I get that question allot. There is no simple answer, I guess it depends on the context of the question. If you mean what’s it like to drive a truck, it can be a little scary in bad weather or heavy traffic. If you mean the lifestyle, that’s a whole different story.
First and foremost, I am not a truck driver, I just drive a truck. There is a difference. If you were to spend an afternoon sitting at a truck stop, maybe by the fuel island or “Drivers Entrance”, you would see three types of people there. People who drive trucks, truck drivers and steering wheel holders.
People who drive trucks are usually company drivers, mostly with the big companies. They keep their trucks and themselves neat and clean, they are often very polite, and most go about their business in a quiet manner. This group is just out here to earn a living. Most have worked other fields and lost their jobs due to the economy. They signed on to companies for the free training and guaranteed work. They treat this job as any other they have done. Do your job, respect the equipment and earn your pay.
Truck drivers are harder to pick out to the average person. They may be a company driver, but more often they are “Owner Operators” with their own truck. The truck can range from a show stopper, to a rolling junk pile. Many drivers are neat and clean, or you may smell them before they get close. I’ve seen old trucks that are well maintained, and new ones with papers and trash all over the dash. I’ve walked by trucks with the door open, and almost gagged from the smell coming out. Some, I think you could eat off the floor. I’ve seen many with dogs, and a few with as many as 5 cats sleeping on the dash. These people are living the lifestyle of a truck driver. They live their life in that truck. They may not even have a home to go back to!
To the steering wheel holder, it’s just a job until something better comes along. They don’t care about the truck or the company they work for. They have little regard for other people on the road as they are always on the phone or texting. (Texting is illegal in a truck) They may wear flip flops, and get mad when shippers tell them to put shoes on. They are very rude to others, and they are the first to talk “Smack” on the CB. They always have some sort of complaint about this or that. Not very nice people. Granted, not everyone will fit into these categories. But it gives you a general idea.
Now, let’s talk truck stops. There are thousands of truck stops across America. There are the big chains like TA, Petro, Pilot, Flying J, Loves etc…Then there are the “Mom & Pop” places. The chains, unlike some mom & pops, offer benefits like discounts on fuel and free showers if you purchase 50 or more gallons. Most trucks will use almost 100 gallons a day, so there is no reason to not take a shower! Most will have laundry facilities, a restaurant and a repair garage. There are fitness rooms, TV rooms, video games, and some even have a small theater playing movies! It all sounds good, right? Here’s the reality.
When your on the road traveling, what’s important to you? Good food, a clean bathroom, a safe place to take a nap? Truck drivers need the same things, but you don’t always get it. I have had food poisoning several times, had a 103 temperature once, many more colds than normal, walked into a bathroom where someone had defecated on the floor, there was urine on the toilet seats, no paper, no soap and no towels to dry your hands. I’ve watched people use the toilet, not wash their hands, then see them at the buffet handling the serving spoons. I’ve been woken up at all hours by a “Lot Lizard” knocking at my door to see if I “Want to party” or buy some dope. The parking lots smell of urine, some drivers will defecate on the ground beside their truck, and guess what you are tracking into your truck! If this was all there was to trucking, I would never have stayed in this industry.
So what keeps me out here? You can earn a pretty good living if you are willing to work hard. The rules and regulations are very strict, and the best companies won’t hire you with a bad record. You don’t really have a boss staring down your back all the time, so you have to be an independent thinker. The open road can give you a real peaceful feeling when it’s 3 am and there’s not another vehicle in sight. You will see parts of this country you would never see working a 9 to 5 job. From the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, to the red rocks of Utah. The open plains of New Mexico, to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I have traveled this country without paying for a plane ticket, staying in a dirty hotel room, listening to other people’s crying children on a cramped bus, or any of the other things that go with travel.
I live in pretty good style. I have a nice truck with a great sleeper. (Vinny loves it to!) When I wake up in the morning, my commute to the office is about 4 feet away. I have many of the same things you have at home, including a computer with the internet, a microwave and a refrigerator. I can think of other jobs I have done that I don’t want to do again. I will stick with this work, with all it’s ups and downs, until I reach my goals. I turn 50 in a couple days so I am still young enough to have some fun. All I need now is the boat!