Gizmo may stand only about 14 inches high, but when he’s driving truck with his mom, Bonnie, he’s king of the road. On Thursday, Aug. 25, the Boston terrier is wearing a purple cheetah-patterned sweater and grinning at the truckers who have gathered at Muralt’s Travel Plaza in Missoula to glean the goodies that National Truck Driver Appreciation Week brings.
On a patch of Muralt’s pavement, a red stretch of carpet ends at an American flag with a sign reading “We Salute America’s Truck Drivers.” Behind the sign, a spread of barbecue fixings is flanked by a tent under which truckers eat burgers, baked beans and cookies; teenage girls serve up free soda and doughnuts from a white trailer. A table of free gadgets from the Montana Motor Carriers Association gets lots of attention—here you can pick up ice scrapers the size of a credit card and keychains that are part flashlight and part carabiner, not to mention an assortment of bumper stickers, pencils, pins, mini-mirrors and notebooks.
One in 13 of Montana workers are employed by the trucking industry, and drivers move nearly 127,000 tons of goods around the state each day. Nationally, those numbers are even more impressive: 3.4 million truckers transport 9.8 billion tons of freight annually. Still, the average motorist doesn’t have a whiff of what it’s like to be a trucker.
“Bomber,” who wanted to go by his citizens band radio handle, has racked up more than three million miles on the big street (the freeway) since he started driving truck in 1974, freshly back from Vietnam. He jokes that CDL—as in the commercial driver’s license truckers must acquire—stands for crazy, dumb and lazy, but it’s clear he loves the job. One seat over, Bob offers up a piece of advice for average drivers: Don’t slam on your brakes in front of trucks because you don’t know how much weight they’re hauling, and stopping is no easy task. Gizmo, who’s been trucking for nearly 10 years without flying through a windshield, no doubt would agree.