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Driver Lifestyles

Trucking as Career Choice

By Gary Addis
Posted Aug 1st 2012 7:35AM


No need to tell you that the American economy is still trying to recover from the 2008 recession.  We've been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs for more than a decade; while we weren't looking, America began evolving into a service economy.  Obviously, some segments of society are suffering badly due to the lack of jobs. After an initial slowdown, however, the transportation industry is again going strong.  

I'm no economist, but I can say for a fact that people will always have to eat, wear clothes and live in houses or apartments.   Trucking delivers everything Americans need to live comfortably, including the cars we drive.

According to the US Department of Labor, economic growth during the next 10 years will create employment for an additional 320,000 truckers:

• Additionally, another 219,000 new truck drivers must be found to replace driver retirees and folk who change careers.

• Combining these two figures gives total expansion and replacement hiring needs of 539,000, or an average of about 54,000 per year. However, this is a net figure. It reflects the bare minimum number of employment opportunities within the industry.  

In as few as six weeks, a trucker can begin earning a higher income than that of many professions that require several years of specialized classroom study.  But as any truck driver will tell you, trucking is not merely a job.   More than any other career, trucking is a lifestyle choice.  

Truckers come from all walks of life... from all economic classes.   Owner-operator Sterling Hickman, for instance, had been a well paid machinist for 24 years when he decided to change careers.   Although some truckers are high school dropouts, a large percentage have earned university degrees.   As Dave Robles, a driver-trainer friend remarked, "It isn't about what you know that makes you a good trucker; it's how willing you are to open your mind and learn."  

As a licensed CDL trucker, you will have more employment choices than any other occupation can offer.   You can choose to work for a one-truck owner operator, a small fleet, or a fleet employing thousands.   You can choose to pull short trailers, long trailers (reefers or dry box or livestock); or, you can become an expedited freight driver.

Driving your own rig obviously will be more rewarding on a number of levels than driving for anyone else.   But the purchase price of even a used tractor and 55' trailer can be prohibitively expensive-- indeed, as dear as the cost of a comfortable home.  

A more sensible route to independence for driver Sterling Hickman and his wife Kim was provided by another segment of the transportation industry.   The initial equipment purchase was easier on the family pocketbook, certainly, but that's hardly the only reason they chose to become expediter owner-operators.

Leased to Panther Expedited Services, Sterling and Kim enjoy freedom to explore --and enjoy-- the entire nation.   They can park their expediter truck in small roadside pull-offs and go fishing in clear mountain streams; they can overnight in RV parks and explore touristy things if they wish.   They easily bypass traffic bottlenecks on roads too skinny for the big rigs.   As expediters, they enjoy freedom of movement that the driver of a 70-foot rig can only dream about.

"Trucking isn't just about the money," says Sterling.   "Driving our own truck, it's almost like being paid to vacation all the time. Oh, it's hard work, and sometimes nerve-wracking.   But when I'm driving with the window open to the cool of an evening and the sky painted with a gorgeous sunset, I know I never want to do anything else."


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