5 Terrifying Things Only Truckers Know About the Highway

#2. It's Surprisingly Easy to Get a Trucking License

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They make it so easy to get your trucker's license that pretty much anyone could find themselves behind the steering wheel of what Quis calls "a 60-ton highway missile."

"Most people are fresh out of those diploma mills known as truck driving school," Spline told us. "It usually takes about three weeks to complete." For comparison, that's less time than it took to write this article. Including all the procrastinating and panicked deadline sobbing, of course.

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The amount of hard alcohol needed for both was about the same.

"In an attempt to buck the trend of underqualified drivers, I became a trainer," Quis told us. "The worst student I had happened to be my first. His first problem was a total inability to drive and read signs at the same time. I finally decided I had enough and forced him to navigate from Memphis, Tennessee, to Dallas, Texas, all by himself, and went to bed, only to wake up in freaking Mississippi!" The driver got his CDL (trucker's license) anyway, and then "called me a few days after that completely lost in California asking for my help. That was when I decided I'd had enough: I told him to call his dispatcher, then blocked his number."

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"Hey! You fellas know how to get back to I-35 from here?"

It seems like putting drivers like that on the road would be more trouble than it's worth, but that's not how the higher-ups see it. "Truck companies need to keep costs low enough so they can keep dipping their cigars in the tears of starving Ethiopian children before smoking them, but they have almost no control over one expense: fuel," Quis explained. The solution is to make the CDL super easy to attain so that "there's never a shortage of new, naive drivers willing to work for practically nothing, keeping wages for experienced drivers deflated." The numbers back that up: In 2013, the large carriers showed a 97 percent turnover rate -- and that was after the numbers dropped. That means that, statistically speaking, every driver you see is both new to the job and about to quit. They're more preoccupied with thinking about their next career move than with whether you're currently inside their wheel well.

So what accounts for that turnover? Well ...

#1. Truckers Are Paid by the Mile, and That Is Insanely Dangerous

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Trucking differs from most other types of careers because it's almost impossible to get a sense of how much money you're going to make. You're paid by how far you go, not how much time you spend driving -- so if a shipment is late, or traffic is bad, you basically miss out on a big chunk of your paycheck.

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Imagine cops getting paid based on how many bullets they fire and you begin to get an idea of the problem.

"There is the trip to plan," says Spline, "as well as calculating where to get fuel (some states like California have VERY high road taxes, and so you are limited in how much fuel you can buy -- the companies I worked for generally capped it at 50 gallons), as well as calculating how many miles you can travel."

Plus, there's a logbook to keep, and regulations that demand that truckers don't drive for longer than 11 hours a day and spend at least 10 hours sleeping. So another big part of trucking is, of course, lying about all that shit. Anyone who follows those rules isn't going to make enough money to keep themselves rolling in microwave burritos and truck stop whores. Most truckers ditch the sleep and choose the work. Coffee, Red Bull, and upbeat K-pop just isn't enough sometimes.

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Emphasis on sometimes.

"One company I worked for used to hand out uppers to their solo drivers along with their paycheck," says Spline. "I can remember being so damn tired and hopped up on ephedrine that the center line would sprout wings and fly away as I drove past."

Not all truckers indulge: Quis, for example, is always sober behind the wheel. But he's the exception, not the rule. That's the price you pay for a nice crisp tomato or an unwilted head of lettuce: drugged out, stressed-out, overworked, frantic, and lost land-boat pilots screaming their way across the country while the road signs berate them with the voices of their mothers.

That salad better be amazing. Maybe put some cheese on that shit, in honor of those who got it to you.

JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked that you can contact on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Donec Quis and Mallory Spline are truckers.

Related Reading: For more insight into careers that we know little about, then check out life as a drug dealer or a ghost hunter. Or see why being a dude in porn isn't all it cracked up to be. Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.

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