In the past few months that I've been driving, I've learned one major thing. Trucking can destroy you if you let it. Truck driving can make you very bitter and angry. Trucking can raise your blood pressure and be extremely stressful. Truck driving is filled with unexpected problems, rude people, a total lack of respect for what you do and sacrifice everyday just so the guy who cut you off can get his iPod at Walmart a few bucks cheaper. Truck driving can literally drive you to madness....if you let it.
I hear some of these truck drivers screaming over the CB because somebody cut them off or some other truck driver isn't driving "fast enough." I see my trainer get furious when a shipper or receiver treats him like crap or part of our load gets refused. He hates being disrespected. I look at some of these drivers at truck stops who look like they've been pulling their hair out all day. I hear the anger in drivers' voices after a long day on the road. Some of them even try to seek out a fight. It doesn't have to be this way.
For some reason, many people are not able to let the little things roll off their backs. Now, I'll be the first to admit that when I'm driving through, say, New Jersey, and I've been cut off for the sixth time in four miles, it gets aggravating. But in the grand scheme of things, does it really affect my life that much? Just roll on! If somebody gives me the finger because I blocked up the passing lane for a minute, does that person's opinion of me really matter? Just roll on! If a shipper or receiver seems to be bossing me around and shows a lack of respect, do I really think they will matter to me 24 hours later? Just roll on! If a tire goes flat on me, isn't it something I expected to happen at some point? Just roll on! Well, after I get the tire replaced of course.
You cannot be sensitive in this career. You cannot let the little things bother you. I see so many people get so worked up over the smallest things. It makes me wonder how they'd deal with something major that happens in their life. My main rule of thumb: if it won't affect my life tomorrow, why get worked up about it? We all have our bad days, and it's OK to get mad when somebody does something stupid, but for the most part, just let it be! I've found the happiest drivers out on the road have the mentality of "whatever happens, happens." Truck driving is a job where you must live in the moment and quickly forget the past. Just because you're having an enjoyable drive right now doesn't mean you won't blow a tire in five minutes. And if you do blow a tire, you have to be OK with that. Just part of the job. It's going to happen. There really is no way around it. So when it does happen, don't get upset! Just breathe, calm down, and chalk it up to the adventures in truck driving. If somebody cuts you off or is driving like an idiot, you shouldn't even let it bother you in the first place. But if you must, curse and swear at the dumb driver, then forget about it! It already happened and it's over and done with. Just roll on!
For those who are thinking about entering truck driving, I'm here to tell you that if you can't let things happen as they happen, you'll never survive this life. You can't really plan anything out here. You can plan ahead the best you can, but very rarely does anything in truck driving actually go to plan. There is an endless list of things that can happen, but here's one example. Let's say you start your trip at noon. You decide you'll drive until 8pm, then grab a much needed shower since you haven't had one in two days and you feel like crap. After eight hours of driving, the only thing on your mind is the great feeling of a hot shower. Your head is itchy, you feel dirty, your face feels greasy,your hands have leftover spilled deisel fuel on them, you need a change of clothes, and you just want to feel clean once again! You pull into the only truck stop within 100 miles or so, go in to grab a shower, and see the wait time is 30 minutes. OK, no big deal. You wait, and wait, and wait for your number to be called, but it never comes. An hour later, you discover the truck stop is having a plumbing issue and nobody told you. The showers are closed. You're not getting a shower tonight. How would you deal with this? It's a true story and it happened to me.
Another good example is something that happened a couple days ago. My trainer and I had a delivery of berries to a Walmart Distribution Center. We traveled clear across the country to make this delivery. Upon our arrival, we were treated like complete garbage. Everyone was cranky and very unpleasant to deal with. My response? Be even nicer to those I'm dealing with. Say please and thank you. I went inside to see if we were unloaded yet. We were sitting at the dock and hadn't felt anyone on the trailer for about an hour. So I ran inside and asked, "Hey, just wondering if we're unloaded yet? We haven't felt anybody on the truck in a while." The response I got was, "did we call you on the CB, driver?" I tried to respond and said "No, but......" and I was cut off. The guy said, "then I suggest you go back to your truck as you were previously instructed and wait for us to call you." I could have and sort of wanted to say "F you!" and storm out of there. But I collected myself and said, "Ok, I'll just sit tight for a little while then. Thank you." He didn't say "you're welcome." :-/
In any case, I could have handled that situation in a couple different ways. And this wasn't the first time I dealt with a jerk at that place. But instead of getting angry, I just let it roll off my back. On the flip side, my trainer dealt with these people differently. Part of our load was refused and we had to wait for a USDA food inspector to check our load. While we were waiting, a security guard came over and said we had to leave the area. My trainer tried to explain our situation, but the guard wasn't hearing it. My trainer then flew off the handle, cursed him out, and slammed the door shut. He was visibly upset. I thought a vein was going to pop in his neck. In my opinion, there's absolutely no reason to get so worked up! Why do that to yourself!? I think sometimes drivers are their own worst enemy.
My trainer was also furious that part of our load got refused. I won't get into details, but basically Walmart just didn't want to pay for everything they bought. There was nothing wrong with the berries we had. And since the USDA food inspector is paid for by Walmart, who do you think he's going to side with? Our load was ultimately refused and my trainer was just plain cranky after that. We had to take the rest of our load to downtown Pittsburgh where a winery was going to make wine with the refused berries. This made him even more upset since we had to go to downtown Pittsburgh (and I mean down freakin' town). I swear, I thought my trainer was going to lose it. But come on! We drive produce in a refrigerated truck trailer. Don't you think a refused load is eventually going to happen? It's part of the job! I'm not saying you have to be happy about it, but why get so worked up? I've been on the truck for three months now, and this is the first time part of our load was refused. It's not like this happens everyday.
My advice to those of you already driving a truck (if a rookie is allowed to give advice to old timers) is to calm down! Choose your battles and don't let the little things get to you. And for the sake of everyone, don't take your anger out on other drivers on the CB. It's not our fault you can't manage your anger, and I really don't want to listen to you fly off the handle about nothing. Maybe I just have this mentality because I'm new, but if I ever get to the point where I react the way some truckers do to rather minuscule situations, I'm quitting. I can find a stressful job back home and be home every night with my friends and family. Why should I stay out on the road and be stressed and angry all the time?
To those of you who are getting ready to enter the industry, my advice to you is - don't expect anything to go as planned. If you are about to enter training and it's supposed to last six weeks, don't expect that to happen. Who's to say your transmission isn't going to go out halfway through your training? Any number of things can happen. So if you get upset that your training ends up taking eight weeks instead of six, that's a good indication that truck driving will be a long, stressful career for you. Anything that does go as planned in truck driving is a rarity, so enjoy your luck when that happens. Otherwise, try to enjoy the fact that you will never know what's coming next for you. I happen to love the fact that I never, ever know what is coming next for me. Heck, I don't even know what state I'll be in tomorrow. I could be sitting right here where I am now, or I could be on my way across the country. I don't know, and I love not knowing. Not everybody can handle that. And that's OK. This career doesn't fit all personalities. But that's how this career is. A total lack of knowing what's coming next, and a life full of unexpected detours. Just sit back, enjoy the ride, manage your stress, and keep on truckin'.
Until next time, drive safely.