I've been on the road now for about 3 1/2 months now (including training and solo) and I thought it would be nice to share a newbie's experience of truck stops - the good and the bad. Please don't take any of this for more than what it is - my very early experiences with truck stops. I am finding out every time I visit one that there is something they offer that I never knew they did.
Very early on with my USA Truck training I found truck stops to be very interesting places. Not for the reasons a lot of us remember, back in the day (80's and 90's) where you would hear some really interesting stories (good and bad, depending on your perspective) about them. No, now-a-days, truck stops are really the place you will be visiting at least every other day on the road to fill up and spend a few hours rejuvenating yourself.
I can clearly remember both my trainers' perspectives on truck stops. Randy, my first trainer, seemed to know every truck stop, from Maine to California!! Unreal how many he knew and he knew the ones to go to and the ones you might want to stay away from. My 2nd team trainer once said to me, "Bad things happen when you stop at truck stops." Now mind you, I was in the team part of training, and our truck never stopped long enough at the truck stops to have anything "bad" happen.. LOL It was "Gas up and Go man." Time at the truck stop was time not spent on the road racking up the miles $$$.
For me personally, I find truck stops a great place to relax for the night and enjoy your 10-hour break. That's only after the stress of finding your parking spot is over with. Oh yeah, the backing up thing again. My normal practice is to try and stop to gas up and then look for place to park for the night. I scan the parking lot the second I shut off the truck. Looking for an easy back in. Or even a pull forward place to park. THE BEST.
Having an audience is also a little stressful. Some days you seem to "put it in the hole" the first time. Other days, you can't seem to get it right. So over and over you try. I just try and not to think that I have any audience at all watching me struggle to back the truck up. One less thing to worry about that might get me into trouble. I'm struggling less and less every day with backing up, but I never forget to "Get out and Look." Very, very important.
Once in the spot, I will usually do all my log book work first. Get the logs ready to send off via electronically to USA Truck and cyberspace. After that, I will try and take a shower. As I mentioned on numerous occasions, the larger truck stops rock with their showers! I also try and buy some internet time. I really like that at the Pilot's I can buy time from their cashiers!! I can buy by the hour, day, month or year. Their internet coverage is pretty darn good as well.
One thing I am in awe of still, is how much stuff the truck stops offer truckers and the public at large. They are your food place, your tool place, your back to school place, LOL! They carry all kinds of needed office stuff (white out, pens, paper, etc.) for all your log work, they are your sit down and eat restaurant place. A little city unto itself. Pretty amazing places.
I also like to just watch all the action at the truck stop. The good (the seasoned guys are incredible at backing up their trucks!) and the bad. In Kentucky, I saw one trucker make a sharp right turn out of nowhere and hit the front of a truck that was getting some repairs done at the shop there. He messed up the front of the other guys truck pretty good. It happened so quickly as well. That was just a big reminder to me, to always keep your trailer in your sights. Never, ever lose track of where it is.
I have met some of the nicest people to date at truck stops! Also a few weirdos of course, but that hasn't been the norm. I also get a lot of people stopping me and asking me about my winter "hat".. Oh yeah. The "hat" is a great C1 truck driving "hat." This winter that hat is my best friend! It's been cold out there and it's a great warm hat. Yet, I cannot believe how many truckers out there graduated from a C1 school. I always get the "you're new, huh?" At first I wasn't getting it, now I realize it's from the hat. Heck, I hope that after my one year contract is up and my loan is paid off that I'm still wearing my C1 hat! I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for them.
Overall, I would love to see truck stops with all pull forward parking! I have seen this approach in some of the Toll road service areas. I have really liked spending my time at the truck stops and I must thank them all for giving us truckers a great place to relax and spend the night, or day.
Take care and be safe,
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