While you sleep I am driving, while you are eating I am driving and while you spend time with loved ones I am driving. That is what I tell people. Probably the easiest and simplest way to describe driving a truck and virtually nobody gets it or understands it. You sacrifice 95% of your life day in and day out for your 36 hours off at the end of the week. Typically not a weekend, typically 36 hours and then you are back in your truck.
I am probably the least qualified person to talk about driving a truck. I didn’t get behind a wheel until I was 40 years old. I never dreamed about driving a truck when I was a kid. And I am not mechanically inclined at all. I know where the key goes and how to check the oil. I only started driving because I was desperate to change my career. Or maybe better said – lack of career.
Lucky for me that for the most part the trucking lifestyle agreed with me. Fourteen plus hours a day, six days a week is my kind of work week. My plan was to get in; make the money and get out. Another reason why I am probably not the most qualified person to talk about driving a truck. From the day I started I was already planning my exit.
Of all the ambitions and goals I have had in my life; getting my AZ truck licence at the age of 40 was probably the most difficult and mentally challenging accomplishments of my life. I mean in a split second a mistake can be made that can cost from a few thousand dollars to potentially $100,000’s. A chain reaction accident can kill multiple people or an entire family. All for a paycheck?
While laws and rules are put in place to keep people safe; the people that make these laws and who enforce these laws have never driven a truck before in their lives. As a result many of these laws create more dangerous road conditions. And along with laws that work against truck drivers; governments enjoy giving very heavy penalties for infractions. Not to mention how difficult local government can makes it for truck drivers to simply park safely at night. There are not nearly enough safe parking spots at night and the government’s response is to make parking even more difficult. Most Wal-Mart’s won’t even support truck drivers with spaces at night anymore.
If I even realized what I was getting myself into with the company I drove a truck for I doubt I would have ever lasted a month. At the time it was a trucking company of about 23 drivers with an average career spanning 30+ years and you needed like 3-5 years driving experience to apply there. I had like 5 weeks truck training school. They had no idea what to do with me and I am sure all 23 other drivers were wondering what the hell?
I am just glad I didn’t know any better and simply did what I do best. Work and work hard; because that was a lot of drivers to earn respect from. I don’t remember much from truck training school but I do remember them saying that your first year would suck. And they were right, it did suck; but I was working hard and making some of the best money of my life.
When I first started they didn’t even know what to do with me I was so green. I had a trainer who refused to train me but an hour or two a week. In the beginning the first part of my day was spent repairing the equipment we used to unload our product and the other half the day was spent learning how to back up a trailer into the same parking space over and over for hours. Truth of the matter over 6 years later I still don’t back into a parking space that well.
Actually, while we do do a lot of backing up we don’t back to very many loading docks or parking spaces compared to many other truck drivers. All our product is distributed to independent distributors and 95% of them utilized storage units and about 5% used their home garages. Let me tell you that most storage units were never designed for a 70 foot vehicle to navigate their narrow lane ways or gates.
Not only were these locations not designed for truck and trailer I needed to navigate these places in the dark, in the rain, in the snow and ice and in combinations of dark and rain or dark and snow. Some of the stories I could tell you. Talk about getting your blood pumping and your heart racing. I had a few bumps but only one time I hit a building real bad.
I soon came to realize that I was working and driving for a very elite trucking company. Ninety percent of experienced drivers could not do the job I was doing.
Some of my fondest memories are navigating downtown New York City with a truck, driving through the craziest snow storms or chaining up in a real bad snow storm to make it over some real scary mountains in the dark. Without a doubt the most difficult job mentally of my life and no one can take that away from me.
In the six and half years driving I have driven through all the Lower 48 states and through every major city in America. Vermont was the last state for me to drive through and San Francisco was the last major city to visit. I never drove to Prince Edward Island and I never drove through the city of Vancouver. But by the time I hand in my keys (sometime in late October). I hope to have driven a little over 1.2 million kilometers, which is like 30 times around the earth at the equator. I also should have also unloaded by hand about 400 trailers of cookies or approximately 12,000 000 lbs of cookies.
For the last 6 and half years my average work week was 80 to 90 hours a week. Ninety hours a week before electronic logs and about 80 hour weeks when electronic logs became law. Some years I burned out multiple times a year. For the last two years I no longer kept an apartment and lived completely in my truck. Fortunately work paid for a hotel room for two nights every week. I ate an average one meal a day and got about two showers a week for over six years. Never in my life did I work so hard.
I should also mention that I have missed two important funerals and all family Christmases during my time in the truck. Family events and get-togethers are almost impossible to be a part of as a truck driver.
People will ask what you do in the evening? There is no evening, you drive, you eat if you’re lucky, you go to sleep and wake up and do it all over again.
The other thing about driving a truck is that unless you’ve driven a truck won’t get it at all and you won’t understand the life at all either. Driving a truck is a lifestyle and is all consuming of that life. You sacrifice 95% of your life to do the job and the people that you do that job for don’t understand that at all.
One of the biggest things I will take away from this job is confidence. Whenever I am up against something difficult or impossible I simply need to ask myself how this situation compares to driving a truck. The answer is pretty simple and I now have the confidence to move forward.
Driving has been a lifestyle and it will surely be a lifestyle that I miss. To all the drivers that ever helped me and you know who you are. Thank you I could never have succeeded without you mentoring.