There are many advantages and disadvantages of being a truck driver. Please do not take this article as a reason not to be a truck driver. I only wish to provide you with information so you can make a educated decision on your career choices within the trucking industry.
Your personality and attitude is what will make or break you as a truck driver
You must be a self-starter, independent and extremely patient, nobody will be in your truck telling you what to do and when to do it. You will always have delays from traffic, accidents, getting fuel, shippers, receivers and everything else in between. If you load and unload within the same day you will have lost at least four hours out of your day that you will not be paid a penny for. Shippers and consignees can be very difficult to work with for a host of reasons. Your schedule is never one of there concerns and they will load you when it is convenient for them.
Are you married, have a boyfriend or girlfriend, children or other loved ones you see regularly? If so you are going to be spending significant time away from them when compared to traditional careers. You may be on the road for one to eight weeks at a time. This is one of the huge disadvantages of being a truck driver for all involved. Can the relationships you have undergo this strain and survive? The divorce rate among truck drivers is higher than a lot of other professions. Speaking in general most companies offer about one day off for every five to seven days on the road. Beware of home every weekend “guaranteed” companies, find out what they are really saying if you can because home every weekend can mean Sunday night at 8:00 PM. It is very important to thoroughly investigate any trucking company that you may potentially go to work for.
There are many federal regulations that govern when, where and how much you must sleep in any given 24 hour period. When you get into the trucking industry you will find that these regulations are not always followed to the letter. Even if they are followed they force your sleep pattern and work schedule. You will find that sometimes you must rest when you’re not tired and work when you are tired and there is nothing you can do about it. Circadian rhythm is often challenged by DOT regulations and Hours Of Service (HOS).
You will be crossing the country on a regular basis, warm weather one day and then freezing temperatures and snow packed roads the next. Some people have a hard time with the environmental changes you will be subject to this on a regular basis. Some people also have problems with allergies due to the constant change in climates and environments.
Stress can be an inevitable factor and a unhealthy disadvantage of being a truck driver . Deadlines, delays, lazy shippers, bad directions, city traffic, living in a very small space, bad weather and a lack of there being enough parking spaces at truck stops and rest areas can cause a lot of stress at times.
This is why I previously stated that patience is very important in the transportation and trucking industry. Staying healthy can be hard as well. You will spend many hours just sitting and driving with almost no movement. Boredom sets in easily and you tend to snack more than if you had an active job. Those snacks turn into pounds very fast. I gained over 40 pounds and relate that weight gain to long periods of inactivity. Fast food and truck stop food tends to pack on the pounds also. After my weight gain I decided to start cooking healthier meals in my truck. I also started exercising and decided to start pulling a flatbed trailer. Flatbeding keeps you very active and generally pays better than reefer or dry van trailers.
Pull into the Ontario, CA TA truck stop at Milken Ave in the summer season and tell me what you smell, urine. Yes most truck drivers pee everywhere and it stinks. Urine bottles are commonly kept in trucks and drivers also dump these bottles at random to contribute to the smell. Big city truck stops generally have people asking for rides, money, food, drugs and then there are the lot lizards. Ladies of the night, prostitutes, they love to knock on your door and tell you how they will do anything for 10 dollars. Public showers, some are clean and some are not. Buy a pair of flip flops to where in the shower. Truck stop bathrooms, especially in the morning are very busy and can get filthy very quickly.
Log Books, permits, weigh stations and DOT medical exams are just a few of the regulations you will deal with on a daily basis. Fines are very expensive and even if it is not your fault. I had a company take a fine out of my check for a ticket that was issued to them for a mechanical issue. Its not fair but there is nothing you can do about it except to try and stay compliant as much as possible.
As I stated earlier this article is not meant to tell you that you should’t be a truck driver but is only meant to let you know that it is not all about the freedom of the road and seeing the country. There are advantages and disadvantages to every job whether you are a truck driver or an office worker.