I’ve had a career in trucking for nearly 40 years. I’ve learned lots in that time in the industry.
There are 5 important things that I have learned, as a result of my trucking experience, which new drivers or drivers in training could benefit from.
1. Stress is Part of the Job
Stress is an inevitable part of a career in trucking. I always enjoy the driving part of the job, don’t get me wrong.
But there is stress involved in a truck driving career. There’s stress when you’re in traffic, there’s stress when you’re looking for some place downtown and you can’t find it and you’re lost, there’s stress trying to back into a tiny little spot, where there really isn’t any room for a tractor trailer. The customer doesn’t care…..he just wants you to be at the dock.
One of the first things you need to do, is learn how to handle that stress and take it in stride.
2. Effective Communication is Key
The second thing you need to learn to do, is how to communicate and manage the people that you’re dealing with.
Contrary to popular belief, over the road trucking is not just freedom of the road and you’re all by yourself. There’s people to deal with along the way at various levels. You’ve got to deal with your dispatcher. You’ve got to learn how to handle and manage him, in order to communicate to him, what your needs are so that you can successfully deliver his load in a timely fashion. That way, the trucking company makes money…it’s their number one concern.
You’ve got to learn to communicate and manage your relationship with the customers so they’re not leaving you out in the back 40 waiting to unload. You’ve got to use that time efficiently. A lot of times you’re not getting paid for waiting or you’re getting paid very little for the wait time, so you want to be in and out of that dock as quickly as possible rather than being put on ignore by the shipper or receiver.
You’ve got to learn to communicate effectively with the repair shop workers. Shop time is generally unpaid downtime, so you want to get in and out of the shop as quickly as possible and learn to manage that downtime successfully, in order to minimize it.
3. You Won’t Get Rich as a Trucker
Something else that I’ve learned, is that you’ll probably not get rich in trucking. You might think you will, due to the large number of hours you put in..you would think it would balance out to a large pay check but it doesn’t work that way, especially these days.
The time you invest doesn’t often turn into a big payout. It’s a fact you need to realize and accept, early in your driving career.
The cost of operating on the road has gone way up and that cuts into your bottom line….. there’s no such thing as a $2 breakfast anymore, its a $12 breakfast now. $2 only gets you the coffee and nothing else. It’s especially tough to get rich these days if you’re a owner-operator. The cost of maintaining and repairing a truck have gone through the roof.
4. Relationships Suffer
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how hard an over-the-road trucking lifestyle is on a relationship.
Generally, you’re away more than you’re at home. This in turn places a great deal of strain on your spouse. They must handle and run the household as well as countless other chores…..taking care of the kids, taking care of the bills, doing all the jobs, mowing the lawn…you name it, they’ve got to do it while you’re gone. These stresses are hard on the stay at home spouse.
There’s a loss of emotional and moral support. It’s not something that can be recovered with phone calls and often it’s something that’s just lost and never is recovered if you’re gone for long enough.
I learned that when the next load takes priority over your family, you’re definitely doing something wrong and it’s time to switch gears.
5. Changes Are Sometimes Necessary
Finally, I’ve learned that while it can be tough to make a change, sometimes it’s the best thing to do.
The object of the game is to put money in your pocket, so you’ve got to be working with a carrier that is not only making themselves money, but is allowing you to make money as well. It’s got to be a mutual relationship, and too often, especially these days, the carrier is making money, but the driver not so much. You’ve got to be compensated for all your time on the road, all your time away. After all, it’s work time too.
If you find yourself in the position where you are not making money, and you’ve met with the carrier and voiced your concerns about being paid for your down time or waiting time or whatever it is, and you and your carrier don’t seem to be able to work it out, it’s time to start looking for a better carrier.
There are better carriers out there that will pay you for your time. Your time is worth money. While it is stressful to switch jobs, often its the best thing, because you’ve got to make a good living at this.
Don’t let yourself stagnate at a trucking company, who’s not treating you well or not paying you fairly, just because you’re afraid to move. Make the move. I’ve had to do it a few times in my driving career and each time, it was the right thing to do. Do consider a change if you’re not being compensated fairly for your time.
And finally, sometimes it may be nearly impossible to satisfy yourself with the wages in the trucking jobs available to you. In that case, it may be better to leave your over the road driving career, and seek out a day Job.
At the end of the day, you just may find you’re making better money and you’re home at night. Considering quality of life is a very important factor.
My advice to you, is that if you’re in trucking for a career, consider these five things. Learn to balance and deal with them accordingly. A career as a truck driver is truly a great job, as long as you can manage the issues involved with it.