For those new to the industry living over the road can be a huge adjustment. You are learning a new career and at the same time a new lifestyle. We recently sat down with our Driver Advocate, Tim Hicks to talk about some tip and tricks of the trade.
TL: How would you describe life as an over the road driver to a person from a different career?
Hicks: One word “hard”. Most people that drive a car back and forth to work each day are oblivious to trucks, until one is front of them or is slowing them down. What most people fail to even think about is that driver is just trying to do his or her job safely and to return home.
Driving an 80,000lb piece of equipment is nothing like operating a car, or a pickup or a U-Haul. It takes a practiced skill set, with little or no margin for error.
But it is also rewarding. Every day is different. Even if you’re driving a dedicated route, the scenery may be the same, but the environment you work changes. Night to day and summer to winter.
TL: What was the biggest thing that helped you adjust to the new schedule?
Hicks: As a professional over-the-road river there is no set schedule. One day you might be driving from 7 am to 6 pm and the next might be from 7 pm to 6 am, you just never know.
As a professional driver you learn to sleep when you can. The home-time schedule is not like the 9 to 5’ers that get to go home every night or off on the weekends. You learn to have birthdays and anniversaries when you get home. Your family also learns this. It is the sacrifice one does to have this career. Everything is planned, scheduled, and re-planned, it’s just trucking.
TL: Do you have any military experience?
Hicks: Yes, I was in the Air Force.
TL: Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare for you for this career?
Hicks: Yes, coming from a military background into the trucking industry has similarities. Deployments and TDY’s happen, the service members learn to adapt to that adversity.
The families are left at home and learn to be self-sufficient. Vets and their families already understand, they know that dad isn’t going to be home for a ball game or mom won’t be there for a skinned knee. That family takes on all kinds of roles that the “normal” family may note.
Folks that have prior military experience understand “hurry up and wait.”
TL: What was your favorite part of driving over the road?
Hicks: Driving. I love to drive, whether in a truck, car or riding my motorcycle – I have to be moving. Being up in that cab, having 450 horsepower underneath me and driving across the desert one day, then in mountains the next. It’s all about the drive.
I have the chance to take all three of my kids on truck trips, and have a grandson that will be 12 soon, hopefully I can get him out. I’ll take vacation just to go drive truck with him.
That trip I would do for free.
As an OTR Driver you see things and places that the normal working person dreams about. People work all year to take a vacation to see this great country. We crisscross it each week.
I like the adventures. The challenges. There was a sense of pride when you delivered the hot load or when you backed into a dock that you knew others would struggle with.
TL: Can you please share some advice for new drivers?
Hicks: Every day is a learning experience. Truck driving is a skill, it takes practice.
Most anybody can drive forward, it’s the part of the job we do the most. Our peers, our customers and ourselves sometimes score us on the part of the job we do least, that is backing.
Backing is a skill that is only mastered over time and is only mastered by practice. As a driver, there is a feeling of accomplishment when you back into a spot, straight and square.
As a professional driver we can never let out guard down, not for a second (a second is half of a football field).
Advice: don’t let others dictate what you are going to do.