Here's what veteran truckers would tell next generation of truck drivers

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Updated May 19, 2023
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There’s a recurring lament in trucking circles about the disappearance of traditional sit-down restaurants at truck stops. And, it’s not necessarily part of the other lament that drivers cannot exist on fast food alone.

The disappearance of sit-down restaurants, especially mom-and-pop diners at independent truck stops, was not only about food. What’s also missing is the opportunity to socialize, to talk with fellow drivers, to swap stories, and share information about everything from road conditions to what it's like to drive for this company or another.

Brought To You By ShellFor new drivers, this informal exchange was like sitting in on a master class with lectures delivered by the professionals of the highway. It was an opportunity to learn all those things they didn’t teach at CDL school.

Recently, Truckers News and its sister publication Commercial Carrier Journal (where you can read the complete results of the latest What Drivers Want survey) polled our readers on a variety of topics.

A total of 812 drivers responded to our survey; 566 company drivers and 246 leased owner-operators. Most – 53% – are over-the-road long-haul drivers.

Screenshot 2023 05 16 At 10 29 08 AmThese are mostly veteran drivers, part of the mature cadre of truckers many in the industry worry will soon begin entertaining thoughts of retirement. Fully 72% of respondents are 55 years old or older; 27% are between the ages of 35 and 54 while just 2% are 34 and younger. 

Respondents are also drivers who have spent much of their lives on the road: 69% said they have driven for 20 years or more; 8% have driven 16 to 20 years; 6% for 11 to 15 years; 8% 6 to 10 years; and 7% for 5 years or less.

They are also serious road warriors with the miles to prove it. Twenty-six percent said they drive between 100,001 and 125,000 miles a year and the same number typically log from 75,001 to 100,000 miles. Another 17% drove between 125,001 and 150,000 miles and 8% logged over 150,00.

And, what did they get for all those miles?

Slightly more than half – 53% – said they earned a net income of over $75,001 in the last year; 31% earned $75,001 and $100,000 and 22% said they earned $100,000 or more.

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So, you can see, these were drivers who had something of value to impart when we asked them this question: “If you could tell the next generation of truck drivers one thing, what would that be?”

Here are some of their comments, many of which ought to be helpful to drivers who are new to the industry.

Learn From Others

“Talk to a driver that’s been driving for a long time.”

“Don't buy into the lies others tell in this industry. Talk to people who have 20-plus years and they'll give it to you straight.”

“Just ask questions and listen to what we have to say.”

“Don't hesitate to ask questions and don't settle for any safety compromising equipment or conditions.”

“Pay attention to the road. Put down your phone. Learn every day.”

“Get proper training by someone who has been driving longer than one or two years. Learn the proper way to safely do the job.”

“It can be a solid career if you are willing to listen and admit that you don't know everything. Ever.”

“Take this job seriously. Learn all you can and never stop learning. Have patience. Ask for help when you need it.”

“Never stop learning.  If you think you know it all, (it’s) time to hang up your keys and go flip burgers.”

“Listen to experienced drivers, and accept constructive criticism without attitude.”

“Learn the old-style rules of trucking, it might keep you alive.”

“Find a seasoned owner with jeans, boots, and a CB radio and ride with and learn to operate with skill! Save your flip-flops for the shower.”

“Get as much training as you can, (and) ask lots of questions about the business,  and not just from the big companies ask O/O’s  and join OOIDA from the start.”

“Learn from those of us that have been doing it longer than your mother has been alive, stop ignoring us, pay attention to everything around you. Slow down!!!! Take it upon yourself to prevent accidents.”

“Don't give up on the job. Learn from the older drivers that have been in the industry for many years. Don't ever think that you have all the answers. Until you have a million plus miles, you are still a young pup and still have things to learn.”

Understand The Basics

“Learn to be patient.”

“Take your time, no load is worth your life.”

“Relax and enjoy the drive.”

“It’s not an easy job. You have to have a goal attached to keep you motivated and have patience for crazy drivers.”

“Don't always be in a hurry, that's when accidents happen.”

“It’s a lifestyle that you must love to be good at this job.”

“Know your worth. Know how to be safe while continuously learning. Know you will make mistakes and own up to what happens and learn from them.”

“Work hard, get used to the trucking industry. Don't be lazy, show professional partnerships towards other drivers.”

“Trucking is a serious, strenuous, complex, career. It takes dedication, commitment. Above all commitment, I've done 37 years so far.”

“Find a job you love to do every day, then it doesn’t feel like work and it’s more enjoyable.”

“Believe only 80% of what your GPS says. You are the captain of your truck, don't drive if it ain't safe and document, document, document to CYA.”

“Put the phone down. Don’t text and drive. Watch everything around you. Look way up in front of you. Read DOT rules and regulations. Learn the laws. Learn what to do, how to act by observing what other drivers do. Turn headlights off when parked. Don't park on fuel Island, pull up.”

“Be ready for an adventure where you will meet new people, go to interesting places, and haul interesting loads, but don't forget that you have to have a home base where you can get out of your truck and be around people.”

“Pay attention to the road and vehicles around you. Make sure you always have your CB radio on so other drivers can warn (you) if there is an accident or the road is shut down and bad spots on the road if it's bad weather.”

“Understand that you are NOT IN CONTROL of traffic, dispatch, or electronic devices.  You can only control your response to handling the equipment and cargo.”

“Learn how to back up. Don't be afraid to work hard, it won't kill you.”

“Be patient, it gets better the longer you do it. Have a good attitude.”

“Be careful and keep your record clean. Try to be the best at what you do. Work hard and you will never have to worry about a job.”

“Trip planning is key to a successful day at the office. Know where you're going, when you're going to get there (to avoid traffic, school times, local regulations, etc.), and where you will go afterward once loaded/empty.”

“Know what you are doing behind the wheel and know how to fix minor issues with your truck.”

“Learn how to operate your truck like the two of you are a team. Pay attention to everything that is happening on the road.”

“Be proactive in the maintenance of your vehicle. It's much less likely to let you down if it's well maintained.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

“Dress professionally. Put on a belt and don't wear flip-flops or house shoes.”

“Be considerate of the next driver.”

“Be on time to appointments and maintain your equipment.”

“Never stop learning. Look respectable. Be respectful.”

“Learn to respect one another. We all are doing the same job out here. Respect the places that allow parking; no trash or human fluids left behind.”

“Be respectful of other drivers and be professional.”

“Take pride in what you do and how you look. I see so many wearing flip-flops which are dangerous and ragged clothing, and hygiene is bad. I don't get it; (there are) free showers available.”

“Always be willing to step up for your company and go the extra mile to get the job done. Know when to stand up for your rights as a driver and do it in a professional manner. Dress for respect and professionalism. If you want respect as a driver then don't be wearing flip-flops and sweat suits or shorts like you're on vacation. If your company provides a uniform then wear it with pride. My company gives us shirts from time to time and i wear them with a nice pair of jeans and my cowboy boots. If I'm not then I'm in a nice pearl snap work shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots or work boots. Take pride in yourself as a driver and respect each other. Also, help your fellow driver out when you can.”

“When at fuel island pull forward after (you get) fuel. Get out of the way (and) take your break somewhere else. This is a huge problem.”

“Respect each other and yourself by being safe. If your heart is not into trucking please stay out of the business.”

“Follow your dreams but above all be respectful to yourself so you can be respectful to others.”

“This is not a job. It is a profession to be appreciated and loved. This is not a career, it is a way of life.  This is not something that should be taken lightly –  it should be respected and treated with care and awareness.”

It’s The Company You Keep

“Find a good company and stay with them. Changing jobs too often costs you money.”

“Get a college degree first or go to a vocational school and learn a trade and then see if you are still interested in driving a truck. Trucking is hard on your health and family life.”

“Get into a company that really is willing to teach you what you need to know before they cut you loose”

“Look for a carrier that has lots of senior (long-term) drivers. Understand the reasons they stick around.”

“Work smarter, not harder. Try to find a good balance with career and home life and to find a carrier that understands that it's family, faith, and furthering your career.”

“The first two years are tough. Find a good company with good benefits and home time as soon as you can. Absolutely start saving for retirement as early as possible.”

“Work for a good union company. The benefits far outweigh the cons.”

“Don't drive for any mega company. (They don't pay enough for all the micro management that they do to you every day.) Say no to driving anything with, stability control, lane management, that stops on its own or automatic transmission. You as a driver need to be in control.  Antilock brakes are good though.”

“Find a carrier you can work with, not just work for.”

“Find a company you can tolerate and hang with them and poke all the money you can in a 401K.”

Take Good Care of Yourself

“Maintain your physical and mental well-being. Learn the early signs of your fatigue. Diet and exercise are critical to longevity and safety.”

“Keep educating yourself and updating your skill levels to make yourself more employable.”

“Be strong, know the rules, and don't endanger yourself or others. Stay legal, you are the only one who really has your back. Pay attention to your health, neglect when you are young will haunt you later.”

And, finally …

“You are a professional. Act like one. Demand professional pay and equipment and then work it as a professional.  Know your regulations, customers, be polite and friendly to everyone and have some pride in yourself as a critical part of this great country we're lucky to be a part of and don't let leadership treat you as any less if you're giving it your very best.”

For more insights about What Drivers Want, download the complete study from Commercial Carrier Journal. Just click here.