Home from the Road

Well, that didn't last as long as I had hoped. I was a truck driver for exactly 2 weeks. That must be the shortest recorded time for trying a new career. I have waited a while before I wrote this last article, because I wasn't sure what I should say. I decided to tell you everything.

First of all, I started training for this career not really knowing if this is what I wanted. I knew I was doing it more to be with Randy than to have a job in the trucking industry. However, I did finish school on my own and passed the CDL tests on my own and I am very proud of that accomplishment.

I had a hint that I would hate this new life after the first 4 days on the road (before I even went to orientation and was hired). We left Boise and headed for St. Louis. Randy doesn't like to pay for showers, so we showered only when he fueled up. That was not every day. We spent the night in truck stops where I fell asleep to the whirring of our engine and the engines of hundreds of other trucks. Randy had put a porta-potty in the truck for me (isn't he sweet) so I wouldn't have to run inside in the middle of the night. That proved to be a real Godsend when we had to park at a consignee's parking lot for the night with no bathroom facilities. However, it really cut down on room in the sleeper.

So, at the end of the first 4 days, I looked a fright, was tired and had been wearing the same clothes for a couple of days. We got there early and couldn't drop the load. So, we spent all day Sunday at a truck stop while it rained. We couldn't see any of St. Louis and we had to eat at the same place all that time. But we got Park 'n' View and I took a shower. Bonus.

Our next load took me to Omaha to start my orientation. Randy got a load to the east coast and was late to pick me up to start training. The hotel was a dump and I was very much alone and in a new city with no car. I was having big fun. One of the training managers took pity on me and took me to zoo for the afternoon and I had a great time. Randy arrived on Monday and we got our first load.

It was to OshKosh. A lot of the driving was going to be at night and on windy back roads, so he did the driving. I drove for a few hours, backed up a couple of times, and was good, but uncomfortable. We spent the night at the consignee. I woke up the next morning in tears. I just couldn't do it anymore.

I had to explain to him that it wasn't just the driving. Although I was still afraid of the truck, a little, that wasn't really the problem. I hated the lifestyle. I wanted to go home. He didn't understand. He begged me to try to stick it out for 8 weeks and I said I would try.

So, I drove a little more (8 hours, 1 day). Then when we ran into a heavy downpour and I couldn't see to get off at an exit, I knew I was not cut out for this life. That was on Saturday and I quit on Monday.

I couldn't go out with him unless I could be his partner. I needed to feel confident enough to drive in bad weather and at night. I needed to be able to handle backing up with enough confidence that he could sleep through it. I was neither confident nor able to do that. I am still afraid of mountain roads and I can't see at night well enough to drive for long distances. I would not be a burden to him.

I know everyone is saying to give it time. Randy was saying that I gave up too fast. I don't know how to describe it. Maybe I would have gotten better with time, maybe not. But eventually, his trucking company would have wanted us to drive as a team and I knew I couldn't do that. But I didn't know that until after I got out on the road. If I could drive only 4 to 6 hours a day only in the daytime and never in bad weather - I would have stayed. Never will happen, my friend.

I learned a few things. Truck driving is not just a job, it is a lifestyle. You are not just changing careers; you are changing your home, your habits, your diet and your sleeping patterns. You will eat at truck stops, which offer a bland selection of foods, or you can eat from your truck, which isn't much better. You will drive a lot for a few days and then sit waiting for a load and when the load comes, you have to drop everything and get under it. You can't just drive during the day, you have to drive in inclement weather and all you do is drive.

I missed more than just my home and my tub and my TV. I missed stimulation. I was bored. I missed writing and working on the computer. And now that I am home, I miss Randy even more. I saw how much he loves this and I knew it would be impossible to get him to take a local job.

Do not let this last article dissuade you from trying this. If you really want to do it for yourself; if you are ready to change your lifestyle; if you don't mind doing nothing but driving and eating at truck stops; then do it! I would like to suggest, that if you can, do a ride along for a few weeks before you start training. You can see what this is all about and you won't be out a lot of money. I should have done that.

I am home now looking for a new job. I wish I could go with him every time he comes home and maybe I will, for a few weeks. I may use my CDL to get a delivery job or I may go back and do what I did before. I just don't know yet.

Do what makes you happy. Try something new. Don't be afraid to succeed or fail. I am proud of what I have done. Always, take care of you.

By Tracy Petering