Barry Saunders

Saunders: Forget your donor, Guv, and let those truckers nap

The exit ramp on I-77 Exit 93, Zephyr Road in Dobson is loaded with signs warning of a “ No Parking” area along the ramp. Surry County in northwestern North Carolina is where NC Highway Patrol troopers write the most tickets for roadside napping to interstate truckers.
The exit ramp on I-77 Exit 93, Zephyr Road in Dobson is loaded with signs warning of a “ No Parking” area along the ramp. Surry County in northwestern North Carolina is where NC Highway Patrol troopers write the most tickets for roadside napping to interstate truckers. cliddy@newsobserver.com

What’s the last thing to go through a bug’s brain when it hits the windshield of an 18-wheeler?

Its butt.

You know the first thing that goes through my brain upon seeing an 18-wheeler pulled off to the side of the highway so the driver can catch a nap?

Nothing.

The second thing?

“Gee, I’m glad the driver had sense enough to pull over before he dozed off behind the wheel of that 80,000-pound semi.”

Pulling over when you feel tired is the wise thing to do even if you’re driving a Yugo that you can stop by putting your foot through the floorboard ala Fred Flintstone.

It’s especially prudent when you’re pushing the equivalent of a road train laden with grapefruit, chickens or kumquats and which takes the equivalent of two football fields to stop at 55 mph. The N.C. State Highway Patrol has begun cracking down on a heretofore seldom-enforced law that prohibits truckers from pulling to the side of the road to doze, so pulling over for a nappy poo may become an expensive proposition.

That means more truckers may feel compelled to push their trucks and themselves beyond what’s safe. Some may even simply avoid stopping in North Carolina.

More truckers may feel compelled to push their trucks and themselves beyond what’s safe. Some may even simply avoid stopping in North Carolina.

Because drivers who disobey the law face a $25 fine (hey, that ain’t so bad) plus $188 court costs (OUCH!), drivers who need an emergency catnap are going to be reluctant to take one. The repercussions can be deadly, especially if some sleep-deprived driver tries to push himself to get to the next distant truck stop lest he end up leaving part of his paycheck in his wake.

Just imagine what he can leave in his wake if he doesn’t pull over, though. We could end up attending a wake.

Wouldn’t it be loverly if Gov. McCrory for a change listened to people who perhaps didn’t pump moolah into his campaign coffers? Remember the recent story where he intervened with alacrity on behalf of another well-heeled pal to ensure the renewal of his contract maintaining prisons in the state?

While a highway patrol spokesman said the enforcement of the now-enthusiastically enforced law resulted from Col. William Grey, patrol commander, driving the highways and seeing the trucks, a highway patrol memo indicated that the crackdown was begun at the behest of a McCrory pal who possibly feared the exhaust fumes from idling trucks might interfere with the piquancy of the wines produced by his nearby vineyards.

Shelton Vineyards owner Charlie Shelton denied that his calling this urgent matter to the governor’s attention – twice – was done for selfish ends. He said in an interview that he contacted the governor – TWICE – merely because he is concerned about safety and the environment: truckers, he said, were uglying up the state by throwing trash out of their trucks when they park.

There are three things that should strike fear into the heart of any man:

▪ seeing your ex-wife’s phone number show up on caller I.D.

▪ hearing tell of Gov. McCrory pow-wowing with a wealthy donor.

▪ looking in your rearview mirror while tooling down the highway and seeing the driver of a big rig yawning.

I haven’t a farthing to contribute to your campaign, Gov. McCrory, but I hope you’ll heed this suggestion: instead of instructing state police to roust and ticket tired tractor-trailer drivers, why not have them deliver a glass of warm milk and some of your mansion-baked cookies so they’ll be refreshed when they resume their trip?

Of course, drivers who find themselves nodding off behind the wheel can always wiggle their toes, roll down the windows or listen to Motley Crue at a really loud volume – or listen to Kenny G at any volume, right?

Wrong. Tiffany Wright, a spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas, told me “those are little tricks that drivers have convinced themselves work. They don’t, and we don’t recommend any of those. Sleepiness and driving don’t mix. Drowsiness slows reaction time, impairs judgment and decreases awareness very much like drugs and alcohol.”

Can requiring truck drivers to go the extra mile for a rest stop even when they’re exhausted be dangerous? I asked.

“Absolutely,” she said.

In addition to that, our highway patrol officers, members of the state’s most elite law enforcement division, have better things to do than drive around rousting sleeping, fatigued drivers from what could be a life-saving siesta. It’s going to be too-bad, so-sad if a professed pro-biz governor ends up spurring truck drivers to bypass our state because one of his buddies possibly feared his Salem Fork Blush isn’t blushing and he blames it on truckers’ exhaust disturbing the delicate pH balance of the soil or something.

It’s going to be too-bad, so-sad if a professed pro-biz governor ends up spurring truck drivers to bypass our state because one of his buddies possibly feared his Salem Fork Blush isn’t blushing and he blames it on truckers’ exhaust disturbing the delicate pH balance of the soil or something.

You know what the result will be?

Yup, a truckin’ convoy going around or through our state without stopping for gas, Funyons or Earl Thomas Conley CDs. Speaking of convoys – my CB handle was the Black Flash – maestro, hit it:

Them smokies are thick as bugs on a bumper

but they ain’t setting no speed trap

The reason they’re all over us is

they’re scared we gonna take a nap.

We got a truckin’convoy ain’t she a beautiful sight?

Tell that guvna and his friend they can both go fly a kite.

We got a truckin’convoy and we ain’t gonna stop in your state

We’re gonna roll this truckin’ convoy: our hunger’ll just have to wait...

Come on and join our convoy

but watch them smokies behind ya’

Cos if you join our convey we ain’t stoppin’ in Carolina.

10-4, good buddy.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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