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Column - It's time to think of truckers

It's been many years since I've thought about trucks.

Bad idea considering trucks are everywhere and affect nearly every part of our everyday lives.

Last week, I spent some time visiting with Darrin Hensley, owner of Hensley, Inc. and one of his drivers, Larry Herzog.

While Herzog loves his life on the road it doesn't come without sacrifice.

One of his biggest frustrations is the bad rap truck drivers get due to people driving cars who have no respect for the 80,000-pound vehicles.

When a car pulls into the passing lane on the freeway to get around a truck, then sits alongside the tires, it is in a danger zone if the truck happens to blow a tire.

Truckers also have numerous blind spots - next to the passenger door, following too close behind - and the nine-year driver says if you can't see his mirrors, he can't see you.

It's the unsafe choices people make while on the road, such as texting and driving, that put a lot of stress on truck drivers.

Whether it comes from our own mouth or someone else, we've all heard the complaints about the countless semis hogging our roads, making it impossible to pass, blowing snow across our windshields, etc.

But where would we be without those haulers?

Earlier this week, I drove from Osakis to Fergus Falls and back. During that evening trip I encountered 40 trucks transporting a wide variety of goods. Several were responsible for sustenance - the Kemps milk, refrigerated produce and a load of chickens. Others provide shelter, warmth and a view - trusses, fuel oil and Andersen Windows. There was the 3M truck that could be hauling Scotch tape, Post Its or even sandpaper. And who can drive anywhere without seeing a Walmart and a McDonald's trailer?

As I took note of all these trucks, I considered each one, what it was hauling and what my vehicle meant to that truck.

Yes, I caught myself following too close - if I can't see the side mirrors, the driver can't see me. I held back the urge to "fill in the gap" as I passed a truck that was about six seconds behind a car.

I grew up surrounded by trucking - my dad drove a truck and my mom was a dispatcher, each for different companies - so I know a lot about how much these drivers are underpaid and underappreciated.

I sacrificed good night hugs from my dad and seeing him at my Christmas programs so he could deliver those Christmas trees people expect to show up in the lot each December. I understand kids missing their dads and moms who do it all because their husband is on the road. I remember the summer road trips - both incredibly exciting and dreadfully boring - just to spend some special time with Dad.

It's time to think about truckers, what they bring to our lives, what it really costs, and what we can do to make their job just a little easier.

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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