Being a truck driver is one thing, being a successful one is another. The hardest part of being successful in the trucking industry isn’t rooted in the job itself, but rather in being able to balance between family commitments and being able to make the money you want.
What was your career path? What do you like about truck driving as a job?
Prior to being a truck driver, I was in the United States Air Force. My enlistment was up, so I decided I was done and got out. I always loved big trucks, so I was delighted when I saw an ad in the newspaper: “No experience necessary, we will train you!” I couldn’t have been happier; it was like Christmas morning, and I was the kid who got the exact toy he wanted.
Fast forward, and I’ve spent 16 and a half years, on and off, being a truck driver. I’ve been a Driver Training Instructor with Schneider for about 5 years now, and I love my job because I get to play with trucks every day. There’s always something new, and you never get the same situation all the time. This is especially true for drivers: you’ll be seeing more in your first year than some people will in their entire lifetime.
What does it mean to be successful in this job?
Being successful as a driver means a lot more than just doing whatever you want, however you want it.
First and foremost, you have to be safe. This regards yourself and others.
You must ensure you are a safe driver at all times and in all conditions, whether or not you are late, frustrated, tired, hungry, or just really need to use the restroom (something you will probably be very familiar with soon!).
Second, you must ensure you make your deliveries on time unless it is physically impossible.
Sometimes this means you need to take an extra cup of coffee and really step on it, minimizing bathroom breaks and food stops.
When you’re driving as a team, this is much easier for multiple reasons, mostly because when one driver is driving, the other can sleep. This enables you to swap out and drive virtually all day long. Another benefit of team driving is that you can rely on each other for support and to keep each other safe. The simple presence of another person in the cab can help a lot to reduce the feeling of seclusion and loneliness.
That’s pretty much all there is to being successful: stay safe and stay on time.
How do you balance home time with getting the mileage (and money) you want?
This will really depend on whether you’re a solo or team driver and what kind of family commitments you have at home. You have to make some sort of compromise between your at-home time and being on the road. Simply put, the more home time you want, the less you will be making.
Figure out how long you can be away from your family and relationship before the situation becomes unsatisfactory. A lot of truck drivers struggle with this balance and end up not being able to continue driving. You MUST have a strong support system at home that understands your job will keep you away from home for potentially weeks at a time, or else this truck driving is simply not for you. You must have peace of mind that your belongings are okay, your house is okay, your family is okay, and that you’ll be coming home to open arms. Of course, if you are single and have no obligations, then maybe this is the perfect job for you.
On the topic of making more money while sacrificing less of your home time, there are certain routes you can take. First, hazmat and tandem endorsements will make you more money. Second, if you are an independent contractor (have your own truck but work for a company), you can expect to make some more, but you are also responsible for maintaining and upkeeping the truck. As an IC, you also have the freedom of choosing the loads you desire, and you can avoid live unloads, which gives you more time to earn mileage.
Most truckers start as solo drivers over-the-road. There are specific, “dedicated” accounts that are regularly scheduled and have you home every week or even every day. Of course, these are harder to come by and are based on the needs of the account.
Team drivers, typically, get longer loads that are worth more money. Most companies are not willing to let teams sit around since the more they’re utilized, the better off the company is. And this benefits the drivers as well.
What advice would you give to a new aspiring truck driver?
- First, be prepared for a major lifestyle change
- Second, have a positive attitude
- Lastly, be prepared to fail before you can succeed
You have to be able to work through adversity, whether it be sitting for hours through traffic or making a navigation mistake. Be prepared that things aren’t always going to go exactly as planned. Adapt. Keep in mind that every day out there is a learning experience. The only way to get the experience is to go out there and do it. If you can be resilient enough to work through bad days in the beginning, those bad days become less and less frequent.