Observations And Musings Of An Over The Road (OTR) Truck Driver (Part 1 & 2)

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Larry E.'s Comment
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Observations and Musings of an Over The Road (OTR) Truck Driver

I have held numerous jobs in my life. The first one, at the age of 12, was sweeping hanger floors and pumping gas at an airport in exchange for flight time down the road, so I could solo on my 16th birthday . I worked fast food in a KFC and worked in a full service gas station during High School. I spent many a fun filled hour in the working in the college cafeteria/food service before getting my first job in the “real world” as a Naval Flight Officer flying off of aircraft carriers in the Navy. It afforded me the opportunity to go places, see things and participate in interesting work that very few of my peers could even contemplate. After retiring, I thought it was time to give back to the community and spent another career as a math and science teacher for grades 5-8. I left education, not because of the kids, but because of the adults, on so many different levels.

So what does this have to do with driving a truck OTR? Simply nothing, other than I have always enjoyed travel and thought driving a truck would be nice way to wind down my life as a working adult and simultaneously see the United States. I have discovered that driving OTR , is unlike anything I have every done before. Sure, it involves a lot of teamwork. Let’s face it, you may be in charge of your rig, but without a lot of other, behind the scene, folks you wouldn’t be getting very far or earning any money. There is a mental component. Unlike the common perception of truck drivers, to be successful you have to be thinking all of the time. At first, it may seem overwhelming with having to control the tractor and trailer, navigate, keep up your situational awareness, be managing your different clocks, remembering the QC and all of the other things that go with the business of driving a big rig.There is plenty of stress, both external and internal. If you have any work ethic at all, you want to make sure that you are on time, both to pickup and drop your loads. You are now at the mercy of traffic, vehicles who’s drivers have no apparent fear of death as they cut you off or come sneaking up on your right side because they are in a hurry. Then there is the self imposed stress where you question whether you doing everything correctly, wondering what your driver manager thinks about you and your performance. And, in the case of driving flatbed, there is a pretty significant physical component in all types of weather.

But there is a component of OTR that, I believe, is truly unique to this part of the trucking industry. That is the impersonal nature of our interactions with people. For me, the vast majority of the time, I am interacting with complete strangers. Be they fellow drivers, the people at the fuel desk, customers, waitstaff, etc. For the period of time you are on the road and away from home, you are dealing almost exclusively with strangers. I always try and greet people with a smile and cheerful attitude, but let’s face it, the odds of seeing them again is pretty slim.Everything else is either done on a phone or through some form of electronic media - totally impersonal. It isn’t a good thing or bad thing, it just is.

Another thing that I have observed is that you have lots of time by yourself. You may be thinking, “Duh!”, but that time by yourself gives you plenty of time to think. Now that can be good or bad. The goods are you can review past, present and future plans or events. Reflecting on past success or failure is a great way to improve your professional and personal skills and potentially avoid some mistakes that you previously made. Additionally, this time can be used positively to continue to plan. Things are always changing on the road, whether it be traffic, weather, maintenance issues, weigh station/DOT, etc. You need to have plans, alternatives and alternative to those alternatives so that when stuff starts happening you can react on the fly with very little time lost to planning or indecision.

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.

Over The Road:

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.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Driver Manager:

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.
Larry E.'s Comment
member avatar

Part 2

On the other side, you may have too much time to think. If you have any perceived weaknesses then you have to be careful to not dwell on them. That can drive you insane and potentially reinforce the lack of confidence. Just have to learn to move on, as hard as that may be. This time can also lead to a certain paranoia. This can be especially true early on when you are just learning the processes and procedures of the company. You are learning about your DM and we have all heard that you will be “tested” to see what you are made of. Now couple that with the amount of time you have to just think and the paranoia can kick in big time. You start second guessing yourself and wondering what they are going to do next to screw with you, etc. Be careful of getting into that thought process since it can cause issues. If you continually think that you are being messed with then you may start to not trust your DM and start questioning what they are doing which could lead to conflict. The last thing we need is conflict or lack of trust with our DM. Try and remember, no one wants to see you fail; there is too much money and time invested for that. Are they watching to see how you handle yourself? Of course they are. That means keeping your paranoia at a minimum and ask questions in order to understand the situation or provide your concerns with possible alternatives for you, your DM and company to be successful. Finally, if you mess something up, come clean and don’t try to hide it or make excuses. That will lead to mistrust and get you into more trouble than a simple acknowledgement of the mistake. Let’s face it, at the beginning we are basically expected to make mistakes. The real goal is to not repeat the mistakes or variants of them, if possible.

I guess the biggest thing I can take from my first year on the road is that it is a significant adjustment. The phone or messaging is not a substitute for seeing and interacting with an individual. You have to be very comfortable with who you are and what you are doing and having almost no feedback for improvement. You can’t let all of that time by yourself impact your relationship with people. You have to listen to what they are saying and not hear what you want to hear. Or maybe read too much into something because of the time you have to parse and dissect, adnauseum. In order to be successful you will have to be patient with yourself and others while keeping a positive attitude along the way. It is possible to have a long and happy career in trucking, but you will have to work at it in order to improve and not turn into a curmudgeon.

I think I have adapted to this unique life style. Sure, there are times I am bored out of my mind and wonder why I’m not at home with those I love. But then there are those wonderful sunrises, clouds enveloping mountains, wild life that most will only see on TV or in a zoo. I don’t know how long I will do this, but things are much easier than a year ago. I am still learning, but now it less intense and more of the “Why didn’t I think of doing it that way sooner?” or “oh, wow, that’s neat!” All I can say now, is that I am immensely enjoying this part of my ride through life!

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.
DaveDiesel's Comment
member avatar

Part 2

On the other side, you may have too much time to think. If you have any perceived weaknesses then you have to be careful to not dwell on them. That can drive you insane and potentially reinforce the lack of confidence. Just have to learn to move on, as hard as that may be. This time can also lead to a certain paranoia. This can be especially true early on when you are just learning the processes and procedures of the company. You are learning about your DM and we have all heard that you will be “tested” to see what you are made of. Now couple that with the amount of time you have to just think and the paranoia can kick in big time. You start second guessing yourself and wondering what they are going to do next to screw with you, etc. Be careful of getting into that thought process since it can cause issues. If you continually think that you are being messed with then you may start to not trust your DM and start questioning what they are doing which could lead to conflict. The last thing we need is conflict or lack of trust with our DM. Try and remember, no one wants to see you fail; there is too much money and time invested for that. Are they watching to see how you handle yourself? Of course they are. That means keeping your paranoia at a minimum and ask questions in order to understand the situation or provide your concerns with possible alternatives for you, your DM and company to be successful. Finally, if you mess something up, come clean and don’t try to hide it or make excuses. That will lead to mistrust and get you into more trouble than a simple acknowledgement of the mistake. Let’s face it, at the beginning we are basically expected to make mistakes. The real goal is to not repeat the mistakes or variants of them, if possible.

I guess the biggest thing I can take from my first year on the road is that it is a significant adjustment. The phone or messaging is not a substitute for seeing and interacting with an individual. You have to be very comfortable with who you are and what you are doing and having almost no feedback for improvement. You can’t let all of that time by yourself impact your relationship with people. You have to listen to what they are saying and not hear what you want to hear. Or maybe read too much into something because of the time you have to parse and dissect, adnauseum. In order to be successful you will have to be patient with yourself and others while keeping a positive attitude along the way. It is possible to have a long and happy career in trucking, but you will have to work at it in order to improve and not turn into a curmudgeon.

I think I have adapted to this unique life style. Sure, there are times I am bored out of my mind and wonder why I’m not at home with those I love. But then there are those wonderful sunrises, clouds enveloping mountains, wild life that most will only see on TV or in a zoo. I don’t know how long I will do this, but things are much easier than a year ago. I am still learning, but now it less intense and more of the “Why didn’t I think of doing it that way sooner?” or “oh, wow, that’s neat!” All I can say now, is that I am immensely enjoying this part of my ride through life!

Well articulated details Larry. You certainly painted the picture well for anyone interested in learning the intangibles of the job. Thanks!

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.
Colleen W.'s Comment
member avatar

Larry E. thank you. This is what I needed to read.

Mikki 's Comment
member avatar

Larry, really great and great timing. I might tend toward the paranoid lol and maybe could become a curmudgeon. I have thought a bit about what it will be like in the long term with my specific personality, could it happen? Sure. Hopefully I have enough dreams and hopes and plans to keep me on the positive side!! Thanx again take care.

Larry E.'s Comment
member avatar

Dave, Colleen and Mikki,

Glad it was helpful. It is just one person's perspective. I could write more having thought it all through, but I can't remember it at the end of the day. I guess that is why I lurk here more than post. Lots of fine people and information, too.

Estben's Comment
member avatar

Good post Dave

guyjax(Guy Hodges)'s Comment
member avatar

Hmm. Well I will say that was exact to a fault. Well written and thought out.

Now how to say this next part without making it sound bad. Well I will just say it and hope you get my meaning....

Frankly your post bored me. Not in a bad way. It was as if I would have sat down and write a really good post and then went back and tried to read it again a few months later. Man that sounds bad but it's not meant to be.

What you have described is exactly what I have be living the last 16 years. It's old news to me. So basically you described me to a "T" but I find me boring so don't feel bad. :)

Maybe because I have lived it and then seeing it in writing to me seems like a repeat.

OK I am going to stop here because I don't think I am coming across like I want to. But anyway Larry I could not have written it any better. Good job. I hope and pray you sort of got what I was trying to say.

Larry E.'s Comment
member avatar

GuyJax,

Thanks for the feedback and no offense was taken. In fact, you just reinforced the reason I put this on paper. It bored you since you have "been there, done that", but the audience I am targeting are those that haven't a clue as to what the job/life style is really like. I know that when I entered this arena that what I thought didn't exactly reflect reality. There are some personalities that take to this profession like a duck to water, but others may not. I tried to paint a bit of a picture that someone could use in their decision making process. There is nothing worse than getting into something and then realizing that it isn't what you thought it was. No sense in spending hard earned/loaned money and theng being unhappy with the job. I think we have enough unhappy drivers out here.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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