My home most days is a 7' x 9' box. The immediate scene that comes to mind is "He must be in jail, prison, something like that." No, dear reader, my box is on wheels, 18 of them. Just count 'em.
I drive a tractor-trailer for my daily bread. I measured the combined dimensions of the driver's compartment in the front and the sleeper berth which is in the rear. A combined palatial estate of 63 square feet. I live in that area for 5 days a week, sometimes for longer stretches.
People may wonder how truckers manage the stress of living the way we do. We stop where we can to do what we must. Rest areas, truckstops, wide pulloffs of lesser highways, it doesn't matter as long as we can get the rig off the road to sleep, eat, call our customers, our dispatcher, our significant other Do you know the old saw about 'eat where the truckers eat"? That's a load of bull. We eat where we can get the long son-of-a-gun off the road. The food might be halfway to being crap already, but at least you won't get rear-ended by someone not paying attention. Long hours behind the wheel working our way through all the craziness the highway throws at us, trying sometimes desperately to just get the trip completed without trading paint, committing murder, or unleashing mayhem on the public.
Rest and relaxation happens in the sleeper. Modern sleepers have many amenities to make life on the road easier. They include the obligatory bed which is usually a mat, a 2 to 4 inch thick pad laid over a wood or metal deck for support. No Tempur material, memory foam, air cells adjustable at the press of a button. Some rigs have 'business centers', which consist of a set of drawers with a work surface for doing paperwork. Storage areas for 'necessaries', like jugs of water,soft drinks, some storable food. It pays to be prepared, and it isn't happytime to be shut down for hours due to an accident or bad weather without food or drink. It never hurts to carry enough to share with your fellow unfortunates. Stranded kids love Pop-tarts. Storage for clothing for all weather conditions. Perhaps a TV-DVD combo to watch some tube while resting. Some rigs are even equipped with satellite TV systems. Almost anything can be added if enough money changes hands. There are custom sleeper units available that contain stoves, showers, and commodes. Those are few and far between because they simply consume too much space for your average over-the-road operation. Remember, the longer the unit, the more space it takes to turn around and back up.
Things are much better now than they were years ago. Sleepers come in several configurations. There are double bunks for team drivers. There are 'condo' sleepers that actually have room to stand up. Sleepers years ago were little more than casket sized areas, a shelf upon which the driver slept. They weren't for the claustrophobic as the roof was usually inches above your face, and the bed area just wide enough to lay. A driver who tossed and turned might find himself tumbling off the shelf to collide with the gearshift.
The majority of over-the-road rigs are 'hoods', which means the engine is in front of the driver's area. Years ago, most rigs were 'cab-overs', which means the driver's cab was over top the engine. The A/C systems back then weren't very trustworthy either. Imagine shutting down for some much needed shut-eye and the A/C dies, leaving you to slow roast overtop a sizzling diesel engine.
I have a regular home too. It comes with a real bed, one that doesn't have surround motor sound. It is amazing how luxurious it is to simply stretch out on a real bed. At my real home I like to cook. The old style truckstop with fresh cooked food are becoming rare. Many truckstops have opted for fast food instead of conventional restaurants. I miss those places where you could sit for a while over coffee, swap war stories with the other 'hands', just get away from the rig and the road. Economics have dictated the change. Fast food offers less expense in staffing, storage of product, and waste. I understand the economics, and I hate them.
My home on the road requires I check the oil, the coolant, the tires every day before I start rolling. I also have to check lights, brakes, wipers, horn and about 40 other items to do a pre-trip inspection.
When you're on the road you are never truly 'off-duty'. You are always being conscious of security, both your personal security and that of your rig/load. People out there make a living off of ripping off freight, and if the driver gets killed in the process, that's just the price of doing business, right?
My home on the road allows me to see things never seen by your average stay-at-home guy or gal. Sunrise in Wyoming, snow in Maine, the moon flying far above the scent of honeysuckle in Georgia. It's a home not designed for everyone. You'd better like your own company, and you can 'biggy size' that order, thank you very much. Solitude is the entré of the day. A small price to pay for seeing the Rocky Mountains, dodge tumbleweeds in west Texas, dodge tornadoes in Tornado Alley.
Home on wheels? Yeah, it is. Each one as individual as the person behind the wheel. It's a home, a job, a lifestyle. It's a handful of tickets to the carnival, a voyage to points unknown, a day at the zoo. It's where I've lived for almost 30 years, something over 3 million miles. It's been a home that I've molded and which has in turn shaped me. It's where I belong.