The Heat & the Cold

The world wants its lettuce salads 365 days a year, rain or shine, so those are the days a trucker works. Driving down the highway, this is not a problem (except that you miss birthdays and holidays and so on), but while sitting around and waiting, and while shut down for the night, it definitely can be.

It’s easy to create heat. The truck stops will sell you a 12-volt heater that plugs into one of the outlets with which modern trucks are lavishly equipped. Also, there are things known as sweaters, woolen caps, fleece-lined gloves.

On the other hand, when it gets cold there are only so many clothes you can take off, and truck cabs heat up quickly once you shut down and the A/C goes off. Especially when your company has elected to paint its cabs dark blue.

This is why, if you walk through a truck stop parking lot in the summertime, day or night (watch where you step), you can hardly hear yourself think for all the diesel motors idling away. It’s a terribly inefficient way, at a gallon of fuel per hour, to stay cool, but what are you gonna do? The other day in Laredo it was a hundred and four and not a speck of shade to be found. With the addition of some mesquite chips and a slab of brisket, without the A/C we could have slow-roasted some Texas barbeque right there in the cab.

More and more states are passing anti-idling laws. Many shippers and receivers do not allow idling while on their yards. This is all good for the world while being rather hard on certain marginalized but essential citizens of it. Fortunately, fuel-conscious trucking firms are equipping their rigs with APU’s, auxiliary power units, small motors that, at six grand a pop, cycle on and off, when the main engine is shut down, to supply electricity and conditioned air. APU’s do burn some diesel though, and I understand that a certain large western state with abundant sunshine is already working on prohibiting their use. Truckers talk about fighting back by traveling with pets, as the SPCA says you can’t subject a pet to conditions legal for humans. Stay tuned.

What did we do before A/C? Sweated it out. But then so did everyone else. The notion of what is bearable has changed. So what do we do? For my part, I wear the lightest clothing I can, and when I walk into my trucking firm’s headquarters my sweat turns to icicles because the thermostat in the building is set to deep freeze. Here’s a deal: I’ll give up the A/C in my truck as soon as everyone else gives it up as well. In the meantime, when it comes time to think about switching companies I’ll be looking for one with lighter-colored trucks.

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