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At the Truck Stop: Driver is living his childhood dream, with his kids

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Gaylon Walker is spending a good part of the summer spending quality time with his children, bringing them along so they can see what dad does when he’s away from home driving a truck. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

Do teachers still have kids write essays about “What I did on my summer vacation”? If they do, Gaylon Walker’s kids will have it made.

It was about 8 a.m., and like a lot of his fellow truckers at the Petro Truck Stop off Interstate 40, exit 161 just east of Little Rock, Arkansas, Walker was getting ready for a day on the road. He approached the food counter with a spring in his step.

“I hope you’re ready for me,” he said to the woman behind the counter, “because I’m hungry.”

She stood ready. He kept ordering, and the way she kept loading up the container, he was lucky the truck stop didn’t sell their meals by the pound.

She set the brimming container near the register. On second thought, Walker said, his son Kollin is sleeping in the cab, maybe he should get a little bit more.

“You’re just remembering you son is with you?” the woman asked. No, that’s not it, Walker explained. He’d been ordering for both of them, but it’s easy to underestimate the appetite of a 15-year-old boy.

School let out for the summer a few weeks ago, and Walker is letting his kids see what dad’s job is all about.

Actually, it’s all still pretty new to Walker. He has been a professional truck driver for just a bit over a year now. Before that he had worked at a Kroger distribution center back home in Houston.

“I was a truck unloader,” he said. “I worked in the freezer for about five and a half years, then I started unloading trucks the remaining time I was there.” It was a setting that constantly reminded him of a childhood dream.

“I’ve been wanting a truck since I was for 4 years old,” Walker said. “I saw the opportunity at 37 years old, and I took the opportunity.”

Of course, the dreams of a 4-year-old child are free from adult realities that can put a damper on those dreams. But he came into trucking with an adult perspective. The first company he worked for wasn’t so great, he said. But that’s to be expected.

“In the trucking industry, you might have to go through two or three companies before you find that one company you’re going to stay with,” he said. He feels like he’s found one he can stick with. About a month ago, Walker signed on with John Christner Trucking. “I’m buying a truck through them. It’s a good program.”

His goal is to eventually have his own business with three or four trucks, and if all goes well, leasing them through Christner.

Having the maturity to know that living out his dream was going to take some getting used to, Walker said he’s adapted to life on the road in his first year. One thing he realized very quickly is that you burn a lot more calories unloading trucks than you do driving them. Don’t let that gigantic truck stop breakfast fool you, he’s careful about what he eats.

He gets one meal a day at a restaurant or truck stop. The rest of the time, he keeps a well-stocked fridge. “I’ve got salads, I’ve got apples, oranges, bananas, oatmeal” and a few more fun-food type snacks to keep him full on the road.

With 10 hours a day behind the wheel, whenever he has a break, he makes it a point to walk “at least a mile, mile and a half a day” to make sure his legs stay strong.

Of course, the biggest adjustment has been the time away from his wife and five kids.

“I call them when I’m on the road, every day,” Walker said. “They video chat with me, make sure I’m all right.

“They’re OK. If anything is needed at home as far as money or my expertise they call and talk to me. And when I’m there we have as much fun together as we can.”

Walker is usually out on the road three weeks at a time, and now that summer is here, he’s bringing the kids along on an adventure. His eldest daughter, Danaijha, just graduated high school and is busy getting ready to join the Navy, so Kollin got to go first. Right now they were running a load of pork from Washington to Alabama, through the Rocky Mountains.

“He loves it,” Walker said. “He’s been taking a lot of pictures.”

Kollin’s been out with him for about three weeks. Once this run is over, they’ll head back to Houston, 10-year-old sister Dia’ana and 7-year-old brother Darius will get to ride with dad. Kid sister Daphne, who’s 4, will have to wait a few years. She’ll stay home with mom as she tends to the family’s barbecue business back in Houston.

Once the kids are back in school, all he needs to do is bring a little bit of the family’s secret family recipe pepper sauce with him and he’ll feel like he’s right at home.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. MrBigR504

    June 30, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Yep, high hopes and empty pockets! Good luck with that dream. You’ll be lucky if you can finish paying for the one you’re driving! You better keep the doors closed and keep it moving because if you do manage to pay for it via “leas purchase”, its gonna have high’azz miles and you’ve paid waaaaay to much for a damn fleet truck!

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The Nation

CDL Meals offering special promotion for driver appreciation week

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CDL Meals are chef developed using wholesome, organic ingredients and offer a flavorful balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, and vegetables. (Courtesy: CDL MEALS)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — CDL Meals, the division of Fresh n’ Lean that focuses on nutritious offerings for truck drivers, is offering a special promotion to help transportation companies celebrate National Driver Appreciation Week.

For National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW), fleet operators can purchase discounted meals and receive free Hot Logic heating bags.

There is a minimum purchase of 50 meals required to receive the free bag. Purchases of 100 meals receive two free bags.

Companies can also purchase gift cards for drivers to buy meals at their convenience. Orders are being taken through August 30.

The annual NTDAW, taking place this year September 8-14 commemorates and honors all professional drivers for their hard work and commitment to one of the country’s most demanding jobs.

“We are proud to support drivers across the country with delicious food that encourages better health,” said Bob Perry, director of CDL Meals. “This special promotion gives fleets a chance to support their drivers with something that’s good for them, too.”

The nature of truck driving can also lend itself to a less than healthy lifestyle, which is why CDL Meals focuses solely on this underserved profession.

CDL Meals are chef developed using wholesome, organic ingredients and offer a flavorful balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, and vegetables. The meals are delivered fresh and can be refrigerated for up to seven days. The vacuum sealed trays can be heated quickly and enjoyed any time. Along with the meals, CDL provides a driver wellness education booklet with tips and suggestions to improve your health with easy lifestyle changes. Meals are $10 each for purchases up to 100 meals, with cost savings when purchasing more than 150 meals.

CDL Meals was launched earlier this year and was a beneficial part of the healthful transformation for Danny Jewell, 2018 Owner/Operator of the Year, who lost more than 25 pounds with the meal plan and coaching from Bob Perry, the Trucker Trainer.

With more than 50 years on the road and 6 million miles without an incident, Jewell was recognized for his professionalism and commitment to the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nation

Safety council says motor vehicle deaths in 2019 projected to go below 40,000

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The estimate for 2019 caps a three-year period in which roadway deaths topped 40,000 each year for the first time since the mid-2000s. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

ITASCA, Ill. — Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council indicate the four-year upward trend in motor vehicle deaths that began in 2015 is ebbing with the number of fatalities in the first six months of 2019 dropping 3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2018.

An estimated 18,580 people died on U.S. roadways between January and June of this year, compared to the council’s revised estimate of 19,060 during the same period last year. An additional 2.1 million people are estimated to have sustained serious crash-related injuries during the first six months of 2018 – a 1 percent drop from 2018 six-month projections.

The estimate caps a three-year period in which roadway deaths topped 40,000 each year for the first time since the mid-2000s.

A total of 118,315 people died on the roadways between 2015 and 2017, and an estimated 40,000 additional people perished last year.

However, drivers still face the same fatality risk this year as they did when fatalities were eclipsing 40,000 annually, because the estimated annual rate of deaths per miles driven has remained stable – NSC estimates 1.2 deaths per every million vehicle miles traveled, unchanged from 2018 rates.

“While the numbers indicate a slight improvement, the rate of deaths remains stagnant, and 18,580 deaths so far this year is unacceptable,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We cannot accept death as the price of mobility. We urge all drivers to slow down, buckle up, pay attention and drive defensively.”

The council’s early estimates indicate significant progress in some states. In the first half of this year, several states have experienced at least a 10% percent drop in motor vehicle deaths, including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah. A sample of states with increases through the first six months include Kentucky (6%), Hawaii (20%), Oregon (6%) and New Mexico (15%).

A complete list of state results is available here.

To help ensure safer roads, NSC urges motorists to:

  • Practice defensive driving. Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions. Visit nsc.org for defensive driving tips.
  • Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from cannabis and opioids. Visit StopEverydayKillers.org to understand the impact of the nation’s opioid crisis.
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Visit DriveitHOME.org for resources.
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. Visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information.
  • Fix recalls immediately. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall.
  • Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. The NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws.
  • Get involved in the Road to Zero Coalition, a group of more than 900 organizations across the country focused on eliminating roadway deaths by 2050. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero to join.

The National Safety Council has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for nearly 100 years. All estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as the data mature. NSC collects fatality data every month from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, so that deaths occurring within one year of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates.

Supplemental estimate information can be found here.

The NSC defines “serious” injuries as those requiring medical attention.

The National Safety Council uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics – an arm of the CDC – when calculating its estimates, because these data are the most comprehensive and inclusive numbers available.

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The Nation

TTI report: Travel demand growing faster than system’s ability to absorb that demand

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — If more Americans are working, a new report confirms, more of us are also tied up in traffic.

The picture is painted clearly in the 2019 Urban Mobility Report, published by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).

Along with illustrating the problem, researchers also stress the same straightforward solutions they’ve long advocated: more of everything — roads, transit, squeezing as much efficiency out of the existing system as possible, reducing demand through telework, better balancing demand, and roadway capacity by adjusting work hours, and smarter land use.

“No single approach will ever solve this complex problem,” said Tim Lomax, a report author, and Regents Fellow at TTI. “We know what works. What the country needs is a robust, information-powered conversation at the local, state and national levels about what steps should be taken. We have many strategies; we have to figure out the right solution for each problem and a way to pay for them.”

The United States added 1.9 million jobs from 2016 to 2017 — slower growth than the 2.3 million-plus growth in four of the five previous years, but more than enough to exacerbate the nation’s traffic woes. TTI’s gridlock data extends back to 1982, when Ronald Reagan was in his first term, a postage stamp cost 20 cents, and gas was about $1.25 a gallon. Since that time, the number of jobs in the nation has grown almost nonstop by just over 50 percent to the current total of 153 million.

Furthermore, since 1982:

  • The number of hours per commuter lost to traffic delay has nearly tripled, climbing to 54 hours a year.
  • The annual cost of that delay per commuter has nearly doubled, to $1,010.
  • The nationwide cost of gridlock has grown more than tenfold, to $166 billion a year.
  • The amount of fuel wasted in stalled traffic has more than tripled, to 3.3 billion gallons a year.

“The value of investing in our nation’s transportation infrastructure in a strategic and effective manner cannot be overstated as these added costs impact our national productivity, quality of life, economic efficiency and global competitiveness,” said Marc Williams, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, which funded the TTI research. The 2008–2009 recession produced only a brief pause in traffic congestion growth, which bounced back at an even quicker pace than associated job recovery.

The result of today’s urban congestion is that the average freeway traveler has to allow almost twice the expected trip duration to ensure dependable arrival for time-sensitive things like medical appointments, day-care pickup, and airline flights compared to what would be required without congestion. Instead of the 20 minutes needed in light traffic, it’s best to plan a 34-minute trip.

“Those minutes don’t sound like much, but they add up quickly over a year,” says David Schrank, a TTI senior research scientist, and report author. “Eventually, we’re talking billions of wasted hours, and the cost of delay at that scale is just enormous.” Simply put, travel demand is growing faster than the system’s ability to absorb that demand. Once considered a problem exclusive to big cities, roadway gridlock now afflicts urban areas of all sizes and consumes far more of each day, making “rush hour” a long-outdated reference.

“The problem affects not only commuters, but also manufacturers and shippers whose travel delay costs are passed on to consumers,” said Bill Eisele, a report author, and TTI senior research engineer. “While trucks constitute only 7 percent of road traffic, they account for 12 percent of congestion cost.”

Researchers emphasize that it’s urgent for the nation to develop consensus on specific strategies for each urban travel corridor now, since major projects, programs, and funding strategies take a decade or more to develop and bear fruit.

Almost every strategy works somewhere and in some situations, they say, and almost every strategy is the wrong idea in certain places at certain times. Using a balanced and diversified approach that focuses on more of everything — tempered by realistic expectations — is the best way forward.

The 2019 Urban Mobility Report examines conditions in 494 urban areas across all states and Puerto Rico. The research was supported by INRIX, a leading provider of transportation data and analytics.

For a nationwide interactive map of congestion conditions visit https://mobility.tamu.edu/umr/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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