Never Be First

Roger Clark
June 2024

Defensive driving is the name of the game, and there are numerous classes available to teach it: Smith System, AAA, NSC, and even AARP. Us old guys finally have a defense against other old guys. You can even learn to drive online, thanks to the internet, and watch YouTube crashes without the inconvenience of bleeding, screaming, cursing, and crying. 

All these Defensive Driving courses have had a measure of success. Even bleeding, screaming, cursing, and crying have had some success as well. And both ways can be paid for with a debit card.

 But I have a better idea. NEVER BE FIRST. Here’s what I mean by that. When you’re faced with high winds, heavy rain, snow-covered roads, or icy conditions, don’t put your career on ice just because you’re behind the eight-ball. Don’t be the first one to spin out, jack-knife, or flip your rig over. 

Even in lousy weather, over the years, I would keep on trucking until I saw someone crashed in the ditch. NEVER BE FIRST. It was the only Defensive Driving technique I needed. I didn’t need no stinking diagram on a classroom whiteboard, or a YouTube motormouth to walk me through it. 

Trucking in our Land Of The Free now has pay and benefits that rival many white-collar jobs. That’s good news. Even better, trucks come with features today that we only dreamed about, back in the previous century. You name it, I’ve probably had it, including TV’s, dashcams, hookers, and microwaves. Well, okay, I’ve never had a TV in the truck. But yes, I have had computers, printers, satellite connections, and shredders for filing my bakery receipts. 

 I’ve also had the latest state-of-the-art autonomous features, like automatic braking, radar-controlled cruise control, audible turn signals, and even a dashboard image of a steaming cup of coffee to remind me that it may be time to take a break. All truck drivers, ya know, are coffee drinkers. Of course. And all drivers, of course, can pull over and rest whenever they get tired. 

But don’t be fooled, of course, by all this technology. You still have to watch where you’re going. You still have to share the road, back in straight, and exit the truckstop without leaving a debris field. When it comes to accidents, crashes, tickets, or calls from the Safety Department, let someone else be first.

 Here’s the reality of trucking today in America. When it comes to defensive driving, we need to drive like everyone else is crazy, and that’s because they are. Between texters, drinkers, stoners, and ragers, everything we do is all we can do to stay out of their way.

I had a student driver once who was already old, back in 1998, and he’s still driving today. Well, okay, he was still upright at lunch today anyway, but he’s always had something I’ve never had. Infinite patience. With it, we’ll be seen for 90+ years, just as he’s been. Without it, the viewing might last for mere hours. 

 I had other students, much younger at the time, who also became million-milers using the same philosophy. Plan the day. Take your time. Do your job but love the work. Use a GPS but bring a map. Get your rest but call the house. There’s someone somewhere, after all, who loves you whether you deserve it or not. No one knows that better than me.

 And don’t split the difference. Don’t settle for less. Don’t get impatient, and for heaven’s sake, don’t be first!