Jeff Thurlow is an orientation instructor. As a former professional driver, he understands the unique challenges being an over-the road-driver brings. He shares his tips and tricks on how to balance your personal life while driving cross-country.
Q: What was your career before becoming a professional driver?
A: I was in the U.S. Army for 4 years, stationed at Fort Wainwright, AK. Once I got out I went to work for Electrolux, a refrigeration company that was based out of Greenville, MI.
Q: How long did you drive before coming off the road?
A: I drove for seven years until I came off the road into the training department in January of 2015. I stayed in the training department until December of 2015 when I moved into the Orientation instructor position.
Q: Did you have problems adjusting to the schedule?
A: I really did not. Being in the Military for four years I adjusted to the fast paced lifestyle and having to get things done on my own. I really enjoyed the thought of being my own boss and making my own schedule and seeing each load through to the end.
Q: Suggestions for those new to the industry?
A: My dad told me just before I left for boot camp, if you shut your mouth and open your ears you tend to learn a lot more. I still hold onto that thought today. With that, when someone comes into the industry find someone to learn from and listen. Truck drivers for the most part are willing to pass down any tidbits that will help a new driver.
Q: What are some best practices?
A: Building good habits from the start. That goes from the small things of taking the lock off and on the trailer door the same every time so you don’t forget it, to doing a proper pre, mid and post trip inspections and[doing your best at] preventing any surprises that may arise when pulled into a weigh station or a road side inspection.
Q: Do you teach that in orientation, if so what does it look like?
A: I do. I try to repeat things throughout the week that I think are important. The folks in orientation take in so much I try and emphasize the important things to try to get them to stick.
Q: How long did it take to adjust to the schedule change?
A: It really didn’t take me any time adjusting to the change. Holidays and summertime was the hardest for me when family and friends were together and I was out running the roads. I just had it in my mind that I was making life better for my wife and kids by doing this.
Q: What was the biggest challenge?
A: As much as our finishers prepare a new driver for the road, we as students only get a little sliver of the overall picture. Remembering and learning that there is a support staff is one of the keys to success.
Q: Any other advice?
A: Take this job one mile at a time, and don’t rush into anything. Generally it is the small things that will reach up and bite us when we let our guard down.