Wow, I can't believe it's been 6 months already. I started my CDL training back in January, and got hired on with my company in March. I've completed training, and have been on my own now for a couple months. So, I thought I'd share a few of my initial impressions of my early truck driving career, having experienced it for 6 months now.
Probably the biggest thing I was unprepared for was backing into insane places at customer locations. You'd think these loading docks would be designed for a semi. But the reality is, many of these customers have buildings with docks, but getting backed into them was left for the truck driver to deal with. I've had to back down alley ways, back in from major streets, have a police officer block amajor road for me,back into places with zero wiggle room, blind side back, and a slew of other situations that can't be described in words. It's absolutely crazy. I'd love to make brand new drivers feel better about backing situations, but all I can say is use your time wisely when you're with your trainer, get the most experience you can, and never, ever, get into a hurry when backing. You will experience some very difficult situations, and I probably haven't even seen the tip of the iceberg myself.
Another thing I've been surprised by is the lack of parking for trucks. I've covered it before in my previous blogs, so I won't go into a ton of detail here. But anytime after dark, parking is very hard to come by. I'm legally allowed to drive 11 hours in a day. But after 9 hours of driving, I need to start looking for a spot if it's after 8pm, because finding a place to park can easily take 2 hours or more. Truck stops become very dangerous at night because of the tight backing and trucks driving / parking everywhere.It isn't uncommon to seeminor accidents at truck stops because of this.The parking situation reallytakes a lot of joy out of driving.
On a positive note, I expected more in the way of prostitution, drugs, and illegal activityat truck stops. I don't know why I expected this. Maybe I just payed too much attention to the news and maybe I read too many negative Internet forums. But I've found that the vast majority of truck stops don't have this problem. In fact, there are only a few truck stops that I can rattle off that I know has this activity going on. Illegal activity may have been a problem in the past, but my experience so far is that this activity is nearly non-existent these days. Maybe I'm just too ignorant to the fact that it's going on all around me. That is possible. But I rarely see it or know about it, so it doesn't bother me one bit.
I do wish the moral and brotherhood was a bit better out here. While it does exist, sometimes it seems like drivers have to prove their ego's to each other or prove they are better than everyone else. The CB in congested areas and truck stops can sound more like a road rage forum and race war than anything else. It's also just the little things. If I flash my lights letting somebody know they can come back into the right lane, is it really so hard to flash back as a "thank you?" At truck stops, you'll hear people make fun of a truck having trouble backing in, but does anyone get their lazy butts out to help him out? It happens, but more people choose to make fun of the poor driver on the CB than to help spot him / her. I don't know how things got to be like this, or if it's always been this way. But I sure wish it would change. When truckers are actually being friendly to each other on the CB, I try to cherish the moment.
Luckily, the one thing I expected to enjoy, I'm loving. The driving. Cruisin' down the open road. The solitude. Jamming to some tunes. The freedom. All of the previous jobs I've had, included answering to several bosses. I don't even know who my "boss" is right now. Sure, if I screw up royally, I can be fired. But I don't have any boss to answer to everyday. I'm told to pick up from this shipper at that time, and deliver to that receiver at this time. What I do in between is my own business. As long as I get it there undamaged, safely, and legally, I never hear from anybody at my company. Very few jobs can offer that type of freedom.
Traveling the country is everything I thought it would be, and more. Traveling across state lines has become as routine as going to a different town back home. This country has definitely "shrunk" in size since I started driving. As I gain more experience, I'm starting to learn the ins and outs of major cities. I'm starting to learn where my favorite truck stops are and my favorite places to eat. I'm starting to learn which Wal-Marts have truck parking and which ones don't. I'mstarting to learnthe best ways to get to certain large customers that I go to often.I definitely see myself enjoying this career more and more as the months and years tick away, simply because I'll know where I can go and do certain things. It's tough getting used to it all. At first, I didn't know any of these cities, or where I could go shopping, etc. Slowly, very slowly, I'm starting to learn.
These first 6 months have been a huge challenge for me. This has definitely been the biggest learning experience of my life. And as soon as I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, I'll make a bonehead mistake to bring me back to reality. I'm still new, and mistakes are made almost everyday. Whether I miss a turn, brake hardfor a yellow light I should have gone through, go into the truck stop through the exit instead of the entrance, botch a backing maneuver, stall the truck on the scale at a weigh station, try to make a U-Turn that can't be made, turn down asmall country road with no place to turn around for 20 miles,all of these things keep me on my toes. And yes, unfortunate to say, all of those things have actually happened to me, and more I won't repeat! Equally, I've seen other drivers do even worse things. I truly hope some of these embarrassing mistakes will ease with time and experience. My confidence some days are very high. Then I'll make one of those bonehead mistakes and it'll be right back down to the confidence level I had on my first day.
But overall, I'm loving every minute of this career and lifestyle. I feel that sometimes I over-glamorize it in my blogs, because this is certainly not a career for everyone. There is a reason many people don't make it through their first year of truck driving, and a reason that the turnover rate is typically near or above 100% during a good economy. But if you have what it takes, this can be just the lifestyle change you need. Six months down and hopefully years to go.
Until next time, drive safely!