My wife profoundly says to me regularly, “Home is wherever you are.” Let me tell you, I’m sure glad she thinks that way. I got her into trucking.
Our rolling home is pretty small. We live in the equivalent of a walk-in closet. It’s only about 56 square feet of living space. Repeat: 56 square feet. That’s right, most bathrooms are bigger than our entire house. As such, “living quarters” isn’t really a realistic term since we’re about 1/8 the size of a standard apartment.
Oddly, it’s plenty of room. We’ve got comfortable leather seats, plenty of cupholders and trays, storage space that houses a few of my relatively unnecessary suits and sportcoats (she likes it when I dress up for dinners out), fridge and freezer, a comfortable bed for two, and plenty of room for basic clothes, guitars, snowboards, and recording equipment in the upper bunk. The only things really missing are a toilet and sink. Otherwise, we’ve got what we need and then some.
Many truckers feel like they have so much extra space that they bring their pets along. So far in my travels I’ve seen folks with 7-8 cats, multiple 50+ pound dogs, and even a bandaged hawk. Yes, a hawk. We feel that’s a bit crazy, but we’re not ones to judge too harshly.
Trucker life is all about what you make of it, and there’s no exception when it comes to making a house out of your truck. Most of my friends say they “couldn’t” downsize that much, live with so few things and so little space. But I feel that most people, when faced with the challenge, could rise to the occasion and make the switch. In fact, many people have already but don’t realize it.
That was me. Growing up, I lived under every kind of roof you could think of. First, it was a 1960’s suburban rambler, replete with veneer walls and ugly orange carpet. It wasn’t very big, and my brother’s room was more like a vestibule.
Next it was a monstrous, new construction two story with brick accents and hard wood floors. Big and beautiful. I had the entire basement to myself, including a ping pong table, drum set, office, and workout center. Not bad.
After all that luxury, though, I moved into an old condo where I used my twin bed for both sleep and storage since I had to share the room with my father. But if that wasn’t small enough, I then moved into a literal closet in an early 1900’s wannabe Victorian home in St. Paul, MN. I didn’t even have a door.
I’ve seen it all. Or at least I thought I had, until I moved into a truck. It sure is tiny, and it lacks critical amenities. But something about it feels more like home than anywhere before. Though my actual home is in Arkansas, I feel most at home in my truck.
But there’s a sad reality coupled to this logical feeling: no matter how much I feel at home in my truck, it’ll never really be my home. Even though I own it outright and spend more than 300 days of the year in it doing all the things that most people do in their homes, my truck isn’t my home.
Legally, a truck is quite different from a home.
When my wife trained for her CDL, her trucking school taught her that a truck is not a home no matter how much time is spent in it. A DOT inspector can rummage through your truck at any time without warrant, he can tell you that you can’t have mouthwash with alcoholic content and make you throw it out, and he can decide your tweezers are unregistered weapons (okay, slight exaggeration on that last one). But if your truck isn’t clean, and most trucks are not, a DOT inspector or police officer could put you through a more thorough inspection, just for the heck of it. A truck is not a freedom space.
This is not necessarily a problem on its own merits. But truckers suffer from a lack of freedom, and more specifically a lack of privacy. They can’t brush their teeth without someone watching at a truck stop. They can’t “use the facilities” without someone waiting for them to hurry up and finish. And they can’t store weapons for their own safety without worrying about an officer detaining them for it. The truck is no longer a cowboy’s wagon, it’s a state-sanctioned transport vehicle.
Having lost, or maybe never actually had, any real sense of freedom, truckers experience a serious lack of freedom and privacy. This is abnormal to the rest of American life, and it is a problem. Quality of life rests on one’s feelings of freedom of choice, responsibility, and personal space. Having none, truckers experience a mind-boggling low quality of life.
And we wonder why fewer and fewer people want to be truckers. Perhaps this has something to do with it.