You Think You Want to Drive a Truck

Each morning you get up and head off to your job as a mechanic at a trucking company. You change oil, replace tires, work on engines and keep the tractors maintained. Many times you've chatted with the drivers, asking them where they've been and what they hauled this week. You watch them hop into that rig and take off for another trip.

You picture their career as being more interesting than yours. After all, they get to travel and there's no one looking over their shoulder every day. They don't have a clock to tell them when to punch in, when to eat lunch and when to call it a day. These guys just sit behind the wheel of the truck and deliver their loads. They are able to see the country while they work, and look at the paychecks they bring home!

After you've convinced yourself that you would rather switch careers and drive a truck instead of fixing one, what should you do? Who should you talk to? Where can you find information about driving a truck?

Ask The Drivers
Try to speak to as many drivers as possible. Ask the newly hired drivers if the job is the way they anticipated it to be. Did they have a clear picture of what driving a truck involves or were they mislead? Ask the new driver what he likes about the job and what he finds to be the most difficult aspects of it. Find out how his family has been affected and if they are adjusting well.

When you find a seasoned driver who has been on the road for a number of years, ask him if he would choose trucking as a career today. Find out how things have changed and what he anticipates will be different in the future. Ask how he would approach the job differently if he was just starting out.

There's a lot of wisdom to be learned if you ask the drivers. You will find some who enjoy what they do and others who merely endure the job. Some might be considering a change in careers or they may choose to switch their status from company driver to owner operator, or vice versa. Just ask, and you will be given a great deal of information and advice from current drivers.

If possible, ask some of the drivers' spouses how they feel about the trucking lifestyle. Talk to the children of drivers. Be sure to ask them how they feel about the times apart from their parent and whether they would consider becoming a driver when they are old enough.

When you get an idea of what the trucking industry is like from drivers and their families, you can add to your understanding by looking at web sites and chat rooms on the Internet. Drivers are very candid about the job when they can remain anonymous, so consider the fact that their comments won't be traced to them personally. You can also look at most carrier's sites or trucking publications online to find out what the lifestyle involves. Many of them include family-related information to review.

Ride Along
If you know a professional driver, consider taking a trip with him or her so you can see for yourself what the job entails. You will be able to gain an understanding of the lifestyle much faster if you are exposed to it yourself. You will be able to see what truck stops, shipping docks, scales, and other drivers are like when you are on the road. This isn't always an option if you are currently working, but if you can swing some vacation time at your present job, accompanying another driver will give you a real view of the industry. If possible, take your family to a truck show. You can talk to the drivers, look at the rigs and visit with recruiters. You might be able to sit in on some informing seminars about many aspects of trucking. Pick up trucking publications and don't forget to look at the magazines that feature job opportunities. Visit the educational booths and talk to law enforcement personnel.

Talk To Recruiters
When you visit with a recruiter, make sure your spouse is listening to the sale pitch. Ask about policies affecting those at home and have the carrier's representatives direct their comments to your family. You can't make a decision to become a professional driver without involving your family. If possible, prepare a list of questions ahead of time to ask each carrier. Include things important to your children and spouse. Ask each recruiter the same questions so you can compare companies based on the same criteria. Pick up the literature and write down information about pay, benefits and company practices. You will be able to review all of the information later and determine which company appeals to you the most. Once you feel you have enough information, and you are still thinking about changing your career to that of a professional driver, sit down with your spouse and your children and ask them if they are willing to accept your lifestyle change. Make sure they understand that you will be away from home at night and they will have to make some adjustments in their own schedules. Explain to your family the reasons why you are considering becoming a professional driver and answer any questions they might have. Then, if you and your family have determined that you no longer want to watch those trucks heading out each week while you stay in the maintenance shop, you can start thinking about the next step...