Meet a CDL Driver

Faces of Trucking: David - Starting As A Trucker After A Med Career

There are over 3.5 million truckers in America, and 3.5 million great trucking stories. This one is about David, check it out!

After 40 years in the medical field, David had seen enough pain, suffering, and misery to last a lifetime. His divorce was the final straw; it was time for him to make a change.

At 58 years old, he traded in all his advanced degrees for a CDL license and started car hauling in 2014.

David always considered himself a “car guy,” so car hauling seemed like a pretty good career fit. What he didn’t know was the sheer amount of physical stamina and strength the job demanded.

“It’s the toughest job I’ve ever done in my life!”

One Of The Team

The first thing David did was join his local Teamster union.

He says it was a necessary move. He wanted the security of excellent benefits, a 401(k), and a pension for when he retired.

He says he’s one of the luckier ones. The fruits of his former life gave him financial stability, allowing him the luxury of changing careers without it completely altering his lifestyle.

Even so, he firmly believes that truckers should join unions.

“You need a voice. Some of these companies promise you the sun and moon, and as soon as you sign on, it’s all out the window. It’s the unions that end up fighting for us, not the companies we work for.”

One issue the union helps members with is the fight against fatigue.

“It’s part of our ‘thing,'” David mentions. “We just have to say ‘driver fatigue,’ and they can’t give me a dispatch or send me on the road.”

With the union behind him, the company he works for has to allow him to rest if he’s overly exhausted. With all the news stories about fatal crashes due to a driver falling asleep at the wheel, he says that this step is a necessary preventative measure.

David also says that the Teamster healthcare is excellent, and the union dues cover the cost.

After you’ve put in five years as a driver, you earn $500 a month in pension checks. For David, he can look forward to a little extra spending money every month. Lifelong truckers will see a larger pension check when they retire.

He cautions that the “car hauling industry is a blame-game.”

“Whoever is the last one to touch a car, if it shows up damaged, they’re the one who gets nailed for it. That’s another place where having the union behind you can have a major advantage. They’ll step in and back me up and say ‘Hey, he wasn’t adequately trained in this!’ Because I really wasn’t. Car hauling training is barely adequate, at best.”

The Long Haul

David sees himself sticking around the trucking industry for a few more years before retiring “somewhere in the hills of Tennessee.”

In the meantime, his job, working at Cassens Transport out of Toledo, Ohio, pays well, at $1.21 per mile.

The average driver makes around $0.38 to $0.48 per mile, so car hauling sees a significantly better paycheck, but it’s “back-breaking work.”

David says that the majority of drivers he’s met have been the least educated, yet are pulling in more than some people with a “pile of college degrees.”

“Anyone with a GED or high school diploma can train to be a truck driver and make a decent income; they just need the motivation and realization that it’s a different kind of lifestyle.”

After being in the industry for a couple of years, it amazes him that some of the guys can “just look at the cars that need to be loaded and know exactly what to do.”

To David, it’s still a puzzle.

“I always thought I was a pretty intelligent guy. I have three college degrees; I’ve taught medical students, and I’ve written chapters for college textbooks. But I still can’t see the big picture of knowing and understanding how everything comes together so that you can get the cars strapped down to height without damaging them. The guys I work with have been doing this for 20 or 30 years; it’s so easy for them. They try explaining it, and I’m just like, ‘huh?’”

David says that this new career has humbled him because it has shown him a side of life where you need more than “just a brilliant mind.” The cars do get damaged, all the time.

“There’s a million and one ways to destroy those cars. It’s a miracle when they show up on a dealer’s lot without a single scratch!”

David has firsthand experience accidentally damaging cars in his care. He’s thankful that they were only considered minor damages, which usually totals under $2,500. Anything over $2,500 is major damage. After a few of those, you lose your job.

Not everyone is equipped for car hauling. Aside from having to be physically fit, you have to be agile enough to get in and out of cars easily. Maneuvering the car decks is like walking a tightrope.

“You can’t be a big, burly guy unless you’re super lithe and graceful.”

Sound Advice

“If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it, because it’s not gonna happen!”

David is one to learn from experiences, mistakes and all. There isn’t much room for error when you’re driving an 80,000-pound vehicle, so drivers need to rely on a combination of good judgment and what they learned as a trucking student.

He has advice for new drivers.

“Manage your time wisely. You need to avoid highly trafficked, congested areas like Chicago and Pittsburgh because, if you’re stuck in traffic for two hours and getting paid per mile, you aren’t making a dime.”

When it comes to relying on a GPS, he advises not to.

“You just can’t count on your GPS. Those things don’t know that you’re in a giant vehicle that can’t make tight turns. If you find yourself in a situation that is going to take you down a residential street, don’t do it.”

He says guys just getting into the industry need to realize that it’s a first come, first served gig, and they’re going to have a “willy-nilly” schedule.

“There are gonna be night shifts, there are gonna be layoffs, and there are going to be long periods of time away from home. You really need to be self-reliant, semi-resourceful, and get used to the alone time, because there is a lot of it.”

To be a successful truck driver, David would tell you that aside from time management and good judgment, you also need to maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle.

He has noticed how unhealthy so many of his fellow drivers are, and coming from the medical field, he feels it is cause for alarm.

He believes trucking is a “healthcare disaster waiting to happen.”

David feels if the same standards expected in the healthcare industry were applied to the trucking industry, it would be a lot safer and much more enjoyable for the average driver.

He Likes It; He Really Likes It!

All in all, David enjoys the trucking experience.

“It’s a different world. But, I enjoy it. I enjoy the driving; I always have.”

He’s been able to view our beautiful country, naming the Great Plains as an incredible view. He’s seen some crazy things since he started in the industry almost three years ago. He feels it just adds to his life adventure, though.

“At this point in my life, it’s enough for me, and I’m okay with it.”

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