OPINION: Don’t discount the educational benefits of Truck Driver U

Some folks might think that knowledge gained from driving a truck isn't very useful in other areas of life, but I'm here to tell you that one can learn a lot of things from the over-the-road university that come in very handy no matter which career path a person might choose. In fact, people shouldn't put down truck drivers or consider them uneducated. I've met some very smart ones going down the road on 18 wheels, and I've talked to a few others who had advanced degrees in a variety of fields but, for some reason, were still driving a truck.

If you don't believe me about truckers being educated, just think about how much truckers need to know about physics and chemistry. They have to have a working knowledge of gravity, mass, center of mass, inertia, velocity, force, compression, friction and the like. If they don't, bad things can happen in a hurry. Those who haul chemicals and fuels have to know about such things as chemical reactions, static electricity, combustion and flashpoints.

They have to be bookkeepers, too, handling bills of lading, fuel records and logbooks. And some of it can get pretty complicated -- especially when it comes to figuring out how to make hours of service, time off, miles logged and miles driven all come out legal. Good math skills are a must. At least they used to be back in the day when I spent a lot of time in a big rig.

Maybe it's fallen by the wayside, but truck drivers used to learn to speak a second language while on the road -- I call it CB jargon because it includes some 10 Codes and a whole lot of other words which only an active CBer can fully understand. They talk about everything from alligators to seat covers and bears in plain wrappers. I learned a few languages in college, but they're dead languages, mostly because the people who spoke the language are dead and the languages aren't spoken by anybody anymore and so are not changing with usage. CB jargon was a living language that seemed to continually change and grow every day.

While I maybe shouldn't reveal my sources, my first hint at some news stories comes from overheard truck driver conversations on the CB radio. I check it out, of course, and find it to be true.

Truck drivers are good philosophers, too. They have all that time to think about and figure out life's problems as they drive down the road. More people ought to hear the things they have to say. While a lot of truck driver philosophy can't be repeated here, some of it reveals that truckers have a pretty good grasp on the world and what makes it go around. I wish some folks in Washington would spend a little time on the interstate listening to those big-rig drivers talk. If they did, our country probably wouldn't be in the mess it's in today.

Some truck drivers could make great radio talk show hosts too. They carry on conversations from state to state and get different truckers, going in both directions, to join in for as far as CB radio signals hold out. I once listened to a debate between two truckers as to whether or not trucks with more lights go faster than those with just the lights required by DOT regulations. The conversation continued across much of Arizona and New Mexico and was interesting the whole way. I was kind of disappointed when the debating truckers stopped for the night because I had to keep on going and could have used the discussion to keep me awake for a few more hours.

Some things learned are a little more practical. If you're a truck driver, you know all about pre-trip and post-trip inspections because you have to do them every day, or at least say that you do in your logbook. And you know they're important too because they can save you a lot of headaches and troubles on the road. It's no fun sitting alongside the road broken down or put out of service by the DOT simply because you didn't check things out before you left. And it's mighty embarrassing to get to your destination and find out you can't unload because you didn't make sure you had all the right equipment with you (such as hoses, fittings, tools, and the like) to get the job done.

But pre-trip and post-trip inspections are essential for other people besides truck drivers. Just think of the trouble and expense a fellow could save if he'd take the time to check out his car before heading off on a trip across the country or just across town! And such simple inspections can have other applications as well. Just the other day, I got into the shower without a pre-trip inspection. Well, once I was under the water and dripping wet, I noticed I didn't have any soap and had to holler at Mrs. Griz for assistance. And a precheck of the toilet paper roller could save a fellow some embarrassing moments too!

While eating greasy foods and sitting in a truck all day can make one a well-rounded individual in a bad way, all the knowledge and wisdom gained from truck driving can also make one a well-rounded and educated individual prepared for most of life's challenges.

Colleges and universities ought to offer at least some credit hours for time spent over the road. Things learned there might, in many cases, prove far more practical than some of the stuff taught in institutions of higher learning. Why? Because it's real-life stuff -- you know, right down there where the rubber meets the road!

Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle Observer. He may be reached by email at [email protected]. Opinions expressed are those of the author.