Trucking Culture and Chicken Crates

This foreword was written by an angry contributor who tracked down Mark Stairwalt last Friday at the loading dock of Thelma and Louise’s farm in Stink Creek, Kentucky.  A heated conversation followed, while two migrant workers, who paid pirates to smuggle them into the United States last year after they got laid off from a Chinese Wal-Mart, loaded chicken crates into Mark’s 53-foot trailer. 

The conversation, or at least the printable part of it, went like this: 

“Whaddaya MEAN, you haven’t had time to post?  Shift Journal is a valuable community resource—you have to do SOMETHING!  And just think about how much you’ve unexpectedly disrupted the routine of autistic readers, suddenly deprived of new Shift posts with their morning coffee and anxiously rocking in their desk chairs while awaiting your return.  Now get your act together, and give us our fix of regular Shift Journal posts before things get ugly!” 

Mark responded with a description of truckers’ work hours, which appears below.  The contributor, still unhappy with the situation, especially after stepping in some chicken byproducts, then decided to give you—Shift’s readers—an opportunity to express sympathy, righteous outrage, or anything in between, in the comments.  Readers, do you think that:

 (1) Mark is a jerk for leaving his readers and contributors hanging, and he deserves to be thrown into the tar-polluted waters of Stink Creek and then rolled in the feathers from his chicken crates.

(2) Quit picking on Mark already, you cruel, hard-hearted monster—can’t you see that the poor overworked guy is doing the best he can?

(3) Other comments more thoughtful, nuanced, and in line with Shift’s oft-expressed view that the autistic cognitive style is one of deep and complex reflection, as well as with the high intellectual caliber of our readers.


Dear (name of angry contributor redacted)

Mostly I’m just rolling with the punches. Not anxious to return to relentless posting in part because I’m no longer sure it’s necessary, but to be honest all my ponderings are still pretty much moot right now. I’ve worked this hard before, but only when the employer was in panic-response to a seasonal or other unplanned shift in the balance of drivers and freight. So, it generally hasn’t lasted more than a few or occasionally several weeks at a time. This situation looks much more like a plan I’ve watched unfold for a year and a half finally having come together. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about logistics just watching it happen, but the thing is, it’s uncharted territory. It could be the new normal, or it could still be just a fever. Me, I’ve always been content to take the money when it was there, and the free time when it wasn’t, but there are plenty of drivers who don’t even like to work for a company that isn’t making this efficient use of their time. And to be a business owner, making this efficient use of your equipment, is what it’s all about.

In the spirit of “trucking is an alien culture to most Americans,” let me tell you about my weekends right now. This one will start when I get home tomorrow a little before noon. It will end at 4 am Monday when I’ll need to be back on the road. That’s 40 hours; the aim from the company’s perspective is for it to be 34 hours, as that’s enough to reset the counter on the number of hours I can work next week. No two weekends are the same though; next week I will request to be home Saturday morning in order to get our taxes done. Typically I do get home around midnight on Friday, however if I’m still home when the sun sets a week from Sunday it will be a gift; I will more likely be driving again. I never learn how any of this is going to shake out though until late afternoon on Friday, because that’s when the load planners hash it all out.

image via flickr

on 02/17/12 in featured, Internet | 4 Comments | Read More

Comments (4)


  1. Mark Stairwalt says:

    To readers: yes, I was given a heads-up that this had been scheduled to be posted (my only edit was to add the explanatory link re: Thelma and Louise); to site admins: it is still and always a good idea to be mindful of who still has posting privileges even – or especially – if they have not used them in ages; to commenters: things take time to shake out and find new equilibrium, and my current work obligations have finally forced me into a shakeout that’s actually long, long overdue. You will please notice that nowhere have I said Shift is over. It may be over, but then it might have been over at any moment over the past couple years. The surprise should be that we’re still here talking about it.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Providing a service, such as regular postings up on Shift Journal, is a gift from the person to the community. It is not an entitlement that the community can demand at the expense of the giver.

    We all have constraints on our time and we all have limits on our abilities. Respect Mark’s limits and be grateful for the gifts he’s given.

  3. peter says:

    Funny, I wanted to be a truck driver before I left school, and used to buy Truck magazine here in the UK then, I went to see the film White Line Fever in the 70’s; now there is a wiki page about it! My dad was a truck driver and I used to go with him on some of the runs, sleeping overnight under the tarpaulin with the load, seeing the sun rise at 5. Until your last post I had never made a link to the traits I see in myself and my dad, stark after my son’s diagnosis. After qualifying as a HGV mechanic I didn’t make the intended jump into driving, instead I retrained now sit in front of a spreadsheet, it’s cleaner and I can post on appropriate sites. You do a great job here, I am patient and there are the archives and links. When the time comes maybe there will be more, maybe not. But thanks.

  4. selene says:

    thanks so much for all you’ve shared, and the beautiful page you’ve created. i hope that you’ll have time to return occasionally with some new insight, but i’m grateful without reservation for the ones you’ve already shared.

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