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Helping you succeed as a professional truck driver.

THE TRUCKING LIFE: WHAT TO EXPECT

Oct 16, 2017
You may have heard that trucking is a lucrative career. And it’s true—new truckers can earn between $30 - $45,000 per year, and with experience, truckers can earn over $100,000 as owner/operators. Washington state truckers generally make more than the national average.From the day you start your training at a Washington State CDL training school, you have entered the life of the trucker. When you enter the profession, you should also have an idea of what that life means—it will require a change in your expectations both for your own life as well as that of your family. As with any profession, we make tradeoffs between the personal and professional, and we thought you should know of some of the things which you should consider as you enter the profession.

The Daily Routine

Most truckers start early in the day, especially if they’re on a long-haul. You’re on a schedule, and in the U.S., your hours are limited. Once you start work in the morning, you can only drive 11 hours in the work period, and must stop after 14 hours. Therefore, if you start work at 5 am, you must stop at 7 pm, and can only drive for 11 of those hours.Part of your routine therefore must be calculating when you need to make the delivery—that will determine your miles per day and per eight-day period (you’re allowed no more than 70 hours per eight days, after which you must take 34 hours off). Most truckers are expected to drive between 2,000 and 3,000 miles weekly.Part of your routine therefore is planning, as well as allowing for anticipatable delays. If your trip, for example, will take you near a metropolitan area around rush hour, you will decrease the average miles per hour for that day.

Growing into your Career

As you start your trucking career, jobs may be harder to get. Most truckers have been through this experience, and you should plan to use the first year or two to make sure you’ve learned everything you need to be safe, reliable, and compliant.

Starting out means you will be getting the least desirable jobs. Companies will be testing you, both with “undesirable” loads as well as difficult ones. Once you’re on the job, however, make sure you commit to one year before you even think about quitting during your first year. That year of “paying your dues” will benefit you as the years go on.

While it’s not fun to be stuck with the load that needs to be delivered to downtown Boston at 8 am on a January Monday, if you can earn the reputation for reliability you will find that you have made a great investment in your career. Think of the first year as your paid apprenticeship.

Family, Friends, and Home

Trucking, especially long-haul jobs, can place a strain on your connections with family, friends, and home. That strain can’t be hidden, and you will need to consider it as you enter the profession.

The cell phone is your friend. While you should never hold the phone in your hand while you drive, many are voice-activated. Use the cell phone to keep in touch with spouses, significant others, and friends. Especially as you begin the career, be willing to take on the expense of a cell phone if you don’t already have one. It will help everyone.

In many areas, you may also be able to use Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime to keep in touch. Take advantage of the ability to see your loved ones as well as hear them.

Know also that the 8’ x 8’ cab of a truck is a lonely place for 11 hours per day. Some truckers talk with others constantly, while others enjoy the silence and solitude. You know best what you’re like, but make sure you take care of yourself. Find contact where you can, and don’t forget to get out of the truck, stretch, exercise, and walk around.

It is not easy. When you do make contact with your spouse, don’t spend the time complaining about conditions on the road—even though we all need to vent. Keep the tone positive and helpful, and if there are domestic concerns to work through—even if it’s something normal such as bill-paying. If you’re in New York and your family is back in Washington State, you need to be positive in your conversations.

One key piece of advice is to spend as much time with your spouse or significant other as you can when you’re home—just the two of you. While you will also need to spend time with kids and friends, your better half should have the first claim on your time. Plan dates when you’re home, and make sure that grandparents can take the kids for a night.

Make sure you make contact daily. You have time, and you probably even have time to do it on a schedule which won’t wake the baby up.

Finally, trust each other on the long separations. Temptations may come up for both the trucker and the spouse/significant other left home. Trust your partner—you got into this relationship for a reason. And it’s OK to seek a marriage counselor or other therapist to help you deal with the stress of the trucking life.

The Trucking Life

The trucking life really begins when you attend a CDL training school, whether in Washington State or elsewhere. The school may be far enough from home that you will be there for the full time of the school, or you may be able to get home on weekends. That training period will help you get into the habits you need. Phone home daily!

If you can find the way to balance home and professional life as a trucker, you will succeed. And don’t be ashamed to ask for advice and help—many folks have been through what you will go through—take advantage of their experience.