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.Join The Discussion
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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