She, the Trucker
Mar 8 2013
By Sonia Consani
Meet Krista Vegter, a woman that has noticed semi-trucks all of her life. Now, 34 years old, she has decided to enroll in a program to obtain her commercial truck driver’s license at Rogue Community College.
“I recently went into a truck stop last week and was reminded of my first experiences of going to truck stops and the lifestyle of trucking,” she says. “It was absolutely an affirmation that this is my calling.”
Krista says she remembers going into truck stops and being fascinated by all the “trucker crap.”
“It’s like this lifestyle of rugged, roughneck, just those colorful personalities,” she says. “It just seemed like fun, you know. Like, I want to be ‘hell on wheels’ and get paid for it.”
Although the exterior lifestyle of a trucker may seem to be fun and glamorous, it actually takes a great deal of dedication, discipline, attention to detail, commitment and hard work to become proficient in ‘ruling the road.’
Krista’s class had the opportunity to venture on a night drive from Merlin to Roseburg in order to experience a different element while driving. It just so happened to be foggy that night heading north on Interstate 5, which plotted difficult driving conditions for the new drivers.
“Teacher told me to throw the truck into 7th gear because we were going up a really steep hill and my RPM’s were not enough to keep the truck in 8th. So, I took it out of 8th gear and didn’t realize the Jake Brakes were still on,” she says, and takes a second to reminisce about her fascination of Jake Brakes. “Now, I had just got done searching for trucker hats that said “Jake Brakes.” There is one that says, “Pull my Jake Brake.” Jake Brakes are awesome.”
Krista proceeds to imitate the common sound that people usually hear when they pass a semi-truck going downhill. “PARBPARBPARBPARBPARP PARRRRRRBBBB PPPPPARRRRBPARRRRRRRB… So, with my Jake Brakes on, going up a massive hill on the interstate, I had the RPM’s drop below a thousand. My biggest lesson, which almost killed the class and myself,” she says.
“I stalled the truck, in the middle of Interstate 5. We came to a complete stop. Our teacher tells me to turn the flasher brakes on. I am like, ‘Where the hell is the flasher brakes?’
“We are in the dark, I see the headlights in front of me, but inside of the cab there was no interior light. So he’s like ‘put the emergency brakes on.’ I almost ripped the signal thing off trying to turn the emergency flashers on.”
She says she finally found the emergency flashers just before a truck came up right behind them.
“There was fog; you couldn’t see a car in front of you. We actually went backwards at one point because I was so frazzled,” she says. “I tried to get the truck to go into 1st, 2nd, 3rd… any gear, and it would not, I could not find 3rd gear to start. So I had to shove it into 1st gear and we just rode that damn truck at like 3 miles per hour up the interstate where people are going 60-70 mph. It was scary.”
Not deterred from driving and commanding a 48,000 pound piece of machinery, she returned home a couple of days after her frightening lesson of night driving. She lay back in bed, with the intent of watching YouTube videos featuring similar Pre-trip Inspections that she would be anxiously performing at the DMV for her test in two days.
After watching Pre-Trip Inspections for about two hours, Krista stiffly sat up and walked to the kitchen table. She grabbed her Pre-Trip Inspection checklist out of her school binder, walked towards the living room coffee table where she had proudly displayed a bright red Coca-Cola painted Kenworth semi-truck model, bought for the purpose of having a visual reference of studying what she had learned at school.
She picked the truck up off of the table and set it down on an ottoman where she proceeded to recite the Pre-trip Inspection of the model semi-truck as if she were in front an actual truck at the DMV on test day.
“Steering linkage is secure, all of the spring leafs are in tact, spring mounts are secure, shock absorbers, make sure there is no leaks or damage, we will go around to the driver door, oh, before I go there, I am going to go ahead and sneak to the wheels…” She continued like this for a good 25 minutes, carefully combing over her model semi-truck.
“I got this [model semi-truck] specifically to wrap my fat head around this concept of, ‘it’s the opposite of driving in a passenger vehicle when you turn while backing up’. When you turn the wheel right, the trailer turns left and vice versa.
“This trailer really dominates, and every decision you make in this truck should be based upon what the trailer is going to do,” she says. “This thing is like… you know, Big Momma. You don’t want to mess with Big Momma.”
The night before Krista’s driving test crept upon her. She lay down to sleep that night, anxiously awaiting 5 a.m. on her alarm. Her body was exhausted with excitement for the morning that will change her life, but her mind was simply too stimulated and preoccupied with making sure she did not forget the procedures of the test she must perform.
At 7:15 a.m., Krista promptly arrived at what the class called ‘the slab’: appropriately, a bare concrete slab perfect for driving a semi-truck back and around on with cones precisely laid for three different backing maneuvers.
Geese flew and squawked overhead, seemingly cheerleading for Krista’s performance as she confidently stepped up inside the truck with her test administrator.
She the climbed out of the truck, and they combed over the truck together as Krista had been practicing for several day before. She climbed back inside to fire the truck up and perfectly executed the straight backing maneuver and the offset backing maneuver, swooping through the cones as if she had been doing it for years.
Then came the frustrating 90-degree backing maneuver. With a lot of concentration and frustration, Krista backed the trailer between two extremely tight spaced cones. She was then appointed to execute the driving test.
“I feel relieved,” she says. “It’s like going down the roller coaster, like it was going kch, kch, kch, kch, kch, kch, kch for thirty long and exhausting life-changing days. I am done. I have a sense of achievement.”
Dreams come true. Krista will be picking out a witty trucker hat to wear in the near future for her new job, driving a semi-truck near you and anywhere else her 18 wheels may take her.
Sonia Consani is a student in J225-Introduction to Journalism.
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