Faces of Trucking: Joseph - Trucking Is Not Flying, Close Enough?

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

For as long as he could remember, Joseph wanted to fly. After spending his twenties in and out of college where he was having a hard time finding himself, he decided to chase an old dream and become a pilot. To his profound disappointment, despite a degree from a fancy flight school, Joseph found he was chasing his tail instead of that dream. Pilot jobs just weren’t as plentiful as he had hoped. Feeling a bit defeated, Joseph tucked his tail and landed a job at his dad’s mortgage company in California.

Running Down a Dream

Mortgages weren’t for him. He realized it was, once again, time to reimagine his life, “I started thinking, what is the closest thing to flying? Well, trucking is kinda similar!” Shortly after his epiphany, Joseph applied to trucking school where he got his CDL Class A license. He looked forward to seeing the country. It wasn’t going to be from a bird’s-eye view, but instead from behind the massive windshield of an 18-wheeler, an idea with which he was perfectly content. “I like being out in the world, not cooped up in an office with a boss breathing down my neck!”

Always a bit of a loner, Joseph was wholeheartedly ready to embrace the trucking lifestyle. It seemed like it could be the perfect match for his personality, “I always gravitated towards those kinds of jobs.“ He enjoys being by himself, alone with his thoughts. In fact, he idolizes astronaut Mike Collins, “...the guy who stayed on the ship when Neil and Buzz went down to the Moon in '69. Flying around the Moon over and over (all alone) sounds pretty cool if you ask me! Just sitting there in the dark listening to Black Sabbath on my 8-track enjoying the awesome view!”

Despite his initial enthusiasm, Joseph ended up sitting on his CDL license for two years. He decided he didn’t want to live in a truck for days on end, for pay he doesn’t think matches what it takes to do the job. Instead, he took his chances and worked some part-time gigs “...for $100 a day, but had to quit after a month because there was too much heavy lifting and I injured myself. Eventually I found another local job, again for $100 a day, this time no heavy lifting. But, after two months the job turned out to be just holiday help and I was let go.”

Words of Wisdom

Joseph strongly feels it’s important that people know the harsh reality of the trucking world before spending their money to go to CDL school. Otherwise, they may find themselves out in the industry questioning everything they ever learned, “It’s mainly just the hours,” he cautions, “Full time can be brutal. 12-15 hours per day for days on end. It’s no life, just working and sleeping.” Which, he mentioned, is a major issue when it comes to driver fatigue, “I’ve literally watched a guy fall asleep at the wheel. I mean, if they started at 4 am and are going for 15 hours straight, they’re going to get tired. Who can blame them?”

Another shortcoming in the industry that Joseph has come to realize is the fact that there is no happy medium when it comes to full and part time trucking jobs. He says it’s almost as if the “trucking industry has completely skipped over the 8 hour a day job idea.” Part time, he says, doesn’t transfer into a liveable income. He mentioned that with some companies, part time is considered to be that standard eight-hour shift. And then, there’s full-time. Full-time, you have a decent income but no life in which to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

“It’s really not so easy to get one of those full-time jobs,” he explains. To get a full time, over-the-road (OTR) job these days, you need to have a couple of years experience under your belt. Which, he doesn’t understand because right after he got his CDL license, he was ‘thrown to the wolves” and driving on his own way too quickly. Now, it seems decent paying jobs come with significant competition, “good jobs go to guys with the hours and experience, not someone who was doing it part time and wanting to go full time.” Because the competition for those decent OTR jobs is so fierce, he says he truly doubts the legitimacy of the trucker shortage, “It’s kind of a hook to get people in the door.” He advises people going into the trucking industry to do so with their eyes wide open. If you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed. “

The Real Deal

Although Joseph feels like he still “can’t transfer this job into a full-time, pay-my-bills kind of job,” he does find a certain sense enjoyment in his part-time route where he gets to drives down the winding roads of beautiful California neighborhoods. He relishes in the silence of his truck, and the sights only California can offer. However, he’s not 100% certain that he wants to remain in the trucking industry. But, for now, it will do.

Even though he could make more being an owner/operator, owning his own truck holds no appeal. He appreciates working for someone and receiving a consistent paycheck despite the fact it isn’t as much money as he’d like. All in all, and despite all his uncertainties, he says it isn't exactly that bad of a gig. Now he just needs to find that happy medium where full-time driving is 8 hours per day, not fifteen. It may not come with big metal wings as Joseph once imagined, but he figures he’ll, at least temporarily, be flying quietly through life as a trucker.

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