The first year as a professional driver is often the hardest to handle – you’re still learning the ropes, and you’re low on experiences that can help you navigate life’s many potholes.
Luckily, there are seasoned vets who can share what it’s like that first year to help give you some foresight as to what you might encounter. Here’s one man’s experiences, as he posted in the Reddit Truckers forum:
“I became a truck driver back in Feb. of 2017 by joining a Mega willing to train me through their program. I see a lot of posts on this awesome sub where people ask ‘this and that’ about their first year, wanting to know if trucking circa 2018 is for them.
Well, I can add what I’ve learned and hope this is helpful to someone who is either trying to get into the road game or is in the middle of their first year.
In descending order of importance:
10: Everyone is out to get something from you in one way or another. Everyone.
If you drive for a mega with a mentor/trainer/whichever, they’re training you for the money and chances are they’re going to exploit the situation, be it keeping you on the truck longer than you really need to be, using your ELD login to squeeze in more hours, some may even try to trick you into staying on the truck longer. Once you get your own truck, your dispatcher may try to find ways to exploit you for different things.
But chances are, the company is exploiting them, too. The trainer/mentor thinks he’s getting over on you, but the company’s business model suggests that he’s effectively training his replacement should he ever get 1 preventable accident too many. Meanwhile, the greedy dispatchers are greedy because the company is forcing them to compete with one another while making them manage more trucks than they can effectively handle because it’s “cost effective.”
Everyone is screwing everyone over; trucking is just one of those kinds of industries.
9: The money is THERE
Believe it — I have four years of college education; maxed out at 39k income on my best post-grad job with 4 years experience. I made 52k in year one as a driver.
8: Murphy’s Law is Absolute
No matter how well or not-well you were trained in semi-school or how well prepared you believe yourself to be, SOMETHING is going to happen out there during year one that you just didn’t expect.
7: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I used to have a lot of trouble backing into both docks and truck stops, especially during my first solo runs. I would get out and ask another, more experienced driver for a spot and they would not only help, they would offer tips on how to back. After doing this for awhile, I didn’t need to ask for help. As a result, I help anyone who asks me…which leads me to…
6: Truckers are a brotherhood
We’re largely in competition with each other, but I can remember very few instances where I’ve had a confrontation with another driver, or another driver was rude to me. It’s the opposite; when you walk into a truck stop lounge or sit at the Driver’s Only section of an Iron Skillet, drivers chat and joke as though they’ve known each other for years. Drivers who are military vets seem to bond especially fast.
5: Finding parking for 10-Hour break doesn’t have to be hell
Truck stop full? Learn to navigate around strip mall lots, shopping plaza lots, and Walmart parking lots so you can park in the rear; out of sight is out of mind. Hell, I’ve never been kicked out of Walmart lot and I’ve never heard of someone being kicked out of a Walmart lot. I’ve asked a Walmart manager why that is and she replied ‘The longer y’all stay, the more money y’all spend.’
4: You will come across a jerky Yard Dog, but don’t take it personally.
They’re paid to not only move trailers around the yard, but to keep the truckers in line while they’re in the yard. Sometimes, they have to be jerks in order to do their job; it’s that simple.
3: Contrary to popular belief, ELD is your FRIEND
There’s not much to say about ELD that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it simple and say that no, not everyone wants to drive 16-17 hours a day and only sleep for 5. If some trucking companies had their way, those are exactly the kind of hours everyone would drive.
2: Respect is not given NOR earned; it’s demanded
The world doesn’t respect truckers, eh? Truth is, most professions aren’t “respected,” especially in the U.S., unless they’re super-profitable. I get more respect as a truck driver than I did as a teacher for that very reason, I think.
Shippers/receivers, dispatchers, trainers/mentors will try to screw you over, but you don’t have to let them. Stand your ground, being respectful as you do so, and you’ll be surprised how often you’ll get what you need when it’s otherwise being denied to you.
1: America is beautiful
The high-hills of Washington state, the Arizona plateaus, the mountainous PA views…the sight of lightning scattering across the Wyoming plains at night… the U.S. has some sights which will not only confirm to you that there is a God who created it all, but that He holds you in his favor because you’re in a position to witness it.”
If you’re a professional driver, what would you add to this list as something you learned in your first year?
*Slightly edited for language and clarity.