“Who better than a national network of professional van operators to say which truck stop, motor oil, or brand of tire is best? These are the things they live with every day, and the King of the Road survey lets them share their knowledge and experience with the rest of us.” –Glen Dunkerson, chairman and CEO, Atlas World Group
The King of the Road survey is one of the few such reports I look forward to reading every year. Now in its sixth year, this survey – compiled from the responses of 340 long haul drivers, most of the owner-operators, employed by Atlas Van Lines, a division of Atlas World Group – provides both a serious and light-hearted glimpse into the lives of some the hardest working professionals you’ll ever meet.
Not only do these folks spend a lot of time criss-crossing the country (31% of them spending 31 to 40 weeks on the road, with 23% out there over 40 weeks out of a year), they also put a lot of miles on the odometers of their rigs (38% traveling 50,000 to 74,999 miles per year, with 25% clocking 75,000 to nearly 100,000 miles annually) yet must also painstakingly load and unload precious household goods with the utmost care – not necessarily a recipe for a fun work day for most people, I think.
Yet it’s a calling for most of these drivers, with over 43% of those surveyed boasting of 10 or more years working as a “super van operator” (as the call themselves) for just Atlas Van Lines – that’s regardless of past moving company experience.
But life on the road isn't easy, as any long-haul driver – mover, freight hauler, whomever – will tell you. And the big challenge for most of these drivers boils down to one thing nowadays – staying fit and healthy.
Nearly two-thirds of the respondents to Atlas’ survey said maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the biggest challenge of life on the road, with 56% saying eating right and 24% saying getting enough exercise are their greatest hurdles. Yet many of them report they are doing what they can to stay fit by walking/running at truck stops (37%) and choosing water (71%) and fresh fruit (36%) as their No. 1 drink and snack. They're also choosing Subway as their top “fast-food” restaurant out on the road now, besting runners-up KFC and Wendy's by a mile.
These drivers, too, are trying to be “green” where they can in their working lives. Nearly all respondents (94%) said they are trying to do more to protect the environment, including recycling whenever possible (38%), drinking from reusable containers (28%), and using biodiesel fuel (12%). A third of respondents use noted they are using systems designed to reduce engine idling time.
One sad note (of sorts) gleaned from this survey is that days of the CB or “Citizen’s Band” radio may be numbered, with only 50% of drivers using them, replaced (not surprisingly) by cell phones. Nearly all (95%) of Atlas’ respondents said cell phones are their preferred method of communication. In another surprising finding, over a third (36%) of Atlas’ long-haul van operators report they have daily access to a computer, and more than half use a computer once a week or more.
Blackberries and other mobile devices are also gaining popularity on the highways, too, with 14% of van operators said they use these devices, up from 7% a year ago.
Then, of course, come the “fun facts” as I like to call them:
Most scenic highway: I-70 through Colorado/Utah/Kansas/Pennsylvania
Most boring highway: I-10 through California/Arizona/New Mexico/Texas/Louisiana/Alabama/Florida
State with the best rest stops: Florida (20%), followed by Ohio (17%) and Texas (16%)
Favorite hotel chain: Super 8 (36%), with the Days Inn a close second (30%)
Best coffee: Dunkin' Donuts (43%) with McDonald’s (21%) a VERY distant second
Most effective antacid: Tums (31%) with Rolaids (25%) the runner up
Favorite music: Classic rock from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s just edges out Country (37% vs. 30%)
Best Class 8 tractor: Kenworth (38%), followed by Freightliner (22%) and Peterbilt (14%)
Favorite motor oil: Shell Rotella (40%), followed by Mobil Delvac (31%) and Chevron Delo (16%)
Best tires: Bridgestone (36%) followed by Michelin (32%) and Goodyear (19%)
Favorite truck stop chain: Petro (44%), with Flying J (24%) a distant second