Most experienced drivers will refer to truck driving not as a job, but as a "lifestyle". Your responsibilities go so much further than just holding the wheel and shifting gears and, especially for over-the-road drivers, trucking is not a switch that you just turn off at the end of the day. Dozens of different pieces have to fall into place for you to be successful, and you have to deal with weather, traffic, dispatch, the DOT, safety, life on the road, etc., etc, and it ALL falls on you, the driver, to get the job done safely and efficiently.
Even for local and regional drivers who are home more often, truck driving is still nothing like a typical 9-5 job at which you punch a clock twice a day at the same time. Long hours and sometimes-frustrating circumstances are the norm, and combined with the ever-present safety concerns and danger of the job in general.
What is the lifestyle REALLY like??
New solo drivers, and drivers in company team-training, will generally be starting off over-the-road, which means that you will be living in your truck, and driving your home around the country. This can take some getting used to.
"A lot of people do this. You can save a lot of money by not having a residence to be paying for all the time. Another advantage of this is that you can take your home time at any place you would like as long as it is near a freight lane your employer runs in."
Article - Want to Live a Simpler Life? Try Truck Driving!
"Being a truck driver really forces you to simplify your life. Driving is what truck drivers love to do. It's a passion for many of us. For the OTR driver, we spend more time in our truck than we do at our home, yet somehow we also love our lifestyle. So we try to make our truck home."
Article - How Do I Know If Truck Driving Is For Me?
"The best way is to talk to someone who has done it for a long time. Like me. Almost 15 years and 1.5 million miles. I absolutely loved driving truck. Loved it. Looking back, I believe there are two main reasons I've loved it so much - because if fits my personality, and my lifestyle."
Most people are living lives that don't quite prepare them for the solitude of truck driving. Granted, today's global communications environment goes a long way to alleviate the loneliness, but it's certainly no substitute.
OTR drivers can go long stretches of time without interacting with other humans in any meaningful way. Some love it, some hate it, and many don't figure out which until they're actually out there on their own.
Article - Solitude Becomes Every Truck Drivers Heaven Or Hell
"But people don't walk away from trucking because they can't get enough sleep or they can't figure out how to back into tight places. One of the most common reasons people walk away from trucking is the relentless solitude; the isolation from their home, their family, and their friends."
Article - Truck Drivers Spending Time Alone Away From Family And Friends
"But the one thing you cant replace is the amount of time you'll spend away from your family and friends. A lot of companies can get you home on the weekends. Some will keep you out for two to three weeks at a time, or more. The choice is yours. Generally speaking, the longer you stay out at a time, the more money you'll make."
Article - Over The Road: The Life of a Long-Haul Truck Driver
"Over the road driving usually entails staying out on the road for at least three weeks at a time. Let me say this right off...if you have a family, and you would like to keep that family....stay away from this option. It's a family killer. I've seen it a million times."
As a truck driver, or even a potential driver, you can expect a great deal of scrutiny and intrusion as a part of the process, both before and during. Background checks, employment histories, drug checks, criminal histories are all going to be part of becoming a trucker.
Truck drivers are also held to a multitude of regulatory standards, especially when it comes to the hours-of-service (HOS) and drug/alcohol policies and testing.
Article - Is Trucking Worth It Anymore?
"The scrutiny is brutal. Getting started in trucking means background checks, drug tests, physicals, credit checks, fingerprinting (Hazmat endorsement), employment verification, and endless piles of rules and regulations. Babysitting the President's kids would probably mean jumping through fewer hoops than becoming a truck driver."
Article - When Will I Know If Trucking Was The Right Career Choice?
"Every day is completely different than the last. In fact, almost every moment is filled with unknowns - traffic conditions, weather conditions, changing load assignments, DOT checks you didn't know were coming, truck breakdowns, and a million others. You almost never know what's coming."
Wiki - DOT Drug and Alcohol Policies & Testing
Drug and alcohol testing are a major part of any truck drivers career. Here is an explanation of the kind of scrutiny you can expect from the DOT when it comes to drug and alcohol testing.
Wiki - FMCSA Hours-of-Service Regulations
As an example, here are details on the FMCSA Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules. For better or worse, they exist, and are one of the more common stumbling blocks for new truck drivers.
Rookie drivers will usually make $35-40k their first year, average salary is around $42k, and driver salary tops out somewhere around 100k. Experienced drivers who are skilled at time management and handling obstacles can make a very good salary, and it's not uncommon at all for good drivers to pull in $50,000+ annually.
Keeping in mind that driver pay depends on many factors, including experience, location, and personal limitations (i.e. family).
Forum - Making the most out of your CDL
"We spend a lot of time on the forum discussing $$$ and paying lip service to the fact that driving is a "lifestyle". Maybe we ought to spend more time considering what lifestyle we are actually after rather than just $$$.""
Wiki - Truck Driver Salary By State
"While there are many other factors to consider than raw numbers when choosing where to work (cost-of-living, climate, family location, etc.), for comparison sake income by state may be one place to start your decision-making."
Wiki - Truck Driver Pay & Salary, Extra Pay Types
"Driver pay can vary wildly from company-to-company. Hauling more specialized freight (flatbed, oversized, etc.) pays better."
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Occupational Employment Statistics
By year: Employment, percentage of industry, wages. Official Occupational Employment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Safely assuming that you've had some experience driving in situations in which there were other cars around, you know that traffic can get crazy and congested seemingly out of nowhere, and your stopping time in a big rig is much, much greater than that of a 4-wheeler.
It takes generous amounts of both skill and patience to navigate a 75-foot vehicle in and out of mild traffic, not to mention heavy, slow, or heavy and fast, rush hour traffic. Being on the road so much, you will see other drivers doing stupid things on a regular basis, and will need to pay attention on a much higher level to avoid disaster.
Forum - Best and worst cities for trucking traffic?
I haven't had to drive through Atlanta much, but my least favorite that I usually do is Austin. Just one real highway through it, and any time of day it seems I wind up stopped or in 2nd gear for a long time.
Why is it that I see so many trucks on the road sitting in rush hour traffic? I would think a driver would plan around big city rush hour traffic. I often come home from work opposite rush hour traffic and I never fails, hundreds of trucks heading into Atlanta at rush hour. I don't get it.
Forum - Scenario: Right hand turn, in city, with traffic in opposite lane
Let's say I am on a north-south street and am wanting to turn right (east) onto the east-west street. The problem is that west bound cars are all the way up to the intersection markings so that I cannot swing into them to complete the turn. There is no way to make the turn without going into these lanes.
Unfortunately, as a percentage, truck drivers are killed on the job at a higher rate than most all other occupations. Although truck accidents, along with fatalities, have been on the decline, trucking still ranks near or at the top as far as dangerous jobs go.
ABC News - Most Deadly Occupation: Truck Driver
Driving a truck was the most hazardous occupation in the United States last year, according to the government's latest workplace fatality census, which also said highway accidents were the leading cause of deaths of workers in all lines of work.
Article - Truck Driving Down Donner Pass
Donners Pass is usually touted as one of the more dangerous areas for truck drivers and is the site of many fatal accidents. It's quite an experience! I had the pleasure of going through it at night. I would have liked to take it during the day so I could see some of the scenery around me, but I'm sure I'll get that chance in the future.
Forum - The Life, Death, and Resurrection Of My Truck Driving Career
Hello everyone. I've been offline for a little while and I'd like to share the story of what happened to me over the past several days. Hopefully, hearing about my mistakes will help at least one other new driver. This is going to be a long read, so grab a cup of coffee and get cozy.
Oh boy, are you going to do some waiting around. You're going to wait to get loaded. You're going to wait in traffic. You're going to wait to get unloaded. And you're going to have to learn to manage your hours so that you are available to drive whenever you are done waiting.
Along with the patience for waiting (which is only, by definition, doing nothing until it is time to do something), your limits of patience are going to be tested every day. Nothing is ever going to go 100% as planned, and you need to be ready to adapt and roll with it. Remember that stress plays a big part in many cases of high blood pressure. Stress hates you, and can literally kill you.
Forum - A truck drivers lesson in patience and rewards
I’d like to share a little story of what happened to me this week, because I think it perfectly shows how unflinching patience, even in the face of a frustrating situation, can really pay off. It also shows that there really are ups and downs in this industry.
Forum - What are some causes of shipment delays
The driver's own habits play a big role in determining ETA too. Some like to drive only 8 hours a day, while others like to max out the allowed 11. Some prefer daytime driving, others prefer driving at night. Some like to speed, others like to cruise at a slower pace.
Forum - The single most important trait of a successful truck driver?
For me, the single most important trait that a truck driver can posses is rare in a lot of people, including the general public. And that trait is patience. You must have patience in dealing with traffic, shippers and receivers. Most importantly, you must have patience with yourself. So what if you don't get that trailer in the hole on the first try?
Keep Your Head On Straight, Keep Your Act Together
Driving truck takes a lot of patience, courage, strength, and discipline sometimes. Don't mistake me for saying it's like being in the Marines or something....let's not get crazy here...but for sure there will be times – many times – that test your character when you're on the road.