So You Want to be a Truck Driver
I drove a truck for the Army for three years over in Germany. Had lots of fun doing it over there. I spent one year as an Army dispatcher when I came back to the states. That was not fun. I still am bothered over how often people broke the rules and tried to blame it on me while I was dispatching. After the Army I did not drive for a few years. Once I did, I got in eight years before a DOT health regulation took me off the road.
I did spend part of my Over The Road driving as a trainer. I would take new drivers into my truck and let them drive for about two weeks to help them in finishing their training. I have mixed feelings about that time. Some of them I could tell were going to be good truck drivers. Some actually scared me. Some didn’t understand what being on the road was like.
If you want to be a truck driver, I suggest finding a school that is owned by a Trucking Company. Any other school is only out to get you to pass your Commercial Drivers License (CDL) test. Once they do that, they get some money from the Government. Even though they may have recruiters come and see you at their school, they really cannot guarantee you a job. A school that is owned by a trucking company will put you in a truck with a trainer once you have your CDL and will actually put you on their pay while you finish the training. You pass that training and you get your own truck to drive.
Your sitting there thinking, my that is simple. But that isn’t all. I’m writing this to let you know about being a truck driver. There is much more than just knowing how to drive, park and follow the rules and regulations. Some of what I am going to tell you here will help you get through your training.
During training you must remember that you are a trainee. You are not in charge. You are going to make a mistake and you are going to get chewed out for it. If you can’t take this, then you still got some growing up to do before you can really start any career. Here is the best way to impress your trainer. Listen! Listening to them when you have upset them. I am speaking from experience when I say it is much better to be chewed out by your trainer than to deal with some upset driver that thinks you did something wrong on the road. Road rage is a growing problem out on the road. A good driver will keep their cool when dealing with others that are upset over what has happened on the road.
There are many drivers out there that are cheating on their log books. They do this to make more money. The Federal DOT is hunting for these drivers and the fines they would get are very expensive. The largest fine I ever received while trucking was for a little mistake I made in my log book. It cost me $900. Cheating on the log book is not worth it. It leads to unsafe driving habits and large fines. If you are in an accident where someone is injured or has died and your log book is false or you have gone over your limit of driving hours that week, then you could go to prison. This is true, even if the other person is also at fault.
Park in a safe place. Do not park on the shoulder of an on ramp or off ramp to the interstate. Many states now will give you a fine for that. Find a designated truck parking area. It is best that you check your miles, your log book and your route to find a safe place to park. You can also buy a truck stop guide book. If you are out of hours when you park, or if you are waiting for a load assignment, then stay parked. Moving to another truck stop has to be logged and it uses up the time you could use to haul a load. I’ve had trainee’s that had trouble understanding that it is best to stay put. I’ve heard some really lame reasons to move to another truck stop. I’m sorry to say that many truck stops do not have cell phone signals for every cell company. Nor does every truck stop have the food you like to eat.
Out on the road you are going to have to get used to not having all the comforts of home. Yes, you can put a TV and DVD player in the truck and most trucking companies have TV antennas built into the truck. You can also carry a cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter.
Even with meeting interesting truckers and having some things in the truck, you can still get very bored out there. I found myself always buying DVDs. So I started taking stuff with me to do crafts. That was helpful. I also got me some prison pen pals and one disabled pen pal. Buying a laptop with DSL connection was very helpful. I used the laptop to keep in contact with people and I uploaded a map program to help me not get lost or into a bad situation.
I found that good truckers that made good money spent weeks or longer out on the road. So being prepared to be in places that make you uncomfortable is a given and it is best to prepare now for such things. If you don’t have someone to stay in contact with or something to do when it is best to stay in the truck, then you could go a little batty out there.
So if you really want to drive a truck, then get your mind set for it. Be safe and learn everything that can be taught. My best advice for being safe is to be patient. Being patient helps you see more of what is going on around you.