A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of submitting a questionnaire to a fellow “Twitterer” ARPCO has enjoyed connecting with on Twitter (@truckersjourney). The questionnaire asks about the daily life of a truck driver and for this blog I would like to share his fresh and straight-forward answers. Thank you, Trucker’s Journey, for keeping America moving on your wheels!
Why did you choose to be a truck driver?
My driving ambitions started in early childhood. Being a kid I would draw pictures of trucks and was fascinated by the size of the trucks traveling down the highway in the back seat of the car on weekend trips. I had family members and friends of the family who drove also, so I was around trucks early in life. I remember going to my cousin’s house, my uncle drove and owned his own rig at that time, so he would take us on trips overnight returning the next day. I decided to pursue a driving career after the military and wanted the experience of traveling and learning the industry. I think the idea of traveling was the most fascinating for me personally. Being able to see America and get paid for it? I was like “Great! Where do I sign up?” But also the idea of providing for my family was most important to me.
Are you an owner-operator or company driver?
I run with a family member, so although I’m not an “owner- operator”, I do operate and treat the equipment like it’s mine and as efficient as possible to help save money and cut expenses. I mention this because there are some company drivers with the “ Well its not mine” mentality and have no interests in running the equipment efficiently. I’ve ran with family and I’ve run as a company driver with a few of the more larger carriers. I also participated in the lease purchase option years ago and learned tons of knowledge from each experience. I’d advise anyone new to this industry to go company driver for a few years minimum before trying to jump out as an owner operator or the lease purchase. I say this because its critical in understanding the business of transportation and logistics, operations, good freight lanes, getting familiar with the type of freight they are comfortable hauling, and learning the do’s and don’ts on company equipment, etc…
What was the process of becoming a truck driver for you? How long did it take? What course? Etc.
It took me about two years to actually get in to trucking. I had to pay off prior tickets and clean up my driving record which I had in my personal vehicle. After paying tickets, I studied the CDL manual and got my CDL permit. Then I got a job at a company with non-CDL box trucks and started working there getting familiar with driving larger vehicles within the city limits and backing-up larger vehicles. From there, while out on a route, I saw a sign offering on-the-job training for CDL’s at a local beer company. I stopped and went inside to inquire about the position and the only requirement was having your CDL permit, which I already had. So I took that route working for a beer company delivering beer around the city. I worked the beer job for about six months before going to an over-the-road company.
What do you do as a truck driver?
I currently run coast to coast as a solo driver hauling produce from California, delivering to the east coast areas of NJ, NY, Maryland, Massachusetts, etc. Once empty, I reload with just about anything to get me back into the Midwest region. I deliver and then reload with a load of beef or pork from a meat packaging plant returning back into California.
What are some key tasks for a truck driver?
Key tasks are to pick up and deliver all types of goods and products as safely as possible. Drivers have a huge responsibility that often goes unnoticed by the average citizen. From raw materials to finished goods, food, clothing, shelter, and all the products that make each a necessity gets transported by a truck at one point and time.
What are top three knowledge/top three skills for a truck driver?
Attention to detail, common sense and the ability to think under pressure. I think those elements are often taken for granted but are critical when operating these trucks and equipment. You have to be able to problem solve because no one is holding your hand. You’re responsible for so much, from the safety of operating the trucks, protecting and caring for the cargo, ensuring the safety of those around you, and getting from point A to point B.
What is your greatest strength as a truck driver?
Being extra cautious and paying attention to detail. That has helped me remain accident free for over 15 years. Being able to read traffic and understand the importance of timing, trip planning, and understanding the difference in geographical locations across America.
What are the best AND worst aspects of being a truck driver?
The best aspects of being a driver is seeing the country, learning about various products and companies, and being exposed to different cultures and environments across the country.
The worst aspects of being a driver are the disrespect, the non appreciation, the pay when compared against the responsibility and time away from home for over-the-road drivers, and the lack of education about the trucking industry to the general public, in regards to the aspects of safety and the fact that these trucks supply your livelihood.
What is the most difficult driving job you have ever encountered?
I found flatbed and car hauling a little bit more challenging. Flatbed requires a lot of physical activity when it comes to hauling certain products that require chains, tarps, and jumping up and down on the trailer. There has to be a greater attention to detail in securing your load and making sure everything is safe. I found the same thing with car hauling because it requires the loading of the vehicles, driving them on the trailer, strapping or chaining down the vehicles, climbing up and down the trailer, and making sure the height of the load is legal to haul.
What techniques do you use to stay focused on the job?
Making sure the body is properly rested and getting mentally prepared before the start of each driving shift. Also I found eating a proper diet helps and staying away from unhealthy foods. I found it is healthy to stop after a certain amount of driving time to stretch the legs and walk around the equipment to get a visual look is important and breaks the cycle of sitting nonstop.
How do you fill your downtime on the road?
I write, read and exercise during downtime, in between loads, or getting loaded and unloaded. I keep dumbbell weights and resistance ropes and do arm curls in the morning and evening time.
What do you think of all the new regulations concerning HOS and MAP-21?
At one time I was completely against it, but seeing how the industry is transitioning and changing, plus the way the training is these days from the schools (which I think is horrible) I can see the need for the regulations and tightening down on the industry and companies. I remember times where I would drive endless hours and companies would push you and push you with no regards to the safety. Some drivers can handle that type of running and some can’t. So in order to make the industry have some sense of standards as far as hours of driving are concerned, I can see the need for E-logs & HOS.
How will/do these regulations affect you and your job?
Just means better planning, using my time more efficiently, making sure the shippers and receivers are aware of industry rules, and letting them know early if the appointment times are realistic or not.
What are the difficulties/challenges of being away from home?
The main challenge is missing the family if you have one. You miss out on the kids growing up, the special moments like birthdays, holidays, funerals, etc. Also, home cooked meals and spending time with friends. Trucking requires tons of sacrifice and dedication.