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Kai Ryssdal: There’s always been a certain romance to the open road. In life, generally, to be sure, but professionally sometimes as well. Long haul truckers don’t have to worry about the guy in the next cubicle talking on the phone too loud. There’s nobody stealing your lunch out of the office fridge. You’re out there all by yourself. But the peace and quiet comes at a price once loneliness sets in, especially for truckers with a gregarious streak in ’em.
Julie Rose reports from WFAE in Charlotte, N.C.
Julie Rose: People told Terry Martindale she was too short to be a trucker.
Terry Martindale: 4’11” — and three-quarter inches.
Turns out the seat in her truck moves way forward, so her height isn’t a problem. But her personality kind of is.
Martindale: I’m really outgoing. I’m really friendly. I’m bubbly. I have something to say to everybody.
Which isn’t easy to do when you drive 11 hours a day for days on end. And that’s how she ended up on YouTube.
Martindale on a YouTube video: Oh sweet! I got parking. I got parking!
This was her first YouTube video back in 2008 — a 10-minute day-in-the-life montage. Endless road signs and trees flash by. There’s the occasional traffic jam. Martindale talks to the webcam like it’s a passenger.
Martindale on video: It’s time for the little trucker to go to bed. Go to bed!
More than 4,000 people have watched that video, which doesn’t sound like much in the YouTube universe. But you can see from the comment thread why YouTube has become such an important part of Martindale’s life. It’s all inside jokes and “Hey, where you headed this week?” conversations. Some have migrated to phone and face-to-face meetings. This is the professional network Martindale longed for during the first eight years of her trucking career.
Martindale: YouTube’s definitely a gateway. It’s worked for me!
She’s kinda giggling there, because she actually just started dating another YouTube trucker.
Geoff Banner on a YouTube video: Hey everybody.
This guy, Geoff Banner.
Banner on video: I just got onto my YouTube page here and found I had 1,008 subscribers, which is totally awesome.
There are hundreds of truckers on YouTube. Most are part-diary, part-music-video. You see lots of messy-haired drivers rolling out of bed in a truck cab, shuffling into a gas station to take a shower.
North Carolina driver Rob Wilson lies awake at night conjuring ideas for his next video.
Rob Wilson: There she is.
Rose: Oh! Am I on YouTube? Hello.
Even getting interviewed about making YouTube videos is an excuse to roll the camera.
Wilson: It’s part of what makes me sane. With traffic and the cars cuttin’ you off, and just the crazy people out there on the road, there’s a way to kind of blow off steam.
Some trucking companies have banned their drivers from making videos out of concern for liability. But the most prolific YouTube truckers have been embraced as ambassadors for the industry.
Jim McCarter: This is Bobby Boofay, how y’all doing out there today.
Trucker Jim McCarter’s videos feature his goofy alter-ego Bobby Boofay and draw tens of thousands of views. That’s enough to even earn him a little extra cash. YouTube made him an advertising partner and pays him a penny per click.
McCarter: Let’s say 60,000 hits on a video. What’s that? 600 bucks maybe? I’m not gonna retire or nothing on that. And I don’t really do it for the money, either. Being able to share this with everybody really brought a more job satisfaction to me.
There are a few YouTube truckers making enough on videos they actually could quit driving. Trouble is, that money dries up unless they’ve got their wheels — and cameras — rolling.
In North Carolina, I’m Julie Rose for Marketplace.
Ryssdal: You can see some of the videos and help a trucker out if you stop by our website.