Life as a Truck Driver – What You Need to Know

Let’s face it – trucking ads are everywhere. It is like “Look at me, driving a truck has made filthy rich”. They might as well have that in bold letters. 

Jokes aside, the very cliche is images of truckers, all smiles, in a dominant posture with an awesome truck in the background. 

Don’t get us wrong, cliches are that for a reason – because they do work. But that’s what trucking companies want you to see. After all, they need you.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. From your perspective. What’s life as a trucker actually like? We’ve compiled posts from truck drivers all across the Internet. These are their stories. The truth you need to know.

Jack Paulden, a Commercial OTR Truck Driver

Jack told his story about his life as a truck driver for The Guardian all the way back in 2013. This is how his life as a truck driver is.

Jack’s Typical Day

When asked this question, Jack said that he usually gets up between 5 and 6 am. He walks to the truck stop, drinks his morning coffee, and inspects his truck and trailer. He then proceeds to check his messages and files his logs. On occasion, he checks the weather, and he starts driving. He usually works with “drop and hook”, “live load” and “live unload”. The problem here is that he gets paid by the mile, so each minute he waits for live unloading is a minute spent not making money. 

When this happens, Jack doesn’t waste his time – he plans his route, including fuel stops, weigh stations, checks for closed roads, and any other event that might interrupt his trip.

Regarding meals, Jack says that he both eats on the go and a restaurant – it depends on whether he has the time. 

He pays close attention to the Department of Transportation time clock to keep in line with regulations. 

And when he gets to a stop, he basically calls home and gets some sleep.

Jack’s Thoughts on Life-Work Balance

Jack firmly states that for a balanced life, one needs to get home most nights. He states that although there are some tricking jobs that enable that, OTR drivers such as himself can’t have a balanced life. He concludes that balance is subjective, so the above is just his opinion.

The Craziest Thing that Happened to Jack on His Job

The craziest thing he ever did was at the beginning of his trucking career. In 2011, aged 58, he decided to make a career change after some hardships. So, he leased a truck and started his own trucking business. He stated that it took 63,400 miles to realize that he only got more experienced, but still wasn’t making a living. He says that this was a valuable lesson for him, and he started driving for a company after that.

A Good Day on the Job for Jack

A good day for Jack is a day when he is driving without wasting time. “Drops and hooks” jobs are perfect for him. Another thing that makes a good day for Jack is when he gets to a truck stop early, finds a good spot, takes a shower, and has a good meal.

A great day for Jack is going home after 12 to 19 days on the road.

Jack’s Biggest Mistake He Made While Driving

Jack said that his biggest mistake was right after he got his Class A CDL. The school required 15 to 20,000 driving miles during a 30 days training period, which meant he was to live with a stranger in a truck for a month while making $65 a day. 

He drove 11 hours a day and turned in 550 to 640 miles a day. Needless to say, these conditions weren’t in favor of him, being in his 50’s, and there were many arguments with his instructor during his training period. He says that by the end of the month, he could barely stand being together with his trainer in the truck.

He realized his mistake when he asked another instructor and her female student, who said that the requirement for the training period was 275 hours of driving as a “trainee” with no 30-day requirement.

Josh Giesbrecht, a Long-Haul OTR Trucker

Josh Giesbrecht, a Canadian long-haul OTR Trucker told about his life as a truck driver for Popular Mechanics. Josh also documents his day on his YouTube channel, and he’s accompanied by his dogs Diesel and Sergeant on his long days and nights on the road.

Does He Own His Truck?

Josh said that he does own his truck, but he’s contracted to a Canadian company. He stated that owning your own truck gives you more freedom in what you can do. He decided to use this freedom to travel with his dogs. Having a good, reliable truck equals getting paid more. He gets paid per hour, and being an owner-operator, he gets $1 to $1.20 per mile, which is quite higher than what company drivers get, which is $0.35 to $0.45 per mile. The downside is he has to take care of all expenses, including fuel, repairs, and maintenance. He wraps up by saying if you are responsible, you’ll come on top of it and make more than the company employed truckers.

The Worst Thing that Happened to His Truck

It happened to a company truck, not his truck. His fuel gelled up from the cold. He explains that when you buy fuel from the south, it tends not to be conditioned for the cold up north. And that’s exactly what happened to him – he got stuck in the middle of nowhere with a truck that won’t run. From there, you have two choices, he continues, either to call a tow truck, or as in his case, call the police if your case is an emergency, so they can pick you up and get you to a motel so you don’t freeze to death on the side of the road at minus 50 degrees.

He said that he bought the fuel that froze in Kentucky and that he knows for a fact that the fuel sold in the US can withstand up to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and the fuel in Canada can withstand up to minus 40.

Steve Viscelli – A Trucking Sociologist

This one is quite unusual. Steve Viscelli, a trucking sociologist and author, gave an interview for American Trucker, in which he recounts his experience on the road. First, a little backstory. When he decided to write his book The Big Rig: Trucking & the Decline of the American Dream, he knew that he had to get behind the wheel to understand the driving profession. So, in 2005 he got into truck driving to get more sincere interviews from drivers.

What Led Steve to Drive a Truck

Steve says that he had to drive a truck to have the legitimacy to interview drivers. He states that you can’t really get a sense of what truck driving is by just talking to people. It’s a lifestyle that you have to live. He also adds that trucking is extremely physically challenging, as it takes over your whole life. It’s not a job you can just do for a couple of hours. It often includes being on the road on holidays, which is something that you can’t understand unless you actually go through it.

How Did He Start?

Steve says that he started like everyone else – through one of the big companies. He applied and he got sent a bus ticket. He then went to their training school. 

He didn’t make his reason for being there clear until much later. He behaved as any other trucker does. This was a chance for him to interview drivers more naturally. It didn’t matter much though, as drivers tended to be talkative, so they didn’t bother to suspect him. They were eager to tell their stories, and at times, when he started interviewing a driver, 10 more would come and start sharing stories. He says it was lots of fun for him.

The Harsh Truth About Countless Hours on the Road

During his period as a driver, Steve finally understood the incredible hours many truckers put in on the job. 80 to 100 hours a week are normal for some drivers. That’s a whopping 14 hours a day working in the middle of nowhere. Despite being advised to rest, you’re tired, but you don’t want to rest for 4-5 hours, as Steve puts it, you want to get back home.

Steve Realized Trucking Isn’t for Him

Steve says that he knew he couldn’t go on much longer after six months into the job. The interviews were very emotional, especially when he heard drivers who were doing the job for decades reflecting on their careers for the first time.

What Steve Heard about Trucking Was Not Positive

“Older driver said they didn’t even know who their own kids were because of the job, or their wives because of the job. One man said his kids are 20, 25 years old and they hardly know who he is.”

Another driver told him that he’s a successful owner-operator who used to come home on Saturday night pissed off and tired. He slept half of Sunday and went back on the road Monday. In between, his wife would want him to yell at the kids.

Steve says that the good money earned made no difference to veteran drivers. He also shares that the vast majority of drivers said that if given the chance, they wouldn’t do it again. And that they’d never recommend the life to anyone.

Wrapping Things Up

The above are just a part of the stories truck drivers have shared on the Internet over the years. Yes, trucking proved to be a demanding job, but every job has its difficulties. Not everyone is cut for being on the road, but if you are, a whole adventure awaits you. 

What we can do for you is to offer you a selection of the best trucking jobs available in the US. 

Find your next trucking job, and get ready to roll out.