“Head out on the highway. Lookin' for adventure.” The lyrics from Steppenwolf’s 1969 smash hit captures the freedom and exhilaration of the truck driver lifestyle. Although the song has largely been associated with motorcycle riding, truckers enjoy the freedoms of the open road like no other professional.
Whether sitting up high in the cab of an 18-wheeler rolling across the nation or delivering materials and good on regional routes, the truck driver lifestyle offers daily adventures. Professional truck drivers see new places, meet new people, and enjoy rewarding experiences people working indoors cannot imagine. Among the major differences between truckers and motorcycle enthusiasts is that truck-driving professionals earn good salaries working a variety of truck driver jobs.
Truck Driver Lifestyle Benefits for Millennials
The average age of today’s trucker stands at about 50 years old. That means that nearly 1 million people will be needed to fill vacancies in an industry already burdened with worker shortages. By that same token, Millennials are expected to comprise upwards of 75 percent of the country’s labor force by 2030. It’s easy to see that Millennials are the future of the trucking industry. If you are a Millennial weighing your employment opportunities, it’s fair to ask: What does the truck driver lifestyle have to offer?
- Immediate Opportunity: To work in the high-paying trucking industry, Millennials do not need a 4-year college degree. In fact, truck driver training schools require only a minimal investment by comparison. Trucking school can be completed in 2-3 months. And, good-paying trucking companies are willing to pay signing bonuses that cover part of all of your initial costs.
- Opportunity for Women: The perception of driving truck revolves around the image of an exhausted, unshaven older man driving all night and getting little sleep. Those days are long gone. Young women are fast entering the trucking workforce. According to USA Today, there are more than 217,000 long-haul women truckers, and the percentages increase each year. Although they make up less than 10 percent of the trucking workforce, women reportedly saw a $7,000 increase in driver pay over the last five years.
- Flexible Work Hours: According to reports by Forbes magazine and others, studies show that Millennials place a high emphasis on flexible hours. Research indicates that many Millennials are interested in non-traditional work schedules. Among the preferences outlined in the poll were alternative schedules, part-time, and freelance work. All of these positives fit the truck driver lifestyle quite well.
- Excellent Pay: There are reportedly upwards of 100,000 trucking job openings available and not nearly enough qualified drivers to fill them. Today’s Millennial fleet drivers can be paid upwards of $70,000 with the potential to earn bonuses and other perks.
It’s also crucial for Millennials thinking about a career as a professional driver to understand that today’s big rigs are comfortable and fully outfitted with the latest technologies. The technological advancements in other fields are being equally enjoyed by open road pros.
Be Prepared for the Truck Driver Lifestyle
Recognizing the wealth of opportunities for men and women who hold CDLs attracts many people to the profession. But it’s critically important to have a sense of what the truck driver lifestyle entails. In too many cases, people enter the field with expectations that it’s fast, easy cash. Driving truck remains hard work and is not suited for everyone.
According to an American Trucking Association report, driver turnover rates in 2017 hovered just below 90 percent for large truckload fleets and 80 percent for small fleets. Those rates accounted for both normal attrition and those getting out of the industry for other reasons. That’s why it’s essential to have a realistic grasp about what the lifestyle is all about. These are things you can expect.
- Capped Truck Speeds: The idea that drivers must race across the country to meet the boss’ demands is simply untrue. Today’s freight haulers are actually moving in the opposite direction by capping a rig’s speed capabilities under 65 mph.
- Unusual Perks: It may come as a surprise, but truckers are often welcomed at stops with free coffee, lunch and other perks. In some cases, customers refuse modestly damaged packages, and you might be permitted to keep them. Truckers end up with some oddities.
- Trucks are Mini Apartments: Today’s cabs often come with amenities such as air conditioning, heat, mini refrigerators, and cooking facilities. A crock pot or Foreman grill may not be entirely out of the question.
- Drive Alone: Professional drivers are generally alone in the vehicle for the entire run. The idea of picking up a hitchhiker for companionship is a poor decision. It could get you fired. If you are considering a truck driving position, be sure you are comfortable with plenty of quiet time.
- Professional Courtesy: A minority of drivers believe that others should get out of their way because they are working. That attitude will likely not lead to longevity in the trucking industry. Companies routinely put an 800 number on vehicles with slogans such as “How’s my driving?” Disgruntled motorists absolutely call and complain. A courteous trucker is more likely to earn bonuses for good driving habits.
- Fitness Challenge: Driving truck remains a relatively sedentary job. You will spend long hours in a seated position. This reality can lead to diminished health if you do not eat a healthy diet and do basic fitness activities when off duty. Consider getting a step counter and set walking goals among other strategies.
It takes a confident, independent personality to have a long and fruitful career as a truck driver. There are a wide range of positions besides long-haul driving. Dedicated driving jobs with established companies can allow truckers to remain in one area and even be home every night. And, Owner Operators can negotiate pay and freelance with increased flexibility. Simply put, long-haul driving is not the only lifestyle available.
Positive Aspects of the Truck Driver Lifestyle
Regardless of what your preferences, there are certain things that the vast majority of truckers see as lifestyle positives. These are among the more attractive reasons everyday Americans enjoy driving a truck for a living.
- Freedom of the open road
- No boss looking over your shoulder
- Get paid to see the country
- Job security
- Become your own boss
The economic security of working in the trucking industry is undeniable. Ongoing driver shortages are forcing companies to compete by offering increased wages and benefits. There’s basically no such thing as an unemployed truck driver, just one weighing his or her best options. That being said, it may be in your best interest to speak with truckers about life on the road. Weigh their experiences and these considerations against the truck driving opportunities you are considering before you head out on the highway.