Jun 062013

Hi, welcome to my website Eighteen Wheels & Heels, a site meant to inform the general public about the world of “Big Rigs,” otherwise known as 18-wheelers. I’ll discuss both the rules of the road established by the DOT (Department of Transportation), first in 1939, and finally revised in 2002 after a six-year battle with the numerous factions involved. And the HOA (hours of service) all truck drivers must follow.

I drove an eighteen-wheeler for fifteen years, so many of my comments are based on personal experiences. What many people don’t realize is there are hundreds of different kinds of Big Rigs, all developed for specific loads. They all look the same to them right?

The five basic types of truck-trailers are:

The van (this looks like a huge box on wheels)

The flatbed (which looks like a big slab of wood on wheels)

The car carrier (the trailer looks kind of like a large erector set) with a collection of hydraulics responsible for moving the two levels of ramps to load and unload the cars.

The tanker (usually a long cylinder, sometimes with dividing walls called baffles)—this classification also includes cement trucks and

Dump trucks, which are self-explanatory.

The trailers I’ve pulled most often are reefers, and no, it has nothing to do with marijuana. It’s the abbreviation for a refrigerated trailer used to transport cooled and frozen products. This is one of the variations of a van type of trailer. Often a reefer is used as a regular van to transport products that do not require cooling.

A heavy hauler trailer carrying a large boatAnd then there are the heavy-haul trailers, which are in a class by themselves. Eighteen-wheelers they are not; these trucks haul oversized and over-weight items, and require drivers with imagination to not only load whatever the odd item is onto the trailer, but to make sure it’s properly secured and all the proper permits have been acquired. The drivers, at least in California, are also responsible for making sure the routes taken are able to handle the weight, width, and height of whatever is being transported.

These trailers are rated by the number of total axles on the rig. They are five, seven, nine, and eleven axles sometimes with regular truck-size tires or, in one case, there was a custom heavy haul that had something in the area of 120 car-sized tires.  The one in the picture is a five axle, one of the smallest of the heavy hauler class. Any of these trailers can and have been modified for specific loads.

My blogs will occasionally touch on this specialized segment of trucking over the next few months with the handful of pictures I took the single month I tackled this type of trucking. I didn’t have extra axles but just the trailers could and did extend to 90 feet long. The longest trailer I ever hauled was 65 feet long and getting around corners was interesting to say the least.

Finally, through no planning on my part, I not only drove a big rig for fifteen years but every job I’ve had, except for the first couple of jobs in my early 20s, was a driving job. Twenty-nine years of driving jobs beginning with a school bus for thirteen years, 18-wheelers for fourteen years, back to a school bus, a casino shuttle, a big rig again for the final eighteen months to make up my fifteen years, and last, but not least, a bookmobile currently. So, as you can see, I certainly have a bit of driving experience behind me.

I appreciate comments and questions about the world of truck drivers. Often, many people don’t realize, it is a life-style, not just a job. I’ll do my best to answer them or give you a resource who can answer your question.

Hit the airbrake, shift into gear and let’s hit the road. Enjoy my site.


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