What Is It Like To Be a Truck Driver?
Being a truck driver is more than just driving to make a living. Truck drivers have a degree of freedom that isn’t comparable to other jobs. There’s no boss looking over your shoulder, and the view out your window is ever-changing. On the other hand, trucking is no cozy office gig with regular breaks and brunches. If driving OTR, you may not even see your family for a week or more. Truck driving isn’t merely a job, but rather a lifestyle.
See the Country
The first and most obvious part of living a trucking lifestyle is that you will see and visit different places all across the country. From the Rocky Mountains to the deserts of Arizona, the rolling hills of Tennessee, fields of corn in Indiana, and everything else in between, truck drivers see more in a few weeks than many Americans will in a lifetime. Sea to shining sea.
While you probably won’t have time to stop and take pictures, tour the National Parks, or hit the waves of California, just getting to see magnificent sunrises and sunsets makes the task at hand much more bearable, and sometimes it even feels almost like a vacation.
On the other hand, there is sometimes adverse weather, which makes for a less-than-ideal and potentially dangerous driving experience.
It might be pouring outside with high winds and poor visibility, and you only have the comfort of your cab (and maybe a passenger if you’re a team driver) to keep you company.
No one likes driving in bad weather, but truckers accept this risk as part of the lifestyle.
Life of a Truck Driver
Local drivers get home at the end of the day, but for over-the-road trucking, being a truck driver means you must sleep in your cab, which can be surprisingly comfortable.
A modern truck has the single most important amenity anyone needs: electricity. With conventional outlets available in many modern trucks, truckers have access to almost any appliance they want. Small coffee makers and microwaves can make a truck feel almost like home, if well-kept.
Most trucks however, do not have their own restrooms. Drivers must use public showers and restrooms… or the side of the road. This is an aspect of the lifestyle that aspiring truckers should consider. Truck driving is not a job for everyone.
In reality, though, truck stops are actually not that bad. The showers are much like those at motels, and the food can be good at specific truck stops. But eating at the same spots can get repetitive pretty quickly. Meals often have to be put off for a few hours in order to get to your destination on time, so packing snacks is a must. Coffee is another necessity for many drivers who drive late into the night.
Freedoms of Driving a Truck
A truck driving job has some great advantages for individuals who like taking their own path. While you do have deadlines, since deliveries need to be timely, truck drivers technically have the say in when they are going to drive, take a lunch break, or stop for the night. Many truckers even prefer to drive at night to avoid traffic, so they set their schedule to stop in the morning.
Truck drivers have no dress code besides looking professional enough to enter a company loading dock office. No shaving required (but regular bathing is highly recommended!)
With this great freedom also comes great responsibility: You have to make sure that you are fit to drive, and it’s mostly on you if you don’t make the scheduled delivery times.
There will undoubtedly be new challenges each and every day, whether from traffic to breakdowns and detours, so adaptability and courage are key. Overcoming these day-to-day obstacles is incredibly rewarding for individuals who take on the challenge.
Lastly, of course, driving a 72-foot-long, huge, powerful machine with almost 600 horses under the hood has its own allure. Being responsible for all these deliveries makes truck drivers a critical component of the nation’s economy. So if you can handle being alone and driving the country sounds like an experience you don’t want to miss, then truck driving might be a good job for you.
Is Truck Driving Hard?
This seemingly simple question has a lot of answers, and the primary answer depends on each person and their personality. The new driver with less than 5,000 miles under his belt will most surely answer that yes, being a truck driver is the hardest thing he’s done yet. Asking the 15-years-on-the-job veteran will result in a chuckle, a smile, and a lot of words you may not be accustomed to as a non-trucker.
Isolation Is Part of the Job
The most difficult part of truck driving is being alone. This is not to say that driving the truck and navigating narrow streets made for small cars is easy. Mental exhaustion can be even more tiring than physical.
The vast majority of a trucker’s time will be spent driving alone for days, weeks, and months at a time. This can certainly take a mental toll.
It’s no surprise then that many truckers bring small dogs to keep them company. Most trucking companies also offer a passenger ride-along option for drivers.
A driver who has been driving for at least a set amount of time (usually a few months) is allowed to take a friend or family member along. But for most truckers, they are alone for long stretches of time.
Isolation aside, living a trucking lifestyle is obviously a strain on relationships, including family. While you can video chat with a significant other when you stop for the night, you are still away from home most of the time if you want to make good money. Furthermore, if the at-home member of the relationship’s occupation is time consuming, you may not have the opportunity to even chat on the phone every day.
On the other hand, Teaming with a spouse on the road is a good remedy for the negatives that trucking can bring to a relationship. If you don’t have responsibilities with a child or house payment, you and a spouse can hit the road together and make even more money. And this also brings the benefit of having moral and even sometimes much needed physical support (for when the tandem slide locking pins are being uncooperative, etc.)
Risks of Driving a Truck
Truck driving is also quite dangerous, and that’s a lesson that comes quickly to new drivers on the road. You simply do not have the short stopping distance of a passenger vehicle, and taking steep curves at above the speed limit can easily tip your trailer over, especially when it’s loaded lightly.
Fortunately, the risk of jackknifing was reduced when trucks were equipped with non-locking brakes, but jackknifing is still a possibility, especially in adverse conditions.
Furthermore, four-wheel drivers can often be a danger to themselves and truck drivers. Many drivers are apparently not aware of the seemingly obvious way that a large vehicle such as a truck behaves and handles, so extra, extra care must be taken by truckers to ensure the safety of naive or distracted fellow drivers.
Another danger for truck drivers is the possibility of succumbing to an unhealthy lifestyle. Truck drivers simply don’t have time to cook nor do they have the means to do so.
At truck stops, less healthy options are much cheaper and more convenient, so truckers resort to these meals, even if they realize the implications of weight gain and other ailments. The problem of diet is further compounded with the sedentary lifestyle.
The View of Truck Drivers
One difficulty that some drivers deal with is the stigma of being a truck driver. With the advance of technology and the advent of semi-trucks, truck drivers were once known as the brave cowboys of the west, resilient knights ensuring the continuation of life for the common person. Unfortunately, that view has greatly changed.
As the trucking industry expanded and four-wheel drivers began to blame truckers for all their commuting problems, truckers began to be seen as low-class. This stereotype expanded to depict truck drivers as fat, lazy, and even as reckless, speeding monsters. There are billboards dedicated specifically to truck accident lawsuits, implying the fault of the truck driver by default. One in Indianapolis, for instance, shows a semi-truck with a crushed trailer, advertising an attorney called “The Hammer” to resolve your truck accident case. Such imagery and the common stigma surrounding truck drivers may not be earned, but it often comes with the job.
Truckers leave for a variety of reasons: relationship issues, health problems that prevent them from continuing, or dissatisfaction with the job. Most drivers that leave are new hires who had some widely-skewed preconceived ideas about what trucking will be like. The truth is that you can make just as much starting as an OTR trucker as you can make working at the fuel desk for the same company, with significantly less hours and amounts of stress.
If you commit to trucking long-term, however, and you persevere through the frustrations and unmet promised home time, your dedication leads to higher wages, better loads, and a better job overall. It takes time, and, yes, it can be hard. This job is truly unlike any other. The freedom of the open road, the sights, and the personal growth in both confidence and problem-solving can all make the journey very much worth it.