5 Terrifying Things Only Truckers Know About the Highway
We don't spend much time thinking about truckers, which is strange considering that everything we eat, wear, and plug into our walls was at one point entrusted to their care. Well, Cracked tracked down Donec Quis and Mallory Spline, two of these noble "freeway cowboys," to ask them what it's like to be the platelets that carry nutrients down the arteries of America. After they corrected us (apparently plasma cells carry nutrients, and "freeway cowboys" is the dumbest thing they've ever heard), we discovered that ...
Everyone on the Highway Is Boning
Our nation's highways are so full of people fillin' 'er up that it's a wonder our species hasn't died in a massive orgiastic pile of twisted metal and bared flesh.
And truck drivers can see all of it.
"How about closing the sunroof so we don't have to smell all of it, too?"
"Every truck that passes you has a driver perched comfortably on the summit of Mount Watch-You-Fuck," Quis told us. "So whether you're into highway head, roadway romps, slingin' salami, or the two-finger tunnel run, know that you will be seen."
Truckers and comedy writers share a love of sexual euphemisms.
"I passed a guy once who was on the receiving end of a very energetic cock gobble. For the briefest of moments our eyes met, and he smiled as if to say, 'Yup, she's blowin' me.' I've seen a woman who was so far into her own snatch that she had one leg propped against the dash ... My all-time favorite, though, belongs to the greatest old man ever. When I say old, I don't mean he's a little past his prime, either. This dude was easily on the losing side of 60, and he passed me beating his dick like it just spray painted graffiti in Singapore."
This stuff is so common, Spline says that "one of the best ways to spot a newbie truck driver is when they blow up the CB radio by calling the action like Howard Cosell*: 'He's past third and heading for home!'"
Fat chance. Nobody could call road sex like Cosell.
*Dear younger readers: Howard Cosell was a baseball commentator.**
**Dear nerdier readers: Baseball was something like Quidditch, but much more homoerotic and played while secretly on drugs.
The Truck That You Think Doesn't Belong on This Road Probably Does Not Belong on This Road
Have you ever been driving along some twisting back road only to get nearly run off a corner by some 80-foot mega-beast that surely has no business being on that road? Well, it probably didn't have any business on that road, and that trucker wasn't an asshole, he was a spider: He was more scared than you were. It's hard to imagine anyone getting thoroughly lost in the days of smartphones and GPS, but that's not always the best option for a trucker:
Plus, the highway patrol is really leery of sextant navigation.
"The primary reason trucking companies want us using GPS is because they plot the absolute shortest route possible, regardless of how efficient or safe," Quis told us. "But believe me, shorter does not equal quicker." His GPS once led him down a street that "a pickup would have trouble turning around in," and he ended up knocking over a streetlamp without even realizing it. Trucks aren't supposed to go into residential areas, but at the same time, they often have to make deliveries to residential areas.
Spline ended up in a worse situation. Near where she lives in Oregon, there's a road called the 242, which (on paper) is the shortest route between Sisters and Eugene -- but in reality, it's not a route you can take with a truck. But your GPS doesn't know that, and if you don't do your own research, you'll be slaloming a metal whale across a winding highway that even sport bikes have trouble taking at speed.
"Just shift down to third, wuss. You'll be fine."
Yes, Prostitutes and Drugs Are Everywhere
If you've ever been to a truck stop, you've probably interacted with a prostitute and not known it. Or absolutely, unquestionably known all about it. It really depends on the subtlety of the prostitute. "Lot lizards" are a permanent fixture at most depots, and will work in conjunction with drug dealers and pimps to keep professional rambling men buried in their chosen vice. Spline told us this story:
"The dude I was driving with -- he and I were, well, you know -- and there was a knock on the door. Turned out to be a prostitute who wanted to know if we wanted extra company."
That's how bold the lot lizards are: They see you right in the middle of boning, and they still try to sell you some boning.
There may be worse ways to earn rent, but we sure as hell can't think of any.
The dealers use the CB radio waves -- that's the thing you use to holler "10-4, good buddy" and sing "Convoy" and then say "I'm sorry, I'll stop now and never use it again" -- to advertise "white smoke" (meth). When the cops show up, truckers repay the favor by telling the lot lizards where they are, sometimes letting them hide out in their truck until the heat dies down.
Which makes sense, because the cops are way more interested in nailing the women than the johns. That's something they've got in common with the johns, actually.
Of course, after spending all your time at a rural truck stop, jail is probably welcomed relief.
It's Surprisingly Easy to Get a Trucking License
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.
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."
"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 ...
Truckers Are Paid by the Mile, and That Is Insanely Dangerous
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.
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.
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.
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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Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.