Monday, May 23, 2011

The trucking life

Last week I officially registered for a CDL training class through Kishwaukee Community College. Class starts June 6. I've thought about trucking since finishing the Pacific Crest Trail in 2004. One of my best friends from childhood went through truck driver training and drove a rig for awhile. Also, while on that hike, I rode in a the cab of a 18-wheeler to Ashland, Ore. (click here to link to the journal entry from that day)

I have grown continually disheartened at the grim prospects for public school teaching. And when I learned that truck drivers earn an average wage commensurate with what I would earn as a teacher, I jumped at the idea. I've got a good driving record and a long time ago had a CDL to drive a school bus. Strange thing: In 1997 I got three traffic violations within months of beginning work as a school bus driver, and I lost my job. I haven't had so much as a parking ticket since then. I also do not have any felonies and am not addicted to drugs or alcohol. Hey, that makes me a good candidate for being a truck driver.

I hope long haul trucking is a good source of income until the economy improves and public school teaching jobs become more widely available to one with limited experience (one year) like me. I still dream of teaching a middle school language arts program, and think I have a lot to offer students. In the meantime, I am pursuing many writing goals and thankful, at least, that teaching isn't diverting my creative energies elsewhere. I thought about teaching community college part-time, but the travel involved and lack of benefits negates that option. Plus, even after I get back into teaching, having a CDL could provide me with a source of income during summer breaks and holidays. I am determined to make good on this training investment.

I love to travel and see the country. The only downside is being away from friends and family for extended periods of time. Being a good truck driver involves not only good driving skills, but time management, navigational skills, the ability to manage and organize paperwork, and a temperament suited to long days. The only thing I'm worried about is staying in shape. I've made so many improvements to my diet and overall health, and I don't want to backslide into eating junk food and not exercising. It will take discipline to avoid the fattening temptation of truck stop fare.

I love the nomadic aspects of truck driving, the idea of waking up each day in a different place. While seeing the USA from the interstate is a lot less interesting than seeing it from a trail, I am resourceful with pack and map, and will no doubt figure out some way to integrate adventure into my travels.

But first things first. I've got four weeks of training ahead, then the homework of finding a good company to work for that will hire a newbie driver.

I've already done a fair amount of Internet research, but as any prospective driver knows, there is a glut of information out there. The only thing I'm sure of is that there are many, many jobs available for qualified drivers. This seems to be a recession-proof occupation.

One of my favorite sites so far is: www.lifeasatrucker.com While the multiple typographical errors are annoying, this site, created by a long-haul trucker, has a wealth of information and gives a realistic portrayal of the trucking life.

The best video series I've found so far on YouTube is Trucker's Life. Driver Vince puts the viewer in the cab, on the loading dock, and at the truck stop, and along the way touches on every aspect of the truck driving life. Here's the first of about 20 videos he created. I've watched them all, and while some of my romantic notions of the trucking life have been dispelled (it seems as if truckers have no free time), I also came away from viewing them confident that I can do and enjoy this job.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw the videos by Vince on YouTube. I watched them from summer 2009 to summmer 2010 when he ended them.All of them were good. I think he left when the demands of the truck driving became a lot more with the shipments. His filming was so very good and I liked how he listened to a lot of uptempo dance music on his routes to keep him alert.