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.Join The Discussion
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.
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.
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.
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.