So you are thinking about becoming a professional truck driver. While being a truck driver is an honorable, noble profession, there are many things– good and bad– every prospective trucker must know. To better understand some of the challenges that truck drivers face everyday we put together the follow list of potential problem areas that you need to be aware of before becoming a truck driver. We are not trying to scare you away from becoming a trucker. We are just trying to get you thinking about some of the harsh realities that drivers have to deal with. Remember, trucking is a lifestyle, not a job, but at the same time it can be very rewarding and it just might be the dream job that you never thought about.
Time with family and friends will be limited.
The first year on the road for a new driver can be difficult and some drivers have a hard time acclimating to the new lifestyle. Truck drivers often spend days at a time on the road. It’s not uncommon for new drivers that are going through training to spend up to 21 days, at a time, or more on the road.
This amount of time away from home can can be hard on the trucker and his or her family and its probably the # 1 reason why people decide against becoming a trucker. If you become a trucker you will more than likely, miss school events, birthdays, anniversaries, and many more important events. This can be emotionally taxing on you and your loved ones. Most trucking companies will try their best to get you home for important dates, but there is never any real guarantees so keep this in mind.
Fortunately, the advancements in technology make communicating easier. Programs like Skype and Face Time allow you to communicate “face to face” with your loved ones. Drivers no longer have to use truck stop phones for their nightly call home and most trucking companies have a passenger program where you are allowed to have a rider with you while you are working.
If you’re really interested, ask other drivers within the CDLLIFE community about how their families acclimated to the time apart. Most importantly, talk to your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or partner about their concerns. Have a game plan in place. Plan time each day to speak with one another. Talk about how you will spend your time together and make the most of your time when you are home.
Time and Financial Cost of Training
As with most things in life, the financial cost of doing something ends up being a vital piece of the decision making process. It’s no different when prospective truck drivers think about going to school to get their CDL. On top of the financial costs there is always the time commitment cost. Getting your CDL and becoming a professional truck driver won’t happen overnight, but with the growing driver shortage and the increased demand for new drivers the barrier to entry is at a historic low.
There’s a reason why we listed health as the third concern that new drivers need to be aware of. We keep saying this over and over, but trucking is a lifestyle. Truckers have long days, they are always on the go, their job requires them to sit for multiple hours a day, constant vibration of the truck might wear on the body, difficulty sleeping on the road, limited food options that turns into unhealthy eating pattern from some truckers, and bathrooms are only available when you are stopped. With all of this said what could go wrong. The good news is that many truck drivers find ways to cope and adjust to these issues. CDLLIFE has an entire section of our website dedicated to truck driver health and wellness so if ever in doubt or in the need for some healthy advice be sure to check that section of the site out.
No body like to be around someone that doesn’t take care of their own personal hygiene, but the life of a truck is no easy task. It’s not like you have a shower in your truck. In order to freshen up, most drivers forced to use the bathroom facilities at various truck stops or at their companies terminal. If a driver is under a tight deadline for a load they may choose to forgo the pit stop and pass on taking a shower. Being a clean driver isn’t just about taking a shower. Driver’s have to plan on doing their laundry on the road and usually this requires a driver to plan ahead.
Murphy’s Law (What can go wrong, will go wrong)
If you have never drove a truck before then you won’t be able to relate to the Murphy’s Law concept of trucking. What you need to know before you start driving a commercial truck is that whatever can go wrong, eventually will go wrong. So many things can go wrong on the road that you need to come into the trucking industry with strong shoulders and a persevering spirit. Most truck drivers are paid by the mile which means that they are only making money when the wheels are turning. When something unexpected happens that prevents the wheels from turning your pay starts to suffer. This means that whenever any little problem comes up your first instinct might be to get frustrated, lash out at a dispatcher or customer, and then before you know it you are quitting your job or getting fired for something that might of honestly been outside of your control. Lets list out a few common scenarios that might cause you some stress while on the road.
- Your truck will breakdown. Sometimes in the middle of nowhere forcing you to wait for a wrecker service or mobile repair unit to come and fix you.
- Maintenance on your truck that was supposed to take 1 day can turn into 3 in the matter of hours.
- Weather and traffic will cause delays which will impact both your hours of service and any potential pre-plans you had waiting for you.
- Your load planning can be cancelled on you or taken from you causing you to sit, miss home time, or come up short on miles for the week.
- Shippers that were supposed to be ready with your load are actually late getting it ready which means when you show up for your scheduled pick up you end up waiting. This makes you burn through your hours.
- Customers and receivers that are supposed to be ready to offload you are not yet ready when you arrive which wastes your time and forces you into detention.
- Your logbook and hours got wasted by other peoples mistakes and you suffer because of it.You missed the payroll cutoff for a long load that you just finished hauling and now that load you were counting on to get you paid won’t be paid until the following week.
- Now image a scenario when on the same load the shipper was delayed getting to you which forced you to wait a few extra hours, but guess what, because you were delayed picking the load up you won’t make your appointment time for the delivery window which means you now have to wait until the next day to get offloaded. Because of this unexpected delay your delivery is rescheduled until tomorrow, but you had a pre-plan for the next day which your load planner is forced to pull from you because you still have to make the delivery that got pushed back. Not you are now finally done delivering the load, but since your pre-plan got cancelled you are forced to wait for a new load which means you now have more ideal time. On top of all of this, that pre-plan that you were supposed to be on was the load that was going to take you home for the weekend, but guess what… home time not happening this weekend because your company does not have a back up load to get you there and the out of route miles would be too much for the company to eat so you have no choice, but to take your 34 hour rest at a truck stop. In this scenario, all of this happened because the initial shipper was late getting you the load. This one problem caused a chain of events that were outside of your control, but you were the one the ultimately got hurt the most because of it.
The point of all of this is to get you to understand that things will go wrong while you are on the road, but for the most part things should balance out. You might have a excellent 3300 mile week this week, but next week you had a couple curve balls thrown your way and you end the week with 1800 miles. Most veteran drivers understand this and if you are going to last in the trucking industry you need to be able to adapt to the situation.
Road Rage and Trucking
If you have anger problems or are someone who has common road rage in a personal car, just think about what that would be like in a 80,000 lbs wrecking machine. What if the above situation we explained had just happened to you? You just realized you’re not making it home this weekend. You need an outlet for your frustration, but if you have a history or road rage then becoming a truck driver is probably the last profession you need to be exploring.
Laws governing trucking get stricter and stricter each year. It can be hard to keep up and making a mistake and violating a regulation could be costly. Punishment for breaking a regulation can result in a warning, fine, termination from your employer, or even losing your CDL.
CDLLIFE is here to help. We provide news and bring you information on new regulations and how they apply to you. Be sure to check our site often.
Let’s face it, it’s not a truck friendly world. Many businesses won’t let you park your truck for the night and you will often find yourself in an area without a truck stop. If you don’t plan ahead, you may end up in a town with no where to park your truck. Plan ahead, if point A has truck parking, don’t head to point B yet.
Layover time, or time in between loads, can be relaxing or downright annoying. You could be sitting for days with nothing to do but wait…and you may not be paid during this time. Plan ahead, take books to read or other things to do to keep yourself busy. Take a bike or running shoes. Explore the area you’re in, you may even have to opportunity to lay on the beach for a couple of days.
Is trucking the right career path for you?
While many drivers complain about their jobs, many would probably agree that they wouldn’t rather do any other job. Drivers get to see some of the coolest things. One driver said, “I saw the same shuttle take off and land, months apart and in different states.”
Being out on the open road, you’re not being micro-managed, you don’t have to sit at a cubicle, or punch the clock. Driving is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. You just need to decide if it’s the lifestyle for you.