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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

End Of The Road

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/27/2024
Occurred: 11/21/2003
Page Views: 260
Topics: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver
Taking a final look back at my year on the road.

Saturday, November 21, 2003

My goodness. Has it really been well over a month since my last post?

Well, I've been busy.

As soon as I got home as an unemployed ex-truck driver, I applied for Food Stamps and Unemployment Compensation. I also advised a temporary agency to which I had applied a couple of years ago, that I was again available for work. A year ago they had nothing for me. But now, within a week, they had placed me at PETsMART's corporate headquarters, working at their Help Desk…for $12 an hour. It was a far cry from the $1000 a day I made before 9/11, but it was still more than I ever made driving truck! Of course, now that I was working, I was no longer eligible for unemployment; and I wasn't eligible for Food Stamps, either, since I made more per hour than the Food Stamp employees do. (But I'm very much okay with being able to pay my own way!)

The good news was that it was almost a hundred dollars more take-home per week than I had made driving for Schneider, and steadier—and I only had to work 40 hours a week to get it.

I had received, from readers of this journal, lots of advice regarding my next trucking assignment. Many told me of specific companies, ones they now or previously worked for, that paid thirty cents or more per mile. Others advised I simply get a job driving truck locally. And more than one suggested I sue Schneider, for everything from sexual harassment to just plain being assholes.

But, frankly, I've had enough of driving for awhile. I'm glad to know I can do it; I wouldn't trade my year's adventure for anything. But enough is enough.

Besides, I have reminders a-plenty. The day after I got back home, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my high-blood pressure medicine, which usually cost about $20. It now cost me $70. Why? Because Schneider had cancelled my insurance as of the night I quit. I never before heard of a company doing that.

Then, Schneider's policy of double-clutching may have contributed to what's been diagnosed as severe osteoarthritis in the big toe joint of my left foot. That, or those shoes they insisted I wear. I am still limping over that one, waiting to become eligible for my new job's insurance so I can get treatment for it.

One day, on a drive that took me to the south central part of the Valley, I found myself driving past the Schneider drop yard. I pulled in. As it happens, I had that kingpin lock in the back of the car, where I'd been keeping it in case I could find someone to give it to. This was the lock I'd been forced to purchase, for $45, that I never used, and Schneider wouldn't buy back. Now, here I was, in the drop yard, with no one else around…and a lot full of uncoupled 53 foot trailers.

It was very tempting. All I had to do, was check each trailer's bills of lading, to find a relay load from Kimberly Clarke, a company that watches Schneider deliveries very closely to make sure no load is even a few minutes late. If I put the kingpin lock on that trailer and threw away the key, the driver who eventually had to pick up that load would be unable to couple to it. Someone would have to be called out to cut the lock, and meanwhile the load's crucial delivery time would almost certainly be missed. I could even leave a note attached to the lock, saying Thanks for everything, A Former Driver just to be certain SNI got the message.

But, in the end, I couldn't do it. The driver, forced to wait without pay for the lock to be cut, would suffer far more than Schneider. Yet, I knew that as long as I owned this keepsake, there would always be the temptation to try and get the attention of Schneider's management. I didn't want to be tempted again, so I left the lock on the step of one of the bobtailed tractors in the lot. Someone would find a $45 present on his or her step when he or she returned to work, and I could let this go.

Besides, I wasn't really angry at Schneider as a whole. Nearly all the people I'd met there had been great. And even the ones who hadn't been (I'm thinking about you, Debbie, and especially you, Ed) had contributed to my year's adventure.

In fact, I still recommend Schneider to those who, after reading these pages, think that a job in trucking is the thing for them. I don't really think it's unreasonable to pay people a reduced rate for a year's worth of training as a truck driver. I just don't like the dishonesty (pretending it's a permanent job) and that really isn't Schneider's fault. The government policy that refuses to subsidize training unless it's for a permanent job is what's to blame. Schneider is simply trying to maximize their profits given the laws around which they find themselves having to work.

It has made me realize all the more, however, that most large corporations do not add to anyone's quality of life. In training, we were told the history of Schneider National Carriers; and it's obvious it began as a family-owned business whose heart was in the right place. The few older drivers I met—the ones who'd been with SNI for ten years or more—were universally enthusiastic over the company as it used to be.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, that vision—of a company that treated its employees with dignity and a fair wage, in exchange for loyalty and enthusiasm—was lost, and replaced with the too-common mentality of profit before all.

Profits should never be the bottom line. We humans created corporations. They are not a species natural to our planet; they are not life as we know it. They are tools, just like shovels, medicines, and, yes, trucks. As long as they make life better for humankind in general, they serve a purpose. When they take on a life of their own, when they exist for the betterment of themselves, instead of the betterment of humankind—they are no longer tools; they are machines run amok, no less so than the villains of movies like Terminator or The Matrix.

We've been told all our lives that freedom isn't free; that we must remain ever-vigilant against those who would take our freedom from us. While the media has us distracted chasing phantom terrorists in far-off countries, right here at home we find our freedom and way of life threatened by a far more subtle enemy: Our own tools, the corporations and the government, gone berserk, serving themselves—and, really, they are now the same entity—instead of serving us, the people who created them for our own welfare.

If I accomplished nothing more during my year of driving than having this chance to provide this heads up…it will have been a year well-spent.