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The Ride of My Life: Intro

In mid-June, Bert Johnson, Con-way Truckload’s vice president of human resources, spent a week riding with Frank Merrill, one of Truckload’s professional drivers. Bert sent in daily journal entries detailing each day of his 3,400-mile trek with Frank. Over the next few weeks, we will be reprinting Bert’s submissions about his experiences. We begin today with Bert’s overview of his trip in his own words.

June 8, 2013

As you may or may not know, I took a weeklong truck trip with Frank Merrill, one of our professional drivers who is also a finisher. I have been in trucking for the past 15 years, but have not experienced anything like I did that week.

I got on Frank's truck at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 9 in Joplin and returned at 5p.m. on Saturday, June 15. After nearly 3,400 miles, I was ready to get home. I won't take for granted the simple things in life ... going to the restroom when I need to, taking a shower daily, eating, sleeping or just driving. Most of us don't give these self-sustaining life activities a second thought. If we were told that we were only going to eat once today, go to the bathroom twice a day, take a shower every second or third day, sleep when our job was done, be awakened by someone knocking at your door in the middle of the night, making doctor's appointments at home, but then told that you will have to change your appointment because we have more work for you to do, and the list goes on we wouldn’t work here … and that’s just the lifestyle.

Now let's take a look at the job itself. Drivers are dispatched to pick up a load, most likely someplace they haven't been before and then come to find out, they have to be a magician to get into the loading dock ... barely enough room for a straight truck with a pup, but somehow they pull it off. Next, they get to wait potentially several hours while being loaded (and their 14-hour clock ticking away). Finally after being loaded, they get the opportunity to drive, which is a much different experience than driving a car. Buses, trucks, automobiles, etc. are like missiles trying to destroy their truck by cutting them off, suddenly braking, etc., while they continually conduct evasive maneuvers to limit their exposure. They have to be on high alert at all times. Finally they arrive at their destination only to find another difficult backing situation to overcome before unloading. After several hours they are finally unloaded. Before moving on, they must complete their paperwork, send their Qualcomm forms and then hopefully they can go ... either to another customer or truck stop with enough hours left to drive and safely park ... eat, shower, fuel and finally sleep (if they can).

What I described above is a typical day for our professional drivers. Driving a truck is a lifestyle and is not for everyone. While we have many experienced long-term drivers we also have many new drivers coming straight out of school to join us, who probably have no clue as to this lifestyle. As non-drivers, we must do everything we can to support each and every driver day in and day out. If it was not for these brave men and women, we would not have the opportunity to work for such a great company.

On this trip, I took the opportunity to journal each day. I took notes each day detailing my experiences beginning on Sunday, my first day out. I encourage as many of you as possible to take a truck trip … it will be an eye-opener.

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