Trucking Is Tough

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Jason G.'s Comment
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So looking into trucking, everyone says it's tough. The thing is, everyone says that in very general terms but I'd like some perspective on what I'm getting into. And maybe this is a question for military veterans who are now truckers, because I am a former Marine, and that was tough, but wondering if trucking will be as tough or more than my experience as a Marine.

When it comes to being away from my family for long periods of time, my wife, who dated me through one deployment to Iraq and became my wife before I went to Afghanistan, says "it's not like you'll be in another country." So we both feel confident we will be able to stay strong in our marriage with me OTR.

And then as far as the actual work, my assumption is that if I can handle the Marines, where there weren't HOS and had to go days with very little sleep, weeks or months without showers, I feel confident that trucking won't be very bad on my body. I have also worked construction the last 5 years and so getting into trucking I feel like things will be different in terms of me not having to put so much wear and tear in my body. I will have to watch how I eat and work out so I don't get fat. Perhaps the one thing that will be the most stessful is being on busy roads. The nice thing about the Marines was that I drove a 14 ton LAV-25 but didn't have to drive in congested traffic. It was all open desert.

So is it a good assumption that I'll be alright? I am a really chill person considering the previous work I've done. I get along with everyone. Perhaps the biggest adjustment I will have to get used to is being on my own. In construction and in the Marines you work with a team and so I've always been comfortable being a follower and not so much a leader, although there were plenty of times I had to be a leader. But always preferred to be the guy taking orders, not giving them. So in trucking I guess you have a dispatcher being the one giving you the orders, but when it comes to the actual work, it's up to me to do it all without anyone really helping or having my back if I'm solo.

I know with what I just said you might think I'd be better as a team driver but I really don't like that idea because as much as I get along with people, that's on the surface most of the time, but you know how it is when you don't really care to have to be around someone but you out it off professionally because you don't want to cause any friction because it's always better to avoid drama. So I like the idea of not having to share a close space with someone else because it'll be more comfortable. Im cool with sharing a truck in the beginning while I do my training, but definitely see solo as the more appealing option in trucking.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
's Comment
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No problem Marine. You looking into flatbedding? "Get in shape, Stay in shape" and the wife will be happy when you get home.

Truckin Along With Kearse's Comment
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I was a postal worker and engaged to an army infantryman. Its not "hard" compared to that. Haha I wanted to either kill someone or crawl in a hole everyday before work. Now I don't even notice the beginning of my week let alone dread it. I basically do what and when I want as long as I get the load in early.

Decision making and alpha types do better cause trip planning is essential. There is no one to blame but yourself if you can't make a go of it.

People who don't learn as quickly will have a tougher time. Learning the shifting and movement with backing is extremely frustrating. Clearing g my head and not getting upset was the toughest for me. I've always excelled and not grasping the backing right away made me feel like crap.

After a few months on the road I felt pretty good.

Old School's Comment
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Jason, having never been in the military it is difficult for me to relate trucking to that type of situation, but I do often times tell people that trucking is tough. It is more so for some than others. You have gone through a nice check list of scenarios that you have been through and you have determined that you can handle it, and that is all good.

I think where the real problems arise for most people is the mental fortitude it takes to single-handedly perform this job consistently on a daily basis without falling prey to the normal trucker attitude issues that plague so many people in this profession. Personally I don't have so many issues with the physical demands of the job, nor even the separation issues, but it is in the control of your mind and your emotions and how they react to the situations that you will encounter as a trucker that seem to destroy many a career in this business. Can I give you a brief list of issues off the top of my head that I see people out here struggling with all the time? Maybe it will help you to see where the difficulties lie.

So many truck drivers "feel" they are being cheated or mistreated. Whether it is a lack of miles, inconsistencies in their pay check, a seemingly lack of concern for their need for home-time from their dispatcher , or even just the "sense" that they are busting their tail out here and there is nobody around to give them an "atta boy" every now and then. Feelings of not being appreciated for what sometimes amount to heroic efforts to "git er done" plague many a truck driver out here. The professional driver is all alone out here on the road with nothing but their own thoughts to comfort or sour them. That is where the difficulty lies. Your wife nor your friends can really relate to what it is like out here on the road. Even though you can regale them with tales of sights you've seen and places you've been, it is far more difficult for them to sympathize with the struggles that you face on a daily basis. The truck driver faces a unique type of challenge when making sure that he still remains positive in his outlook on things, and a big part of this issue is that he is usually only around other truck drivers who have failed at remaining positive about their careers. Remember that old saying that says "Misery loves company?" Well sit down in the drivers lounge at any of the thousands of truck stops across this great land and chances are that you will be sitting next to a very disgruntled truck driver who is more than happy to tell you about all his troubles!

A driver who is approaching this career with such a negative attitude has a unique ability to not only drag himself down into the doldrums, but also to convince others that it is comfortable to be on the wrong side of reality out here when analyzing the things we face everyday. I think having control over your mind and your emotions is maybe even more important than learning to control that Big Rig. There are a lot of folks out here who can control that Rig in a blizzard, but they can't seem to keep their negative mental reactions in check when they encounter a few difficulties. What goes on in your head is critical out here, and that is where the biggest struggle will take place. If you can conquer the battle in your head you are way ahead of 90% of the other drivers out here.

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Vendingdude's Comment
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Jason you have articulated your concerns, proposed the solution and ranked their importance perfectly. The only thing you didn't dwell on is the mental aspect, but not to worry because Old School here has nailed it PERFECTLY. If the military has turned you into a crazed me-first hothead, please stay of the road. If, on the other hand, you have learned discipline, patience, rational decision making and the ability to predict consequences, you can have a very successful trucking career. Me thinks it's the latter. Heck if you've survived the construction biz and worrying about IEDs in the desert, driving the interstates will be a cakewalk. I'm almost worried about you being bored. Not really lol.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Jason G.'s Comment
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No problem Marine. You looking into flatbedding? "Get in shape, Stay in shape" and the wife will be happy when you get home.

Happy with the paycheck or happy because I'll look hot? Is flatbedding very physically demanding? Haven't done any research on it.

Jason G.'s Comment
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I can say with quite certainty that I am the latter. People watch movies about our recent wars and assume everyone who has been shot at has PTSD. That just isn't true. I got quite used to the idea of IEDs and got used to rockets flying over my head. But quite opposite to what vendingdude said, I don't know that it will be a cakewalk driving on these roads. Getting shot at and flying through the desert in an armored vehicle was a cakewalk. That's an easy job in my mind. My civilian experience have been harder because I don't make good money currently. It makes me feel degraded because I thought it would be easier after Marines and then college. But it hasn't. I work hard but get no benefits. Not saying that for anyone to feel sorry for me. It's just the way the world is these days. People want fast food workers to get minimum wage of 15/hr while construction guys like me are doing grueling work and get 12/hr. When it comes to work I have a very level head. Can handle heights in construction, could handle the rigors of military life. Not crazed. I'm a very calm and mellow person. If anything I don't feel calm or mellow in my current t situation because I'm worried about not getting rent paid on time, getting my car repossessed if I miss a payment. I'm not really close to this happening because of family helping out and getting myself in some debt at times, but it's no way to live anymore. People say my wife and kids may resent me if I do trucking, but I say they'll resent me if I come home after only getting 20-30 hours a week in construction and only bringing in 250-300 a week. So when I hear people say trucking doesn't make enough money, maybe they mean it doesn't make what is deserved, but compared to where I am now, I'm happy with being middle class and making enough to keep my family secure.

's Comment
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You'll be hot with a bigger, yes, paycheck too. But in short, this website, TT, is where you'll get REAL, TRUTHFUL answers to any thing you need. No garbage from the peanut gallery as I call it. Old School said it for real. Don't get sucked up into the negatives. Common sense, hard work. It's all here, any question answered, when you need it. Just ask.

John L.'s Comment
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Jason,

I hear what your saying and understand where you are coming from. I'm retired from the construction industry and was also an organizer for the union (IBEW), so I know what its like out there for the skilled trades. Chasing a diminishing slice of a diminishing pie is the colorful way of saying that we are quickly approaching obsolescence.

By the numbers:

You already know that you wont be home every night, and that you'll have the equivalent of half as many weekends off as compared to those who only work 40 hours & 5 days per week. But that's not the problem that your facing... your either getting less than 40 hours and cant pay your bills, or your working 6 or 7 days a week and have no time for your family. Compared to your work/life balance when you were deployed and your current status, trucking is not likely to be too challenging.

My take-away from the many conversations on this forum and the advise that is regularly given is this:

Most drivers fail because they enter this industry with unrealistic expectations.

If you recognize the facts that you may not always get home time exactly when you request it, that you will drive more miles then you get paid for, that you will have good weeks and bad (meaning good and bad paychecks), and that the entire industry is performance based then you have a better chance to succeed.

Of course I wrote the previous paragraph for myself as much as I did for you since I am now 48 hours out before I leave for orientation for my first driving job. Read every bit of Brett's book, every article on every topic that is recommended, and as many training diaries and other threads on this forum as you can stand. Make sure you have an honest and accurate picture of the lifestyle required for this industry and then you should be able to decide if you - and your family - and trucking, are a good fit.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Big Scott (CFI's biggest 's Comment
member avatar

Jason, I have a very good friend who lives in your town. With that said, I have been researching trucking as a career for a couple of years now. I am about ready to make the jump. The main thing I have learned is that attitude is 100%. This is true for anything in life. Since it seems that you and your wife are a team in life and communicate well, I believe you have what it takes. If you haven't read this, Becoming A Truck Driver: The Raw Truth About Truck Driving, I suggest you do. Also, use the search box at the top of this page for questions or topics you want info about. This site has the best FREE study guide/course to get you CDL learner's permit. Here it is: High Road Training Program Also, there are some great blogs on this site. Good luck to you.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
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