Welcome To "The Road Home" Podcast

TruckingTruth's Podcast For New Drivers

Welcome to "The Road Home" everyone! This is TruckingTruth's podcast for those considering a career in trucking or trying to survive their first year on the road.

We've just gotten underway here in January 2017 and you can be sure we'll be expanding our offerings with one or two new podcasts each week. So kick back, relax, and enjoy!

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We're going to cover all sorts of topics that pertain to getting your trucking career off to a great start, including things like:

  • How To Choose The Right CDL Training
  • Preparing For The CDL Exam
  • Choosing The Right Truck Driving Job
  • Preparing Yourself For Life On The Road
  • Loading Cargo And Sliding Tandems
  • Developing A Relationship With Dispatch

....and so much more!

Episode 1: The Bootcamp Approach To Trucking

People rarely drop out of trucking because they can't drive the truck. They drop out because mentally and emotionally they weren't prepared for such a long and difficult road. Preparation is one of the keys to success in any endeavor so I want to make sure you go into it with a strong mindset and the right expectations.

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Hey folks, this is Brett Aquila with truckingtruth.com and today I want to talk about taking the right approach mentally to getting your trucking career underway.

Now as you know, at truckingtruth we try like crazy to help prepare you for life on the road. We talk a lot about some of the specific hardships you'll face, including lonliness, stress, exhaustion, tough personalities, long days, erratic sleep patterns, and of course all sorts of terrible traffic and weather along the way.

But in the end it's impossible for most people to relate to some of these problems because it isn't anything they've experienced in the past. For instance, as a solo driver you're going to be alone in that truck far more than you would ever expect. It will not be uncommon to spend 18 hours a day, or more, inside that truck alone, completely isolated from everyone. That level of isolation isn't something that most people experience very often.

On top of that, it's also common for over the road drivers to spend several weeks travelling the country without seeing a single person they know. I mean, think about that for a moment. Have you ever even gone two or three days without seeing a single person you know? No family, no friends, no acquaintances? Nobody? Rarely will most people go one or two days without seeing someone they know, let alone weeks at a time without any relief.

Now that level of solitude and isolation can be quite a traumatic experience for a lot of people, especially those who are used to being together all the time with their families back home.

This is just one example of the hardships you'll face out there, many of which will be a completely new experience for you. And as you might expect, most of the time you'll be facing numerous challenges all at once.

So it's nearly impossible to prepare someone for things they haven't experienced in the past, and it's also impossible to prepare you for every single challenge you might face out there, of course.

So the best thing you can do is approach your training the way you would approach going through 'boot camp' in the military. You should go into it expecting your first year to be pretty much a neverending stream of tough challenges. You're going to experience some of the biggest swings in your mood, your confidence, and your optimism that you may have ever experienced in your life.

You know, there's gonna be times when you're so excited about travelling the country in a big rig that you won't believe they're paying you to do it. But there's also be times you're convinced you made a huge mistake getting into trucking in the first place. Trust me when I say this - almost all of you at some point are going to want to pack your bags, head home, and never think about trucking again the rest of your life. Unfortunately a lot of people do exactly that early on in their careers and it's a real shame because many of them would have been outstanding drivers that went on to have long, enjoyable careers. But because they weren't prepared mentally for how difficult this job and lifestyle can be they quickly just became overwhelmed with the whole thing and walked away.

So no matter how difficult the many challenges are you'll be facing, you have to find it within yourself to fight through it and stay the course. Don't lose sight of the big picture. In fact, you should keep one specific goal in mind right from the start - getting through your rookie year safely with your first company. That's it. No matter what challenges you face out there you have to push through it and get to that one year mark safely .

In fact, when you're facing tough times you have to keep reminding yourself that you knew this was coming and that (hopefully) tomorrow is going to be a better day. Not always, but most of the time. And you know, these difficult times are always temporary. Eventually they'll make for some of the most enjoyable stories you'll have to tell people over the years. So keep the tough times in perspective. You don't want to make career altering and life altering choices because you're having a bad day.

In fact, one of the policies I have is never make major decisions during emotional times. For instance, you don't want to quit your job in the middle of a terrible day where it's 40 degrees and raining, you have a terrible cold, you're stewing over an argument you had on the phone with someone back home, and just nothing is going your way.

I mean, stop and think about it for a moment. Do you have to quit your job right this second? Of course not. You can certainly make it through one more day, right? So wait until you're having a great day and then decide if you want to quit your job. If it's 70 degrees and sunny, you've just had a wonderful breakfast, the scenery is incredible, and everything is going your way and yet you STILL want to quit your job, at least then you know you're making a logical decision instead of an emotional decision and that's really important. Emotional decisions made in the heat of the moment almost always turn out to be a big mis take.

So go into that first year with one simple goal in mind - surviving your rookie year safely with your first company. That's it. And attack that goal knowing you're going to face all sorts of hardships and setbacks along the way, exactly as you would expect if you went into 'boot camp' in the military. You're never going to get anywhere in this career if you're the type to tuck your tail and run when things get tough.

And at the same time, don't worry, there IS going to be a ton of fun along the way too. Running coast to coast in a beautiful American big rig is one of the most awesome adventures anyone could ever hope to embark on and I really hope you won't lose sight of that along the way. But make no mistake about it.....this is not a vacation. This is a seriously challenging and risky endeavor. If you want to survive and thrive out there on the road you have to learn to embrace the challenges and face them head on. Don't lose sight of the end goal. Getting through that rookie year is a huge accomplishment that you're going to be incredibly proud of and it's going to establish your trucking career on a solid foundation for years to come.

So go out there with that attitude that you're not going to settle for anything less than reaching your goals and don't let anyone stand in your way. That's the approach it's going to take and I certainly hope you'll find it within yourself to make that happen.

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Episode 2: The Importance Of Dispatch

Dispatch will play a critical role in determining the level of happiness and success a driver will experience out on the road. But what exactly does a dispatcher do and why is this relationship so important to a driver? We'll take a look at the role your dispatcher will play and what you can do as a driver to make the most out of this critical relationship.

Listen Now Join The Discussion Read Transcript
Hey, folks I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast “The Road Home” where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today we're gonna be talking about the critical role that your dispatcher will play, both for you as a driver, and in the everyday operations of a trucking company.

So by far the most important person in a driver's work life is their dispatcher, and in fact probably 95% of all the communication between the drivers and the company will go through dispatch.

But what exactly is your dispatcher's job, anyhow? Do they control how many miles a driver gets or what loads they're assigned? Do they dictate how much home time you're going to get?

And what is the nature of the relationship between a driver and dispatcher? Is your dispatcher your boss? Are they your teammate? Are you their boss? Who's calling the shots?

And why does everyone say it's so important to develop a good relationship with your dispatcher?

To make sense of all this let's take a look at what role your dispatcher will play and why they're so important to you as a driver.

So to begin with, what is your dispatcher's primary role?

Well your dispatcher will normally have anywhere from 30 - 50 drivers they are directly responsible for. Now when things are going according to plan your dispatcher's primary role will be to make sure you have all of the information you need for the loads that you're assigned to. She will keep you up to date on any changes that may take place with your current assignment or alert you to any future assignments that might be coming your way.

Now when things are not going according to plan your dispatcher's main role will be to gather all of the information needed to understand the situation and then notify the appropriate people required to help you work through that situation.

For instance, if a driver is going to be late for an appointment your dispatcher will notify customer service so that they can then contact the customer.

If a driver's truck breaks down dispatch can notify the shop so that the shop can begin the process of getting you underway again.

So if your dispatcher can handle the situation, she will, and if not, she'll pass the information on to the appropriate people and remain in the loop while the situation is being resolved.

Ok so that's the dispatcher's primary reponsibility, now what about the driver's responsibility to their dispatch?

When things are going according to plan the most important thing you must do as a driver is to keep dispatch up to date on your schedule and up to date regarding anything that might effect your schedule. For instance, if you see you're heading into a storm or you're starting to feel ill you would want to alert dispatch that there may be potential problems looming on the horizon. Even if you don't know how things are going to play out you should inform dispatch right away of any potential concerns. The more warning you can give them, the better.

When things are not going according to plan it's critical that the driver relays every bit of information available to dispatch so they can understand exactly what's going on and formulate a plan to handle it. Whether a storm comes on strong or your truck breaks down or you're feeling ill, it's critical that you keep dispatch up to date at all times on everything that's happening out there.

So obviously great communication between a driver and their dispatcher is critical.

So the next question would be, “Is your dispatcher your boss?”

Well technically, no. At most companies your dispatcher is not your boss. Your dispatcher normally will not have a lot of authority when it comes to assigning loads or granting special privileges or hiring and firing drivers. But keep in mind that your dispatcher is normally relaying information to you that is coming from a higher authority.

So you might think, “Well, great! She's not my boss then why would I care what she thinks?”

Because dispatch is acting as your voice to the people who do make the important decisions, like load planners, operations managers, safety managers, and shop foreman. If your dispatcher is on your side she will watch out for you and champion your cause when she feels you need or deserve something. For instance, maybe you've had several short runs in the Northeast back to back and it's time to give you a longer run down South for a change. Dispatch will notify the load planners that you're one of their top drivers and that you really deserve one of the better loads available in the area.

However, If you're in the doghouse your dispatcher will likely do all she can to make sure you're the last person that gets any sort of special favors or even gets a timely response at all to any questions.

So your dispatcher may not have the authority to assign loads or send you home for an extra day or two but she can have a huge influence on the people who do have that authority. The load planners and operations managers trust the dispatchers to monitor their fleets closely and to take care great care of their best drivers.

So if your dispatcher doesn't have a lot of authority then why is it such a big deal to form a solid working relationship with your dispatcher? Well your dispatcher is going to learn how you operate as a driver. She's going to learn your likes and dislikes, your strong points and your weaknesses. She'll learn your communication style and the way you prefer to schedule your runs.

This is a really big deal because one of the most important roles a dispatcher can play is to encourage the load planners to preplan a load assignment for you. Preplanning is when they assign the next load even though you haven't delivered the load you are on. In fact, they can even preplan two or three loads ahead of time for you.

This can make a significant difference in the amount of miles you turn in a week. If dispatch is waiting until you're empty before assigning you a load, other drivers may have already been assigned all of the available freight in an area so you're going to sit for a while hoping something turns up. If you're preplanned already, you make your delivery, you run over and grab the next load, and you keep on rolling down the road.

If you can earn the trust and respect of your dispatcher they'll be far more willing to go out of their way to make sure you're getting preplanned on loads and you're getting the great miles and the home time you deserve.

So how does a driver develop a great relationship with dispatch in the first place? The right approach to take is to 'pay it forward', and what I mean is that you should go out of your way to prove yourself to your dispatcher first. Show dispatch you're willing and able to handle anything they throw at you and make sure you get to all of your appointments safely and on time.

Now obviously if there's a major snowstorm or your truck breaks down that's beyond your control as a driver. But doing your job safely, getting to all of your appointments on time, and always acting like a professional out there will demonstrate that you're a top tier driver who deserves the treatment that the best drivers get at any company.

Do not make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse and thinking that your company has to prove themselves to you before you'll put in your best effort. That is only going to convince dispatch that you're a bottom of the barrel driver who doesn't deserve the miles or the special favors that the top tier drivers get. If you want to be treated like a professional in this industry you're simply going to have to earn that privilege. No one is going to hand it to you.

Now there's a lot more to this game than what I can cover in one episode but we were still able to help you understand the important role that dispatch plays in a driver's life.

You now know that your dispatcher will be the hub of all communications between you as a driver and the rest of the company, and this communication is critical to the operation of any company.

You also learned that your dispatcher may be somewhat limited in authority, but they are very powerful when it comes to influencing the people who do make the important decisions which affect you as a driver.

Finally, you've learned that taking a 'pay it forward' approach to building a great relationship with your disaptcher is the best way earn the big miles and the great treatment that the top tier drivers are getting.

So go out there and prove to dispatch that you're one of those top tier drivers and as always do it safely so when the work is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride home.

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Episode 3: Do You Know Your Limits?

Managing risk is the most important part of the job for OTR truck drivers. Nothing matters more than safety. Knowing your limits means knowing when to shut it down and knowing when to push on. We'll take a look at some of the circumstances you'll face out there and help you understand where to draw the line on safety.

Listen Now Join The Discussion Read Transcript
The Fine Line Between Uncomfortable And Dangerous

Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our Podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to talk about the fine line between doing something that makes you uncomfortable versus doing something that is outright dangerous. When you're on the road you're going to encounter bad weather and terrible traffic on a regular basis. You're going to be driving down long, steep mountain grades with heavy loads and you'll be delivering to places located downtown in the largest cities in the country.

There will also be times when you're facing a long drive but you're feeling sick or you're getting really tired. Other times your truck may be having issues, or maybe you're in training and your trainer is asking you to do something that scares the life out of you.

You'll find yourself in tough situations pretty regularly out there where you're really not sure if you should push on or shut it down, especially early in your career. I'm going to cover some of the circumstances you'll encounter out there and give you some insights to help you make these tough decisions.

Let's start out talking about your time on the road with a trainer. First of all, you have to understand that the only way you can learn to do something like driving a truck is by doing it. It would be to simply read a book or watch a demonstration and suddenly find you have the skills you need to do the job safely. That would be great! But obviously it doesn't work that way.

So your trainers job involves walking a fine line. He has to push you hard enough that you'll improve your skills but not so hard that you wreck the truck or have a nervous breakdown in the process. There's going to be a lot of times when you're asked to do things that scare the life out of you, and we've even had people suggest that their trainer is 'setting them up for failure' or 'forcing them into dangerous situations'.

Well one of the things you have to keep in mind is that your trainer is in the truck with you. He doesn't want to get in a wreck any more than you do. So your trainer isn't going to make a decision that he feels is endangering his own life. If he's asking you to do something it's probably because he feels you can manage it safely. In fact, your trainer may often times have more confidence in you than you have in yourself.

So you have to get used to being outside of your comfort zone, especially early on in your career. Now if you find that your trainer is blatantly being reckless or asking you to do anything illegal then it's time to park the truck and make some phone calls to the company. I'd love to say you'll never have to worry about this sort of thing, but unfortunately there are some trainers that really don't make the best decisions themselves. So you do have to be aware of the possibility. But don't make the mistake of thinking your trainer isn't doing a good job because you're not comfortable out there. Making you uncomfortable without going too far with it is one of the most important and difficult aspects of a trainer's job.

Now what about the weather? Obviously there will be times you're in dangerous weather like snowstorms or high winds. So when is the weather bad enough to warrant shutting it down? This is one circumstance where often times you're going to have to trust your instincts and keep the big picture in mind.

If you're in over your head you're going to feel it in your gut. You're going to know that you're on the edge of losing control and that you're taking some serious chances. When you start to feel that way it's time to shut it down.

And it's important to ignore what everyone else is doing. You have to be the captain of your own ship. There is no such thing as weather so severe that no one will try to push through. There will always be someone out there taking a shot at it. Don't let that influence your decision at all. When you start scaring yourself, you know it's time to park it.

And finally, keep in mind that most of the time you will find picture perfect weather following a storm. Many times over the years I shut it down during a snowstorm to wake up the next morning to bright sunshine, blue skies, and clear, dry roads. You'll have plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time under better conditions.

Now what about when you're sick or you're getting tired? Well, the truth is if you only drove when you felt fantastic you'd never get anywhere. There will be times you're not really feeling your best. This is another judgment call that requires you to trust your instincts. Again, keep the big picture in mind. You have the rest of your life to make all the money you'd like to make. We all want to be tough and we all want to show the boss that we're capable of pushing through difficulties, but you have a much great obligation to the innocent people you're sharing the highways with. Always put safety first and don't let your ego talk you into doing something dangerous. If you're feeling too tired or too sick to drive safely then it's time to park it.

Finally let's talk about the truck itself. There will be times the truck needs work but you're not sure if you can drive it the way it is or if you need to shut down and get it fixed. The first thing to look at is whether or not it's safety related. If the issue compromises the safe operation of the truck then you simply shut it down immediately, no questions asked. If it doesn't compromise safety then normally you can keep driving it until you reach a more convenient time and place to get repairs done.

One place you can turn to for help is your company's shop. Give the shop a call and explain the situation. They will be glad to help you determine if it's safe to drive the truck or if you need to shut it down right there and then.

So that's a look at some specific circumstances you'll face and now I'd like to make some important points to keep in mind regardless of the situation you're in.

The first point is to trust your instincts. When you can really 'feel' that you're heading into a dangerous situation or you're in over your head then it's time to shut it down. Now that certainly doesn't mean you're not going to drive through challenging circumstances or that you'll always feel comfortable out there. Trucking is inherintely risky and you're going to be challenged on a regular basis. But when your gut starts hurting and you start getting that feeling of impending doom then it's time to shut it down.

A second point I'd like to make is to never let anyone talk you into driving that truck when you know it may not be safe or legal to do so. Truckers have very little authority, but a ton of responsibility. Fortunately the one thing you do have authority over is whether or not you drive that truck on the highway. If you don't feel it's safe or legal to do so then shut it down, simple as that.

The third point I'd like to make is that you must keep the big picture in mind for making big decisions. Don't risk injury, property damage, or your career because you're trying to make an extra buck or you want bragging rights as 'the driver who can drive through anything'. You have to be smarter than that. Risking your life or the lives of those around you for such petty reasons is foolish. You have the entire rest of your life to make money and achieve great things. Pushing yourself to drive when you shouldn't be driving is playing with fire. It's going to end badly for you sooner or later, and even worse you might get innocent people hurt or killed in the process.

There's a saying you can apply to trucking that you may have heard used in other professions. There are old truckers and there are bold truckers but there are no old bold truckers. In other words, you're not going to live long if you keep taking risks without knowing where to draw the line. No one is going to celebrate how bold you were if you sail off a cliff or run over someone's family trying to prove that you can drive through anything. You want to be the best at managing risk, not the one who takes excessive risks.

So trust your instincts, be the captain of your own ship, and keep the big picture in mind. Understand the difference between being a little uncomfortable with the circumstances, versus being reckless or dangerous in your approach. The best drivers are the ones who understand their limits and make safe, smart decisions. So go out there and run hard when you can, but shut down when you know you should, so when the work is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the road home.

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Episode 4: Why Stick With Your First Company One Full Year?

Sticking with your first company for one full year is one of the core concepts we teach new drivers coming into the industry. But why? What's the big deal? Why not jump around from company to company until you're happy? Well there's a long list of reasons, in fact, and in this podcast we'll go deep into why it's to your advantage as a driver to stick with your first company for at least one full year.

Listen Now Join The Discussion Read Transcript
Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our Podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road. Today I'd like to talk about why it's so important to stay with your first company for one full year.

Everyone keeps hearing that there's a shortage of truck drivers and most people take that to mean that anyone with a CDL is in high demand because they're valuable. And if you're that valuable then why would you put up with any baloney from your company, right? If they won't meet your demands then you have the luxury of quitting your job today and having a new one tomorrow. That's the beauty of being in demand, right?

Unfortunately this theory doesn't hold true at all. No one thinks you're valuable because you have a CDL. Having that CDL doesn't mean you're a safe, reliable, hard working, trustworthy driver. It's not an indication that you're going to stick with your company for a while, and it doesn't mean you know how to operate the truck in such a way that the company will be able to turn a profit from your work anyhow. So if a company can't rely on you to stick around and they can't turn a profit from your work then you're nothing but a liability to them. In fact, you're exactly the opposite of valuable.

Having a CDL and a solid background means someone will give you an opportunity to prove yourself. That's it. No one thinks you're valuable. They think you have potential. That CDL will get your foot in the door, but in the end you'll get the miles and the treatment you deserve based upon your performance.

A lot of people get this backwards. They don't understand a pay-it-forward approach where you go into a company ready and willing to prove yourself to them first before expecting the treatment the top tier drivers get. Instead a lot of people make the mistake of thinking, 'Well I'm the one that's in demand because I'm a truck driver with a CDL so this company needs to prove themselves to me or I'll just move on.'

Taking that approach is a huge mistake that's only going to keep you from getting the great miles and great treatment you deserve. No one is going to assume you're a valuable driver, but they will give you the opportunity to prove it one way or the other.

So if having a CDL doesn't make you a valuable driver then what traits do make a driver valuable to a trucking company? Well you have to be safe above all else. You have to be hard working, efficient with time and fuel management, easy to get along with, gentle on the equipment, and a great problem solver who knows how to think on the fly.

Of that list, being a hard worker and being easy to get along with are the only two traits you can come into this industry with. The rest are learned skills and those skills take quite a bit of time to develop. They certainly do not come fast or easy for anyone.

So in the end your goal is to be considered a valuable driver to your company so you will be given the great miles and great treatment that the other top tier drivers get. So let's explore the process you'll have to work through in order to become a valuable, trustworthy top tier driver in this industry.

Learn Your Trade

The first thing you have to do is learn your trade and it will take most of your rookie year just to get to a minimum acceptable level of competence and performance. Not hitting things is a good start, but it's not nearly enough. You have to turn the big miles the top tier drivers are turning safely and reliably, week after week, month after month. That means learning time management, problem solving, routing, navigation, and communication. You have to learn to navigate around congested cities, fast moving storms, restricted truck routes, and construction zones. You have to learn how to talk your way into faster loading and unloading times, talk your way out of getting tickets, and buttering up mechanics to get that truck out of the shop more quickly.

In the end you have to become the type of driver who can be given a schedule and left alone to do their job. That means you must have good problem solving skills and you must be a fiercely independent operator who knows how to get loads picked up and delivered safely and on time regardless of the constant stream of roadblocks getting in your way. You're not going to learn to do all of this at an acceptable level within a few months. It's going to take a full year before you're really going to learn a lot of the important tricks of the trade.

Life On The Road

The second thing you have to do is learn how to manage the rest of your life on the road outside of your job duties. You have to find time to eat, shower, shop for groceries, and do laundry. You have to make time to talk with your family and friends back home, find a doctor if you need one, and manage any prescriptions you may be taking. And if you want to maintain your sanity you have to learn how to enjoy yourself out there a little bit too. Again, you're not going to learn all of the in's and out's of managing your entire life on the road in a few short months. It takes a lot more time than that. And until you can manage your personal life on the road you're not going to be able to manage your job duties safely and efficiently. The two must be managed together at the same time and it's one heck of a juggling act that takes a long time to learn.

Personal Preferences

The next thing you'll have to figure out before you can make an intelligent move to a different company is your own preferences for trucking. What type of freight do you want to haul? How often do you want to get home? What type of equipment do you like to drive? What regions of the country would you like to run? Would you rather run team or solo?

It's going to take quite a bit of time before you really understand the various options for your career and your own personal preferences. If you start jumping ship after a couple of months there's no way you could possibly know everything you're looking for in a trucking job. Jumping from one company to another without enough good information to go on is simply going to mean trading one set of problems for another. You're not going to make improvements by guessing or with wishful thinking.

How The Industry Works

The next thing you'll have to figure out is how the trucking industry works in general. For instance, many people expect to be handed a set of keys and given plenty of work to do like you would at most jobs. But that isn't normally the case in trucking. Drivers are actually competing with each other for freight because there's only so much to go around. The freight certainly does not get divided up evenly. The best runs, the most miles, and the special favors all go to the top tier drivers at any company and the leftovers normally go to the lower performers.

Not only that, but there will be times you'll kind of 'slip through the cracks' and get some lousy miles or a few short runs in a row. As a driver you have to speak up and let dispatch know that it's time for them to throw you a bone and give you some better miles. You have to learn to lobby for what you want sometimes. So the industry is performance-based, but even the top performers have to give their company the heads up once in a while if they're not getting their fair share of miles or fair treatment.

Not only that, but every time you change companies you're starting over at the bottom. See, no one is going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Just because you've done something for a while doesn't mean you're any good at it. It doesn't mean you're disciplined, dilligent, safe, easy to get along with, and eager to turn a lot of miles. So you're going to start over from the bottom and prove yourself all over again. No one knows you and no one will assume you can do the job. You'll be given the opportunity to start at a better pay rate with more experience, but in every other way you're starting over at the bottom.

You also have to understand that this industry has a rather large contingent of drivers who switch companies once or twice a year. This kind of turnover is very expensive for a company to manage. If you develop a reputation as a job hopper, especially early in your career, it's really going to hurt your prospects down the road in a big way.

Finally, you'll get the best results with a pay-it-forward approach with dispatch. Prove to them you're a safe, hard working, reliable driver who handles themselves like a professional and you'll be given the great miles and special favors the top drivers get. But if you stroll into a company thinking you've already proven yourself as an expereinced driver so they should be catering to you, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Keep in mind that a driver's pay and treatment is performance-based, and that means recent performance, not the distant past. If you're late with load assignments or you're not getting the job done for some reason no one is going to care that you're an experienced driver. You're simply going to be a liability to the company and you likely won't be around for long.

How Your Company Works

The next thing you have to learn is how your company operates on the inside and you have to get to know the right people. It takes time to learn who has the authority to assign trucks, assign freight, and approve home time. You have to learn your company's policies regarding fueling, routing, navigation, maintenance, freight assignments, payroll, and a million other things.

You also have to learn who to speak with when you're having problems. If your truck is in the shop for too long, who do you talk with? If you get in a fender bender out there, what are the procedures? If you're not getting the miles you know you deserve then who's fault is that and how do you get it resolved?

Problem solving within your own company is one of the critical factors affecting a driver's happiness and success out there. No matter how great you are as a driver you're going to need to make some phone calls to get situations resolved once in a while. Getting to know the right people within your company like your dispatcher, your dispatcher's boss, the operations manager, the safety manager, and some of the load planners can make your job and your life on the road so much nicer.

There are also a lot of opportunities within any large carrier that the comapny simply won't advertise. There are special dedicated divisions that may stay in a certain region of the country, or may get you home more often, or may keep you working exclusively for one special customer, and could be all of the above. These opportunities are normally only avaiable to select drivers that have been with the company and proven themselves over time. So before you consider changing companies for a better opportunity, make sure you talk around at your current comapny to learn about any other options that might be available.

Relationship With Dispatch

Finally, the most important relationship you have to develop is with your dispatcher. You and your dispatcher will form a good working relationship over time. Your dispatcher will learn what it takes to help you do your job better, including things like where you like to run, how you like to set your schedules, and how you like to communicate. Your dispatcher will learn what type of problems you're capable of handling on your own and whether or not you're reliable enough to be trusted with the company's most important customers.

You will also learn what it takes to help your dispatcher do their job better. You'll learn their communication style, you'll learn what information is important to them, and you'll help them schedule your assignments by giving them better information.

Your goal here is to earn the trust of your dispatcher so you'll be assigned the best freight from the most important customers, you'll be preplanned on runs, you'll turn great miles, and you'll even get a special favor once in a while. Nothing is more important to a driver than a solid working relationship with dispatch and once again you'll find that changing companies means starting all over as a nobody from the bottom, getting to know the right people, and earning that trust and respect all over again.

Company Training

Finally, if you happened to go through a company-sponsored training program there's a huge reason to stick with your company for a minimum of one year. Your company has made an investment in you. They've spent their time and money training you. They've used some of their best drivers and their most valuable equipment teaching you this trade. Now they need you to succeed in order to recoup their investment. So the company is going to be a lot more forgiving of any minor discretions, like a few late loads or a fender bender along the way. If they fire you, they lose their entire investment and will likely lose you to a competitor on top of that.

So if you jump ship to a new carrier you're now putting yourself in quite a vulnerable position. You're a rookie driver with very limited skills and you're working for a company who won't lose a thing if they let you go. One or two minor screwups and they might decide to cut you loose. Now you have a terrible looking resume. You jumped ship immediately at your first company without fulfilling the contract and then you were fired from your next job for making too many mistakes. Now who do you think is going to be jump at the chance to be your third company in your rookie year? Very few people I can assure you.

See, this industry and this job are so vastly different from anything most of us have experience with that there's almost no chance you're going to be able to make intelligent moves that improve your career when you're brand new. In fact, the owner of a large carrier told me recently that their second most effective hiring path is rehiring drivers that are returning to the company after quitting and to go elsewhere. That's how common it is for people to make the mistake of thinking the grass will be greener with a new company. Much of the time a driver will simply find themselves starting over at the bottom with an entirely new set of problems.

So as you can see there is a long list of reasons why it will help your career as a driver to stick with your first company for a minimum of one year. It's going to take time to learn your trade and learn how this industry operates. It's going to take time to prove yourself to be a safe, reliable, hard working driver and to develop a great working relationship with dispatch so you'll get the great miles and home time you deserve. And it's going to take time to learn how your company operates on the inside so that you can make the most of their system and to get problems resolved quickly and easily.

So before you decide to jump ship, be certain you've put in the necessary time and effort it takes to put yourself in a strong position with your current company and explore every opportunity they may have available to you. You'll get the best miles, make the most money, and get the best treatment working for a company that knows you and trusts you. You want to stand behind a company that's willing to stand behind you so that in the end when the work is done you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the road home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 5: Why Is Truck Driver Training Done In Such A Rush?

Truck driver training has always been done as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Unfortunately this often makes for inadequate training and a frustrating, exhausting experience for new drivers. So why is it done this way? We'll take a look at how training is done, why it's this way, and what you can expect as a new driver.

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Why Is CDL Training Done In Such A Rush?

Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road. Today I want to talk about why truck driver training is condensed into such a short and intense training period instead of doing it at a slower, more relaxed pace.

Now when people first get started with their training they realize almost immediately that the trucking industry is a strange beast. There are a number of factors that shape the way the industry trains drivers and unfortunately it can make for less than ideal circumstances.

The overriding factor which shapes CDL training is the fact that there are no minimum time requirements for truck driver training, nor are there any requirements for the curriculumn they cover. As long as you can pass the CDL exams and the DOT physical you can get a CDL and be a truck driver. As far the technical requirements are concerned, it really is as simple as that. Now there is, of course, so much more to this job than passing a quick road test and some written exams but there are no requirements for teaching any of it.

So your first phase of training will be the process of getting your CDL. The goal for the first phase of training is simply to teach you the minimum necessary to pass the State exams and get your CDL. That will include some written exams on the materials contained in the CDL manual, a short driving test, a pre-trip inspection on a truck, and some backing maneuvers. That's it. You're going to learn the basics of how to inspect and maneuver the truck, and the basic rules of the road for commercial vehicles.

Because there are no minimum time requirements for training you're going to see that the training is done as quickly as possible. If a truck driving school wants to remain competitive it must be able to train drivers as quickly and as inexpensively as the competition can. So it kind of becomes a race to see who can help you get your CDL the fastest and the cheapest. That will mean a lot of long days and an overwhelming amount of information in a very short amount of time.

This phase of your training will not normally include things like how to load cargo, how to balance out the weight across your axles, how to use a logbook, or how to manage your time on the road. So at this point you'll have a CDL and you'll be able to drive the truck a little bit but you won't know the first thing about how to actually do most of your job duties as a truck driver.

So after you get your CDL it's time to move onto the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with a trainer at your first company. And once again there are no minimum requirements for this phase of training so the main factor which shapes the way they handle training is competition.

Trucking companies must compete to survive and must take great care of their customers while trying to train their new drivers at the same time. This makes it incredibly important for companies to find a way to make new drivers productive as quickly as possible. It would be really nice to have the time and money to let students relax and drive around in safe areas until they feel comfortable, but financially that would be devastating to the company's bottom line.

So unfortunately during this phase of training the primary focus will be on hauling freight and the secondary concern will be training you to do your job. So don't expect most companies to slowly walk you through the training process. It's going to be fast-paced and they're going to hold your feet to the fire. They're going to expect you and your trainer to keep that freight moving which means you're going to have to learn everything on the fly.

Now during this phase of training is when you're supposed to learn things like how to load cargo, how to balance out the weight across your axles, how to use a logbook, and how to manage your time on the road. They'll also teach you the company's procedures for fueling, routing, freight assignment, payroll, and communication. Well, at least that's the theory. Unfortunately it's common for new drivers to pick up some of these basics and yet still have considerable gaps in their training when it's time to go solo. There simply isn't enough well qualified trainers to do the job and there isn't enough time to cover everything.

Now one thing students often get upset about during this phase of training is the fact that they are given very little time to practice or very little hands-on training. You would expect your trainer to let you practice backing the truck as often as possible. You would also expect to be doing a lot of the hands-on stuff like dropping and hooking, sliding tandems, setting up the navigation system, and handling the route planning.

Unfortunately the circumstances often dictate that the job gets done as quickly as possible so the trainer will often times do a lot of that stuff himself instead of letting you do it. Most of the time they're in a hurry so they want to get things done quickly and they're also afraid you might run into something or make a major mistake on their watch.

So don't expect the second phase of training to focus on developing your skills. Your time on the road will mostly focus on moving freight and your trainer will squeeze in some lessons, and hopefully a little practice, along the way.

So the majority of everything you'll learn will be learned on your own once you go solo. In fact, if you took everything a ten year veteran knows about doing their job at the highest level, only a tiny percentage of that was taught to them directly. The majority of it they learned on their own after going solo.

So don't expect your truck driver training to be slow-paced and relaxing. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Prepare to be overwhelmed with information most of the time. Expect to be thrown into circumstances you're not sure how to handle on a regular basis. And expect your trainer on the road to spend very little time actually training you and the majority of the time on getting the job done by whatever means necessary.

Without a doubt this is far from the ideal system. It seems obvious that truck driver training shouldn't be done based on the fastest, cheapest methods available, but it is. So as a new driver you simply have to work through it as safely as possible and try to keep your sanity in the process. Once you go solo you're going to be learning a lot of tough lessons the hard way. There's no way around that. So be prepared for a tough process but always take your time and focus on safety so when the work is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy The Road Home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 6: Would You Survive In Trucking?

Anyone who considers a career in trucking will wonder if they have what it takes to survive and thrive out there as a trucker. So what does it take to make it in the trucking industry? We'll talk about some traits you should have, or should develop, if you hope to find happiness and success out there as a driver.

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Are You Cut Out For Life On The Road?

Hey Folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

So one big question that everyone will ask themselves is do I have what it takes to make it as a truck driver? Today I want to talk about what type of traits a person should have, or should develop, in order to be a happy and successful driver out there on the road.

It's common to hear people say that truck driving is far more than just a job, it's a lifestyle, and that's really true for most people, especially if you're staying out on the road for days or weeks at a time. Trucking will change your life completely, and at times it may feel like it's consuming your life. So before you go jumping into a career as a commercial driver it's important to understand what it takes to survive and thrive out there.

MOTIVATION

The first trait I want to talk about is motivation. Turning a lot of miles is going to require a tremendous amount of effort. Not only are the days really long but the work is exhausting and the problems that keep popping up along your path just never stop coming. You're going to have a lot of days where you can barely peel your head off the pillow in the morning and you're going to work until you collapse on that same pillow about eighteen hours later. So you want to be highly motivated with a strong work ethic.

ADVENTURE

The next trait you'll want to have is a sense of adventure. Trucking is a brutal job, but it can also be a remarkable journey. That's what makes it such an awesome adventure. You'll never know what may lie around the next bend and every single day out there will be completely different from the last. And when the work is done there's no limit to the fun you can have out there wherever you happen to be. I used to go to NASCAR races, NFL games, movies, concerts, festivals. I'd run around places like Vegas or New Orleans and enjoy the heck out of the unique fun, food, and culture that different cities had to offer. If you can approach the travelling lifestyle as an adventure you're going to have a lot more fun out there.

PATIENT AND DISCIPLINED

We'll bounce to the opposite end of the spectrum with our next one and that's patience. Being motivated and adventurous will help you make a lot of money and have a lot of fun, but being patient is what's going to keep you alive. There will be times you're going to get flipped off and yelled at and cut off and set aside. Your schedule is going to change, your truck will break down, you'll be waiting on customers, and traffic is going to grind to a halt at the worst possible times. No matter what life throws at you, you have to remain patient. You must keep a safe following distance at all times and you have to keep a level head. If you blow your stack every time something happens you're going to wear yourself out mentally and you're not going to be on top of your game like you need to be in order to stay safe out there. If you lose your cool and make a hasty move or get distracted for just a moment and you may suddenly find yourself in a huge mess. So you have to remain patient out there at all times.

NERVES OF STEEL

Having nerves of steel is the next trait a driver needs, and many times this is something people develop over time. In the beginning everyone gets super nervous. It always feels like you're in way over your head and you're overwhelmed with information all the time. As time goes on you get better at your trade and you get used to the pressure a little bit, but it never gets easy and you're going to have some close calls once in a while that might really shake you up.

You're always squeezing into tight spots, navigating heavy city traffic, pushing through difficult weather, and trying to remain on top of a tight schedule. You'll have to learn to remain calm, relaxed, and focused under pressure. And when you do have a close call you have to put it behind you quickly and focus on what's coming next, because there's always something else coming, you just won't know when. So you have to learn to handle the pressure and keep a clear mind so you can make fast, safe, intelligent decisions.

FRIENDLY, GOOD WITH PEOPLE

Now being friendly is far from the first trait most people would think of when they think of truck drivers and that's exactly why being friendly is so important for a driver. Truck drivers are famous complainers, and famous hotheads. Many do not react well to conflict or bad news. They tend to fly off the handle and become confrontational and place blame when things don't go their way.

If you can keep that smile and be friendly with everyone you come across out there you're going to really stand out from the crowd in this industry. You're going to get loaded and unloaded more quickly, you'll get better miles and special favors from dispatch, you'll talk your way out of tickets from law enforcement, and you'll get your truck out of the repair shop a little faster.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to be the type of person that people enjoy being around. As a driver you have no authority over anyone so the only thing you can do is hope they'll want to do something nice for you. The more friendly you are the more favors you're going to get from people, and those favors will often translate into money in your pocket. INDEPENDENT PROBLEM SOLVER

So let's jump to the opposite end of the spectrum again and talk about being an independent problem solver. Trucking is different from most jobs because you have so much to manage by yourself. No one is going to hold your hand through the difficulties out there. Your company is going to hand you a set of keys and a schedule to keep. The rest is pretty much up to you. You will have to manage your time efficiently out there; very efficiently. You're going to have to find the time to handle all of your regular job duties and squeeze in time for things in your personal life like eating, doing laundry, and shopping for groceries. And of course there will be a non-stop stream of problems jumping in your path as you go. The truck will break down, the weather will change, the highway will get shut down, the DOT will setup checkpoints, the customers won't cooperate, and God knows what else will go wrong out there. Murphy's Law states anything that can go wrong will go wrong. That's not the definition of a bad day out there on the road, that's the definition of every day out there on the road. If you can learn to handle problems yourself instead of waiting on people to come to your rescue all the time then you're going to get a lot more done out there and you're going to make a lot more money.

TAKE PRIDE

The last trait I'd like to talk about is being the type of person that takes pride in yourself and everything you do. Unfortunately truck drivers get very little respect or appreciation in our society. Even though you've left your home and family behind, put in a ridiculous number of hours, and risked your life in order to help keep our society moving forward, no one is going to be throwing you any parades or buying you gifts for your efforts. It really is a thankless job. So it helps if you're the type of person who really takes satisfaction in a job well done and doesn't need a lot of assurance from others that you hard work and sacrifices are appreciated.

So as you can see, there's a long list of traits needed to handle the difficulties of life on the road. You need to be highly motivated, and yet very patient at the same time. You have to be able to work well with others and yet still be an independent problem solver. You're going to need nerves of steel to push through the stressful situations and be self assured and proud of a job well done. It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and discipline to thrive out there but if you have what it takes, trucking can be a fantastic career. So go out there and get the job done safely so in the end when the work is done you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the road home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 7: Tips For Dealing With Law Enforcement

It's inevitable as a commercial driver that you're going to be dealing with law enforcement from time to time. Your truck will get inspected at some point, you may have to cross the border into Canada, and you'll likely get pulled over a time or two along the way. Understanding how law enforcement officers think and knowing how to work with them will help keep the delays you'll experience and the number of tickets you receive to a minimum.

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Dealing With Law Enforcement

Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth. Welcome to another episode of our Podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to talk about the best approach to take when you're dealing with law enforcement. It's inevitable as a commercial driver that you're going to be dealing with law enforcement from time to time. Your truck will get inspected at some point, you may have to cross the border into Canada, and you'll likely get pulled over a time or two along the way. Understanding how law enforcement officers think and knowing how to work with them will help keep the delays you'll experience and the number of tickets you receive to a minimum.

They Are Not The Enemy

The first thing you should do is try to understand the nature of their job and how it benefits you as a driver so that you're not running around with the attitude that law enforcement is the enemy. In fact, it's quite the opposite. If it wasn't for the strict laws and the strict enforcement we face, there wouldn't be highways full of nearly brand new, beautiful big rigs.

I don't know if you've had the opportunity yet to get near the Mexican border, but when you do you'll see what we would be driving if our system wasn't as strict as it is. Mexican rigs are often times literally held together in places with bungee cords and duct tape. They're rolling death traps is what they are. It's shocking and quite appalling when you see one of these Frankensteins on the highways.

So if a business isn't being held to a higher standard by law enforcement then they're going to do whatever they can to get their best advantage financially. If they feel they have a better chance of making money by using old, broken down pieces of junk and putting the driver's life at risk then that's exactly what many of them will do.

That's why law enforcement really is your best friend in a big way. Every time you get excited about climbing into that beautiful new rig, remember why you're in such a safe and wonderful piece of equipment in the first place. Law enforcement has made it too risky to try getting away with using unsafe equipment. So the cops aren't just on the prowl for bad truckers, they're looking out for good truckers that might otherwise be victims of bad companies who might put your life at risk by putting unsafe equipment on the highways.

So yeah, getting pulled into an inspection is nerve wracking and frustrating, but it's far better than driving an old Frankenstein.

They Get Lied To Constantly

The next thing to understand about law enforcement is the typical way they get treated from day to day. Law enforcement officers regularly get treated like the enemy, or they're being lied to, or they're being given a long list of worthless excuses, or they're being criticized for 'stopping a good, honest, hard working American from doing his job'.

Taking a defensive stance, telling them silly lies, or criticizing them is the worst approach to take. Think about this for a minute. What if you spent your entire day dealing with people who break laws and then make excuses, tell lies, or criticize you at every turn. How awful would that be after a while, right? You'd get sick of it.

So when it's your turn to speak with them, do the opposite of what most people do. Be as friendly and cooperative as you can. And not in a fake way. Rolling your eyes and shaking your head as you're saying, 'Yes sir Mr Officer' is only more of that same crappy attitude they get all day long.

Instead, be one of the few people who are enjoyable to work with. Keep a great joke or two tucked away in your back pocket and use small talk to take their mind off the crappy job they have to do.

They Don't Like Inspection Either

Which leads to our next point which is something most people don't think about. Many law enforcement officers, especially state troopers, don't like inspecting trucks. How would you like to go through the police academy, become a powerful officer of the law, get up in the morning to put on that shiny new bage and hat, and then be handed a greasy creaper to lie on as you roll underneath a truck to inspect its rusty, filthy, disgusting underside. Trust me, they don't want to be there anymore than you do. If you think you hate inspections, imagine doing them all day long! Lying underneath a filthy, disgusting truck is not what most police officers envisioned when they joined the force.

So find ways of letting them know that you understand their job is no cake walk either. Empathize with them. I mean, think about it - how many people get pulled over and spend even five seconds worrying about the welfare of the officer? No one! They're worried about themselves and the trouble they might be in.

So be the one person that day that actually wants to talk about the officer and the job they're doing. Let them know you're aware of how tough it must be to inspect trucks all the time or be treated like a bad guy for doing your job . Because make no mistake about it, whether or not they write you a ticket is their call. They don't normally have to do anything. You can't scare them into letting you go. You can't intimidate them. Your best weapon is being super friendly and pleasant to be around. You'll feel like a ray of sunshine in their otherwise crappy experience.

Remember They Have You Dead To Rights

The next thing to keep in mind is that you're never 'safe' from law enforcement. It has been demonstrated many times that if law enforcement wants to write you a ticket, they can. There's no such thing as a truck driver who is so safe and legal that they're untouchable by law enforcement. So never make the mistake of thinking, 'I'm legal. They can't do anything to me, anyhow.' Oh yes they certainly can. Remember, whether or not they write you a ticket is purely at their descretion. The way you interact with them will go a long way in determining how it ends for you.

Be Prepared

When you're dealing with law enforcement, make sure you're organized. Have your bills handy if you're loaded, have your logbook ready to read, have all of your truck's permits and registration ready to go, and of course have your license at hand. If it seems like you were caught off guard or you're disorganized they're far more likely to assume that there are details about your job that you're missing and they're going to dig deeper. But when you act like you're well prepared and have everything in order it gives the impression that you're on top of your job and you’re doing everything safely and thoroughly. So make sure that you’re well organized and prepared.

Don't Trigger Predatory Behavior

One of the things you want to do is make sure you act confident and relaxed. Being prepared with the paperwork is already going to make you look like you're on top of your game. Now the next thing you want to do is act like it.

See, there's this instint in all predators that makes them more aggresive when they sense weakness or fear. That's why you've heard many times not to 'act like a victim' when you're out in public or you will seem like an easy target to criminals. Well in a way you want to take that same approach with law enforcement. Don't act like you're nervous or intimidated. That is only going to arouse suspicions and trigger that subconscious aggressiveness that's in all of us.

But at the same time you don't want to come on as too strong and aggressive either. That attitude may also inadvertently trigger aggressiveness in response.

Instead, be confident, relaxed, and pleasant. You want them to understand that you respect them and appreciate what they do. They already know they have all of the authority in the situation, so if you’re acting confident and relaxed it's going to help give them the impression that you’re comfortable with the situation because you know your job and have everything under control.

So as you can see, there are quite a few things to keep in mind when it comes to dealing with law enforcement. Make sure you keep a great attitude and remember the reason you're in a safe, well-maintained rig in the first place is probably because of the strict laws and the strict law enforcement we have in this country.

You’ll also get on their good side if you’ll go out of your way to let the officer know that you recognize the difficulties they face with their job too. Find a way to let them know you understand the importance of the job they're doing and how it helps make your job safer at the same time. Relating to them in this way is something they’re not used to, and they will certainly appreciate it.

Also remember to act relaxed and confident, but don't go so far as to seem arrogant or unconcerned with the situation so you won't trigger any predatory behaviors. When you’re speaking with law enforcement, they've got you right where they want you. The question is, what are they going to do about it? You want to be the type of person that disarms them by having a pleasant and calm demeanor. Make them feel comfortable with the idea of letting you go without a ticket.

And finally, keep your paperwork organized so you give them the impression that you’re on top of your game.

Law enforcement officers normally don’t enjoy doing inspections or pulling you over anymore than you do, so try to relate to them on a more personal level and get them on your good side so that when the work day is done you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the road home. I’m Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we’ll see you next time.

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Episode 8: Is Mileage Pay Fair?

Getting paid by the mile, or as a percentage of the gross revenues, has been the norm in the long haul portion of the trucking industry for decades. The normal laws that govern most hourly jobs, like mandatory overtime pay after 40 hours, simply don't apply to long haul truck drivers. Some drivers complain that at times they're being forced to work for free. Is this really the case? Are drivers being taken advantage of? We'll take a look at how mileage pay works and whether or not it's fair to the drivers.

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Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to talk about the advantages of getting paid by the mile, instead of by the hour, and dispel some of the myths about drivers earning minimum wage or regularly having to work for free.

Getting paid by the mile, or as a percentage of the gross revenues, has been the norm in the long haul portion of the trucking industry for decades. The normal laws that govern most hourly jobs, like mandatory overtime pay after 40 hours, simply don't apply to long haul truck drivers.

Because of this pay structure there are a whole lot of duties that a driver performs which they aren't paid for specifically. Most of the time drivers will not get paid while they do paperwork, fuel the truck, inspect the truck, count freight, sit in stopped traffic, or wait to be loaded or unloaded.

And what about the fact that you're gone from home, away from your family and friends for extended periods of time? Shouldn't your time away from home count as work time? Shouldn't you get paid for everything you do since you're forced to do it so far away from home?

Well the reality is that our society has a long list of jobs that either pay a commission, pay by the amount of work you get done, or pay a fixed salary. In fact, roughly half of all jobs in the United States pay an hourly wage, and the rest pay by some other means. There are also millions of people that travel long distances as a regular part of their job. So getting paid a salary or a commission instead of an hourly wage, and having to travel as part of your job duties is certainly nothing new or unique in our society.

So the overriding concern in the minds of many is simple: 'Why should I have to work for free? Why won't I get paid for everything I do?'

Well you are getting paid for everything you do, even though you're only getting paid by the mile. They're simply averaging out all of the work that goes along with the driving portion of your job. For instance, let's look an the average week for an over the road truck driver.

A typical week will involve roughly 2,500 miles of driving. You'll make roughly three pickups, three deliveries, four fuel stops, seven pre-trip inspections, a couple hours of paperwork, and quite a few hours spent sitting around at customers waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

If you turn things around and look at this from an hourly perspective, probably one quarter of all of the hours you put into tasks related to your job is unpaid! So obviously drivers are getting screwed, right?

No, of course not. Your mileage pay is designed to include all of the typical job duties that go along with the driving. Now this isn't always going to work out perfectly every time. Some loads are going to require more hours of additional work, others far less. But in the end you're paid a mileage salary that reflects all of the work you'll have to do to make that delivery possible.

So what you should do to properly evaluate your pay is to look at your entire body of work over time and ask yourself if it's worth the money it paid or not. Don't worry about how you were paid or how it was broken down. If you make a thousand dollars in a week's time it doesn't make any difference if you're paid hourly, salary, commission, or piece work. A thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. So you look at the work involved, look at the money you made doing it, and decide for yourself if trucking is worth it or not. It really is as simple as that.

Two Big Advantages Of Mileage Pay

Now there are actually two huge advantages to getting paid by the mile. For one, you're going to get paid for the total amount of work you accomplish. When you think about it, isn't that what you want? If you're turning 2,500 miles in 50 hours and another driver is turning only 2,000 miles in those same 50 hours wouldn't you be pretty unhappy about getting paid the same amount of money for those 50 hours or work? Of course you would! You're doing a lot more work than the other driver. His ability to waste time means he's making as much as you are but doing far less work. So if you're the hard working type you're going to have the opportunity to outwork your peers and push your salary higher. You're going to produce more and you're going to be paid more for your great productivity, exactly as it should be.

The second big advantage is that everyone within a trucking company ultimately makes money the same way - by keeping those wheels turning. Everyone at your company is somehow responsible for keeping those trucks moving. Whether they're in sales, customer service, management, dispatch, load planning, safety, or maintenance your job is to make sure your company can move as much freight as possible.

That means everyone within the company is truly working together and relying on each other to make a decent salary and to keep the company profitable. This isn't necessarily the case in an hourly position. If you're the owner of a factory and you're paying your workers an hourly salary you're going to try to squeeze all the work you can out of them every single hour. But if you're one of the workers you'll actually make more money for doing less work if you can figure out how to waste more time or be a little less efficient.

So management is trying to get the workers to do more work in less time, while the workers are trying to do less work for the money they’re being paid, and you have this constant tug of war going on where both sides try to win by hurting the other. You also have your best workers getting paid less for the work they're doing, and your laziest workers making the most for the work they're doing. So there's tension between management and the workers, and there's tension between the workers themselves.

So the environment is more fair to employees and more healthy for management-employee relationships when everyone is being paid for the amount of work they accomplish, not the amount of time they put in (or waste).

So in the end we’re faced with two key questions: Is mileage pay fair, and is the truck driver pay worth it? In my opinion mileage pay is very fair, and it's the way I always preferred to get paid. I like being paid for the amount of work I get done because I've always been an incredibly hard worker which means I have the opportunity to make significantly more money than my less productive peers.

As far as whether or not a truck driver's pay is worthwhile or not, that depends on the individual. For me personally, I loved my years on the road. It was a never ending adventure full of challenges and fascinating circumstances that has left me with a lifetime of incredible memories and gave me a career I could build a better life with. For others, trucking will be the ultimate nightmare that isn't worth the sacrifices it takes to thrive in this industry.

Give yourself some time to put in the work it takes to figure out how the top tier drivers turn the big miles they can turn consistently. Once you can get to that level you'll know enough about life in this industry to know if the salary you can make as a truck driver is worth it or not. But don't get hung up on exactly how they break down the pay. It doesn't matter if you make $1,000 bucks in a week being paid hourly, salary, commission, or piece work. A thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. Look at the work you put in to make that thousand bucks and decide for yourself if it's worth it or not, so in the end when the workday is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the road home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 9: Are Major Carriers Nothing More Than Starter Companies?

It's common to hear drivers say you should start your career with one of the major companies but then move on as quickly as possible to better jobs with smaller companies. But is this really true? Are large carriers nothing more than starter companies? Are the best jobs found at smaller companies? We'll examine all different facets of life for a driver at a small company versus a large company, and we'll explore the economics of the industry to see if this notion of starter companies holds true.

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Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to talk about the major carriers that hire inexperienced drivers and whether or not they can be more than just a starter company.

For reasons no one can be quite sure of, there has been this long-held notion that major carriers are nothing more than 'starter companies'. Drivers from coast to coast will tell you to land your first job with a major carrier, stick around for a short time, and then take the first opportunity to land a better paying job at a smaller company where they'll know your name and they'll treat you better.

This myth has cemented into legend over the years and has been misleading rookie drivers and derailing careers for far too long. So lets take a deeper dive into the starter company myth and see if we can set the record straight.

Pay

So let's start out talking about money. Is the pay better at smaller carriers than at the larger ones? Well my question is, why would it be? Why would a small carrier be able to pay you more than a large carrier?

Every company out there is trying to grow their fleet and grow their profits, right? Well only a very tiny percentage, far fewer than 1% in fact, have managed themselves well enough over the years to get their fleets above one or two hundred trucks. In fact, about 93% of all trucking companies have fewer than 6 trucks, and about 97% of all trucking companies have fewer than 20 trucks.

So if these smaller companies were highly profitable they wouldn't be smaller companies anymore. They'd be large companies. In a commodity service like trucking, having scale allows you better pricing for fuel, tires, trucks, and many other expenses. So the larger carriers are getting significant discounts on items that smaller carriers are paying full price for.

Larger carriers, because of their resources, are also capable of handling a wider range of customers, giving them more options for seeking out a better profit.

So if the large carriers get bulk discounts on their expenses and they can handle a wider range of customers, how do you expect the smaller carriers to come up with the additional profits needed to pay their drivers better than the larger carriers can? Unfortunately for the smaller companies, the math just doesn't add up. You can not expect to make a larger profit than your competitors when you have higher costs and fewer revenue opportunities. And without higher profits you're not going to be able to pay higher salaries.

Home Time

Ok so let's talk about home time. Can a smaller carrier get you home more often than a large carrier? To be honest, the size of the company has nothing to do with home time. The freight lanes a company has will determine the home time they can offer to drivers in different areas.

Say, for instance, a company has steady freight going back and forth between Indianapolis and Chicago. This would make it very easy for the company to hire out of Chicago, out of Indianapolis, or anyplace in between because it's easy for them to get their drivers home with the freight they have. In fact, drivers for this company that live in these regions may even get home every day.

Now this same company might be able to hire someone out of Pittsburgh, PA but it's more difficult to get them home because they don't have a lot of freight going that way. So a driver for this company out of Pittsburgh might only get home one a week or even once a month because there simply isn't a lot of freight available to get them there.

So the size of the company has nothing to do with home time.

Better Equipment

Ok, so let's talk about equipment. Again, the big factor here is profit margin. Can a smaller carrier afford new equipment the way the larger carriers can? Most of the time, no, they can't. They simply don’t have the money behind them and can't get the same financing that’s available to large carriers.

Now sometimes you will see some small carrier with really nice equipment. But if you talk to the drivers you'll often find that the fancy, custom equipment they have is one of the best features about the company, and it's even worth it to them if they make a little less money because of it. And there's nothing wrong that. If you would love nothing more than to have a decked-out custom Pete you can surely find an owner operator or a small comapny out there that has one. But how are they going to afford to give you extra fancy equipment and pay you better than their larger competitors at the same time? If they had all this money floating around they wouldn't be a small carrier in the first place.

So you might find a small carrier that has really nice equipment, and maybe even some equipment that's really loaded to the max. But you have to ask yourself where they're getting the money for that expensive equipment if they're not taking it out of the driver's salary.

Better Treatment

Now the next item on the list is finding fair treatment and a family atmosphere. It's common to hear drivers say that they want a smaller company where everyone knows their name and they're more like a family. Well let's think about that for a minute. You're a truck driver. You're driving around all day, every day, by yourself. What difference does it make if your company has five trucks, or five thousand trucks? Driving around by yourself is still driving around by yourself. There are no 'family members' from your company with you.

And what about when you get back to the terminal? Is it better at a small company? Do you think there's going to be cookouts and parades and carnivals with rides all the time? I don't know what people picture when they're hoping for a company with a family atmosphere, but I've worked for several small companies and I can assure you I was treated no better than at a large carrier, and there were definitely no carnival rides. If you want a family atmosphere, buy a home and start a family.

Future Opportunities

Ok, so what about future opportunities? Say you get started with a large carrier and you run dry van for a while and you were getting home one a month. Maybe you decide you'd like to try flatbed or maybe you'd like to get home on the weekends instead. Then again, you've heard it's great being in a dedicated fleet where you're only driving for one customer, or a dedicated route where you go to the same places all the time.

Large carriers tend to have a huge assortment of different opportunities available, especially once you've put in a few months and you've proven yourself to be a safe, hard working, reliable professional. Large carriers will often haul more than one type of freight, they'll often have numerous home time options, and they always have some dedicated fleets that only run certain areas of the country or only haul for certain customers.

So it's easy at a large carrier to dip your toes in the water and try different types of trucking to see what suits you best. And the beauty of moving between divisions within a company, instead of starting over with a new company, is that you retain your great reputation and your hard earned seniority. When you change companies you start all over again at the bottom. You have to prove yourself to everyone, you have no seniority, and you're not going to be offered their best opportunities with their best customers until you've put in some time.

So it's often a big advantage to move around within a company than it is to change companies anytime you’re looking for a new opportunity.

Perks

So what about the little perks that come with working for a large carrier? See, the larger carriers have so many resources at their disposal that they can offer things you'll almost never find at small companies. For instance, a lot of large carriers have free healthcare hotlines you can call anytime to speak with medical personnel from the road. They also tend to offer things like recreational buildings at their terminals, travel discounts for you and your family, and national accounts for handling breakdowns, tires, and fuel.

I once worked for a small company that didn't have any sort of national accounts setup. Every time I needed the tank washed out, the truck repaired, fuel, or a hotel I had to pay cash for everything because my carrier couldn't get the financing available to be given large credit accounts. It was a frustrating, time consuming, and tedious process trying to get anything done.

When you work for a large carrier they have financing and national accounts to handle all of that for you. When you go to get fuel, get your truck washed, get repairs done, or get loaded at a customer the process is normally faster and easier because the bill is taken care of and you're often given precedence over drivers from smaller carriers because your carrier's account is so important to their business.

Now none of these little perks by themselves might be a game changer, but when you add them up you'll find the experience of working for a large carrier is often much nicer than at a smaller carrier where they simply don't have the money or the personnel to make life as easy on their drivers.

So as you can see the notion that you should start with a large carrier and quickly move on to a better job at a small carrier is completely false. The large carriers have more money behind them and more clout with their customers and with the companies that service their fleet than smaller carriers do.

Large carriers tend to offer fantastic pay and benefits, especially after you've put in a little time. They often have a variety of home time options, gigantic fleets of nearly brand new equipment, and a list of perks a mile long that make life easier on the drivers.

You can expect to be treated every bit as well at a major carrier as you will at a small carrier and down the road you'll have far more opportunities available to haul different types of freight or run different regions of the country.

So don't make the mistake of thinking that large carriers are just starter companies and that you're supposed to work your way up to better jobs with smaller carriers. This isn't true at all. If you're going to leave one company for another, make sure it's because the company you're leaving doesn't offer what you're looking for but another company does. A smaller carrier doesn't have the resources available that a large carrier has, so if you're going to make the move to a smaller carrier, make sure there's a very good reason for it.

You want to make sure you're with the right carrier, not just the right size carrier, so in the end when the work is done you can sit back, and relax, and enjoy the Road Home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 10: Terminal Rats Are Derailing Trucking Careers

Terminal Rats are miserable drivers who tend to hang around in groups at trucking terminals and truck stops complaining the day away. The problem is that their conspiracy theories and embellished tales of mistreatment and abuse are poisoning the minds of incoming drivers. It's causing new drivers to take the wrong approach and have the wrong attitude toward their new career, derailing their chances of success and happiness in the industry. Let's see if we can understand this vicious cycle and break it before it derails your career.

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Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to talk about a subculture of people within the trucking industry that we refer to as 'terminal rats' here at TruckingTruth and the potentially devastating consequences they can have on your trucking career.

Now 'Terminal rats' are nothing more than miserable drivers who tend to hang around in groups at trucking company terminals and truck stops from coast to coast. We've all heard the expression 'misery loves company' and that's exactly what you'll find with terminal rats; they love nothing more than to hang around in groups, especially with their own kind, and complain the day way. There isn't a person or a company or a regulation in this great nation that these drivers can't find fault with.

'Well so what?' you might wonder. You'll find complainers everywhere you go, right? Well that's true. But in this case we're dealing with a rather unique problem. The problem is that these terminal rats feel with great conviction that they have discovered some underlying truths about how the trucking industry really operates and they feel compelled to share this information with others so that others won't be taken advantage of by these evil empires.

And who is most likely to believe these conspiracy theories and tales of suffering at the hands of the evil trucking industry? That's right - rookie drivers who are just trying to get their trucking career underway. So it's common to find some of these rats hovering around the students and new recruits coming in orientation, hoping to warn you about the perils that lie ahead and recruit you over to their way of thinking.

See, these terminal rats genuinely feel they're right and that what they have to offer is both honest and helpful. The problem is they're completely wrong about all of it and they don't realize that their own career has been derailed because they believed and acted upon the same lies and the same misinformation that they're now spreading to others. Let me give you an example of how this happens.

A student shows up for day one of their new career. They're getting ready to start school at a company-sponsored training program. They walk into the terminal and find there are drivers hovering around all over the place. They spot a somewhat animated conversation going on amongst one group so they go over to see what the fuss is all about. What they've stumbled upon is a rat's nest full of terminal rats complaining about everything under the sun.

So this student, bright eyed and bushy tailed and quite excited about this new adventure, is suddenly appalled after hearing one horrifying tale of failure and abuse after another. They're told that companies are being paid by the government to hire students and then fire them right away. They're told the only reason the company wants you to sign a contract is because they're going to take advantage of you and they don't want you to be able to leave or do anything about it. They're told most people fail out of these schools because the company is setting them up for failure.

Well after about thirty minutes of hearing their company's current drivers spin conspiracy theories and issue ominous warnings, the new student is horrified at the perilous position they seem to be in. And from the student's perspective you can't help but wonder why would these drivers lie, right? They're current drivers. They must know this stuff is true, don't they? I mean, what would they have to gain by intentionally misleading me?

So the student falls for it hook, line, and sinker. They now believe they have to protect themselves from the evil empire they're about to go to work for and they go on high alert for any signs that the company is attempting to manipulate them or exploit them in some way.

This completely changes the attitude, the expectations, and the performance of this student. This student showed up with every intention of putting in his best effort, but now feels it's probably wise to hold back a little bit in case the company is just taking advantage of him. So he doesn't demonstrate the work ethic that top tier drivers possess.

This student had every intention of approaching the company staff and driver trainers with a friendly and respectful demeanor, but now the student is now rather put off by the staff and begins to eye them with suspicion and hostility. He doesn't demonstrate the professionalism that the top tier drivers possess, nor does he demonstrate the eagerness to learn his trade that the best students possess.

This student also had every intention of staying committed to his first company for one full year. He was going to prove himself to be a safe, hard working, reliable professional in order to earn the high pay, great equipment, great miles, and special favors the top tier drivers get. But now he feels like he should move on at the first sign of trouble because the company isn't committed to him and will likely take advantage of him anyhow. So he doesn't demonstrate the willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, nor the commitment to the company's success that the top tier drivers have.

Now you have a huge problem.

See, everyone in the trucking industry knows that most new drivers don't last very long. Trucking demands a level of commitment that few people possess. You really have to be a special breed to survive and thrive as a trucker. Most people either don't have what it takes or aren't interested in putting forth that level of commitment.

So while the company is watching this student to see if he has what it takes to make it in trucking, the student, because of his poor attitude and expectations now, is showing very few encouraging signs. He's not putting in the effort, he's difficult to get along with, and he's already threatening to leave the company for a long list of petty and frivolous complaints.

So now the company has its doubts. They decide it's best to focus their attention on the more promising students and the proven drivers that they already have. So the better students and top tier drivers get better miles, better treatment, better equipment, and make more money. Our poor, misguided student gets exactly what he deserves for his poor attitude and poor performance; lousy miles and a little bit of bad attitude in return.

Before long the student begins to see what he believes is evidence that the conspiracy theories he was told by the terminal rats are indeed true. The company has him under contract but he's not getting good miles, so they must have put him under contract so he couldn't leave no matter what they did to him. When he complains, nothing gets done about it, and he figures that's probably because the company is just taking advantage of him anyhow and doesn't care how he feels.

The reality is that the student is getting exactly what he has earned and what deserves at this point, which is very little. He's a rookie driver who is lacking in every way. He isn't putting in the work he should, he isn't listening to the trainers, he isn't getting along with staff, and he does nothing but complain and threaten to leave the company on almost daily basis. It would now appear from the company's perspective that this student has very little chance of being successful in this industry, and it now appears from the student's perspective that everything he was told by the terminal rats was true.

So what does this driver do the next time he gets to a terminal? That's right - he seeks out the new class of incoming students to warn them about the evil and insidious nature of the company with one horrifying tale of failure and abuse after another. The student has come full circle and is now the terminal rat who is going to derail the promising careers of the next class of incoming students. It's a vicious cycle that has gone on for decades and has caused the demise of countless careers over the years.

So what you have here is referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy is when a person unknowingly causes a prediction to come true, due to the simple fact that he or she expects it to come true. In this case, the student started his training expecting the company to treat him poorly so he decided not to put forth his best attitude or performance. When the company saw that the student was underperforming and showed little interest in becoming a true professional they decided to give their best pay, best miles, and best equipment to their proven drivers and most promising students instead.

So in the end, the student's beliefs lead to his poor performance which in turn lead to the poor experience he had with his company. He believed he was going to have a poor experience, he acted on those beliefs, and those actions in turn caused the very treatment he expected. It’s kind of like if you were convinced that ice cream was going to melt no matter what you did so you left it out on the counter and when it melted you said, “See, I knew it was going to melt”, not knowing you caused it yourself.

You have to understand that trucking is a performance-based career. If you want the miles, the pay, the equipment, and the treatment that the top tier drivers get then you're going to have to prove to your company that you can perform at that level. No one gets a free ride in this industry because companies would go broke in a hurry if they allowed underperforming drivers to disrupt their operations. So they count heavily upon their best drivers to do the bulk of the work and they throw the leftover scraps to the underperformers. It's kind of like a wolf pack. The top performers get the spoils while the weaklings hover around in the background complaining and starving.

In the end you’re only going to get the best miles and the best treatment if you perform at the highest level. So ignore the terminal rats and give it everything you’ve got so in the end, when the work is done, you can sit back and relax and enjoy The Road Home.

I’m Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we’ll see you next time.

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Episode 11: The Differences Between Dry Van, Refrigerated, And Flatbed

New drivers coming into the industry have several options when it comes to the type of freight they'd like to haul, but the main contenders are dry van, refrigerated, and flatbed. There are some similarities between them, but some very significant differences that you'll want to understand before making a decision. So we'll discuss how each relate to each other when it comes to pay, home time, available miles, job duties, and the regions of the country you'll be running.

Listen Now Join The Discussion Read Transcript
Hey folks I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help prepare new drivers for life on the road.

Today I want to cover the different types of freight you can haul and how they differ from each other when it comes to pay, job duties, lifestyle, and home time.

Dry Van

We'll start with dry van. A dry van in nothing more than an empty box, basically, that can haul any sort of goods which do not require strict temperature control and can be loaded through the back doors. You could be hauling anything from cereal to auto parts to hazardous chemicals.

The pay rate for dry van will fluctuate wildly from company to company. Some of the best, and some of the worst paying jobs are dry van jobs. Often times a company may start at a relatively low rate, especially if you're brand new to the industry, but they often give a series of significant raises throughout the year, to entice you to stay with the company longer, and that can put your pay on par with any company out there.

Home time opportunities is where dry van has a huge advantage over most types of freight. If you're looking to get home daily, or maybe weekly, dry van is the best place to start. The freight tends to be more regionalized with a smaller percentage of the freight travelling coast to coast and most runs averaging anywhere from 300 - 750 miles. So it's easier to find a job that can get you home more often in dry van than in most other types of freight.

In dry van you will also find a lot of freight is drop and hook. All that means is that you drop your loaded trailer at the customer and then hook to an empty trailer, or vice versa, without having to wait for a live load or unload. This is a great way for dry van drivers to keep those wheels turning and get those miles up there each week.

You will also find a lower percentage of freight that goes coast to coast so your chances of running all 48 states with a dry van company are fairly slim. Even in a 48 state division you will normally stay on one side of the Mississippi with an occasional run to far away places if you're lucky.

As far as physical labor goes, dry van covers the entire spectrum. There are plenty of jobs that require almost no physical work whatsoever, and there are jobs that require the driver to do some or all of the unloading.

One feature of dry van freight is that it tends to fluctuate quite a bit throughout the year, especially before and after the holiday season. Things will stay pretty busy from about late spring through early fall, and then it will be super busy until about mid December when the holiday freight is mostly delivered and things slow down significantly.

January through April tend to be pretty slow overall but of course you'll have no problem making a living. But in dry van you really do want to make hay when the sun shines. When the freight is heavy you should run hard, so if lean times hit you're prepared for it.

Refrigerated

Now with temperature controlled freight you're pulling what's referred to as a reefer, or a dry van that has insulation in the walls and a gigantic diesel-operated heating and cooling unit on the front. The temperature in these units can be set throughout quite a wide range, from below zero to above 100 degrees and you may find yourself hauling anything from ice cream to sides of beef or anything that a dry van can haul.

The pay in temperature controlled freight works out to be about the same as dry van. Most companies pay by the mile and your miles will work out about the same as dry van.

Now there is a significant difference from dry van when it comes to home time, the average length of haul, and the regions of the country you tend to run. If you're looking to get home more often you're going to struggle to find that opportunity with refrigerated freight, which on average travels longer distances than dry van freight so it's not often you'll only run one region of the country.

You will find a much larger percentage of the freight goes coast to coast so you'll get an opportunity to see more of the country, but you'll get home less often. Most refrigerated companies will get you home every two to three weeks.

The physical work is about the same as dry van. There are plenty of jobs that require very little or no physical work by the driver but there are also plenty of jobs that do require unloading. Food delivery to local restaurants and stores is one way you can get home evrey night pulling refrigerated freight but these jobs tend to require the driver to do the unloading and often require some experience in the industry first.

One of the advantages to temperature controlled freight is consistency throughout the year. Because you can haul a greater variety of goods it's a little easier for temperature controlled freight to stay busy during the slower times. So instead of the large swings you'll find in dry van, refrigerated freight tends to be a little more consistent throughout the year.

Flatbed

Now there are plenty of flatbed opportunities for rookies coming straight out of school, and in fact some flatbed companies are even running their own company-sponsored training programs. I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about the idea of a rookie coming straight out of school and hopping into flatbed. There are a million things a new driver has to worry about already, without the added burden of learning the procedures and doing all of the extra work involved with tarping and strapping a load.

But there are tons of rookies who get through it just fine so it's totally doable, but just be aware of the fact that you're taking on extra risk and extra work at what is already the toughest time in any driver's career. So be ready for a tough go of it, especially early on.

Now flatbed drivers often make a little more per mile than dry van or refrigerated drivers do, and they also get extra pay for tarping loads. But on average they turn a few less miles than the others. So in the end, flatbed may pay as much or maybe even a little more than the others, but I promise you you're going to earn every penny of it. Flatbed is the type of job that most drivers either love or hate. You're often going to be a hardcore flatbedder for life, or you don't want anything to do with it.

Interestingly enough flatbed is very similar to dry van when it comes to the regionalization of the freight, the average length of haul, and the home time opportunities. If you're looking to get home more often or you only want to run certain areas of the country then flatbed might have what you're looking for. A lot of flatbed customers are only open on the weekdays, and the freight tends to stay in a smaller region of the country instead of going coast to coast, so a lot of flatbedders can get home on the weekends and possibly even more often than that.

The average length of haul with flatbed is closer to what it is in dry van. Many of the runs will be anywhere from 300 - 750 miles, with probably a few more runs averaging above 1,000 miles in length than you'll find in dry van.

Now the physical work is of course where flatbed separates itself from the rest. It is common to have to lift tarps in excess of 75 or 100 pounds, and also some rather heavy chains and blocking to help secure everything. You will also have to climb up on top of the load on a regular basis which can be incredibly dangerous. There is no shortage of stories involving flatbed drivers falling off the freight onto the parking lot so you have to be extremely cautious when you're up there.

Most flatbed companies will require you to pass an agility and strength test to make sure you have the physical capacity to do the work required. Normally you will have to lift a 50 or 75 pound box to shoulder level and demonstrate that you have recently decent balance and flexibility. Each company has a little bit different way of testing you so find out what's required when you're researching companies.

Flatbed freight also tends to follow similar cycles to dry van freight, where you're busiest in the spring through fall and things drop off a bit in mid to late winter.

So let me summarize quickly the best types of freight to look into for different circumstances you may be facing.

If you're looking to get home as often as possible I would look into dry van or flatbed. If you're looking to stay out longer and see more of the country then refrigerated place is the place to start looking.

If you like the idea of doing some physical labor then flatbed would be the obvious choice, but there is no shortage of dry van and refrigerated jobs that require the driver to do the unloading so keep your eyes open for opportunities there also.

If you don't care what type of freight you haul but you just want to make the most money possible well there really isn't an easy answer for that one. There isn't a clear cut winner when it comes to final earnings. You'll have to evaluate opportunities on an individual basis to see where the best potential lies, but there often won't be a clear cut winner. So I would say do not make the decision about which type of freight to haul based on pay. Choose the type of freight you'd like to haul based upon home time, areas of the country you'd like to run, and the job requirements. The pay in the end will work out well no matter what type of freight you haul.

So as you can see there are quite a few similarities between the three major types of freight but plenty of significant differences also. So when you're looking for that next job make sure you really take the time to think over the type of job you'd like to have and don't choose one type of freight over another simply because you're hoping the pay will be better. There are no guarantees that you'll make more money with one type of freight over another and you don't want to be stuck doing a job you don't like for pay that didn't live up to the expectations.

So choose the type of freight you'd like to haul carefully and take your time learning the ropes so in the end, when the work is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy The Road Home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 12: How I Handled Being Fired For Arriving Early

One time I was fired from a company that I had worked at for five years with a flawless safety and service record, completely out of the blue, for showing up to a customer too early of all things. I was floored when I got the news. I had no idea what they were talking about and could not make any sense out of why I was being let go. This is my story about how this situation played out and what I did when I spoke with management about the situation.

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Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and welcome to another episode of our podcast, 'The Road Home', where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

This week I'm going to do something a little different than I have in previous episodes. This week I'm going to tell a personal story about one of the most extraordinary and unusual days in my trucking career.

I was fired by the company I had worked at for almost five years after a breakdown in communication meant that I didn’t receive the important information I was supposed to have regarding the load I was picking up. There are some incredibly important lessons to be learned from this situation so let's get right to the story and we’ll talk about the lessons afterward.

So I was picking up a load from a customer in Dallas, TX. The instructions on the Qualcomm said do not go in early. No biggie. Sometimes it says that because customers either can't get you loaded early or don't have the room in their warehouse to receive shipments early.

Well even though it says don't go in early, my company has a policy that says if you're late to a customer twice within a six month period you can be fired. So you can't be early, but you can't be late either. Well the instructions weren't specific in any way so I figured I'd show up about 30 minutes before my appointment time and whenever they're ready for me I'll be waiting. This all seems like very routine stuff at this point.

But this was no ordinary situation. Turns out this customer has received warnings from the fire marshall that trucks can not park on the street outside their gate. So this customer told our company do not let trucks show up more than 15 minutes before an appointment time.

Turns out we used to haul eight loads a day out of this customer but our drivers kept showing up too early and they cut it back to four loads a day and were threatening to cut it to two. Well in a company with over 5,000 trucks the owner actually got involved in this one and there was a meeting about this situation.

The owner said that every dispatcher must call their driver and tell them specifically not to go in more than 15 minutes early. Not only that, but the next time a driver goes in early, both the driver and the dispatcher will be fired on the spot, no questions asked. A direct order from the owner of the company.

Well unfortunately, of all times in his life to do so, my dispatcher dropped the ball and never called me, never messaged me anything about any of this. I had no clue whatsoever that any of this was going on.

So I show up about 30 minutes early and I'm the only truck there. they immediately give me a dock, they get me loaded up in no time, and I'm rolling down the road. Totally routine.

The next morning I'm a short distance from my delivery and I get a message to come to the terminal after the delivery, but they won't explain why. No problem, that normally means a random drug test. I didn't think anything of it.

I make the delivery, I get to the terminal, and my fleet manager, who is my dispatcher's boss, and the operations manager, who is over all of dispatch and load planning, come walking over to me. I know both of these guys well enough at this point because I've been with the company for almost five years. Super nice guys.

They come up to me with this grim look on their face, ask me to follow them, and we go into an office and they close the door. The operations manager says, "That load you just picked up? You went in too early against specific orders and now we have no choice but to let you go."

I was absolutely floored. Blindsided. If a bomb had gone off I couldn't have been more stunned. Five years of impeccable service. No service failures, never scratched a fender, and I was always one of the top producers on every board I was on, and without warning, and seemingly without a sensible reason I was being fired for being early to a customer? I couldn’t make any sense of this at all.

I said to those guys, "You realize I must be the first driver in the history of this industry to have the service record I have an then just randomly be fired for being a few minutes early to a customer, right?"

Well these guys knew me and they knew my performance record and they were quite distraught themselves. So I asked, "Well I can't be late or you'll fire me, and I can't be early or you'll fire me. What was I supposed to do exactly?"

They told me I could have gone in no more than 15 minutes early. I said, "Well why didn't you tell me that?"

As soon as I asked that question their eyes got real big and they kind of leaned back in their chairs like they were surprised by what I asked. The operations manager says, "Didn't you get a call from your dispatcher about this situation?" and I said, "No. No one told me anything. I'm completely baffled right now as to what the heck is going on. It said don't go in early so I figured that probably meant a few hours. I've don't recall ever being told that more than 15 minutes before your appointment time was too early."

Well the operations manager leaps up out of his seat and says, "Give me one minute. I have to go talk to someone." He returns a few minutes later and finally explains the entire situation I was caught up in. He told me how they had special meetings and there were direct orders from the owners to fire my dispatcher and fire me and all that good stuff.

I asked what had happened to my dispatcher, and they said he was already fired.

So the operations manager says, "Listen, you were supposed to be told not to go in early but you didn't get the message. I don't have the authority to hire you back after the owner gave a direct order to fire you but I want you to explain your story to the assistant terminal manager and we'll see what he says."

He told me he'd be available in about ten minutes and they'll come get me when the time comes.

So I’m sitting in the tv room and I realize this is the moment when I had to decide what I was going to do. With almost 10 years of experience in trucking at the time, a clean service and safety record, and five years in with this company I could snap my fingers and have any of a hundred jobs within an hour.

So what was I going to do? Should I become indignant with the way I'm being treated, storm out, and go to work somewhere else? Or should I try to talk my way back into the company?

Well probably 90% of the people out there would have stormed out and had their pick of companies to work for. But after 10 years in this industry, and five years with this company, I was quite happy working where I was at and I knew this was nothing more than a communication breakdown. It wasn't personal against me. It was just bad luck. My dispatcher happened to be the one that dropped the ball and I wound up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So I decided I would try to keep my job. I got out a pen and a notepad and I started writing down the points I wanted to make to the assistant terminal manager. A few minutes later the operations manager comes in and says, "Follow me. He's ready."

So we shake hands, I say "Nice to meet ya", and he asks me to explain to him what happened. So I took out my list and made my points. I told him I was never informed about the 15 minute time limit and he had already verified on the Qualcomm history that indeed I was never sent that message. Then I told him about my service record with the company. I have no reprimands of any sort. I have no service failures, no write-ups, and no safety incidents. I also get along well with everyone and I have absolutely no intention of leaving the company, even though I could go anywhere I like, because I'm quite happy here.

Now the interesting part of this is that the operations manager and my fleet manager we sitting in their own chairs right by my side. They knew me, they had heard my side of the story, and they were supporting me in my efforts to convince their immediate boss that I should be kept around. That is a very big deal.

So I tell my story, the assistant terminal manager agrees that I do not deserve to lose my job, but he does not have the authority to overrule the owners. But he'll back me and ask the terminal manager, his immediate boss, to hear my case. And they tell me once again to wait a few minutes and he'll see me.

So I go back to the lobby and write down a few more points I want to be sure to make to the terminal manager. A few minutes later they come get me and it's off to the next meeting with the fourth person that day.

So the same exact scenario plays out with the terminal manager. I get out my list, I state my case, and he also agrees that I deserve to keep my job but for the fourth time that day I'm speaking with someone who doesn't have the authority to override the owners. So he says, "Let me make a call to the head of East Coast Operations. He's in Ohio right now. I'll see if he'll hear your case and we'll get a conference call going."

Now it's important to note that in this meeting I had all three of the previous guys with me, the fleet manager, operations manager, and assistant terminal manager. They were all standing beside me in my defense. This was critical to making all this happen.

So I go back to the lobby, scribble a few more notes, and wait for the next interview. Sure enough a few minutes later they come get me again. So now there's five of us in the room - fleet manager, operations manager, assistant terminal manager, terminal manager, and myself. We're on a conference call with the man I'm told is number five in line under the owner, at a company with over 5,000 trucks and almost 10,000 employees. This is the level we had to go to in order to find someone comfortable making the decision to keep me around. Not just anyone is going to overrule a direct order by the owners.

So I state my case to the fifth person that day. All goes well and they ask me to leave the room for a few minutes while they discuss the situation. A few minutes later they come get me, I sit back down at the table, and they're happy to tell me that the head of East Coast operations is going to take it upon himself to overrule the owner's decision and let me keep the job. He said he'll explain it to the owners, and that I can return to work immediately.

And that's exactly what I did. Within an hour I was dispatched on another load and I left the terminal on my next run as if nothing had ever happened. It was an exhausting and bizzare day to say the least, but I was thrilled that everything worked out great.

So there are a few key takeaways from this story.

The first thing people need to realize is that truck drivers have absolutely no authority over anyone, except for one situation. You are allowed to refuse to drive the truck if you feel it is not safe or legal to do so. That's it.

You have to learn how to make your way in this industry without being able to boss anyone around. You can't make dispatch give you more miles. You can't make management keep you around. You can't make customers load or unload you faster, cooks prepare your food faster, mechanics fix your truck faster, or even make vending machines give you the snickers bar you just paid for. You have no authority as a truck driver, so you have to learn to be savvy when dealing with people. You have to learn how to talk to people in such a way that they’ll be willing to listen to your side of the stories and they’ll be willing to help you out with situations that are beyond your control.

Another point I'd like to make is to keep your cool and assess the situation properly. I'm tellin ya, 90% of the drivers out there would have flipped out, cussed out management, and given them the finger as they walked out and went to find a new job.

Well not only was this situation not directed at me personally, but I didn't want another job. I was happy with the one I had. I had new equipment, I was making top wage, I had my personal choice of dispatchers, I was in the division I wanted to be in, and I had five years of excellent service with the company that I could use as leverage to open up new opportunities.

So why would I want to leave and start over again at the bottom with a new company doing the same job I was already doing? And why would I want my record to show that I was fired by a company after doing such an excellent job for them? This situation wasn't even my fault. So I certainly didn't want to get run out of the place for a simple communication breakdown in the office that had nothing to do with me or my performance.

So it made a lot more sense to me to put in a few hours of effort to keep my job, than it would to spend months starting over again and clawing my way up from the bottom.

Another thing you have to understand is that truck drivers get very little respect in our society today. And by very little, I really mean that most of the general public can't stand us. Our trucks are always in everyone's way and when we get out of the truck a significant number of us don't know how to have a pleasant conversation with anyone. They just want to fight and complain and criticize and cuss out people all the time.

So as a truck driver you're not only the lowest man on the totem pole when it comes to authority, you're also the low man on the totem pole when it comes to getting respect for what you do. So you absolutely must learn to by humble and kind, patient and tolerant, or you're just going to be hurling yourself into a brick wall every time you run you big mouth. That's the reality you have to face as a driver.

Some drivers learn how to work well with people and they wind up in great situations with top pay, top equipment, great miles, and fair treatment. Unfortunately many drivers never figure this out and wind up running into one brick wall after another for years. After a while they often grow to hate the job and everything about the industry because they never figure out how to get to that top level where their peers are making better money driving better equipment getting more miles in better divisions.

At the conclusion of that last meeting we were all relieved that things had worked out as well as they did. Everyone figured out that I didn't deserve to lose my job and no one wanted to see one of their top performers wind up being shunned by the company and then going to work for one of their competitors.

At this point operations manager told me that if it wasn't for the way I handled myself no one would have listened to a word I had said. Everyone had assumed that I simply did not obey the directions given and because the orders came from the top there was no sense in worrying about it because I was already fired.

But instead of flying off the handle, I made a list of logical and well thought out points, I handled myself like a professional, and I spoke to everyone with respect . And because of that, and because of my record with the company, everyone was more than willing to listen to what I had to say.

And once I was able to state my case, one at a time the managers came to realize that I was indeed in the right in this situation and in fact I had known that all along. And yet even with my great record and all of the years with the company I still chose to speak calmly and professionally with everyone, and state my case logically, even after being fired without just cause.

I mean, really, if anyone ever had the right to fly off the handle and scream in people’s faces and freak out, it was me. I had nothing wrong. I had done nothing but a stellar job. And without so much as asking me a question about the situation they decided I was fired and that was that. Hit the road, too bad for you.

Handling myself the right way made everyone really wanted to stand behind me. They wanted to make sure that I was given a fair shake, and they genuinely wanted to help me out, even though I was just one driver out of 5,000 and it wouldn’t have made any difference to them either way.

And that’s the situation you’ll face time and time again in this industry. You’re going to walk into company terminals, truck stops, restaurants, shippers, receivers, and DOT weigh stations and you’re going to face situations where people have full control over your destiny and there isn’t anything you can do to force them to bend to your will.

So the question is, how are you going to handle it when it’s your turn to step up the plate? Can you find the discipline to remain humble and speak to people with respect in the face of adversity, or is it more important to you to vent your frustrations by screaming at people when things don’t go your way?

Are you going to learn to work together with the people in dispatch, or you going to scream demands and insults at them whenever things don’t go as you had hoped?

When you get pulled over for a random roadside check, are you going to lecture the officer about how he’s a money-grubbing pig who’s keeping an honest, hard working man from doing his job or are you going to keep your composure and have a friendly conversation with the officer in hopes that he’ll like you and want to let you go?

You’re going to face tough situations like these on a daily basis as a truck driver and your ability to maintain your composure, and be humble, and speak to people with kindness and respect is going to determine whether you’ll be turning top miles in beautiful equipment while putting nice paychecks in the bank, or sitting at truck stops crying the blues and banging your head against the wall with the rest of the drivers who love to run their mouths.

In the end you’ll want to be savvy and disciplined and friendly and humble so that when the workday is done, and you’ve made a great paycheck, you can sit back, and relax, and enjoy ‘The Road Home’.

I’m Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we’ll see you again next time.

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Episode 13: Three Problems Rookies Struggle To Overcome

Getting started in trucking is always challenging, and there are several common problems that many new drivers struggle with, especially in the beginning. These problems aren't always just inconveniences. Some of them can be devastating to you personally, and your career. Here are some of those common problems and what you can do to prepare yourself for the challenges that lie ahead.

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Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila and welcome to another episode of our podcast, 'The Road Home', where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I'm going to talk about three of the biggest problems that rookie drivers face getting their career underway and how you can prepare yourself to face these challenges when the time comes.

Wrong Expectations About Training

The first problem that rookies often fail to overcome is getting started in the trucking industry with the wrong expectations about how the training is done.

Most people expect the training will be done at a slow enough pace for new drivers to take their time and learn how to handle that truck really well. Unfortunately this is rarely the case.

Training in this industry is highly competitive and there are almost no minimum requirements for what you'll need to be taught. So both private schools and company-sponsored programs will push you through training as quickly as possible.

Private schools are competing with each other to provide the fastest and most inexpensive training they can while still allowing their students to pass the CDL exams and land their first job. The shorter and less expensive the course, the more students they’re going to get.

Company-sponsored programs are schools which are offered by trucking companies and they're in a different type of time crunch. They're trying to train students while maintaining a profitable trucking company at the same time. So they want you to get through the training, get your CDL, and get out there on the road as quickly as possible creating revenues for the company.

So training is often done at what will feel like a very fast pace. This often gives students the impression that the schools or the companies don't care about giving drivers the thorough training they need, but that's not the case at all. They're giving the best training they can afford to give without running themselves out of business. That's a simple reality in this industry and that's how it's been for decades.

So prepare yourself for very fast-paced training with an overwhelming amount of information and quite a bit of pressure at the same time. In fact, it's not uncommon for company-sponsored programs to send students home after only a few days or maybe a week of training because they're simply not catching on quickly enough.

So don't make the mistake of going into your training unprepared or you might find yourself struggling to get through it at all. And don't walk out on your training because you think you're being rushed through the process by a school or a company that doesn't care about the quality of your training. They do care about the quality of your training but they're in a position where they must find a way to train students as quickly as possible.

Study the CDL training materials before you begin your schooling and prepare yourself mentally for a lot of hard work and a lot of pressure, even during the training phase.

Not Proving Themselves First

The second mistake rookie drivers often make is they fail to realize that you have to prove yourself to your company first before they're going to give you the big miles, the fancy equipment, and the best freight that only their proven drivers are getting.

Not everyone gets treated equally in trucking. That's not how this industry works. This is a performance-based industry where the top performers get the bulk of the miles and all of the nice perks, while the underperformers are left sitting around hoping there will be enough freight left over to keep them moving. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't.

So you want to take the same approach you would take if you were an athlete trying out for a team. The best players are going to make the most money and get the most playing time, while the backups spend most of their time on the bench going broke. That's how it is in sports, and that's how it is in trucking.

So don't make the mistake of going into your first job waiting to see if you're working for a good enough company. That's going to get you nowhere. The large carriers that hire new drivers have already proven themselves at the highlest level in this industry for decades, and on top of that they know that many new drivers entering this industry aren't going to be around for long.

So it's up to you as a new driver to prove to your company that you're one of the true professionals capable of helping them to remain profitable and competitive. If you have what it takes to get the job done they'll give you all the miles you can stand. If you underperform your peers you're going to be spending a lot of time sitting around at truck stops going broke.

The Separation And Solitude

The third problem that new drivers face is more of a personal one and it really catches a lot of people off guard. Being an over the road truck driver will entail spending an incredible amount of time alone in that truck, and the people you do come across are all going to be strangers. This is something most people have never faced.

Think about this for a moment. When was the last time you spent maybe 20 hours out of every 24 hour period completely alone in isolation with no one to talk to and no one to visit with? It's something very few people have experienced even for a day, let alone weeks at a time.

And when was the last time you went several weeks without seeing a single person you know? Not one friend, or relative, or even a casual acquaintance. Even in the military or in college you may be leaving your home, but you're going to see a lot of the same people every day and you'll quickly make new friends. In over the road trucking you're going to be surrounded by strangers every minute of your life for weeks at a time. You might go an entire month without seeing a single person twice.

Very few people have ever had a job or a lifestyle that separates you so thoroughly from everyone you know and forces you to sit alone in isolation for endless hours the way trucking does. Even the other drivers you meet and the people you work with are almost never going to be around, and most of them you'll rarely see twice.

And probably the most devastating part about the separation and solitude is finally returning home to find that life has pretty much gone on without you. When I first started driving I couldn't wait to get back to visit with family and friends to tell them all of the amazing stories of travel and risk and adventure. I was on this epic quest to see this great land and to take on all of the challenges and risks and rewards of navigating an 80,000 pound big rig from coast to coast. It was all so epic that I just couldn't wait to share my adventures.

But you quickly come to the realization that after a few short stories about your adventures no one is really that interested. They can't relate to your stories at all, and they're far more interested in their own day to day lives, which you are no longer a part of.

So there's now this great divide between you and your former life. Your family and friends have been living their own lives, without you around, and so their thoughts and concerns are different than yours.

And even your home doesn't really feel like your home anymore. It's kind of surreal being there after being gone for so long and you feel stuck in this limbo where your truck isn't really a home but your home doesn't feel the same anymore. Even the people you share your home with feel like they're living a separate reality that you're not able to connect with anymore.

So prepare yourself as best you can to stay in close contact with family and friends using facetime video chats and lots and lots of phone calls. But even more importantly than that, prepare yourself for the inevitable isolation you're going to experience, and the detachment you'll find from your former life, including the people you've always known and loved dearly. When you're travelling for weeks at a time you become an outsider in your own circles. It's devastating to a lot of people and it's one of the biggest reasons new drivers leave the industry.

So as you can see there's no shortage of challenges that new drivers will face, and there are an awful lot of sacrifices you'll have to make if you want to live the life of an over the road driver. This career will throw curveballs at you faster than you may have ever seen and you will have to learn to deal with conditions you almost certainly have never faced.

But at the same time, driving a big rig is truly one of the grandest adventures imaginable. There's just nothing on Earth like it. But it’s a hard job and often times an even more difficult lifestyle that doesn't come easy, and it doesn't quickly.

It's going to take a lot of hard work to learn how to do this job and a lot of tough times trying to adapt to the new lifestyle that you and your family and friends will have to live. So stick with your first company for a minimum of one year and give it everything you've got so when the workday is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy 'The Road Home'.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 14: How I Started My Career In Trucking

I started trucking back in 1993 when I was 21 years old and I had a grand adventure out there for about 15 years. Here's the story of how I wound up in school and how I landed my first job during a pizza party at the school!

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We've been helping new drivers get started in this industry for over 10 years now so today I'm going to have a little fun and tell you guys the story of how I got started in trucking back in 1993.

So I was 21 years old back in '93 and I was working in a warehouse fulfilling orders with a buddy of mine, who by the way is working tirelessly behind the scenes here at TruckingTruth as we speak, 24 years later, which is really cool.

For a time we had actually lived in the parking lot of that warehouse in an old Chevy van that his dad had donated to us. We were working 60 hours a week and we were actually pretty thrilled to be making $5.50 an hour, because that was a step up from where we started at $4.40 an hour and at least now we had enough money that we could add jelly to our peanut butter sandwiches and we could afford one of the finest roach-infested apartments in the ghetto. And I wish I was kidding about that, but I'm not.

So the one we arrive at work and there's a big Penske moving truck in the parking lot. It was one of their box trucks that anyone can rent, but it was quite a big one.

So we go inside and ask what the truck was for. The boss said we had to deliver a few pallets of freight to a place in Downtown Atlanta and then bring some back to the warehouse from the same location.

Well that sounded an awesome adventure so I volunteered for the job. Skeptically the boss asked if I had ever driven anything like that and I told him with full confidence, 'Oh yeah. A few times. Twice my aunt moved and once my grandma moved and all three times I had driven the truck so no big deal.'

He still seemed skeptical but he said he'd find out what the plan was. Well soon he came walking back with the great news that I was going to be the one who would take the pallets downtown.

Well I was excited as could be. This was going to be quite the interesting adventure, a far cry from fulfilling orders in the warehouse and driving around on a forklift.

Well at this point I'm dying of curiosity because I had never actually driven a truck like that before, and in fact I had never even seen the inside of one. But hey, when you're hoping for a big opportunity you have to push the envelope a little bit sometimes. I figured it had to be an automatic and the rest I should be able to figure out as I go.

So I hop in the truck and to my delight is was basically just a huge pickup truck. I got it rolling, everything seemed manageable enough, so I thought 'Downtown Atlanta here I come!' and away I went.

Well it was as much fun as I had hoped. It was a beautiful sunny day, I put on the tunes, and pointed toward some building Downtown. At the time there were no GPS units or anything so I had the directions written down.

Well the trip down there and back went perfectly. No incidents, no close calls, just a fun drive Downtown, a couple of hours waiting to get unloaded and then reloaded again, and I headed back to the warehouse.

Well I was delighted to find out that by the time I had returned the workday was done and we could go home. I told my buddy, 'That was great! I didn't have to do any work today. All I had to do was drive!'

And that's when the light bulb turned on in my brain and I thought, 'Hey, I wonder how much truck drivers make?' Well I didn't know any drivers and the only company I could think of off the top of my head was JB Hunt so I went home and gave em a call. I asked how much drivers make and they said about $35,000 their first year, and up to $50,000 after a few years.

Well I was floored by that! $750 a week? I was making $250 a week, and I was doing actual work! You mean I could drive around the country in a super cool big rig and make triple the money I was making?

Wow! So it was just a short time later I was signed up for truck driving school and I was ready to take a shot at it.

I went to Alliance Tractor Trailer Training Center in McDonough Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. Alliance training is still around but that location is now closed.

Well the schooling went fantastic. I had never even seen the inside of a big rig until I climbed into one at school and I was delighted with every opportunity I was given to maneuver around the yard, practicing my backing and shifting.

And the first time I ever drove a rig out on public highways is something I remember vividly like it was yesterday. I drove for about fifteen minutes and it went perfectly. I remember climbing out and looking up at the size of that ridiculous machine and I couldn't believe I had driven it! I remember thinking, ‘It's the size of a building!' and to this day I still call them ‘a building on wheels'.

I was so excited all the time that the entire process was just overwhelming. I used to sit by the Interstate at night watching the trucks go by and listening to Bob Seger's 'Roll Me Away' over and over again. I would wonder who was behind the wheel, where they were going, and what it felt like to be in that truck heading God knows where. I thought I was explode if my opportunity didn't hurry up and arrive.

Well the schooling finished up, we passed all of our tests for our CDL, and it was a Saturday morning that we had our little graduation pizza party at school to toast our success.

At this point I really didn't know where I was going to work, and I really didn't care. I just wanted to have an opportunity with one of these giant carriers with thousands of beautiful new big rigs blanketing the country.

So we're eating pizza and milling about the place when I notice a recruiter from Gainey Transportation had returned to the school and was talking to one of the instructors. A few minutes later he came up to me with two other students in tow and says, 'I understand you three were the top in your class and I'd like to offer you all a job right now with Gainey. In fact, if you'll follow me down the road to the terminal we'll get your paperwork and your physicals out of the way today and if all goes well we'll have you on the road with a trainer in a few days or a week.'

Well Gainey was indeed one of those huge carriers with a gigantic fleet of beautiful trucks that I was hoping to get an opportunity with. Well the other two students and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and said 'Sounds great. We'll follow you to the terminal.'

And that's exactly what we did. We got our physicals and drug screens out of the way, filled out a bunch of paperwork, and about a week later I got the call that my trainer was on his way and I should be at the terminal in the morning with my bags packed ready to go.

So I show up to the terminal, they point out my trainer's truck, and they say 'He's ready to go so get out there.' So I walked across the parking lot, introduced myself, and he said, 'Great to meet ya. Climb on in the passenger side and we'll be rolling in a few minutes.'

And sure enough off we went. My trainer was a super nice guy and he loved his job. I asked where we were going and he said to Maryland for tomorrow and hopefully out West from there.

Well I had never even been west of Pennsylvania at that point in my life. The idea of going to California had my head spinning! Finally my chance had arrived and it was all like a dream. I couldn't believe I was about to embark on this huge adventure driving a big rig around the country.

Well we did go to California after that and I'm not sure I slept the entire time. I couldn't stop staring out the windows at all these places I had only seen on television and on top of that I was seeing it all while sitting in the cab of a big, beautiful, brand new rig! Man, it was just crazy to me. I loved every minute of it.

Well the training was only two weeks long, it was pretty much uneventful, and I went solo after that. That was the foundation for 15 amazing years on the road.

So there are two main things I'd like people to take away from this story.

The first thing is that I didn't do five minutes of research about what company I went to work for because I didn't care in the least. I understood that all of the major carriers were highly successful and if any of them were willing to give me the opportunity to prove myself I would go in there and show them I can become as good as anyone they had. And I knew that once I had proven myself they would keep me rolling and I could make a great living at it.

It literally never crossed my mind one single time that one of the largest, most successful companies in the nation could be a bad place to work as a driver. That theory didn't make any sense to me then and it still doesn't to this day. And in fact throughout my career I never did five minutes of research about any company I went to work.

If a company has a huge fleet of trucks and has been around for decades I knew I could go in there and prove myself as one of the top drivers out there and I would get my share of the freight and be treated well. And that's exactly how it always went throughout my career.

So don't waste your time worrying about going to work for a ‘bad' major carrier. And of the major carriers can be a great place to get your career started. They have great equipment, tons of freight, and endless opportunities for anyone who's up to the task.

Go in there ready to work hard, learn your trade, and prove that you're going to be around for a while.

The second takeaway is that you should approach trucking at least in part as an adventure and a lifestyle. If you're looking for an ordinary job that pays the bills you're going to be overwhelmed by the amount of time and dedication it takes to thrive in this industry, especially that first year.

Very few people can handle this job and the overwhelming majority of people drop out long before they get to their one year mark. In fact, at company-sponsored training programs fewer than half of the students ever even manage to get their CDL and most of those that do are long gone within a few months. This job really is that tough if you're not the type that's cut out for it.

So if you're looking for an ordinary job to pay the bills you're almost certainly better off in a different industry. If you're the type that loves a challenge and loves an adventure then get ready to work really hard and prove that you're the type that can handle this job. Because no one is going to give you the benefit of the doubt without some solid experience out there. They're going to assume that like most people who get started in trucking you'll probably be gone in no time.

Stick with that first company for one full year and establish your career and your reputation on solid ground so that in the end, when the work is done, you can sit back, and relax, and enjoy the road home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 15: Is Trucking Worth It?

Truck driving is an incredibly demanding job that requires a lot of risk, sacrifice, stress, and often times being away from home and family for long periods. The pay is solid and the equipment nowadays is really nice, but is trucking really worth it in the end? We'll take a look at the upsides and downsides of trucking and I'll give you my personal opinion on whether it's worth it or not.

Listen Now Join The Discussion Read Transcript
Hey folks, I’m Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast ‘The Road Home’ where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Truck driver wages have fallen flat over the years, and yet the demands of the job are as high as they’ve ever been. So today I’m going to talk about whether or not truck driving is a career that’s worth considering for most people.

Would you accept a career with no opportunity for advancement if it meant living a lifestyle you would rarely find anywhere else?

Would it be worth risking your life every day for the satisfaction of knowing you're moving our economy forward and making people's lives easier?

Would you give up your personal privacy and leave your home for weeks at a time to put food on the table and a roof over your family's head?

Wages in trucking have stagnated over the years while the scrutiny you endure, the risks you take, and the challenges you face only grow with time. Traffic gets tougher by the day. The weather can sweep in and wipe you out in an instant and there's always another warm body ready for the opportunity to take your place.

Whether or not you decide to take a shot at life in the trucking industry is a complex and difficult decision for most. I'll tell you what trucking is to me and maybe that will help you decide if it would be right for you.

Let’s start with what I Like About Today's Trucking Industry, and in fact there's a lot to like about trucking today:

The equipment is beautiful. There is more technology and comfort in today's trucks than ever before. The visibility from inside the cab is far better than it used to be, the safety features continue to evolve, the climate control will keep you comfortable in all weather conditions, automatic transmissions are continuing to make headway across the industry, and the communication and navigation technologies have never been better.

So without a doubt the equipment is fantastic and it really adds to the comfort level and enjoyment of the job.

So let’s talk about the pay.

The pay is solid. Even though wages have remained about the same over the past 25 years, it's still a solid paying blue collar job. There aren't too many opportunities to make $40,000-$50,000 a year in today's blue collar market. And when you consider how relatively short and inexpensive the schooling is versus the wages you can make even in your rookie year, it’s a pretty low risk opportunity with a solid upside.

Now what about driver demand and job security?

Driver demand has been high for decades and it remains just as high today. If you get a little over the road experience and you can keep your license, your safety record, and your service record in solid standing you could make 10 phone calls and have 10 different job offers before lunchtime on any given day. So keep your record in good standing and you'll never have to worry about having a job. That’s one of the best parts about this industry.

What about home time opportunities?

Well freight has become far more regionalized over the years than it was in the past which has allowed trucking companies to offer far better opportunities for home time than in the past. It’s common today for drivers to graduate from school and immediately step into a job that can get them home on weekends. And with a little experience you’ll often find opportunities that will pay $50,000 per year or more and have you home every night. So the home time opportunities are defintely there for those who want them.

Ok so let’s talk about some of the things I Dislike About Today's Trucking Industry

For starters, the scrutiny a driver must endure can be brutal. Getting started in trucking means background checks, drug tests, physicals, credit checks, fingerprinting (Hazmat endorsement), employment verification, and complying with a vast amount of rules and regulations. Landing a job babysitting the President's children would probably require jumping through fewer hoops than it takes to become a truck driver.

It’s quite a tedious process, especially in the beginning, but it’s something that everyone has to endure.

Another concern is the level of enforcement once you’re in the industry.

The enforcement is very strict to say the least. You will have cameras on you most of the time, and sometimes even in the cab. Your engine will report your driving and idling habits to your company. The scale houses will scan you and track your truck's every movement. You can be pulled over anytime and searched inside and out, including the cab, without provocation. And every inspection, ticket, and accident will be tracked, scored, and reported to more entities than you would ever imagine. Everyone knows almost everything you're doing all the time, so it’s far easier to get in trouble and possibly even lose your job today than it ever was in the past.

Another major concern is today’s traffic.

The traffic is unbearable. For decades now the growth in the amount of traffic on the roads has far outpaced the rate of expansion. Traffic gets worse by the day and people are driving crazier than ever, partly because they have more devices to distract them than ever before.

And having to negotiate traffic in and around the major cities today is brutal. It’s not uncommon to waste two or three hours trying to get in or out of the largest cities, and even the smaller cities you barely used to notice now have huge backups on a daily basis.

Now let’s talk again about the pay.

The pay has stagnated. Although it is still a solid paying blue collar job, the pay is the same now as it was when I started in '93. Adjusted for inflation you would need to make $64,000 today to have the same spending power as $40,000 had in '93. Unfortunately today's rookie drivers will be lucky to make $40,000 their first year, meaning they'll have about half the spending power I had as a rookie back in the 1993.

So the pay isn’t terrible by any measure, but it isn’t getting any better either.

Would I Personally Want To Become A Truck Driver Today?

Well here are my personal feelings on the matter and you may very well feel differently about it than I do.

If I was excited about living the travelling lifestyle I would definitely want to drive a truck today. The lifestyle of an over the road trucker is what makes the job worth doing in my opinion. See, you're taking a lot of risk and making a lot of sacrifices as an over the road driver. Making $40,000-$50,000 per year alone doesn't make it worth doing for many people, especially if they have a family or a great social life they're leaving behind.

But over the years I made an adventure out of it in a big way. I went to everything I could find from dirt track racing on a Friday night to NCAA football games, NFL games, NASCAR, NHRA, and dozens of small town high school football games on Friday nights.

I spent weekends in Vegas, New Orleans, Miami, Seattle, and about every major metropolis over the years and had a blast. I saw just about everything. And some of the most enjoyable memories you'll have will be from places you wouldn't expect like Albuquerque, New Mexico or Two Guns, Arizona.

You can see and do more in a year on the road than most people could do in a lifetime of living at home and working a 9 to 5 job.

On The Other Hand...

I would not become a truck driver today if I was simply looking for a way to stay at home and make a living. Now there are tons of drivers that get home every night to their families and they love their local driving jobs. No question about it. And there’s obviously nothing wrong with that at all.

But to me there are a lot of careers with some significant advantages over truck driving. For starters, many careers offer more room for advancement, better opportunities to make more money in the future, they’re far less risky, they require far less scrutiny and sacrifice, they give you opportunities to make extra income on the side like say an electrician or an auto mechanic), and would more easily allow you to run your own business someday if you so choose.

So if I was looking for a unique and adventurous lifestyle I think truck driving would be an awesome candidate. If I was looking for a long term career that would keep me at home I think I would want something that has better potential for advancing through the ranks, making money on the side, and eventually starting my own business.

So What Are You Saying?

The bottom line is you have to be ambitious and it certainly helps to be adventurous if you really want to thrive in trucking, whether you’re running over the road or getting home every night.

Finding adventure as a driver doesn’t mean you have to run coast to coast. Delivering everyday in downtown Chicago, Boston, or New York is quite the adventure you can be sure. To really get the most out of life on the road you really want to approach every moment as a new challenge, as part of a grand adventure, and really try to live it to the fullest.

Some people thrive in a safe, simple environment. Others prefer an endless stream of challenges and adventures. Trucking isn't for the faint of heart nor is it for those seeking shelter from risk or sacrifice. Trucking will give almost anyone an opportunity, but just make sure know what you're getting into, and be careful what you wish for.

I know we have a lot of regulars in our forum at TruckingTruth who have been driving for quite some time and they get home every night and they really enjoy their jobs. So please understand that I’m not saying you should only become a truck driver if you plan on living on the road for weeks at a time. That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m only saying that for me personally, I didn’t enjoy the job very much once it became predictable and I felt like there were quite a few others careers that offered more opportunities for someone who was getting home every night.

There’s a link on our podcast page to a discussion we’ll be having about this topic and I know a lot of our regulars who get home every night will be happy to stop by and explain why they love their job and why it’s so perfect for them, even though it’s not the right choice for me.

I hope you’ll stop by and check it out so you can get different perspectives on what makes this diverse career so enjoyable for so many people. In the end, all that matters is that you make the right choice for yourself and your circumstances and go out there and give it all you’ve got so that in the end, when the work is done, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy The Road Home.

I’m Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we’ll see you next time.

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Episode 16: A College Education Versus Truck Driving: Not As Simple As You May Think

It's a common question we get, "Should I go to college or become a truck driver?" To some that seems like a rather naive and obvious choice. Who would choose trucking over college? Well it turns out I did, and so did a lot of incredibly happy truck drivers. But the road is far more difficult than you might imagine, and it does mean giving up a lot of great opportunities. Here I will share my personal life experiences and explain how I feel you should make that decision for yourself.

Listen Now Join The Discussion Read Transcript
Hey folks, this is Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast, 'The Road Home', where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to share my personal experiences and insights into a common question that comes up from time to time - should I go to college or should I pursue a career in trucking? But in this podcast I'm not going to talk about the normal comparisons you'll hear between the cost of schooling, the length of schooling, the loans you'll have to pay back, and the salary you'll make. Those are just simple metrics that involve a few minutes of basic math. Instead I want to go beyond that and give you a little insight into who I am and the choices that I made, and I'll also give you my recommendation for how to make this decision for yourself.

We have an excellent discussion going for this topic in our forum and you'll see a link on our podcast page that says "join the discussion". Click on that and you'll get a lot of great insights from a number of our members about the choices they made, how things worked out for them, and what they would recommend to people considering these two options.

To start with, I'm an incredibly lucky guy who was blessed with really good brains. That isn't something I can take credit for, it was simply good luck. By the time I was 16 years old I was taking a college calculus course and getting straight A's. I was accepted into the Engineering Society at the University of Buffalo before I ever even attended my first day of class, and was also accepted into the Coast Guard Academy where I would have graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant at 21 years old. I could have been a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon or a Coast Guard officer if I had wanted to.

But to be honest, I didn't want to. I went to college for one semester and quit. It was boring as hell and I felt like I was wasting my time. But more than anything I felt like I was missing out on the opportunity to get out there and actually live life, experience the world around me, instead of just spending more years sitting in a classroom.

So in 1990, at 19 years old, I packed my bags and headed to Atlanta where I lived for a while in an old Chevy van with my buddy, who today is helping me run TruckingTruth. We lived in parking lots for a few weeks, ate peanut butter and soup out of cans, and made $4.40/hr to start as temp workers in a warehouse. We were hired full time soon enough at $5.50/hr and we were then able to move into an apartment in the ghetto, where shots rang out one night outside our door, so we moved back into the van and lived once again in a parking lot, but in a safer part of town.

After getting a better apartment in a better ghetto I worked some lousy jobs in the area until I went to truck driving school at 21 years old and got into over the road trucking. As you can imagine, for me to become a truck driver, of all things, was mortifying for my mom, who knew better than anyone that I had opportunities that not 1 in a 1000 people could ever dream of.

That started a 15 year career in trucking that led to a long series of awesome adventures, which included travelling coast to coast and living in the truck, spending some time living in various states, and several forays into other careers. In turn those careers lead to an opportunity to start my own small business, and that's where I stand today, as a successful small business owner.

In my opinion, your decision about whether or not you should go to college should primarily be based upon your personality. You can teach yourself relevant knowledge far more quickly using a combination of online learning and real world practice than you could ever learn in college.

The problem is that no one is going to offer you any opportunities in the corporate world without that piece of paper saying you chased girls, drank a lot, and spent $50,000 in tuition over four years learning almost nothing of value in the real world.

I truly believe that most jobs which require a college degree only do so because the person doing the hiring had to waste tens of thousands of dollars and several years of their life in college, and now so must everyone else. Because the overwhelming majority of people with successful careers will tell you that the most important thing they got out of college was the experience itself, and the friendships they made. Rarely will you ever hear anyone try to convince you that their successes in life were built upon the actual knowledge base they picked up in college.

Now I've had numerous careers and even today I'm pursuing many other skill sets to add to the long list I already have, but traditional schooling is not part of that strategy. However, I do pay for numerous online educational opportunities that mostly involve books, podcasts, and video tutorials. But you see, I don't need a job. I own my own business. So no one cares if I have a graduation certificate or not, they only want to know if we're capable of doing a great job.

So I'm thrilled with my life choices because they work for someone like me who's blessed with an ability to learn pretty much anything on my own and is super highly ambitious. I love adventure, I love taking risks, and I love being challenged in every facet of my being. I also love running my own business for all of those same reasons.

But here's the downside that you have to be very aware of if you're going to avoid going to college and attempt to forge your own path in life. You’re simply not going to be given many opportunities without that college degree, especially in the tech world where I make my living today. Here’s the situation I face, and to be honest, it seems rather ridiculous, but it is the harsh reality.

Now I went through my first computer programming book when I was about 11 or 12 years old. It was a 300 page book on the BASIC programming language, which I completed cover to cover, in about 1981 and I was using a Radio Shack TRS-80 at my grandpa's house to do it.

In the late 90's I started pursuing hardcore programming, database, and server administration skills when I was still a truck driver on the road and the Internet was this amazing new thing. I transitioned out of trucking and started TruckingTruth 10.5 years ago and have sat at this computer an average of probably 55 - 60 hours a week all these years, and almost lost my house and went bankrupt early on in the process.

At this point I've learned computer programming in numerous languages, database administration, and linux server administration, all at very high levels and I have over a decade of real world experience running a large, successful website. I've built everything from real-time GPS tracking systems to adaptive learning algorithms to numerous different content management systems. In fact, I have built all of the software from scratch myself that runs this entire website, which handles millions of visitors every year.

And yet, if I needed a job in technology today the corporations would laugh at me. I wouldn't even get an interview because I never graduated from college. Even if they did give me an interview I would fail it in a matter of minutes because I don't know the right lingo and I haven't practiced the odd puzzles and off-the-wall theoretical questions that I'm told they ask in these interviews.

I'm thrilled with the path I've chosen because it's perfect for me. I would rather stab myself in the eye with a pen than be in the corporate world, and the corporate world is glad that I feel that way, I can assure you. I'm fiercely independent, I'm highly motivated, and I'm fearless when it comes to throwing my entire life in the garbage and starting over from scratch in a new pursuit.

Over the years I've been the climber in my own tree service, Harley mechanic, welder, bus driver, truck driver, web developer, factory worker, and warehouse worker. I played guitar for many years, I tinker on the piano, I've started into rock climbing, and I have years of hiking and snowboarding experience. I even raised cows, chickens, and turkeys and had a huge garden for a number of years. I'm now pursuing film, photography, and sound in an effort to add to the web development skills I have, all in an effort to pursue bigger and better business opportunities.

So at this point in my life I can pretty much do anything, except land a decent paying job.

No one would dream of hiring me because I simply didn't take the path employers insist that you should take. So for the rest of my life I will have little choice but to run my own businesses. And I would want to do that anyways, even if some job offer magically appeared out of the blue.

So you don't have to go to college to learn a lot, or to make a lot of money, or to have an amazing life. But you do have to understand that you're giving up a lot of easy opportunities if you don't go to college. You're taking on a much heavier burden and walking a far more difficult path, where you will have to either settle for blue collar work or forge your own path into the business world if you ever really want to have anything.

To survive long term in the business world you have to be highly motivated, adventurous, courageous, creative, adaptable, full of unique ideas, talented, and willing to fight your way along a much more difficult path without any sort of safety net. Choosing to avoid college usually means you're forsaking the easier path into a career for the privilege of making your way through life on your own terms, but you're going to pay a huge price for that privilege.

In the end you have to choose the path that's right for your personality. and don't kid yourself about who you are and what you're prepared to take on.

If you were to tell 100 people to get themselves to the top of a mountain, 90 of them would enjoy a quick and relatively safe ride in a helicopter. Maybe 9 out of the remaining 10 would hike a long but relatively easy path to the top, with a few scary spots along the way. But only one of the original hundred people would just grab a rope and harness and climb straight up the damn thing, risking their life every moment, grinding it out one gruelling inch at a time, for the privilege of having an experience that you simply can't have any other way.

If you're not the kind of person who's gonna grab a rope and climb straight up the damn thing then don't start down that path. It's easy to avoid college by tricking yourself into believing you're ready for the awesome challenge of greater pursuits, when in reality it's because you're lazy or you're bored or you don't want to pay back student loans.

Trucking for me was the right choice because I wanted a challenging life filled with risk and adventure. I wanted every day to be unique and filled with unexpected turns and incredible experiences. I wanted to get out of the classroom and go live life and experience the world around me. I didn't want a benign and mundane life sitting in a classroom for four more years and then a cubicle for ten more after that.

But make no mistake about it, the path I chose was far more difficult than college would have been. I gave up a long list of wonderful opportunities that I will never have the rest of my life. But in the end it has all worked out beautifully for me because I was honest with myself about who I am, I did not cave into the pressure of following the common path that most people follow, and I gladly accepted the struggle, suffering, and sacrifice that came with my chosen path.

Both college and trucking can lead to many wonderful things, but they are starkly different paths with completely different advantages and disadvantages. Some people prefer to chase money, others chase prestige, some want security, while others may chase adventure. In my opinion you should follow the path that you feel suits your personality the best and pursue it with everything you have. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks and don't worry about where you'll be 20 years from now. Worry about living a life that you can be happy with, regardless of your title or your salary or the reaction you'll get from the people around you.

If you decide that trucking is the right path for you and others aren't happy with that choice, well that's their problem. But, if you choose the wrong path in life and you're not happy with it, now that's your problem. Don't let someone else's preferences override your own. Everyone gets their own life to live. Live yours on your own terms. If that means going to college then go for it and get the most out of it. If that means a career in trucking then pursue that career with everything you've got and live it to the fullest. Do what's right for you so that in the end, when the work is done, you can sit back and relax and enjoy The Road Home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 17: 12 Tips For Surviving Your Time On The Road With A Trainer

Your time on the road with a trainer is always a very challenging time in your career because you're out on the road for the first time doing your job as a professional, and you're forced to share the truck with a complete stranger for an extended period of time.

But it's also a very important and necessary stage of your training. Believe me, you would not want to come out of school with your CDL and run solo immediately.

So here are twelve tips for surviving your time on the road with your trainer.

Listen Now Join The Discussion Read Transcript
Hey folks, this is Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast, 'The Road Home', where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I'm going to give you 12 Tips for surviving your time on the road with your trainer.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the way training is done in the trucking industry, you will go on the road with a trainer when you begin your driving career at your first company. Even if you attend a private school you will spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months running team with an experienced trainer.

This is always a very challenging time in your career because you're out on the road for the first time doing your job as a professional, and you're forced to share the truck with a complete stranger for an extended period of time. But it's also a very important and necessary stage of your training. Believe me, you would not want to come out of school with your CDL and run solo immediately. Life on the road is far more difficult and complex than most people ever imagine. Having an experienced driver by your side in the beginning is a blessing, although you won't always feel that way about it, because it can also be very trying.

So here are twelve tips for surviving your time on the road with your trainer.

Tip #1: Be Patient With Yourself

During your time on the road with your trainer you're basically trying to cram everything there is to know about being a professional in this industry into a very short time. You're going to make a ton of mistakes. You're going to feel at times like you're never going to get this. You'll miss your family and friends, you'll forget important information, and you'll have a heck of a tough time doing even the most basic tasks. Relax and be patient with yourself. You'll get it, but it takes time.

To be honest, you're still going to be terrible at your job even once you've completed your training. We all were. It's going to take a full year before you'll really be able to consider yourself a solid driver in all aspects, and it's going to be three to five years before you're really what I would consider a top tier professional. So don't expect to be great after a short time with your trainer. Just learn all you can and understand that there will be a lot more to learn even after you go solo.

Tip #2: Expect Some Rough Patches Along The Way

I'm telling you right now, there are going to be some tough times. You'll have days you can't do anything right, or you won't get along with your trainer, or you'll think you've gotten yourself in over your head. Believe me, you are in over your head. Again, we all were. So you have to expect to make some pretty dumb mistakes sometimes and you're going to have some days where you're feeling down. You have to push through it. It won't be a bed of roses, but it won't be a bed of nails, either. Keep your thoughts positive and keep looking forward to better days.

Tip #3: Try To Be Independent

One of the best ways to learn how to do anything is to try to do as much of it by yourself as you can. When you're doing pre-trip inspections, organize your trip plan, or gathering your payroll information, try to do as much of it as you can without help. Really try to think things through. If you let your trainer do everything for you or tell you each step as you go you'll never learn it. Forcing yourself to think through situations and remember the details will accelerate your learning tremendously.

Tip #4: Be A Great Student And A Good Natured Person

Try to think ahead a little bit and look for opportunities to help out. Clean up the truck once in a while without being asked. Jump out when it's time to fuel and get that windshield cleaned off, maybe grab the windex and do the windows. If you're going inside without your trainer, make sure you ask if he'd like anything. Don't just be selfish or needy. Being in training isn't like Kindergarden. You're not a child. Go out of your way to be a great student and a thoughtful person at the same time. I know the pressure you're under and the change in your lifestyle can be overwhelming as as student, but it's also overwhelming at times for your trainer. Be considerate and your relationship with your trainer will be a lot nicer, and that will make a huge difference with the quality of your time together and the knowledge you'll gain.

Tip #5: Ask A Lot Of Questions

Don't just sit back and expect to be told everything. Ask a lot of questions along the way. If you're trying to do things yourself and you're really beginning the grasp the full scope of what this job entails you should have questions going through your mind all the time. If you think you know what you're doing then you're obviously not aware of how many duties you have to perform or how many situations you'll have to face in the coming months and years. Keep trying to learn more and understand the finer points of this job by asking a lot of questions.

Tip #6: Take It Slow And Don't Worry About What Others Think

Listen, as a rookie you're going to be holding people up all the time, and that's not something most of us are used to. On the highways you're big and slow. In parking lots you're terrible at backing and unsure about your maneuvering skills. At the shipping offices and in the shops you're going to be unsure of the procedures. It's critically important for your safety performance and your mental stability that you learn patience and take things slowly.

Accept the fact that you're going to be holding people up on a regular basis, and one of the most important times to exercise this patience is with backing. The overwhelming majority of mistakes new drivers make are bumping into things when backing up, and a lot of that is caused by rushing things because you're worried about looking dumb or holding people up. Trust me, you look dumb and you are holding people up. But we all did when we were new. There's no way to avoid that. It's part of the learning process. Forget about what other people think and focus on the task at hand. You have to make sure you don't put a scratch on that truck. Back up very slowly and get out and look every single time to prevent yourself from getting too close to something, not just to see if you're about to hit something. A lot of people only get out and look if they think they might be too close and misjudge the situation. Be proactive. You want to make sure you have plenty of room and never get yourself into a bad spot in the first place.

Tip #7: Drop Any Preconceived Notions You Have About Training

Listen, it's only human nature to try to predict what will happen next. You're going to have all sorts of ideas in your head about how training should be done, how your trainer should conduct himself, and what life on the road will be like. I'm telling you right now, you're wrong about almost all of it. Nobody knows ahead of time what any of this will entail. You've never lived this lifestyle before, you've never had these job duties before, and you've never been through training in this industry. This job really is like no other. It's far more complex than most people would ever guess.

So expect to be surprised all the time by life on the road, your job duties, the realities of life in this industry, and even the tactics your trainer might use. For example, your trainer's job isn't to hold your hand and prevent you from getting into difficulties. Your trainer's job is to push you a little bit, challenge you, and teach you to think for yourself. So you might expect him to try to make things easy for you and when you find that he's let you get into a tough spot you might think he failed to do is job. On the contrary. He almost certainly did it purposely so you could learn to handle the stress and work through challenging circumstances.

So roll with the punches and do not make the mistake of thinking your trainer isn't doing his job right or your company isn't a good company because things aren't going as you expected. They're not going to go as you expected, I guarantee that. So relax and go with the flow.

Tip #8: Keep Your Emotions From Getting The Best Of You

You're going to have emotional swings during your time in training like you may have never had before. There are going to be some incredible highs when you see beautiful scenery or conquer difficult challenges, and there are going to be very low lows when you're homesick or you make a big mistake. The emotional turmoil is one of the big reasons new drivers drop out of trucking early in their career. They go through these wild swings of emotion, make mistakes, wear themselves out, and simply become overwhelmed by it all.

Again, expect this and try to manage it. Enjoy the good times as much as possible but expect there to be some tough times so try to stay positive and keep your cool. Don't get too caught up in the moment. Trucking is a rollercoaster. You'll have a hundred different moments in any given day. You'll have big swings of luck from good to bad and back again. Try to ease through it all and remind yourself that every challenge will soon be overcome and every low point will soon be a distant memory. Keep looking forward and keep your thoughts positive.

Tip #9: Be The One To Diffuse The Situation

There are going to be moments of stress between you and your trainer. Your trainer is also under a lot of stress and has huge responsibilities. There will be times you'll forget important stuff or make dumb mistakes, and your trainer may have moments where his emotions get the best of him and he yells at you or criticizes you uneccessarily. We're all human. Be smart about it, show some character, and be the first one to diffuse the situation. Don't keep an argument going. Don't let grudges fester. Apologize for anything you may have said or done wrong and show some class and patience. Again, this isn't all about you. Your trainer has goals and fears and gets emotional sometimes just like you. Take it upon yourself to steer the mood in the right direction and keep your relationship positive.

Tip #10: Remember It's Your Trainer's Truck, Not Yours

Please understand the circumstances properly. You and your trainer are not sharing a truck. You are a guest in your trainer's truck. That's two completely different things so keep that in mind. Be considerate, clean up after yourself, and prepare to make accommodations for him. It's easy to obsess about yourself and your own feelings when you're in training and everything is so overwhelming. But believe me, the stress and the challenges are every bit as difficult for your trainer. Your trainer is giving up his privacy, his space, and control of his own vehicle and therefore his life in order to train you. When you're new to trucking you have no way of knowing what a big deal that is, but trust me, it's a very big deal. You'll understand this better once you've been solo for a while. But for now, just keep in mind that you're a guest in his truck so be very considerate and try to appreciate what your trainer is going through to help you get your career off to a safe start.

Tip #11: Remember That Your Trainer Is Under A Lot Of Stress

Listen, if you think it's stressful being a rookie and trying to maneuver a rig safely around this country, imagine what it must be like for an experienced professional to sit in that passenger seat and trust his life to you. He is ultimately responsible for keeping you from getting into trouble, and yet it's his job to make sure you learn to handle stress and work through challenges. So he's always treading a fine line between challenging you with learning experiences but keeping you both safe at the same time. It's overwhelming for him to constantly maintain that delicate balance while giving up his privacy and control of his own destiny at the same time. So it's not just you that's under a lot of stress, it's both of you.

Tip #12: Remember Your Trainer Is Trying To Make A Living Too

As a student you're trying to get your career off to a great start but your trainer is trying to make a living while teaching you how to drive at the same time. And often times a trainer will be a lease driver so he's not only trying to make a living, he's also trying to run a business while teaching you at the same time. And don't forget, your trainer also has home and friends and a family back home he misses. You're not the only one. So show a lot of consideration for the long list of challenges your trainer is facing by having a rookie along for the ride. It's a daunting challenge that requires dealing with a tremendous amount of stress and making huge sacrifices.

The most important takeaways from this are to take things slowly, stay positive, try to keep your emotions in check, do not make assumptions about how your training should be done, and be considerate of your trainer and the stress he's under and the sacrifices he's making for your benefit. Do your best to keep your relationship positive, learn all you can, and don't put a scratch on that truck so that in the you can sit back, and relax, and enjoy the road home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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Episode 18: Stop The Fear And Doubt, Focus On Your Own Success

For 25 years I've watched people sabotage their careers by worrying about all the wrong things instead of focusing on what it's going to take to make themselves more successful in this industry. It's time people stop worrying about whether their company is good enough for them, and start focusing on making themselves more productive drivers and better human beings. Your success or failure depends on you and you alone. It's time to own that fact, stop making excuses, and step up your game. In this podcast I'll talk about the mistakes people make and where your focus should lie if you want to be happy and successful in this industry.

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Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila and welcome to another episode of our podcast, 'The Road Home', where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Throughout my 25 year career in trucking I've watched people sabotage themselves by focusing on all of the wrong things. Today I'm going to dispel some of the concerns people tend to have and help you understand where your focus should be if you want to have a successful and satisfying career in this industry.

Am I Getting The Proper Training?

When entering the trucking industry one of the first concerns people have is about the quality of their training. People expect to be given all the time they need to really master the basics of handling that rig. They expect to spend a ton of time on the backing and shifting range, and even more time on safe, quiet backroads learning to maneuver on the streets.

Everyone quickly finds out that this is not at all how training is done in trucking. Your training, whether it's at a private school or a company-sponsored program, is going to be done as quickly as possible. They're going to push you hard, challenge you every step of the way, and try to get that CDL in your hand as soon as they think you can pass the CDL exams.

This throws people for a loop. This is where the term 'CDL mill' comes from. People realize they're being put through training quickly and make the assumption that the schools and companies don't care about safety.

Well that's utterly ridiculous. They all care about safety. But safety isn't their only concern. There are two other things they have to account for also.

Schools And Companies Are In Business

The first concern is that truck driving schools and companies that offer training programs are in business. They have to turn a profit to survive. As much as everyone would love to just take their time and practice safely for months on end, someone would have to pay for that.

Truck driving schools today last about a month or so and costs only a few thousand dollars. If you were in training for six months the schooling would cost $25,000 or more and you would essentially pay another $20,000 in lost salary. Then you'd also have to find a way to support yourself throughout the full time schooling phase.

So the question is simple. Do you want to spend an extra $40,000 or more to practice until you're comfortable, or do you want to get out there making money as quickly as possible? Very few incoming drivers can afford a $40,000 swing in the wrong direction, and neither can trucking schools or company-sponsored programs.

What you need to do is focus on learning all you can as quickly as possible. You're not going to feel comfortable when it's time to take the CDL exam. You're not going to feel ready to head out on the road with your trainer. And you're certainly not going to know very much about life on the road when they hand you a set of keys to your own truck and send you out there solo.

So don't waste a minute worrying about things that aren't helping you. Learn from everything you read and every maneuver you make. Watch the other students when they're practicing and learn from their successes and failures. Most importantly, ask a lot of questions along the way.

Focus on yourself. Focus on learning as much as you can as quickly as possible.

Do You Have What It Takes To Survive In This Industry?

The second reason that training is done so quickly is because truck driving schools and companies that offer training want to find out as quickly as possible if you have what it takes to survive in this industry, and some of the most important traits you'll need are patience, tolerance, nerve, and adaptability.

By training you as quickly as possible they know they're putting a lot of pressure on you. That's by design. You're getting ready to pilot an 80,000 pound building on wheels over gigantic mountains, into massive cities with millions of vehicles crammed together, and through blinding snowstorms over icy roads. You're going to need a lot of nerve to handle this. The world doesn't accommodate truckers. You have to learn to navigate the world on it's terms, not yours.

You're also going to be dealing with very tight schedules that tend to change frequently. You'll have breakdowns, construction backups, customers changing the appointment times, and the complex logbook rules to deal with. You have to be able to think fast sometimes and come up with solutions to problems in a dynamic environment. You have to be patient, keep a clear mind, and adapt continuously to the changing environment.

So the training is designed to prepare you for the challenges you're going to be facing, and quite honestly it's also designed to weed out those who don't have what it takes to survive long term in a dynamic environment under a lot of pressure.

Focus on yourself. Focus on learning, adapting, being patient, and having the nerve to get through it.

Stop Obsessing About Choosing The Right Company

One of the biggest things people waste their time with is trying to choose the right company. As soon as you start doing some research the first thing everyone notices is all of the negativity surrounded the major companies out there.

What you have to understand is that a lot of people take a shot at trucking that really don't belong there and they fail miserably. Well these people have pride and insecurities like the rest of us and they're embarrassed by their failures. But instead of owning them, a lot of people try to save face by putting the blame on their company.

So what you have today is this huge chorus of complainers trying to scare everyone into thinking that Schneider or Swift or Prime caused their failures and they want you to believe they're out to get you too.

Don't fall for this nonsense. Instead, think about it a little bit. These companies are the elite in this industry. They're the best of the best and they've all been around for decades. Do you really think they got where they are by lying, cheating, stealing, and abusing their own employees? Obviously not.

I can assure you that if you'll go to work for any of the major carriers and you do your job at the highest level you'll be treated great and you'll be making great money. The question isn't whether or not these companies are good enough for you, the question is are you good enough for them? Do you have what it takes to be a contributor on one of the elite teams in the nation? That's the question you have to be focusing on. Trust me, all of the major carriers are good enough for you. So don't waste your time worrying about that.

Instead, focus on choosing a company based on things you can quantify. Focus on pay, benefits, home time options, the types of freight they haul, the equipment you'll drive, the regions of the country you'll run, and the other opportunities they may have for you down the road. That's it. Find several companies that seem to offer what you're looking for, apply to them all, and choose the one you're most comfortable with.

I've watched people waste months of their lives building gigantic spreadsheets evaluating dozens of companies using dozens of different criteria. It's a complete waste of time I promise you. Stick to the basics I just mentioned. Anything beyond that is useless.

Things You’ll Need To Be Successful In Trucking

So I'm going to give you some important facts about what it takes to be successful in this industry.

The first and most important point is to focus on yourself. Stop obsessing about whether or not the major players in this industry are good enough for you or whether they're out to get you. That's ridiculous. Take responsibility for your own successes or failures. Do not allow yourself to think that any instructor or driver or manager of any company is going to determine whether or not you're happy and successful in this industry. That's all 100% on you. If you allow yourself to believe you're at the mercy of others you're not going to put in the effort it takes or make the commitment you need to make in order to survive in an extremely stressful and difficult environment like trucking. So own your failures and make great things happen for yourself. No one can do it for you, and no one can stop you if you're determined enough to make it happen.

The second point is to keep an open mind toward everything. Listen, there's no way you can possibly be prepared for everything this industry is going to throw at you. There's no way you can predict how the training will be done, what personalities you'll come across, or the obstacles you'll face along the way. When something takes you by surprise or overwhelms you, try your best to take it in stride and keep moving forward. If you're facing a situation you don't understand, ask for help. If you're dealing with a tough personality, be easy going and don't make enemies. When you feel overwhelmed by the information being thrown at you, take a deep breath and keep working through it.

The big mistake people make is they start making assumptions when they face this that are unexpected. Their training isn't done the way they expect so it must be a bad school. Their trainer has a rough personality so he must be a bad trainer. The loads aren't dispatched the way they expected so it must be a bad company.

Don't do this to yourself. Don't become disillusioned when unpredictable things happen. Relax, try to go with the flow, and keep working through it one moment at a time. In the beginning a lot of things will surprise you, a lot of things won't make sense. Just roll with it and keep your eye on the goal. After you've been around for a while these things will make sense and you'll be surprised far less often.

The third point is to be easy to get along with. People tend to think that truck drivers travel alone so their lone wolves that don't really need to deal with people. Nothing could be further from the truth. You're going to deal with dispatchers, load planners, safety managers, DOT officers, dock workers, shipping clerks, waitresses, cashiers, mechanics, and other drivers. You have no authority as a truck driver so you can't bully your way through life. If you want things to go smoothly for you then learn to get along with people so they'll be willing to cooperate with you when you need it the most.

Are you hoping a DOT officer will let you off with a warning? Be nice to him, have a joke in your pocket, ask him about his job and show him respect.

Do you want more miles from dispatch? Be nice to them. Ask them how you can do your job better. Take the tough loads without complaining. Stop into the office to meet them and say hi once in a while.

Do you want to get loaded or unloaded early? Be nice to the dock workers and shipping personnel. Again, ask them about their job and their day. Have a joke in your pocket. Relate to them and show them respect.

You're not going to bully people. Being a jerk is only going to make people want to get back at you, and trust me, you're going to lose that game time and time again and it's going to mean money coming out of your pocket every time. Getting along with people is really important in trucking. It will have a huge impact on your paychecks every week.

The fourth point is to learn how your company operates on the inside. Every trucking company has procedures for acquiring freight, assigning loads to drivers, and managing their customers. You need to learn how your company operates so you can be in the best position to turn big miles and get some special favors once in a while.

If you're not getting the miles you want you have to be able to figure out why. Is your dispatcher letting you down? Is freight slow right now? Did they change the software they're using to assign freight to drivers? Did your company makes some strategic changes with their customer base?

You have to be able to figure out what's going on and you have to know who the players are that can help you when you need it. Get to know how your company operates and get to know some of the managers like your fleet manager, the operations manager, and your terminal manager. When things aren't going well, a quick phone call to the right person can often turn things around in a hurry.

Finally, learn to compromise and do the dirty work sometimes. We would all love nothing more than to take 1,500 mile runs across the Midwest or the South. The weather is great, the miles are easy, and the scheduling is more flexible. But every company has a huge variety of freight they have to cover and a fleet of drivers they have to please. They can't just cherry pick the best loads for you and give the garbage to everyone else.

When you get short runs to Jersey or you have to make multiple stops on a run, just roll with it and don't complain about it. It's perfectly fine to let dispatch know that, "Hey, I've taken a few short runs to the Northeast here lately. How about throwing me a bone? Do we still go to Texas? I'd really love a big run down there." That's perfectly fine and you should expect dispatch to balance the good with the bad. But you have to do the same yourself. Do the dirty work sometimes and you'll certainly be rewarded with some great runs in return. Dispatch isn't going to give you the gravy runs if you're not willing to do the tough ones for them. You have to work together to get all of the freight moved.

So folks, please learn to focus on making yourself better as a person and as a driver if you want to find happiness and success in this career. Stop worrying about whether or not everyone else around you can live up to your standards. You're not a superhero yourself. None of us are. You have your flaws and you're going to make your share of mistakes.

The drivers who get treated well and earn fat paychecks are the ones who continuously focus on making themselves better in every way, and you can find happy and successful drivers at every one of the major companies out there. All of the majors are good enough for you. The question is whether or not you're able to run with the big dogs and perform at the highest level in this industry so you can be an important contributor to what is already a highly successful team. If you can do your job to the highest standards you can be sure these companies will take care of you.

So go out there and prove yourself to be one of the best best and earn those fat paychecks so that in the end you can kick back, and relax, and enjoy the road home. I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

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