For over 30 years, I have heard drivers speak of the freedom of the road and drivers likened to the old time cowboy. Asking one of those drivers to tell me what he/she was talking about, I would hear, “it is about working in the wide open spaces” or “I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder.” I didn’t think too much about it, but never fully understood what they meant.
In 2008, while working out my two-week notice, I got talking to a driver for a company I was interested in. When he asked me why I was leaving the company I was with, I told him I didn’t like being micromanaged. I was an experienced driver and didn’t need dispatch holding my hand, and I just wanted to be told where to pick up the load, where and when to deliver it, and then be left alone to do my job. He got a phone call and I had an epiphany, I finally understood. The concept of freedom of the road means different things to different people depending on when they started trucking.
“Liberty is not merely a privilege to be conferred; it is a habit to be acquired.”
– David Lloyd George
To a driver who started in the industry in the last 15 years or so, freedom of the road means living with satellite communications, no daily phone call to dispatch and even on board computers that tell the driver when he/she needs to stop for the day. The computer monitors their speed, their location, gives them their dispatch, routes them and tells them where to fuel and how many gallons to put on. To these drivers, freedom of the road is freedom from having to really think about the run or do much more than get the load picked up and delivered safely and on time.
Old hand drivers have a very different concept of freedom of the road, and yes, some like me don’t really understand that freedom until we lose it. Our freedom of the road consisted of being told where to pick up a load, where to take it and what time to be there, and then left alone other than a daily check call to dispatch and perhaps the broker. We were treated like professionals who knew how to route ourselves, figure out for ourselves where to stop to fuel within the company policies, when we needed to stop to take a nap, and we got the job done without being constantly monitored.
Understanding the differences between the different concepts of freedom of the road helped me to understand why old time truckers have been likened to the old time cowboy. The old time cowboy was told by his boss to go check fence or round up cattle, and then he went out and did it without being checked on to see if he actually did the job. The cowboy’s boss just knew he would do the job and do it well; it was a point of cowboy honor. They didn’t have to be monitored constantly just like truckers didn’t used to be monitored; it was a point of trucker‘s honor.
Is there one freedom of the road concept better than the other concept? Perhaps not, but it depends on your perspective. To me, with my more liberal concept of freedom of the road, trying to adapt into a company who monitors their drivers constantly makes me feel smothered and off balance, while to a newer driver they would feel protected and free.
“When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw a breath of self-respect.” –
Freedom of the road is how one perceives one’s self and how one looks at life. To me, freedom of the road is how I do my job to the best of my ability without total supervision, and in that lays my self-respect and my downfall. With the epiphany came the realization that I do not fit easily into the new concept of freedom of the road the newer drivers have and the companies now define. In trying to do so, I lost my inner light where freedom lives, my self-respect and my joy in trucking became dim.
Guard your concept of freedom of the road; revel in it, enjoy it, love it, never let it go. It is who you are and what you do. It is the foundation of your career as a driver and a person; it is why you drive truck.
“Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.”
– Jean Jacques Rousseau
Ya’ll be safe out there!