As circumstances would have it, while traveling on Interstate 459 around Birmingham, Alabama, I noticed a step-deck trailer transporting a large farm tractor that had a piece of its hood becoming dislodged as the truck traveled down the highway. I reached for my CB radio and called out to the driver to notify them of the situation of their load. To my surprise, the driver immediately replied across the CB airwaves and thanked me for informing him of the situation. Shortly after this happened, while listening to the 70’s channel on Sirius XM radio, the song “Convoy” came across the airways.
This combination of events took me back to the year 1976, as a 13-year-old. On Christmas day of that year, I received what I thought was a CB radio. It was not. It was simply a walkie-talkie that allowed me to listen in to the CB channels. This was at the beginning of the CB radio craze that came about at the time, as the movies “Convoy”, “White Line Fever”, and the Top 40 radio hit song by C. W. McCall called “Convoy,” did as well. The scene in my head was set with our family traveling to ride our snowmobiles in the Adirondacks of New York. In our family, we traveled by pickup truck. Back in this era, crew cab and extended cab pickup trucks were a rarity. My stepfather and my mother would ride in the cab and my sister, brother, and I would ride in the bed of the truck which was covered by a topper, also known as a truck cap.
My stepfather had installed a heater that was connected to the coolant lines of the engine, which kept us fairly warm. Our entertainment was a small transistor radio that, if you played it too long, would discharge the 9-volt battery that powered it.
Our other form of entertainment was counting trucks and seeing who could guess the brand first. We kept a record of this with a pencil and a piece of paper. Other than that, our entertainment was talking to each other, or looking out the windows as we traveled down the road. This trip was our first time as children being taken on, what was considered to be a grown-up trip, to Old Forge, New York. It was also our first trip in a two-wheel drive truck in the snow. My stepfather had recently gotten rid of his four-wheel-drive truck, due to its low fuel efficiency as fuel prices were rising in the 1970’s.
It was also our first trip in the snow with this new-fangled tire from Michelin, which was called an “all-season radial”. In my 13-year-old mind, as we traveled through a snowstorm, I thought there was no way that this tire, which looked like something you would use on a dry road, would ever move our truck and snowmobile trailer through the snow. My brother, my sister, and I listened to the truckers who were trying to manage their way through the snowy highway on this occasion.
At some point on Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania, we stopped at a truck stop to fuel up and have breakfast. I still remember the sound of the trucks as they plodded across the snow and slush-covered parking lot. I also vividly remember the truck drivers as they trudged their way in for shelter at the truck stop. I was watching drivers as they chained up their tires, so that they could continue up the highway. I remember my stepfather pouring dry gas into our fuel tank to ensure that we did not get a frozen fuel line during our journey. It was during this whole scene of seeing these truck drivers conducting their everyday jobs, that the thought of me wanting to pursue a career in truck driving occurred to me.
There were many lessons that I absorbed as a young, 13-year-old boy on this trip. One of them was that this all-season tire carried us all the way to Old Forge, New York, through the snow, without having a 4-wheel drive. Many lessons that were learned from this particular trip, I still use. One is the move that my stepfather made from a 4-wheel drive vehicle to a 2-wheel drive vehicle, in order to be more fuel efficient. Secondly, we did not need a heavy lug of mud and snow tires to travel effectively on the snow-covered highways. An early career path had been set into my young mind.
Today, I firmly embrace the Hendrickson OPTIMAAX 6x2 liftable pusher rear suspension that is on our 2022 Freightliner Cascadia. Why carry a powered axle all year that cuts fuel efficiency, when the reality is it is seldom needed? The nice thing with the OPTIMAAX system, is that it lifts the axle off the ground whenever it is not needed, to support the loaded weight of the truck. I also look at the Michelin X-One wide-base single tires that, to many people’s disbelief, have carried me effectively through many snow storms.
I can only imagine what those drivers would think if they were introduced to the truck I drive today. Could they even imagine that we could have a 72-inch sleeper with two beds, a refrigerator, a microwave, a pantry, and a closet? And with the driver’s lounge option, I also have a literal dinette to eat my meals at. Also on the truck, we have air-ride suspension, air-ride cab, and disk brakes, along with a Detroit DD-15 diesel engine that produces 1850 pounds of torque, at a mere 900 revolutions per minute.
I think they would be quite impressed! That was quite a throwback for me remembering those days! Thanks for joining me in these memories! Until next time, Stay Safe and Be Profitable.