There is currently a huge driver shortage for CDL A drivers in North America. The logistics and transportation industry is hot and demand for these services continues to grow. The current market presents a great opportunity for a long-term career if you’re looking for something that’s not an 8-5 office job. If you’re considering becoming a truck driver, you’re probably wondering what exactly a typical day in the life of a trucker is like. Life on the road might be hard for you to imagine, especially if you currently have a job that puts you in an office all day. It’s difficult to lay out exactly what the life of a professional driver is like since there are a variety of trucks, trailers, freight types, and companies that you might drive for. Driving a truck for a living can be a great choice if you are looking for a new, different and rewarding career.
Is a Truck Driver Lifestyle Right for Me?
There are certainly a lot of benefits to becoming a truck driver, but like any decision, it’s important to look at the pros and cons before starting a new career. There are a lot of variables between jobs in the trucking industry depending on where you’re located, whether you drive a dedicated route or not, and whether you are a solo or team driver. It’s important to look holistically at a truck driver lifestyle-figure out how often you will be away from home (for example, an OTR driver is home less frequently than a local driver), if your schedule would be the same every week and what company benefits would go along with the job. Most trucking companies offer benefits like quality home time, paid time off, retirement plans and holiday pay. Being a driver can be a great way to make a good, stable living, provide for your family, get out from behind a desk and travel the country.
A Day in the Life of two ITS Logistics Team Drivers
We talked to two ITS drivers, Wills and Jason, to get an idea of what driving a semi truck for a living is really like. ITS offers a lot of different driving options from casual local work, to over the road (OTR), to final mile white glove delivery, to long haul team driving. Wills and Jason were ITS team drivers who ran a dedicated route from Reno to Southern California and were on the road an average of 5 days at a time. They painted a picture of the life of a truck driver, what it’s like to drive for ITS, and offered some advice for the novice driver and the experienced driver alike.
The first year on the job is the toughest
According to Wills and Jason, adjusting to the trucking lifestyle can be difficult, especially the schedule of being away from home for extended periods of time. This is evident when it comes to planning things like doctor’s appointments, an oil change for your personal vehicle, or even a movie night with friends. When you’re out on the road, if something happens, like a road closure due to an accident, forest fire or winter storm that causes you to run behind, you could be home later than expected. Living on the road also takes some getting used to, like not having running water a lot of the time and carrying everything you need with you-it’s like camping constantly. If you’re a team driver, it also takes some time to get used to sleeping in a moving truck (this is especially true if your co driver is not mindful of keeping the ride smooth and the cab quiet when you’re trying to sleep).
What are the trucks like?
A truck and trailer, tractor trailer, big rig, no matter what you call it, it’s made up of either a day cab, typically about 20 feet, or a sleeper cab, typically 25 feet, plus a single 48 or 53-foot trailer, two 28.5-foot trailers (doubles), or three 28.5-foot trailers (triples). Day cabs are designed for local drivers who are home daily and don’t have to sleep on the road. The sleeper cabs have beds in the back to allow for solo drivers to pull over at a truck stop or rest stop and sleep when they have exceeded their hours of service, or for team drivers, so one can sleep while the other drives. In addition to the bed, the newer models have heated and cooled seats, Bluetooth, a small mini-fridge, inverters, and a little room for storage. Most of them have room for a small microwave and a plug-in cooler, both of which Jason and Wills use, especially since they are on the road for days at a time.
What is it like for the spouse or partner of a driver?
The life of a truck driver can be difficult for spouses and partners of drivers, especially of a long haul trucker or team drivers who are away for much longer periods of time. However, longtime drivers can make a good enough living to support their families and sometimes spouses if they want to stay home with the kids. Some drivers are also able to be fully present with their family and friends when they’re home because they are gone frequently for work. It really depends on the relationship and the job circumstances. Some couples team drive together, which can be great for their bank account and their relationship. It’s hard to say exactly what it’s like for the spouse of a long haul driver unless you’ve experienced this lifestyle.
Advice for new CDL truck drivers
Meal prepping is also critical. Eating at truck stops and shopping on the road can be expensive and unhealthy. It’s also important to prepare snacks and meals you can eat while moving, like sandwiches, veggie wraps or whole fruit. Additionally, by purchasing healthier options and packing meals in advance, you can save a lot of money since you’re out on the road instead of going out with friends or eating out. To save even more money, make sure that you sign up for rewards cards at truck stops and hotels. Jason and Wills just cashed in their points to get a brand-new GPS and a week of free hotel stays on a recent vacation. Additionally, if your trucking company offers a 401(k) program, enroll in it as soon as you are eligible and start saving your money early. Drivers rely heavily on their health, so it’s very important to have money saved in case something happens. Along with that, staying active when you’re not driving is vital to your health and wellbeing. When you’re done driving for the day, get out of the truck and go for a walk, or bring your bicycle, free weights or skateboard with you in the truck. Whatever you like to do to exercise and stay active when you’re at home, make a conscious effort to continue to do it while on the road.
“You get paid to road trip. Get out and about with bikes, skateboards, whatever. If you’re willing to get out of the truck, you can see a lot of cool stuff.”
Jason, ITS Driver since 2016
A truck driving job can get a little monotonous sometimes, but when you’re behind the wheel out on the open road, you can learn anything you ever wanted to know with podcasts or audiobooks. On one recent trip, while Wills was sleeping on his off shift, Jason learned everything about the Titanic. If you’re a team driver, finding a co-driver who you work well with for 120 hours per week is very important and not a decision that should be made lightly. It’s also important to be able to swallow your pride and ask for help when you need it. Driving a massive tractor trailer can be intimidating enough without the stress of getting lost or delivering to unknown places. Befriend experienced drivers at your company that may be able to help you if you’re not sure how to maneuver tricky pickups or drop offs. Just like any other job, it’s important to do your best, which means showing up on time, getting good mileage and prioritizing safety over all else. At ITS, you will be rewarded for that with bonuses and better lanes. Since the trucker life is so independent, you also need to be able to make decisions on your own and stand up for yourself. Working for a company like ITS that listens to you and respects your input is one of the most important things you can do as a new driver.
“People always tell me I look so happy—and I tell them that it’s not trucking that makes me so happy, it’s ITS. If it weren’t for ITS, I probably would have left the profession a long time ago.”
Wills, ITS Driver since 2013
Does a Truck Driver Lifestyle Appeal to you? Apply to be an ITS Logistics CDL Driver
At ITS Logistics, we hire mostly CDL A and some CDL B commercial drivers for a multitude of opportunities. We have terminals in Nevada, California and Pennsylvania, but have lanes across the country. As an ITS driver, you’ll be joining an experienced team with a safety-first culture, driving for Fortune 500 companies, in one of the newest fleets on the road. We offer great pay and competitive benefits, 401K with company match, national healthcare coverage, generous home time, holidays and paid time off-and most importantly, respect. All you need is a Class A Commercial Driver’s License, one year of experience and a clean driving record to join the team at ITS Logistics. If you’re interested in learning more about driving for ITS, give us a call today!