Carlos Fernandez lives with his 10-year-old daughter, Maddie, in Woodlake, a small town in the Central Valley. He has spent the last four decades as a night-shift truck driver, hauling cement from Fresno to Victorville. As part of our occasional series, "What's Your Story," we hear from Fernandez about some tricks he uses to stay awake -- or catch some sleep -- while he's on the road.
"The cement plant that we haul to, they start up around 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 o’clock in the morning. So, if they give you an early load, the early load would be 1 o’clock in the morning.
We come down the freeway; the good thing about that hour is there’s no traffic hardly. But that’s when we want to sleep. That’s the bad part about it. You want to sleep, you get tired.
But one of the hardest things to do is, toward the middle of the week, when you really start to get tired, is to stay awake. By me staying awake I’m going to save my life or maybe someone else’s life. And we have things that will help us stay awake, we have music, we have No Doze, coffee. Squirt some water on your face, try to stay awake. Pinch, pull your hair, slap my face, I’ve done all of that. I like my Spanish music, música ranchera. I listen to that; I have my radio here where I play CDs.
Toward the end of the week is when it gets more dangerous because you’re tired. You climb in the truck and say, ‘Wow. I got to go 214, and then 264 back, and then another 64 back to get to the house. That’s a long trip.’
That’s why I carry this board here. I put it across, I put two pillows on it, and I can sleep across the two seats.
But now that I have my Maddie and she doesn’t have her mom, I’m thinking about stretching the truck out and putting a sleeper on it so she can be with me.
Carlos Fernandez and his daughter, Maddie.
Madeline, she uh, when her mom passed she was 5, and that’s been five years ago, so she’s 10 years old right now. Maddie’s 10 years old right now. Very happy. I don’t know what I’d do without her. She’s my power source. Without her, we’re nothing. Everything that I do has to do with her.
With this truck here, I saw what I could do with it. I raised my family. And I'm still successful. The trucks have been good to me. They really have. I wouldn't have it any other way.
The thing is, I used to work in the fields. And in the fields you have no future. There’s not enough money to get you anything. Just keeps you a slave. They pay you enough to eat. That’s all.
Like I say, if I was to relive my life. I would want to relive it as a truck driver."