Finding The Motivation To Keep On Trucking

by Rainy
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A driver I have mentored since he went solo just over a year ago is losing his daily motivation. Over the past couple of months, he's been asking for more and more time off, complaining about loads, and not leaving early enough after receiving the load assignment. When I tried to discuss this with him, he said, “I haven't gotten a good load in a long time. Our Fleet Manager isn't motivating me to run hard and is giving me short loads.”

I tried to explain to this driver that if the appointments are set for midnight, he complains about lack of parking. If the appointments are set during the day, he complains about traffic. On long loads, he complains there isn't enough time to deliver, and on short loads, he complains he isn't making any money. There is no way to satisfy this driver.

The truly sad thing about this whole situation is that this driver was a “run hard, get it done” 3000 mile a week driver for several months. He knows how to manage his time and he understands the urgency of getting to customers on time. However, he's progressively leaving for his loads later and later, to the point of jeopardizing the load. I'm not sure if he is just being lazy, or if he faked being a hard worker and now his true colors are showing.

For example, he got an 800 mile load and was given two full drive shifts to do it. That should have been easy to do. Then he called me and said, “They didn't get me loaded until 14:30. If dispatch thinks I'm leaving now, they can forget it. I'm not sitting in work traffic, I'm going back to bed.”

At that point, he had already been sitting for over 24 hours because he kept rejecting loads and complaining. Sixteen hours later the driver left, all the while bragging to me how he was going to just run the load in early and drop it. The problem was that he didn't leave himself enough room to make the appointment on time, so there was no way he could get in early. The whole trip he kept saying, “I'll either violate to get it in, or maybe I'll just tell dispatch to get another driver to meet me. It's their problem, let them do their job.”

He is so wrong. Getting the load in on time is his problem and his job.

His mistake is that he expects motivation to come from dispatch. That is not going to happen. A person either has a great work ethic or they don't. They can either get things done independently, or they need hand holding. Someone who is exceptional might occasionally run slower and become average, but an average person will never be able to continually sustain greatness. Finding the motivation to perform at maximum levels over a long duration must come from within. Blaming others will get you nowhere, and poor performance is going to hurt your miles.

The Importance Of Setting Goals

The length of training varies greatly from company to company, and my training was particularly difficult. I needed to motivate myself throughout training by reminding myself I set certain monetary goals. I was so broke I couldn't even afford to go bankrupt. In my head, training was a boot camp and I pressed through it for the chance to make money and go solo.

To help me conquer my rookie frustration over all of my mistakes, I checked the Credit Karma app daily. Seeing my credit score skyrocket encouraged me to continue on my trucking journey. I then started putting 20% of my pay into my 401k and soon my financial burdens were lifted which alleviated my daily pressures. Those stupid mistakes like locking myself out of the truck didn't seem so monumental anymore.

When my debts were under control, my motivation changed. The reason I ran hard and wanted to make my Fleet Manager happy was because I wanted to be left alone. The last thing I want is a micro-managing dispatcher dictating my every move. I had enough of that working for the federal government. By demonstrating I can solve problems and allow my Fleet Manager to concentrate on priority issues, I gained his trust, and more importantly, stay way under his radar.

The only time he is looking for my truck on his computer screen is when my truck number flashes, “Empty—Waiting for Load Assignment”. I once went two whole months without speaking to him on the phone, and called him just to say hello and tell him I missed him. He laughed, then said, “How about a 2000 mile load to California?” I'll take it!

What Motivates You?

I've been dating a driver who picks up his loads as quickly as possible and parks as close to the receiver ASAP. He runs out his 11 hour drive clock almost every night just to get there faster. His motivation? He wants a day off. He can often run a load and get there 24 hours early, or even get a 34 hour reset in.

Another friend maps out his trip and allows time for himself to check out museums, casinos, and hiking trails at some of the rest areas. Yet another driver is obsessed with visiting steakhouses across the country and plans his trips to allow time on the end for dinner. Another friend of mine runs as hard as possible to make time fly by until he gets home to see his wife.

I asked our forum member, Christian, what motivates him and his response was, “I want lots of certificates of appreciation with Ben Franklin on the front. Show me the Benjamins.”

All of these drivers get it done.

The point is to set goals for yourself and figure out ways to allow yourself to enjoy your time on the road, while at the same time making money and earning the respect of dispatch. But don't be one of those morons who parks 100 miles away from a receiver for 30 hours and goes to play golf, then only allows himself two hours to drive through Atlanta traffic. There is no excuse for a service failure after you just spent a day in a pool or beach. This is still a job out here, so have your fun, but do your job.

Burnout is Possible, Even for a Great Driver

It's easy for new drivers to get pushed to the point of wanting to quit. Making too many wrong turns, not being able to back into a dock or parking space, and dealing with typical trucking issues such as blown tires can wear on you mentally. It can make you feel like a failure or it can seem like a landslide of negative issues with no end in sight. Missing home and feeling like life is passing you by can make you lose sight of your goals, so be sure to remedy your burnout.

Every once in a while I feel the need to get a hotel room. A jacuzzi suite and room service gives me a nice break from the hustle and bustle trucking requires. Occasionally grabbing an Uber to visit a park or shopping mall is a nice change of pace and helps me feel “normal”. Upon returning to the road, I remind myself of my past employment where I was harassed by management or had to rely on “bum” co-workers to assist me in my job. The better driver I become, the more I can determine how dispatch runs me. It's very hard for lease and owner operators to understand, but I am practically my own boss without all the responsibility and aggravation. Just let me know where I am supposed to go and leave me alone.

In the end, almost everything a driver does is his responsibility, and that includes finding the daily motivation to keep going. Whether you came into trucking to get away from a dead end job, or you wanted to catch up on past due bills, you need to keep yourself in a certain mindset. Trucking is one of the loneliest jobs in the world because no one else is responsible for you, and no one is there to motivate you. So be good to yourself!

Stay safe out there!

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