The Trucker Brief: The Death of The Trucking Industry
By: Jake Isreal
Once upon a time, being a truck driver was a respected profession. One didn’t just go to a 3-week crash course on passing a license exam. Hell, not that long ago there wasn’t even a license exam to take. People grew up on farms and learned to drive with their dad, who learned to drive with his. Also, you weren’t just a glorified steering wheel holder. Back in the day—as they say—you had to know a lot more than just how to get from point A to point B. You also had to know how to fix your truck and the issues it would develop along the way.
Today, most companies won’t even let their drivers change a lightbulb. Large mega companies are hiring and training drivers just to hold the steering wheel and read a navigation system. Gone are the days of real professional drivers, and because of that the income of truck drivers has dropped drastically. In 1980, the average driver was making $110k a year (adjusted for inflation). Now, the average driver is making $40k, works longer hours, and is under much more regulation.
With these drastic changes, the industry has a hard time recruiting good, responsible, and safe drivers to go out on the road. Why would people bring themselves into this industry of death? The idea of leaving home for weeks at a time and sacrificing any semblance of a social life for $40k a year is simply insane. When I got into the business, over ten years and a million miles ago, it wasn’t much better; however, I can certainly tell the decline in professionalism and courtesy between drivers out here.
Having said that, even the truck stops of the country have fallen off the deep end. I remember, as a kid, my dad once said, “Follow the trucks and you’ll find a good meal.” He was right! You used to go to a truck stop and get some of the best food one could find. Drivers put up with a lot during their travels and being gone from home makes it extra difficult to find a good meal and some relaxation. A truck stop would offer that much needed luxury. A nice comfortable recliner in front of the TV, and a good hot meal at a café were some of the best parts of being a truck driver. Now, the mega companies have taken over this as well and created big “travel centers.”
They have all but disowned the trucks that buy thousands of gallons of diesel a month—each—at their stores, which they have also stopped calling ‘truck stops’ in order to attract more families in their minivans. Replacing good home cooking restaurants with fast food chains in order to get people in and out as quickly as possible. The recliners in the TV rooms have been replaced with basic chairs with no comfort. The worship chapels are disappearing into oblivion, which I guess goes along with the times. Soon, we will have foot washes and prayer rugs.
Yeah, the industry is pretty much dead. I wouldn’t push anyone into trucking these days; and certainly so if they have any wish to start a family. It’s just not worth it. In some places, you actually make more money flipping burgers at the fast food joint in the truck stop.
This is all so very depressing though, and I don’t want to end on that note. I will end with a short list of some of the good places that still exist for those of us stuck in this death trap of a career. Enjoy!
Seminole Truck Stop/Café 27
Check out this hidden gem located near Miami and Alligator Alley. They feature 2 tiki bars serving cold beer and an excellent Cuban sandwich. Don’t forget to try the gator bites!
Located on I-80 near the Pennsylvania line. This place features everything a trucker dreams of. Get your chrome, your eats, and your drinks all in one stop. They have great food and an awesome English pub in the back. This is definitely one of the good ones.
Cenex Exit 45
This place is a great little stop. It’s nothing special, just plenty of parking and GREAT food. Make sure to have some pie…just like mom’s, only better (shhhhh).
TA/ R Place
Okay, this is one of the chain truckstops that I despise. BUT, they still have their great restaurant here. Make sure to have the chicken potpie. It’s amazing.
Big Cabin Truck Stop
Big Cabin, OK
Located off the I-44 turnpike, is one of my favorite spots for breakfast. This place has plenty of parking and some of the best biscuits and gravy I’ve had the pleasure of eating.
Amish Market Square
Saint Charles, MN
This place is the real deal! Just a quiet little spot in the Minnesota countryside with plenty of parking and some of the best home cooking you will ever have. Enjoy the homemade chicken and dumplings.
Thanks for reading everyone, and if you disagree with my assessment of these fine locations, well…you are worse than Hitler!
Author: Jake Isreal