A professor suggests truck driving requires little judgment…

November 27, 2016

Note: The real message, if any, here has less to do with truck driving than respect for and the value of human work. We are headed into a brave new world of sorts, way beyond the industrial revolution, in which we are so clever we can put all of ourselves out of a job. And then what?

Using a quote by itself can be misleading due to overall context of what someone said or wrote — I covered that in a recent post concerning something about journalism, but the following was an insult to me:

“Long-haul truck driving is a great example, where there isn’t much judgment involved and it’s a fairly controlled environment,” Kaplan said.

I’m a long-haul truck driver. Well I hope that guy doesn’t get run over by a truck or that he himself does not cause a collision by doing that diagonal run-in-front-of-a-big-rig maneuver (so common now), almost under its bumper to make the interstate exit at the last minute (or maybe I don’t).

I’m not even going to bother checking back to see who this guy is —  just some college professor.

Actually, looking at the context, he was suggesting that driving over interstates between towns might be work most susceptible to being replaced by autonomous (driverless) trucks. I think it was suggested in the article that what might happen is that human drivers might still navigate in towns and in and out of warehouses and such. He was just saying that what he considered relatively low-skilled jobs (thanks a lot) will be, or are the first replaced by the newest technology.

Well I have news for Mr. Professor, even though I think there is a problem or danger in it, so-called “artificial intelligence” is replacing a lot of what had thought to have been highly-cerebral jobs, requiring much education.

But back to that quote about long-haul trucking not requiring much judgment. On its face that is absurd. Actually, the reality is that judgment is the main thing required in trucking these days. Trucks used to be a lot harder to learn how to drive and just a lot harder to drive period. I got into it all after they had become much easier and they have become even easier since I entered 21 years ago.

But the rest of the story is that drivers must use judgment in so many things they do all day long — how to make schedules, which are erratic and change at a whim (most of it is not fixed-route driving), and how to make it fit into hours-of-service regulations and where to find a legal parking place before your legal hours run out and what to do when held at a place and your hours run out but you are not allowed to stay at the shipper or receiver (I just saw a sign the other day that said even if my hours of service were done I could not stay and would be charged with trespass), and how to drive through bad weather and decide when it is just too bad, and how to find places for which one is often given wrong directions to, and how to deal with motorists who constantly want to drive under your truck bumpers, and even how to deal with some other truck drivers who are not so careful as you are, and how to deal with unreasonable customers or shippers and receivers (fortunately not all are) who you don’t dare get on the bad side of and how to decide what to do about that warning light on the dash that might mean nothing or just that something needs looked at soon or that it means stop now or the engine will blow up (and the lights are not always specific on the problem), and if you do put yourself out of commission, what happens to the load and where will you sleep? And what if you weigh your truck down the road and you are overweight? Do you try to go back to the shipper and use up your limited time or do you hope you burn off enough fuel (which you have to make a calculation based on miles and fuel consumption) before you get to the state scale and risk getting a super-expensive citation that goes on your record? Yeah I’ve just touched on a few of the judgments long-haulers make every day, every hour.

Of course if the truck drives itself then no problem, except the driver then has no job and can’t contribute to the economy.

Now, Mr. Professor, I actually graduated from college myself. And although I would prefer a real human professor, there are robots programmed with artificial intelligence and there are such things as recordings of lectures that can be played on television and on the internet, greatly reducing the need for professors, and only having to be updated from time to time.

We can all be replaced.

Isn’t it wonderful? Look at all the free time we’ll have. I’m not sure who pays us then or how we will all figure out how to divvy up the finite resources of our good earth without the system in which we earn tokens by what we contribute (or in some families by what others have contributed).

But you can’t stop progress. I’m not sure why. I just know you can’t.

But just what is the meaning of life and what is the value of work? I think the value of work goes way beyond dollars and cents. And just how healthy are we going to be when none of us has to work?


So I did go back and find the article from which I lifted the quote that insulted my job (and it is an informative one, I must admit):




One of a possibly vanishing breed departs …

January 31, 2010

I  just attended the funeral of one of my brother-in-laws and realized that he was one of what seems at times to be a rare or vanishing breed of men. Instead of asking for help he went out and did things for himself and helped others too. He grew up in humble circumstances, okay, poverty. How would he say it? “It was root hog or die”.

He left school by eighth grade, I believe, and began to do construction work. He, and his brother, learned a lot from a small-time home contractor.

He did most of his work up here in the northern end of California’s Sacramento Valley.  As is the custom in these parts, he often not only did the carpentry to build houses, but some or all of the plumbing and electrical work and so on. He had little use for unions.

In fact, having known him for decades, ever since I was a teenager, I had thought he never did belong to the carpenter’s union. But he told me that he and his brother did for awhile. At the time it was the only way they could get work. But both of them got tired of showing up to a union hall and waiting to get work that might never come. They decided to just go out and get it themselves.

In addition, my late brother-in-law told me that he resented union reps coming out to a job in their air conditioned vehicles and wasting his time and telling him what to do when he was tired and hot and sweaty. He said that once when on a job he helped the concrete guy because you can’t afford to get behind when you’re pouring concrete lest it set up prematurely, he got chewed out by a union rep and threatened with losing his job for working out of his classification.

Both him and his brother built up a reputation as hard, dependable, and skilled craftsmen in their trade. Unfortunately his brother was eventually hurt on the job and his full-time career ended there.

But my late brother-in-law carried on for many decades. I can never remember him having trouble finding work, and he seldom had to leave the local area. And he was always well paid.

He raised two children and provided well for them. He usually lived out in the country and did many of the things many of us end up hiring others to do himself. I don’t think he was much of a vegetable gardener, for by his own admission he tried at times to raise a garden but had little luck.

But I recall him helping me or telling me how to do several things around the house. I recall him installing a swamp cooler for me at one house and he had no trouble getting the contraption onto the roof, using a kind of makeshift rope noose or pulley set-up. He taught me — with much effort and patience — how to do the truck driver’s hitch, and I’m a truck driver (although in my brand of trucking I don’t use it).

I can’t imagine a man of his breed ever being out of work.  There were short periods of time in which he had to work out of his regular trade. He told me he once worked at a local lumber mill and did not care for it. Fortunately he was able to continue his regular trade in short order.

Being brought up in the root hog or die environment seemed to have taught him the value of learning  skills that people are willing to pay for.

Some look to government. Some look to themselves.

I did not agree with many things he said. I was sometimes too sensitive to his not always gentle gibes. But I admired him nonetheless.

I  miss you already Robert Lee Geeter (Nov. 17, 1946 to Jan. 22, 2010).