply telling your podcast app to download new episodes.
This is where podcast apps prevail; most of them have a lot of settings. How do you want to automatically download new episodes? Do you want to wait for free WiFi? There’s a setting for that. As soon as the app sees you’re on WiFi, it will automatically download new episodes.
Or maybe you’ve got an unlimited cell data plan. In that case, you can tell it to automatically download new episodes as soon as they publish. A notification will let you know there’s a new episode available.
Or maybe you don’t want anything to automatically download. You can choose that option and download each one manually if that’s how you roll.
I actually do a combination of these. Because I don’t have unlimited data, my podcast app is set to only use WiFi. But Pocket Casts (my preferrred app – $3.99 on iOS or Android) will let me override that with just a couple of taps.
You see, a few of the podcasts I listen to are related to current events, so I choose to use my cell data to download or stream (listen without saving to your device) them immediately using cellular.
But the vast majority of the podcasts I listen to aren’t time sensitive at all. That means I can wait until I’m home where I can download a whole bunch of episodes from different podcasts.
Or if you’re on the road, you can also use free WiFi at places you might deliver like Home Depot or Sam’s Club, to stock up on new episodes. And of course, there’s always Starbucks if you can find a place to park a semi nearby.
I always seem to download way more episodes than I can possibly listen too, but that’s the beauty of podcasts. I always have a wide variety at my fingertips. And if I start one that doesn’t interest me, I can just delete it and move on. Who cares? I haven’t spent any money on them!
Podcasts let you have total playback control
Again, much like your DVR, you can skip forward or back in your podcast. Here are some scenarios where you might want to skip forward/back:
- If you pull up to a toll booth, you can tap the Pause button and resume when you’re on your way again. You can even come back to the podcast in a week and your place will be saved.
- If you don’t have an interest in the subject the host/hosts are talking about, you can tap a button to “Fast Forward 30 seconds”.
- Got a long-winded host going on and on about a product you aren’t interested in? Tap that button quickly four times to fast forward 2 minutes!
- Did you miss something important the guest said? Tap the “Rewind 15 seconds” button.
- In some podcast apps, these fast forward/rewind times can be even be set to your preferred time interval.
- Also, certain podcast apps will let you set a start time. For instance, if you know that a particular podcast doesn’t really get started until the 3-minute mark, you can have the episode to start 3 minutes in. And these settings can be different for each show you listen to. Cool, huh?
- And obviously, just like your DVR, you can skip commercials too.
On the subject of skipping ads, let me say up front that the Trucker Dump having sponsors on the show now has nothing to do with what I’m about to say. I’ll be honest, I skip some advertisements too. But before you go skipping commercials, let me tell you something about podcast advertising. I actually enjoy most podcast advertising. Hard to believe, but it’s true.
Now hear me out. Podcast advertising isn’t always just listening to some bored podcaster read a script. Sure, some might read it, but the thing is, I will often learn something new with each new ad read. This is how I hope to implement advertising into the Trucker Dump so y’all will want to listen to all of them, buy their product or service, and keep both them and my wallet happy.
I think David Sparks and Katie Floyd from the Mac Power Users are the best at this. When they tell you about an app or a service they’re promoting, they will often teach you something new along the way. I’ve heard about a million ads for an app called TextExpander from Smile Software. I’ve owned it for years, but I still learn new tricks to use it when I hear their ads. That’s why I rarely skip a TextExpander app.
Now back to me skipping ads. I always listen to new advertisers for a while. Once I figure out it’s the same read every time or it’s simply not something I’m ever going to buy, that’s when I start skipping them. But every once in a while, I listen to another one to see if it’s changed. Sorry for the tangent. Back to it.
Unlike your DVR, you can even control how fast you listen…
- Think the host talks too slow? You can set the playback speed to 1.5x or 2x speed if that’s your thing. Personally, I like to hear the hosts speak at normal speed. I think something is lost when you listen faster, but you do whatever floats your boat.
- Or if the host talks too fast, you can run them at half speed.
Podcasts cover a wide range of topics
- Like sports? Many of your favorite ESPN shows have podcast versions too, such as Pardon the Interruption, Golic and Wingo, and Around the Horn.
- How about news? Choose from Fox News Flash, The Lead with Jake Tapper, or NPR News Now.
- Maybe you’re a computer nerd. Check out MacBreak Weekly or This Week in Google.
- Do shiny new cars make you happy? Check out The Car and Driver Podcast, Talking Cars from Consumer Reports, or NPR’s hilarious Car Talk.
- Maybe you want to learn something new? Check out Ted Talks Daily or Stuff You Should Know.
- Into documentary-type stuff, check out the Serial podcast from NPR
- Maybe fiction is more your schtick? We’re Alive is a zombie story that brings you a new chapter in an ongoing tale each episode.
- Fan of The Simpsons TV show? There’s enough of them to make you want to eat your shorts!
- Have trouble sleeping? Fire up Sleep With Me – The podcast that puts you to sleep. Please do this after you’re done driving.
- Are you into Chameleon breeding? Yep, there’s a podcast for that too called Chameleon Breeder. I’m not yanking your chain here.
If you have an obscure interest in something, it’s likely someone is doing a podcast about it. It might not be a great podcast, but it’ll be out there.
Podcasts can be good or bad
Some podcasts sound great, but have worthless content. Others have great content, but sound awful. The good thing is that you can make the decision. If you think the content is worthy enough, you can choose to tolerate less than stellar audio.
Podcasts don’t cover everything
I obviously love podcasts, but I do need to point out a few things podcasts aren’t good at.
- Podcasts aren’t great for music – There are some shows that play clips of music, but as you probably know, it’s illegal to play copyrighted music. There used to be a trucking podcast that simply played an entire album in a continuous stream. Unsurprisingly, it’s not available anymore.
- Podcasts aren’t great for live sports – There are lots of sports talk shows, but none of them cover live sporting events. Again, we’re dealing with copyright issues here. As much as it pains me to say it, if you want live sports, you need to keep your SiriusXM Radio.
- Podcasts don’t cover every topic – It’s shocking how many podcasts cover oddball subjects, but you’re probably out of luck if you’re trying to find one based on your pantyhose fetish.
Podcasts are the best media for truckers
As you can tell, I’m a podcast junkie. Heck, I do one myself so that’s no surprise. I only wish I could explain to every trucker what they’re missing. I listen to podcasts approximately 75% of my driving time. The rest is spent singing along as loud as I can.
As soon as I got into podcasts, I ditched my XMRadio and the monthly bill that went along with it. I’ve never looked back. Everything I’ve learned since then has been from podcasts.
Podcast listeners unite!
So if you’ve never tried listening to a podcast before, please give it a shot. You can start by clicking the Play button near the top of this blog post. By doing so, you’ll quickly notice that we cover a lot more in the podcast version, such as commenting on stories, products, and services I find on the web. I also read listener comments and answer questions in the Feedback section. And more recently, I’ve added a new segment where a trucker highlights a favorite restaurant that is truck-accessible or within range of truck parking. Basically, we just have a lot more fun in there. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear me break into song every now and then, right?
I honestly feel bad that most truckers have no idea what they’re missing. Because of podcasts I’ve laughed out loud, I’ve learned new things, I’ve gotten mad, I’ve been entertained, and I’ve even wept quietly. When was the last time any type of radio did that?
If you’re already a podcast listener, please spread the word to your fellow truckers. Tell them about your favorite podcast and maybe go even further.
I have decided that I’m not going to be shy about this anymore. If someone shows even the slightest interest in podcasts, I’m going to ask them what interests they have and offer to set their phone up right there on the spot. What’s the worst that can happen? They’re already looking at me weird anyway.
Podcast show notes:
In today’s episode of the world famous Trucker Dump Podcast, we discuss why podcasts are so perfect for truckers.
I also talk about losing my Kenworth and I share a funny quote from a million mile safe trucker I met. Driverchrismc tells us about a Mexican restaurant in the Trucker Grub segment and he also corrects me about Oregon speed limits.
I point you to a couple of excellent health resources and fun little game I’ve been addicted to lately. I also discuss taking on sponsors for the show and we have an interview with one of them, Citadel Fleet Safety.
In the feedback section, we hear from not one, but two Jeffs. One clarifies the CRST CDL exemption and the other shares his thoughts on reaching truckers about how great podcasts are.
Taylor asks about trucker seats, while I share one of our Slack group conversations that happened when Trucker Bob got screwed by buying a reserved truck parking space. And last, we hear from Roger, who thinks I’m a dick.
This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:
- Citadel Fleet Safety – Call (800)269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
- East Insurance Group– Call (443)304-9927 for your free quote today.
Links mentioned in the podcast:
Sponsored blog post: The Citadel Escort Mobile Emergency Response System from Citadel Fleet Safety
Audible.com for audiobooks
Podcasts app for iOS from Apple
Podcast Addict app for Android from developer Xavier Guillemane
Podcast Addict – Donate
Pocket Casts for iOS by developer Shifty Jelly
Pocket Casts for Android by developer Shifty Jelly
Textexpander from Smile Software
Below are all the podcasts mentioned in this episode. I have not included links because it makes more sense for you to search for the title in your specific podcast app (and I’m reeeeally lazy).
Mac Power Users
Pardon the Interruption
Golic and Wingo
Around the Horn
Fox News Flash
The Lead with Jake Tapper
NPR News Now
This Week in Google
The Car and Driver Podcast
Talking Cars from Consumer Reports
Car Talk from NPR
Ted Talks Daily
Stuff You Should Know
Serial from NPR
Sleep With Me
School of Podcasting
Links in the Feedback section:
You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com
Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group
Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com
Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast?
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?