What I imagined trucking to be like vs. the reality that I discovered in my recent truck driver ride along are drastically different.
My Truck Driver Ride Along Fantasy
I imagine cruising down the highway. I’m blasting my favorite jams on the radio and counting how many people I see doing something they shouldn’t be while driving. When I get hungry, I stop at delicious roadside diners in adorable little towns. As I enjoy my meal, I make small talk with the locals. Every turn presents a new view. I explore the country as I drive, seeing the sights and absorbing as much information as I can. I’m learning about different places, people, and traditions in the United States. Every morning I am greeted by a gentle sunrise peaking just over the hills. Every night a magnificent sunset bid me goodbye as I head from one state to the next.
My Truck Driver Ride Along Reality
I rode with Patty at Carlisle Carriers for several hours. You’re constantly checking your mirrors and watching what is going on around you. You’re barely drinking any water so that you don’t have to pee too often. You most likely keep a variety of easy snacks in the truck with you to reduce your number of stops. You’re on a time crunch, so although you’re passing dream destinations, you can’t stop. Someday you’ll get there. Someday. Although the views are spectacular, your main focus is hauling cargo from point A to point B – safely and on time.
Five Things I Learned During My Truck Driver Ride Along
With that said, here are five things I learned during my truck driver ride along with Patty that I think would be helpful for people considering a career in trucking!
You’ll have a pretty rigorous schedule
Although you will get to pass by lots of beautiful scenery, you won’t have the same luxuries as you would road-trippin’. You only have so much time to drive each day. Plus, you have a strict schedule when it comes to what time you pick up and drop off cargo. This means that you probably won’t be able to stop and do touristy things unless your time is up for the day or you get stuck in a layover.
You have to pay attention
Although listening to music or a podcast is fine, you do really have to pay attention on the road. You have to pay attention to what’s happening all around you. Your attention isn’t just on what you see but also what you hear. If there’s something wrong with your truck or trailer, chances are you’ll hear it before you see or feel it. It’s important to be able to listen for anything that may be going wrong.
It might get lonely
Unless you have someone riding with you, like a family member or a pet, you’re going to be alone on the road. This is hard for some people to adjust to. It’s just you with your thoughts and the highway humming. Loneliness can be challenging for some new drivers, so it’s important to make sure you are in a positive headspace and that you have a support system you can phone from the road.
Team driving has its pros and cons
Team driving is always an option. The way team driving works is that while one person is driving, the other person is typically sleeping. This allows you to cover more miles in a workweek than if you were by yourself, and you split the earnings with your partner. The key to a successful team driving partnership is finding someone who wants to take similar days off and who you get along with. Check out this interview with a driving team to listen to their perspective on the pros and cons of going this route.
You have to adjust to a new “normal”
The reality of it is, if you want to be a truck driver, you adjust to a new normal. Your schedule is going to change to match your deliveries. Your plans might get thrown off by traffic jams, road closures, and delivery schedule changes. You have to learn to go with the flow and adjust to the trucker lifestyle.
Watch this video to see my truck driver ride along first-hand, and check out our YouTube channel for more trucking videos!