By Scott VanBeek
It takes a certain person to get behind the wheel, for days at a time, driving mile after mile. Many drivers believe that it’s in your blood; you’re either born to drive or you aren’t. Are you cut out to be a trucker? The following information will help you decide:
The Big Four
People often have four main reasons for choosing a trucking career. Interestingly, money isn’t one of them. It seems that most drive trucks because they are passionate about it — and truckers are indeed part of an elite club, sauntering into truck stops at all hours, kicking back in the driver’s lounge (a place of awe and mystery for four-wheel drivers), and of course, using the original form of social media: the CB radio.
If any of these are your reason to drive, here are the facts:
See the country. Yes, you will see the country, but in reality, you will often be on a route so you will only see a portion of the country unless you get different routes — known as lanes to drivers. Many trucking companies will run their drivers up and down a certain region as opposed to all over the country. For instance, a driver may haul anywhere between Houston and Wisconsin, but never make it to California or any of the Northwestern states.
All that travel can backfire. For example, maybe you want to spend Christmas with your kids in Georgia. You take a load up to Wyoming, but that is OK since you should be back in plenty of time. However, while dropping your load, a winter storm rolls in, dumping several feet of snow. All the roads are closed and you spend Christmas sitting at a truck stop.
No boss looking over your shoulder. Yes and no. No, your boss is not physically there, but most trucks have technology installed that reports every move you make back to your boss. The technology knows when you stop, where you stop, and for how long. It knows how fast you drive (and some trucks have governors that prevent the truck for exceeding a certain speed). It will report when you load, unload and rest — ultimately it knows exactly where you are at any given point of a trip. We are in the “Big Brother” age of technology after all.
You also have both federal and state government regulations. While state laws mainly apply when hauling oversized loads or special loads that may be hazardous, The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) can stop you at any time to inspect your truck, check your log, and make sure you are running legally. The DOT can delay you if you are one pound over the limit on an axle. You are under more scrutiny than if you were working in an office or on a job site, but there is a certain freedom to hitting the road.
Owning a truck means that you are your boss. Truck owners, like trucking companies, are held liable for tracking information. Company drivers are responsible for their logs and information, but owning your truck puts you in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Many company drivers eventually own their trucks, while others start with trucks they own. No matter how you start, whether you are a company driver or buy your own truck, there are tons of opportunities for growth — and you can still be an entrepreneur.
You love to drive. Most drivers log around 125,000 miles a year. To put that into perspective, that’s about 2,500 a week, and 500 miles a day. That’s a lot of time driving and often, those times cannot be scheduled around children’s birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and other special events — unless you request the time off far in advance. Still, there will be some things you will miss — it just can’t be helped.
However, if you love to drive, rest assured you will do a lot of it as a truck driver.
You love the lifestyle. There are typically two types of people who start driving for these reasons: those who grew up with a truck driver parent or family member, and those who have loved big trucks all their lives. If this describes you, then you are a natural.
Truck driving isn’t easy. It requires long days, lots of miles, an abundance of patience, and a considerable amount of time away from the people you love. However, it is very necessary in our society. Every item on store shelves spent at least a portion of its life on a truck. Truck drivers are necessary and the public generally holds them in high esteem. Drivers keep our country moving.
Truck driving isn’t just a profession, it is a lifestyle. Are you cut out for it?
*Scott VanBeek has over 15 years of experience at Raney’s Truck Parts, specifically working for the service center. He has been in the hydraulics industry for almost 40 years.