Straight talk from drivers about what they do and why

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Truckers are not, for the most part, shy and retiring people. Listen to the CB as you drive cross country and you’ll find they have plenty to say. There are many who also make the most of expressing their views on social media.

When we asked them for their thoughts on the questions in our recent What Drivers Want survey, most respondents spoke their minds. Pieced together, a picture emerges of hard-working men and women, sometimes husbands and wives, leaning into their work — sometimes reluctantly — just to take care of the folks back home.

After our questions drivers had the opportunity to add their comments. In today’s installment of In Their Own Words, we’re sharing comments truckers made about why they drive, what they see as their long-term prospects of driving a truck, and their future in trucking.

Many of the comments provide insight into the allure of trucking as a career, but also its vulnerability. Some respondents talk about getting into the industry because others in their family were truckers, while others found their way to it when other work changed.

And, to no real surprise, plenty are the discouraged comments about where the industry is headed and what’s being lost in the process. Respondents complain about both personal losses and those on a broader, institutional scale. 

But, amidst the thorns, there was the occasional rose: “I love what I do 95% of the time. I drive for a great company and have a fantastic team of dispatchers, service guys, fleet managers, and payroll people behind me.”

Let’s take a closer look.

We asked: Why did you get into trucking?

They said:

  • Words 1There are a lot of different reasons to become a driver.  I love traveling, had to provide for my family, and wish to have a certain amount of independence in my job.”
  • “I was allowed to ride along once with a family friend as a young child and decided then that I was going to drive a truck when I grew up. So I am actually living my dream.”
  • “Military brat and really never stayed in one place over a year, so truckin’ is kinda my norm.”
  • “I owned a business when the economy crashed in 2008. Closed the business and got my CDL. Now it’s in my blood and I make great money.”
  • “I enjoy the travel and the freedom, but those days are done. This year I only do it on a part-time basis with no ELD.”
  • “I started driving 36 years ago, I always liked running machinery. I started driving on the farm as a kid hauling berries to the cannery and it went on from there!”
  • “I was looking for a change after 20 years driving Mass Public URBAN Transit buses in a city of over 1 million people. So I went and got my Class 1/CDL and tried regional highway driving instead.”
  • “Drove a wrecker when I was 18 years old, had friends (who) drove over-the-road. I’ve been over-the-road for 33 years and I love it out here. (It) used to be fun. It’s no longer fun; too many idiots on the road too many foreigners in the business  that can’t even speak English.”

We asked: How do you feel about your long-term prospects of driving a truck?

They said:

  • Words 2“The pay is really down and the ELD hasn’t made it any better where I’m not paying my bills. However, I’m still in it for the love of trucking.”
  • “It used to be OK but this is what I’ve done for about 40 years too old to learn a new skill.”
  • “Trucking has an ebb and flow cycle, freight rates and demand going up and down cycles. Just keep on trucking and things will always work out.”
  • “Will get out if I can. Too many idiots on the road. No fun anymore.”
  • “Bad freight prices and more and more government controls rising costs and way to much traffic.”
  • “Foreign-owned and operated trucks are a scourge to this business. The industry wants cheap drivers and NOT experienced truckers.”
  • “I’d like to keep making more each year but with all the new rules and regulations they keep coming up with, it isn’t very promising.”
  • “In the last years the big companies overflowed the trucking industry with many young drivers who are not trained properly, with the automatic transmission, it is very easy for them to hire anyone, so now the industry is oversaturated with drivers.”
  • “It’s definitely not what it used to be. I have been considering a different career because the money doesn’t add up to the sacrifices we give.”
  • “I love what I do 95% of the time. I drive for a great company and have a fantastic team of dispatchers, service guys, fleet managers, and payroll people behind me.”

We asked: What do you see for the future of your trucking career?

They said:

  • Words 3“I only have 10 or less years left and the way things are going I am worried it won’t be safe or worth it money-wise.”
  • “The way truckers are treated by the public and government and most corporate who would want to do it.”
  • “Time to retire. It’s been a good run. Too many people whining. You gotta change with the times.”
  • “Would like to get into a company that is moving forward with autonomous trucks.”
  • “It was a dream job years ago but the government and the technology geeks have ruined it. Now it’s just a job and I see my days being numbered.”
  • “I have a heart condition. I won’t pass the D.O.T. physical again.”
  • “I’ve got 3 years until I can get full retirement. I want to retire, got bad knees, flat feet, etc. I want to enjoy my retirement.”
  • “Between regulatory increases and autonomous driving technology, it’s hard to see trucking as a long-term driving proposition.”
  • “I love driving and enjoy most days on the road. I’m just concerned that driving jobs in the trucking industry will be very different and hardly recognizable in ten years, and most likely not available in twenty years.  If I was twenty years younger I would more than likely find a different career path to pursue.”
  • “I work for a small company, 5 tractors and trailers. We know each other, we are friends and are not just numbers. I love my job and really like where I work.”
  • “I’m about to put a rebuilt truck on the road. When it wears out, I’ll stop being an owner-operator and do what I have to do.”
  • “I can’t wait to retire, (and) leave chaos for the next generation, and the one after that. Too many government regulations. This job used to be enjoyable, now you have to worry about covering your butt!”

(Those comments came from readers of Truckers News and Overdrive responding to questions in our recent What Drivers Want survey. The responses came from 919 truckers — 589 company drivers (64%) and 330 leased owner-operators (36%).

In the next two stories about the contents of our What Drivers Want survey, we’ll share what drivers say about their pay and the prospects of retiring … or not.

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David Hollis is the editor of Truckers News and can be reached at davidhollis@randallreilly.com