End Of A Journey - My Year Of Trucking.

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Feanor K.'s Comment
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Last year on July 15th, 2017 I quit my job as a part-time baker in a health-food store in North Idaho to make the plunge into the world of Trucking. A few days ago, almost exactly one year later, I cleaned out my truck and turned in the keys for the last time. This thread is about what happened in between, and why I came to that decision.

The first thing I should say is that this site is the real deal. I spend a lot of time researching in the months leading up to getting my CDL , and after. Brett, Old School and the others were proven right more times than I can count over the last year, and I am thankful my internet research led me here.

I started a CDL Training Diary thread about a year ago, but ended up abandoning it as soon as I started with my company due to time restraints. I left off where I just got that shiny CDL. Here's the rest of the story. The first company I applied for, my primary choice, got back to me in my last week of training and had me set up to start orientation before I even graduated. So I started training with System Transport in less than a week.

I could make a whole diary just about the month and a half I spent out there with my trainer, but I will keep it brief. It was the same incredibly stressful, eye-opening, system-shocking rollercoaster I have heard many people on this site recount before. I came close to quitting multiple times. Without the preparation TT gave me, I almost certainly would have.

I could barely shift my first week, could not downshift to save my life (almost literally!) I was so stressed and demoralized I seemed to lose basic navigation skills. I couldn't park, was nearly sent home after scratching a truck backing up at a truck stop, and (I cringe to say this) bumping a truck with the corner of my trailer in a tight rest area.

What kept me going was something I heard on a trucker's youtube channel once. Not an exact quote but what he said was: Never quit when you are at a low point, if you do that, all you will have seen is how bad things can be, and never how good they can be. Give it six months. After that, if you still wanna quit on a normal/good day, then go ahead.

I heeded that advice, and I am glad I did. Things did get better. I made it through training by sheer determination and the skin of my teeth, and likewise the upgrade upon returning. I knew I had left a bad impression with atleast one dispatcher , and was probably not going to be given much more in the way of second chances. But things were looking up.

Why were things looking up? Because I have been through similar situations before, and I know that I function about 90% better on my own. I am a definite introvert and very socially awkward, which combines to make training hell for me. Doubly so when stuck in a cramped cab with a stranger 24/7. So I knew things would get better quickly once I had those keys to my own truck. I was not really nervous. I knew I would make mistakes, but I also knew I could handle them without freezing up the way I did whenever I had the trainer looking over my shoulder. And I was right.

My DM was excellent. The first run he gave me was a pretty standard test run. A short rescue load of about 300 miles round trip. I took longer than I should have tarping and securing but it got done and after that things immediately took off. The next 6 months were a blur, but it wasn't the first time, I had been through training and I had all the good info of Trucking Truth to prepare me, and I held on.

I ran hard, usually stopping with less than 15 mins on my 11 and burning through the 70 every week. My dispatcher responded with appreciation and more miles. Eventually, it slowed down, not in actual miles but in my head. I got where I could keep up, and eventually even stay a step ahead. I learned to deal with customers and call ahead about early deliveries/overnight parking. I learned to manage my clock and how to tell predict when parking would be available. I learned how to back, if not excellently then atleast tolerably. All those tricks that seemed impossible when my heart was pounding and I was so worried about how stupid I must look to the trainer fell into place with surprising ease.

I will not pretend it was perfect, I doubt any rookie year is. I overran my clock once, I backed under a kingpin or two, and had some close calls in the snowy mountains. But all in all it went better than I had dared hope. My dispatcher thanked me frequently for running hard, and always kept the miles coming, and the paychecks followed.

From my first week solo I averaged more than I had hoped or been led to suspect as a rookie. I will stress that I was virtually NEVER limited by freight or office factors there, only by my own ability and willingness to run. I loved that. It truly is a performance based pay profession as they say here on TT. I plan to make a thread going over my earnings for the year soon in more detail.

What I did not love, in the end, was the time away from home. I mentioned I am an introvert and perform much better alone, and that is true. I thought I was prepared for the loneliness and that my reaction would fade with time. In a sense it did. The immediate strong home-sickness I got my first month or two out did dissipate, but the overall loneliness did not. And that is what determined me finally to switch fleets, and finally try out the regional option than I had turned down in favor of OTR at the beginning. More on that to follow.

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.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

Dm:

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.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

Feanor, that's a great post! There's a lot of honesty in it, and that's important for people to be able to see the realities of this career. Brett wrote an excellent article once about The Solitude In Trucking, and how it affects different people. It's a good read for anyone contemplating this career.

I'm looking forward to hearing more from you, and I'm really glad some of the things we teach in here were helpful to you during the past year.

Army 's Comment
member avatar

Hello,

Your story is inspirational. I appreciate your honesty. I definately wouldn't say it's the end of a journey, but the next chapter in your trucking career. In my opinion, a regional driver puts his/her pants on the same way as an OTR. Congrats on making it a year, you have completed more than most.

Safe travels Chris

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

Peter M.'s Comment
member avatar

Solitude in Trucking is a great read! Brett knows of what he speaks.

Feanor K.'s Comment
member avatar

Feanor, that's a great post! There's a lot of honesty in it, and that's important for people to be able to see the realities of this career. Brett wrote an excellent article once about The Solitude In Trucking, and how it affects different people. It's a good read for anyone contemplating this career.

I'm looking forward to hearing more from you, and I'm really glad some of the things we teach in here were helpful to you during the past year.

Thanks Old School! This whole site was a huge benefit to me, but as a flat-bedder your posts particularly have been a big deal. That is a great article by Brett, I remember reading it early on but foolishly thought it wouldn't apply to me seeing as I was young and single. Lesson learned there.

Hello,

Your story is inspirational. I appreciate your honesty. I definately wouldn't say it's the end of a journey, but the next chapter in your trucking career. In my opinion, a regional driver puts his/her pants on the same way as an OTR. Congrats on making it a year, you have completed more than most.

Safe travels Chris

I'm afraid I phrased my post in a confusing way. I planned to do this story all in one post but I quickly ran out of room. I have been a regional driver for the last few months, and that is why I say end of a journey. I am done with trucking for the indefinite future. Believe me, I know regional drivers put on their pants! Especially in flat-bedding. That's a lot of tarping/securing! Sorry to be confusing with my title!

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

Feanor K.'s Comment
member avatar

Anyway here is the rest!

I put in my request to switch to the Regional Northwest Heavy-Haul fleet mid-April and my company was great about it. They got me home at the end of the month, gave me a 3 day crash course in drop-axles, picking up a couple local loads with a trainer, then handed me the keys to my new truck.

Now I have to say, I was a little dubious going in about the pay. I had heard from my OTR trainer and other people at the yard that I shouldn't expect to make the same kind of money I was as an OTR driver. I had heard some good things as well, but I know how truckers tend to exaggerate so I was more inclined to believe the negative. Still, the idea of being home every weekend was enough for me to try it, even if I did expect a pay cut. Turns out, I needn't have worried.

They had warned me they would run me hard, and I told them the harder the better. They took me at my word. I hit the ground running with this fleet and it was really fantastic. From my first load out to my last, I was planned at LEAST one load ahead, often two. The work was hard and physical, something which was actually a huge improvement for me compared to the long long hours sitting when OTR. Even better was the pay, I had been all prepared to take the pay cut with a grimace, but I was surprised and delighted to find that all that tarping in the summer heat actually added up pretty quick on my check, and although I certainly wasn't running any 3200 mile weeks anymore, the superior mileage pay did wonders. After a month I realized that I was actually averaging MORE money, was feeling much better physically, and was home weekends consistently to boot.

Perhaps best of all was the appreciation I got from dispatch. I had been prepared to suck it up and repeat the whole 'proving myself' process for the next month or two, but at the end of my first week my dispatcher called to thank me for running hard, and told me he 'Could already tell I was going to be an excellent driver', followed by giving me a juicy 1600 mile round-trip load to Canada (somewhere I had ALWAYS wanted to go!) I was amazed and super happy to see how quickly my work was noticed, and it only got better from there.

I don't want to sound like I am bragging, but just to emphasize the way I was treated. And me just a rookie with less than 9 months under my belt at the time, and only a WEEK with the fleet! This is the true definition of a Performance Based profession. I truly feel I was treated like royalty here, and the only thing I was asked to do in exchange was work hard. Quite a change from previous jobs I have worked, where people with confident personalities or flashy degrees got the promotions. Don't get me wrong, I think that hard work pays off in the long run anywhere, but in trucking that work translates truly and instantly into appreciation and MONEY. That is something I will miss about this career.

So if it was all that fantastic, why did I quit after not quite 3 months? Simply put, trucking is not for me. The very fact that things had fallen out so perfectly really brought that home. Home every week? Check! Great money? Check! Good physical work and great DM? Check! ..... So why was I still not happy?

Because I chose trucking as a job, not a career. I want to be a writer, I want to design games, and work on my social and spiritual life. Trucking is a great career in a lot of ways, but for these goals, I found that working consistent 14+ hour days was just not conducive. Sure I was home weekends, but after 5-6 exhausting 14 hour days which ended in immediate collapse on my bunk, I was far more fit for the couch than for the discipline of working on the challenges of ANOTHER career. I tried to use trucking like I had done with past jobs, as a means to make money while building my true career in my free time. That is just not feasible, for me atleast.

Do I regret doing it? Well, this time last year I had never driven a manual vehicle, hardly been outside my home state in my life, let alone the country, was nervous about traveling and downright scared of big cities. One year later I have been to all but 3 or 4 states in the country + Canada, been through LA, NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, NJ, Philly, Houston and just about ever other, and done it all in a 70 ft, 80k pound rig. I have no fear of traveling, in this country or others, I have gained a ton of confidence in myself, learned alot about patience and following through, finally got off my rear to get my passport and my GED, and even saved a nice chunk of money in the process. Do I regret that? WHAT IS THERE TO REGRET!?

In the end it is something I am very glad and thankful to have done. It is also something I will miss. Was quitting the right decision? Probably not from a financial standpoint. Quitting a good job where you are appreciated when you are young and single to chase dreams of being a published writer? Not advice you would hear from a financial consultant. But I do think it WAS the right decision for me.

Will I ever go back? It is not something I plan to do, but it is a skill I have gained for life, and I can't predict that far ahead. All I know is, for now, I'm going to take myself a vacation, relax, and then hit my old projects with all my newfound confidence and determination!

To the rest of you out there, you all have my respect for what you do, and my wishes for a safe journey!

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

Dm:

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
This is the true definition of a Performance Based profession. I truly feel I was treated like royalty here, and the only thing I was asked to do in exchange was work hard. Quite a change from previous jobs I have worked, where people with confident personalities or flashy degrees got the promotions. Don't get me wrong, I think that hard work pays off in the long run anywhere, but in trucking that work translates truly and instantly into appreciation and MONEY.

That was very well said. It's one of the things that I love about trucking - there's no faking it. You can either handle it, or you can't, and you're not going to fool anyone.

Quitting a good job where you are appreciated when you are young and single to chase dreams of being a published writer? Not advice you would hear from a financial consultant. But I do think it WAS the right decision for me.

I've always felt very strongly that you should follow your dreams and do what you love to do. If you love something enough you'll work tireless at it for very long periods of time and become great at it. If you're that great at anything there's always a way to make money doing it. If you spend most of your time doing the things you love then you're living your dreams. It doesn't get any better than that.

We very much appreciate your honesty and the courage it takes to open up to everyone like that. I think you should be very proud of the accomplishments you've had in trucking. It wasn't a long career but it was long enough for you to learn a lot and grow a lot as a person. You're going to have a lifetime of memories to share and a career you can always return to if you hear it calling again someday.

Best of luck to you.

smile.gif

LDRSHIP's Comment
member avatar

A very good read and well put, Feanor. I can relate, but in an opposite manner. I LOVE trucking. I tried Barbering when I first got out of the service. I enjoyed it and appreciated the skill I learned, I took a huge pay cut to go into trucking. Sounds funny huh. I hardly worked and made great money being a barber. I barely worked 3 1/2 days a week and averaged 1,200 a week in my pocket. But, I didn't love doing it. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. So I completely get where you are coming from.

Feanor K.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the kind words Brett! I'm gonna give it my all, and I'll continue to pop in here, I always enjoy hearing the stories of other drivers, and sharing what bits of help I can. I made this post because I wanted to share my experience with everyone to give a little bit back to this awesome community, without whom I probably would never have made it half as far as I did. It's the absolute least I could do.

A very good read and well put, Feanor. I can relate, but in an opposite manner. I LOVE trucking. I tried Barbering when I first got out of the service. I enjoyed it and appreciated the skill I learned, I took a huge pay cut to go into trucking. Sounds funny huh. I hardly worked and made great money being a barber. I barely worked 3 1/2 days a week and averaged 1,200 a week in my pocket. But, I didn't love doing it. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. So I completely get where you are coming from.

Thanks Patrick! That's crazy though, I had no idea barbers were paid that way! But there is no replacement for doing what you love, eh?

Will H.'s Comment
member avatar

What a great story. I find this inspiring and thank you for sharing your experience. I know many people are confused when someone leaves a good paying job for uncertainty. I have seen this a thousand times in my 20 years in the Navy. As I always told my young sailors find out what you want in life then map your way there. If it is a career in the service that's great, but if its something else then that is just as great. However, work hard at your current job, but don't loose focus on where you want to be at. It takes courage to move on like you did

Also I really enjoyed your article and I can see your love of writing in it. I would like to see it in a single blog format and posted up with the blogs since this is a great example of using the trucking industry as a means to an end and for personal growth. I know you are done with trucking but I would love to read more of your experiences.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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