truck driver health problems
We all know that truck driving isn’t the healthiest profession. Hours of sitting in a cab with little access to healthy food can unfortunately lead to a number of health problems. While there has been a recent push in the trucking industry to provide drivers with more resources and opportunities to be healthier on the road, it’s still important to understand what health problems truck drivers are prone to.  

We talked with Bob Perry, the Trucker Trainer™ about the biggest health risks currently facing truck drivers and what causes them. 

Bob Perry, the Trucker Trainer™

Bob shared, “Being a Professional Truck or Bus Driver is not the healthiest job. The combination of too much sitting, too little exercise and an unhealthy diet can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep disorders, heart conditions and more. This can make passing the DOT re-certification exam daunting without education and support. After spending the last several months talking with TPA’s, clinics, carriers and drivers to gather the most current DOT Exam results from the National Registry, the results we’ve found are very concerning.” 

Bob continued, “What we’ve learned is that over 50% of our current drivers are on short-term cards, one year or less. Even more alarming is that over 300,000 drivers are disqualified each year from health issues. 

In most cases these include 1. hypertension, 2. prediabetes, and 3. sleep disorders. How do these short-term cards and disqualified drivers affect our industry? We keep hearing about the 80,000-driver shortage, but what if we spent 25% of recruiting budgets on providing the resources to educate and rebuild our skilled driver’s health? Could we save 10% of our drivers? That 80,000 driver short-fall would look different.”

1. Obesity

Obesity is one of the biggest issues facing truck drivers right now, and it’s associated with almost every other health problem on this list. According to the CDC, truck drivers are twice as likely to struggle with obesity compared to other US workers. Obesity can make it difficult to pass a DOT Physical too, taking it from a strictly health problem to a financial one as well.  

Luckily, there are a number of things drivers can do to combat obesity while on the road. Consider packing healthy meals in advance while you’re at home, instead of relying on rest stops and fast food. Even small changes like using your mandated DOT break to do some light exercises or go for a walk can have great results.  

2. Diabetes

The CDC found that truck drivers are 50% more susceptible to diabetes than the national average. A healthy diet and exercise are the best ways to avoid diabetes, but any driver over 45 who has a family history of diabetes is at a higher risk for it. Visit your doctor promptly if you start to exhibit any of the early signs of it.  

3. Smoking

It’s common knowledge that smoking is linked to numerous health problems, including heart disease and of course, cancer. But did you know that truck drivers are twice as likely to smoke compared to other workers? 

There’s a number of reasons why a driver might pick up smoking, whether they feel it helps with fatigue, weight loss or boredom. But, the risks heavily outweigh whatever benefits there might be. The obvious answer here is to quit smoking, but that’s much easier said than done. Luckily there are more resources available for drivers who want to quit than there used to be. Nicotine patches, prescription drugs, and behavioral therapy are all proven ways to help truck drivers stop smoking. Even vaping is a better alternative, though it’s not completely nicotine free 

4. Hypertension

Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is when a person’s blood pressure rises and stays risen for an extended period of time. On average, truck drivers are more prone to hypertension than the average person and can be caused by a number of things, including an unhealthy diet, high in salt. Like many things on this list, making an active effort to eat better is the best way for drivers to avoid hypertension or at least keep it in check.  

5. Sleep Disorders

Sleep problems, including insomnia and sleep apnea are common in truck drivers. Unfortunately, they’re also deadly if gone untreated. If you’re not getting the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep a night, your body will try and compensate by “microsleeping” or sleeping in extremely small quantities (between 1-30 seconds) without warning. This is just an annoyance for most people but can be deadly when it happens to someone who’s on the road driving a 15-ton semi-truck.  

Fortunately, modern medicine gives drivers many different ways to get a good night’s sleep while on the road. Depending on the problem, a CPAP machine or melatonin may do the trick, but visiting your doctor is always the first step.  

While truck drivers face more health problems than average Americans, these can be mostly be avoided through a proper balance of diet and exercise. Some issues, like diabetes and hypertension may be linked to family history, which is why having regular visits with your doctor is important.  

two men in a truck

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4 of the Best Sleeping Tips for Truckers

Truck drivers and a good night’s sleep don’t always go well together. Besides being a major annoyance, lack of sleep can lead to safety issues while on the road. Many drivers, specifically OTR drivers, experience poor sleep habits, which can lead to irritability and slow reaction time—two big issues if you’re driving a large vehicle for extended periods of time. It’s also a major factor in accidents involving truck drivers. There are a few reasons that truck drivers, specifically OTR drivers are at a greater risk for developing sleeping problems. Aside from the difficulty of finding a place to sleep, they may have to deal with noise, lights as well. While these challenges can be difficult, there are a lot of things that truck drivers can do to help them sleep better while on the road. Here are 4 of the best sleeping tips for truck drivers.

1. Find a Safe Spot

This first tip comes to us from Larry, a CDL A Owner Operator.

“I tell new drivers to sleep at truck stops or rest areas. Preferably well lit, especially if you are a female truck driver. Also, plan where you’re going to stop, and pay for parking if necessary. Never park on side of the road or on an on ramp. That’s very dangerous! Planning is very big part of knowing where to park. Remember, if it seems sketchy, it probably is! Keep it moving.”

2. Eliminate Distractions: Light and Sound

There are two main types of distractions that drivers who are trying to sleep deal with: light and sound. For light, we recommend using a visor shade for your windshield, as that’s the biggest place where light can pour into your truck. If that’s still not enough, wearing a face mask is your best bet. A heavy duty one that won’t move around much while you’re sleeping works best.

sleeping tips

Eliminating sources of sound is also important but can be a bit trickier. While this is easier said than done, the best thing you can do is to try and park away from other trucks if possible. But this, of course, isn’t always an option. If it’s specific noise, like people talking or engines that keeps you from falling asleep, consider using a white noise machine. These are devices that look like a speaker and emit sounds similar to TV static or waves that many people find it easy to fall asleep to. If it’s all noise that bothers you, you might want to think about a pair of ear plugs. Take this as a last resort though, as it’s important to still be aware of your senses, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar truck stop or rest area.

3. Get a Better Mattress

Having a quality mattress is an often overlooked but crucial component for driver sleep, especially in older drivers. Mattresses, especially higher end mattresses, can seem like a big investment. But when you consider how much time you spend in your tuck, it’ll prove its value in no time. The Sleep Foundation has a lot of great information on the best mattresses out right now for truck drivers.

4. Consider Caffeine Alternatives

Coffee, Red Bull and soft drinks are very popular with truck drivers thanks to their caffeine content and wide availability at restaurants and gas stations. But, having too much caffeine during the day or any within 5 hours of going to sleep is shown to cause issues like not letting you access deep sleep, which can have negative effects on your short and long-term memory.

For many long-haul drivers, getting a good night’s sleep can prove difficult. There are any of number of challenges that affect your sleep and subsequently, your performance on the road. While these sleeping tips can help, it’s important to know when it’s time to see a licensed sleep specialist. If your sleep issues get bad enough, a professional is your best resource in keeping yourself healthy and safe while on the road.

truck driver at loading dock

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cdl student
It’s no secret that there’s a national need for drivers right now in the trucking industry. CNN estimates that carriers across the United States are in need of 80,000 truck drivers. Pay for truck drivers is increasing as well, making now a great time to get started in the trucking industry. For those interested, the first step is to enroll in driving school. While most CDL students will understandably want to be drivers for a while after graduating, they shouldn’t think they’re locked into that role for life.  

There are many positions within the trucking industry that don’t involve driving. Dispatching, driver training, and yard management are just a few of the options out there. That’s why it’s important for CDL students to think through options and plan out where they want to be in their career. Here are four of the best career planning tips for CDL students.  

1. Research Available Jobs

The first step is to see what trucking jobs are currently available. This is something that you should make a habit of doing regularly, even if you’re not looking at the moment. You might find out about positions you didn’t even know existed that could change your career planning goals. 

We spoke with Jim Kunkel, Operations Manager for Drive My Way’s recruiting partner, NFI Industries. Jim shared his experiences in the trucking industry, how he got to where he is, and the advice he has for CDL students trying to career plan. 

“I applied to NFI as a yard jockey. As I was going through the 4-week training program, I learned many things about trucking. During the training, I switched to become a driver. After 4 and a half years as a driver, I had the opportunity to become a yard coordinator. From there, I moved into a logistics coordinator position that eventually became a logistics supervisor position. Now, I hold the position of Operations Manager,” shared Jim.

Using Drive My Way is a great way to find out about such positions. Create a free profile one time and receive automatic alerts when a job is posted that matches what you’re looking for. No need to create dozens of accounts or scroll through generic job boards only to be spammed by recruiters for jobs that don’t match your needs. 

2. Find a Job that Fits You

cdl studentsThe first step to career planning is to take stock of what you find important from a personal and professional standpoint. What do you want your income to be? How much do you want to be home? Do you want to be in a customer facing role? Do you want to earn extra certifications? What kind of freight do you want haul? You’ll want to answer all these questions and find a position that meets your needs.  

Aside from your wants, also take stock of your individual workstyle. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you enjoy working with a team or working solo? Are you detail-oriented or do you think more big picture? All of these things are extremely important when career planning.  

Jim shared, “My experience as a driver has prepared me in a number of ways. It’s helped me with route planning loads and backhauls, two very important skills in my current role. Also, because of my time on the road, I understand the good and bad of what drivers go through on a daily basis. This has helped me when talking driver through stressful situations, like breakdowns and accidents.”  

3. Talk to People in the Industry

The trucking industry is full of experienced people who are happy to share their knowledge. If you’re thinking about your career after graduation, talk to people in a variety of different roles within the industry. Their unique perspective will inform your career planning more than anything else will. They can share with you the best steps to take to get into a certain position and what it takes to succeed when you’re in it. 

As a CDL student, your instructor is a great person to talk to about this. Their first-hand knowledge is the best resource you have at this point in your career. 

Jim shared, “One day I was approached and asked to consider a yard coordinator position. This was the best thing that happened for my career. Then through hard work and training, I moved my way into a manager position. With NFI, the sky’s the limit. You can go anywhere and do anything. I know I’m not done advancing myself.” 

4. Keep Your Resume Up-to-Date

This is a common tip for young professionals in corporate environments, but it’s true for the trucking industry as well. You never know when you’ll meet someone and be asked to send out your resume quickly for an opportunity. You don’t want to be scrambling, trying to get it together last minute. Avoid this by making it a habit of updating it every time you have a new experience or gain a new skill.  

“Learn all you can about every aspect of the industry. This includes DOT laws, the laws for the individual state you’ll be operating in, as well as brokerage, and load booking. Also, I’d recommend exploring other career paths in the trucking field other than driving. You never know what’s out there that could be a great fit for your experience,” shared Jim. 

Career planning is something that never really stops for most drivers. As you change as a person, so do your career goals and aspirations. That’s why it’s important to always be planning and proactive, so you can take your next career step with confidence. 

truck driver at loading dock

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Partners standing together
Being a trucker is not an easy job, and being a trucker’s wife isn’t either. Especially if your partner is just starting a new job, you might be wondering what to expect while they’re on the road. How will your routine change while they’re gone? What should you expect from home time? How will your kids handle having just one parent around most of the time? We talked with a few trucker’s wives about what to expect and how to keep a strong relationship through it all.

1. Trust Is Everything

All marriages live and die on trust, but that’s even more true when you spend a lot of time apart. Even if you talk regularly, a lot will happen in each other’s lives that you won’t be there for. It’s important to trust that the other person is still your teammate and you’re working toward a shared life vision. Consider sending your partner good morning and good night messages or packing several days of home-cooked meals when they leave. These are little ways to say “I love you” even when you’re not together. 

Even in committed relationships, the days and weeks can seem endless at times. Talk with your trucker and have a plan for short and long-term career goals. That way, everyone has clear expectations for the situation. It’s easier to make sacrifices in the short term if you know what you’re working toward. 

2. Find Your Communication Sweet Spot

Communication can be a tough one when you’re a trucker’s wife. You might be on vastly different schedules, and you don’t have the natural proximity of evenings or weekends together to catch up. As a result, communication has to be intentional. For many couples, that’s actually a gift because both people are being thoughtful in reaching out to the other. 

Trucker's wife Rebecca

Rebecca, Trucker’s Wife and Return to Amish star

We spoke with Rebecca Schmucker, former Return to Amish star and veteran trucker’s wife, and she shared this advice for other women with a trucking partner:

“Communication is key. My husband bought me a headset like his so I can work around the house and drive safely and we talk for hours. It’s so nice!”

To find a communication pattern that works for everyone, agree on a specific schedule. You won’t be able to talk all the time, but text, phone, and video conversations should be frequent. If you’re a parent, find time for the kids to talk with their favorite trucker and save time for just parents. Learn some trucking lingo so that you can swap stories about each others’ days and be part of each others’ lives. It might take a little while to find the right rhythm, but it’s well worth the effort!

3. You’re In Charge of the Day to Day

As an OTR trucker’s wife is that the ball is in your court for taking care of everything at home. That can mean everything from getting kids to school, soccer practice, and everywhere else to fixing the running toilet and patching that bike tire that always seems to leak. 

Rebecca also shared her perspective on being home without your handyman husband. She said: 

“For the women, be prepared to do things you never expected to do! I have had to fix our furnace in the middle of winter, change out an electrical outlet and take care of EVERYTHING at home!” 

She continued, “It’s empowering to learn how to be self-sufficient but it can be overwhelming too. It’s not a bad life at all if you have trust and stay open and honest with each other. We appreciate our time together a lot more and make the best of it.”

Sometimes the amount of responsibility may feel exhausting or overwhelming, but many trucker’s wives also find it empowering. You are wildly capable and you’ll feel like superwoman when you’re done!

4. Maximize Home Time

Home time is incredibly important for OTR drivers and their families, and you’ll want to make the most of your time together. That said, it’s easy to let expectations skyrocket and sometimes home time won’t be everything you’ve built it up to me. You might feel a mix of excitement, sadness, and even frustration when your partner is home if things aren’t like you imagined they’d be. The best thing you can do is try to take things as they come. 

Trucker's wife Buffy

Buffy, Veteran Trucker’s Wife

We also asked Buffy Olson for her advice for other trucker’s wives. She emphasized the importance of home time. 

“One of the things I live by is, when he’s on the road it’s about me, my kids, the house, etc. I exercise, I watch what I enjoy, I clean, I spend quality time with kids. When my trucker is home it’s all about HIM! I cook his favorite meals, dress up, plan special things, some big, some small. But I allow my world to evolve around my husband. I think this is important because it keeps us both happy and almost in a honeymoon/young lovers phase.”

When your partner comes home, find a balance that works well for the two of you. Look for a mix of shared responsibilities and leisure time while at home together. Trucking is hard work, so your partner will probably be pretty tired some weeks. Build in some downtime, and focus on the things that are reenergizing for everyone. If you love family gatherings, go to that holiday party, but if what you really want is a quiet evening together, don’t feel shy about turning down invitations. 

5. Flexibility Is Key

Even when you know when your trucker has their next scheduled home time, it’s important to stay flexible. Things like home time don’t always go as planned. Your trucker might get stuck delivering their final load only one hour away but get held up at the dock. Or, the weather might turn bad, keep drivers on the road, and then require drivers to take a 30-minute break to stay in HOS compliance. It’s easy to get disappointed when unexpected delays come up, but try to be patient and flexible. No one is happy about the situation, and making the extra effort to show a good attitude goes a long way toward starting home time off right.

Trucker's Wife, Buffy

Trucker’s Wife Buffy with Family

6. Keep Yourself Busy

Especially when you’re a new trucker’s wife, it’s important to keep yourself busy. That’s also true for your trucker! Keeping busy might sound like no problem if you have kids at home, but make sure you create a little time for yourself as well. If you have a lot going on, that could be as simple as a 15-minute walk or an extra 5 minutes in the shower. If you have too much time on your hands and are stuck missing your partner, dig into a new hobby. In both cases, this is a time for strong social networks. Make time for your family and friends. They’re the people who will support you when things get tough or you need a break.

7. Consider Going OTR

Jumping into the cab and trucking with your partner isn’t a good fit or even possible for everyone, but some people love it! If you’ve always wanted to see the country, ask about rider programs so you can go OTR together. If you can’t go OTR, see if you can join for one route together. This will give you a taste of your partner’s day-to-day life and helps create shared experiences. 

Becoming a trucker’s wife is not an easy transition, but there is a community of women who know the ropes and are ready to support each other. Check out #truckerswife on Instagram or Truckers Wife Support on Facebook to hear from other truckers’ wives on how they make their relationships work.

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dot drug test

DOT Drug tests aren’t going to win a contest for the best part about trucking any time soon, but all drivers have to take them. DOT Drug tests are required for all “safety-sensitive” employees, and that includes all CDL holders. Normally, the drug tests are pretty routine, but the possibility of failing a drug test can be pretty nerve-wracking. Hopefully, you will pass every DOT Drug test, but if not, here’s what you need to know to get back on your feet.

What is the DOT Drug Test?

The DOT Drug test started with the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act. Essentially, in 1991, the Department of Transportation saw a need for federally regulated drug testing to keep traveling public workers safe. Since then, CDL drivers and other designated employees have to regularly take DOT Drug tests.

Everywhere in the United States, the drug tests are non-invasive and test for a standard list of substances. The drug test looks for evidence of Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates (any opium and codeine substances), Amphetamines and Methamphetamines, and Phencyclidine (PCP). Each of these substances has a cutoff concentration, and drivers must be below that limit. Drug tests are typically done with a hair or urine test, and saliva or breath tests are used for alcohol. 

When Do Drivers Take the Drug Test?

There are a few times where you can count on getting a DOT Drug test. The first is for a new job. Any time you are starting a new position as a CDL driver, you can count on a DOT drug test. Employers can also test when they have reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In this case, their concerns must be based on legitimate observations. That could include appearance, smell, behavior, or similar tip-offs. Finally, employers give random drug tests on a quarterly basis. This doesn’t mean that you will get tested every quarter, but it means that someone will. 

According to DOT regulations, when on duty, drivers are prohibited from specific behaviors including:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol
  • Drug use (including residual amounts in your body)
  • Refusing a DOT Drug test.

What If I Don’t Pass?

If you fail or refuse a DOT drug test, there will be several consequences. You will likely be removed from your job immediately. Employers aren’t required to wait for the final results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO), so you will typically be asked to step away from your job right away. In some cases, you could lose your license or driving endorsements. At the end of the day, the consequences will be a little different depending on your company and your employment agreement. If you believe it was a false positive because of medications or another factor, reach out immediately! You will not be able to give a second sample, but you can ask that the sample is retested. You will need a follow-up appointment and proof of your prescription to validate your claim.

How Do I Get Back To Work?

If you fail or refuse a drug test, there is a separate process for moving forward. While you will likely be asked to immediately step away from your job, that doesn’t mean you will never be able to return to driving. Typically, after drivers fail a drug test, they work closely with a qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) for several months as part of a Return to Duty process. The SAP plans a program that may include some type of rehab and/or education. At this stage, it’s no longer in the hands of your employer. Ultimately, the decisions of the SAP are final. Once the SAP confirms that the driver is healthy and has completed the rehabilitation program, drivers may be eligible to return to work with their previous or a new employer.

Will This Stay on My Record?

Failed DOT Drug tests are recorded in the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Refusals to take a drug test are also documented in the Clearinghouse. The SAP will also stay in touch with drivers who fail or refuse a drug test. Typically, the SAP will follow up with the driver six times in the 12 months after the failed test. Drivers may also be required to take additional drug tests up to five years after the initial failed test.

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Christmas gifts for truck drivers

We all need a little extra joy in our lives right now, and luckily, the holidays are right around the corner. If you’re a trucker trying to make a wish list or a loved one wondering what the best Christmas gifts for truck drivers are, we’ve got a cheat sheet ready for you. There’s a little something for everyone on this list, but make sure you plan ahead. With lots of people ordering online right now, allow a little extra shipping time this year.

Comfort

1. Seat Cushion

trucker seat cushion

If there’s one thing every truck driver has in common, it’s lots of time sitting in the cab. Whether you run OTR, Regional, or Local, a little comfort on the road from a seat cushion can make a big difference. For maximum benefits, choose something comfortable and cool. It’s cooler weather in many states now, but nobody wants back sweat when the temperatures heat up! A seat cushion is one of the best ways to boost comfort on the road.

2. Leatherman Multi-tool

multitoolThere are a thousand little reasons to have a multi-tool on hand. Leatherman is a tried and trusted brand, and this multi-tool will get the job done. This particular version has 17 tools in one. From screwdrivers to pliers to a bottle opener, you can’t go wrong with this essential in your truck! Leatherman also sweetens the deal with a 25-year warranty. This multi-tool is built to last.

3. Darn Tough Socks

darn tough socksYes, socks are the stereotypical boring gift. They definitely have a reputation, but hear us out! Darn tough socks are wool socks that are warm enough for cold weather and breathable enough to avoid summer sweat. For all the practical gift-givers out there, add this to your list of Christmas gifts for truck drivers. They’ll use the socks every day and the socks have a lifetime guarantee!

4. Quick Dry Towel

quick dry towelThis is the gift the truckers in your life didn’t know they needed. A lot of people use these handy towels for camping, but they are right at home in a truck. A quick-dry towel is particularly good for regional or OTR truck drivers living out of their cabs or for fitness-oriented drivers. These towels are extremely absorbent, but they also are very light and dry out within hours. That makes them a perfect fit for your favorite driver.

Entertainment

5. Sirius XM/Audible/Movie Subscription

truck driver relaxingEntertainment is a must-have on the road! A subscription to Sirius XM radio, Audible, or a movie streaming subscription make great Christmas gifts for truck drivers. You know them best, so gift them what they love! Is your favorite driver always looking for their next audiobook? A big fan of Road Dog Trucking Radio? Happily watching the best trucking movies of all time? This is the perfect gift. 

6. A Photo for the Road

trucker key chainFor every trucker, home is where the heart is. Even for the truckers who can’t resist the call of the open road, there are almost certainly places and people they call home. With this classy leather photo keychain, drivers can keep a little part of home wherever they go. This is an especially sweet gift for drivers with children. You can choose the photograph, easily upload it, and then watch your favorite trucker smile when they unwrap this thoughtful gift.

Health

7. Snack “Emergency Kit”

snack boxThis emergency kit is as much fun to make as it would be to get. Some people might claim that snacks on the road aren’t a “real” emergency, but we beg to differ. This is one of the best Christmas gifts for truck drivers who have a sense of humor and love a little snack on the road. The best part? You can customize it to the person. Whether they’ve got a sweet tooth, love salty snacks, or are in for a healthy energy boost, you can make the perfect emergency kit for a long day driving.

8. Portable Oven Lunchbox

A portable oven lunch box or any other type of slow cooker is a must-have for any OTR or regional truck driver. Giving one of these is a great gift for health-conscious drivers. It’s also an excellent way to help your favorite trucker bring a little taste of home with them wherever they are.

Portable Oven Lunchboxes are a great way to reheat meals or to prepare something fresh with a little bit of creativity. You can choose from several different sizes so that the crockpot fits perfectly inside the truck.

9. Resistance Bands

Free weights get a lot of good press, but resistance bands are another great option for fitness-oriented drivers. Resistance bands are extremely compact so they won’t take up space in your car, and they can actually offer a few advantages over free weights. Resistance bands create constant tension through your entire range of motion. That helps build muscle. Also, you can choose from a wide range of resistance bands, so it’s easy to customize your workout even when you don’t have a lot of time.

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How to Vote as a Truck Driver Over the Road

Do you know where you will be on Tuesday, November 3, 2020? That’s the date of this year’s Presidential Election. Some truckers know their schedules months in advance, but for many, it’s hard to plan ahead too far. Many long-haul truckers can safely bet that they won’t be home that Tuesday. And for the many things that professional truck drivers miss out on being away from home, you don’t have to miss out on voting! So for those truckers planning ahead, here’s some tips for how to vote as a truck driver over the road.

Are You Registered to Vote?

Every American citizen, 18 years or older, can vote in the United States.  Patriotic truck drivers are no exception to that rule. But first you need to be registered before you submit your first ballot. If you’re not sure if you’re already registered, start here. You can check your registration status, find your local voting information, and get registered if needed.

Whether you like all of the candidates or plan to vote for every issue on your local ballot, in order to even have the opportunity to cast a single vote, you must be registered first.

Get an Absentee Ballot

Once registered, there’s a few ways to cast a vote as a truck driver. Since there’s a good chance you won’t be home that day, you can request an absentee ballot. An absentee ballot allows a registered voter the ability to request a ballot in the mail to be submitted prior to the actual election day. This does take some effort ahead of the election to coordinate the steps you need to take.

The absentee ballot process requires you to:

  1. Complete the form to request the ballot
  2. Complete and send the form in the mail
  3. Receive your ballot in the mail
  4. Complete your ballot
  5. Return your ballot either by mail or in person prior to the deadline set by your state

If you plan ahead and follow the steps, you can still exercise your right to vote, even if you’re away from home! Every state is a little bit different, so be sure you’re aware of all of the rules. Some states do all of their ballots by mail, so this can help a trucker get their vote counted.

Vote Early

If the absentee ballot process is not going to work for you, there still might be another choice available. Many states offer their residents the ability to vote early in-person. Each of the states that allow early voting, have unique rules governing early voting. So if you live in a state that allows early voting, you might be able to coordinate your at home schedule to accommodate a trip to a local polling place when you’re at home. This way you can still vote as a truck driver, and make your voice heard.

We know the life of an over the road driver can be challenging. But with these tips, you should be able to plan ahead and vote successfully. And no matter who you’re planning to vote for, get registered and vote this year. Every vote counts!

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How to Create a Career Path as a Truck Driver

Once you’ve determined that a CDL truck driver job is right for you, how do you get started? And where does the job take you? How long of a haul are you hoping to run? Whether you are starting at age 20 or at age 50, this is a crucial decision. So, when it comes to creating your trucking career path, here are some tips to get you started.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do, is get a CDL license. But what exact type of license should you get to start? You want to get the right license for the work you’re hoping to do. Once you’ve made up your mind on the type of driving that interests you, you can work to get the correct endorsements.

We spoke with Trucker Style Shawn, a truck driver and now fleet owner, and he shared his advice for new drivers getting started in their trucking career.

Trucker Style Shawn

Trucker Style Shawn

“CDL school will only teach you the bare minimum just to pass your test. The real training is when you go out with a trainer with whatever company you choose. Now I own and operate my fleet of 33 trucks. I went into trucking knowing I wanted to grow a business. I am 30 now and think it has all paid off so far,” shared Shawn.

Getting your CDL license is the place to start when putting together your trucking career path. The process can take some time, but if you’re well prepared, you can work through the steps with ease.

Finding the Sweet Spot

Once you’ve logged a few years on the road, and have a solid safety and driving record, it might be time to start thinking about your options. When preparing for a job change, there’s plenty of things to consider. Is more money a big motivation? Or more time at home is what you’re after? Or perhaps you want to move out from being a company driver to become an owner/operator.

At this point in your career, it’s important to take stock of everything you like and dislike about driving, and carefully weigh it against what your goals are. Then take the necessary steps to move into the best role that aligns with your goals.

Ending Your Time on the Road

Once you’re ready to hang up your keys, there’s plenty of options for a trucker outside of driving. You can become a mentor to young drivers. Or get into a training role to teach those just getting into trucking. Outside of roles helping new drivers, there’s so many other roles that might also be appealing. Your employer might have opportunities available in the office or the warehouse that might be a good fit.

We spoke to another truck driver, Emily Ann, and she shared her advice for finding a company that meets your qualifications and lifestyle preferences.

Emily Ann Trucker Barbie

Emily Ann

“Experience is the biggest thing. Find a company that will train you then you can go anywhere. Don’t jump from job to job. It’s a red flag for companies. I didn’t start right of school because the only people wanting to hire me at the time was over the road companies, and I wasn’t ready to do that. A couple months later I got a job driving a tanker delivering motor oil,” shared Emily.

Many times, retired drivers have great luck working at the office. Who is a better choice to work inside the office, than a driver with years of experience.

Every truck driver has a story about how they got into their career. And they have a story about the many roles they’ve had over the years. Chances are, there’s no 2 stories exactly alike. The standard career path doesn’t really exist. So like every driver, their story of route they took from start to finish is probably a unique one.

If you are looking for the next chapter in your truck driving story, let us help! If you’re looking for a great trucking job that pays well and meet your needs, sign up here for a profile and see what matches we’ve got for you.

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Terry Christofferson picks up the phone with an upbeat “Hello.” He’s calling from his sunny home just outside of Chico, California. There’s a cheery enthusiasm to his voice, but also the subtle depth of a man who knows hard work. Terry came to Drive My Way like many CDL licensed drivers—looking for a job and expressing interest in one of the many positions on our site.

Except, unlike most drivers, Terry already has a job. Just not in trucking. 

He’s a certified respiratory therapist in California, one of the first states that was reporting positive COVID-19 cases this spring. A respiratory therapist who wants to drive a semi-truck. At a time when medical professionals are desperately needed, Terry Christofferson wants to drive a semi-truck not instead of, but in addition to being a respiratory therapist. And Christofferson has the credentials to do it. Despite working a very secure job in the medical field, he made sure to maintain a CDL A license with Tanker, Hazmat, and Double/Triple endorsements for more than 30 years.

 

maintain a cdl license

Terry and his wife Sondra

Before He Became a Respiratory Therapist

Terry Christofferson grew up on a farm in a small town in North Dakota. Before he completed high school, he moved with his family to northern California. After graduating from high school, Terry started college to become a respiratory therapist. Education doesn’t come without a price tag, but Terry was no stranger to hard work. Life in a small town in the Great Plains is a strong and relentless teacher –  hard work, perseverance, and grit weave the fabric of each day and toughen the hands of the people who live there.

From growing up on a farm, Terry knew how to handle big machinery, so he accepted a position with Viking Freight working on their docks near his California home.

One afternoon, a supervisor asked him to back a semi-truck up to a loading dock. Terry could have driven most agricultural machinery blindfolded, but trucks were an entirely different story.  “Sure I can.” Terry confidently responded and jumped in the cab. One clean movement later, and the truck was up against the dock. His colleagues smirked appreciatively and laughed, “You obviously know how to drive a truck.” 

maintain a CDL licenseOnce a Truck Driver

His humble display of skilled maneuvering quickly upgraded Terry to a job hosteling for Viking Freight. Terry’s skills driving cargo around the freight yard impressed his managers, so he quickly moved up again. Even though he had only been with the company for a few years, Viking Freight sent him to driving school through their company to get his CDL A license to drive a tractor-trailer.

Terry continued driving for Viking Freight through college, and soon enough, Terry was a certified respiratory therapist with a full-time job. With the job security that accompanies the medical profession, many people might have let a truck driving license lapse. Terry wasn’t ready to do that.

“It’s just one of those things that you do… Then pretty soon, you kind of go, “Well I’ve been doing it for this long, I might as well keep going.”

I always thought, “You know, one of these days, I want to go back ‘cause I really miss working on the farm. I enjoy driving trucks… I’m going to go back and do it part-time.”

Always a Truck Driver

open road

Over the years, Terry happily accepted small driving jobs from time to time. Lending a hand here and there. An errand for a friend. He continued to maintain a CDL license. His work as a respiratory therapist remained steady, and his family was close, but every so often, the undeniable call of the open road would whisper.

“[My love of driving] is hard for me to explain. It’s just, it’s enjoyable. It brings back a lot of memories of growing up on the farm…especially if I’m driving in the agricultural industry… I enjoy driving a truck, you know, it’s not something that everybody could do…” 

Speeding down the road at 70mph while maneuvering 30 to 40 tons of truck with the precision of an engineer is no small feat. Most semi-trucks weigh 60,000 to 80,000 pounds, and as a truck driver, you have to be aware of not only your truck but also all of the (often unpredictable) drivers around you. Each time Terry finished a job for a friend, he was reminded of the exhilaration of driving a semi-truck. And each time, the thought crept in, “I should just a do a little bit more of this.”

maintain a CDL licenseDeciding to Maintain a CDL License

In the state of California, to maintain a CDL license (Commercial Driving License), drivers must submit a license application, driving history clearance, a knowledge test, a background check and fingerprinting, and a renewal fee. And so, year after year, momentum carried Terry to the doctor for the requisite physical. It led him to the DMV every two years to retake the tests for his endorsements, right on schedule. 

In time, a few decades and a few miles slipped by. One year, on his regular trip to the DMV, Terry thought it might be time to set aside his CDL license.

He asked the DMV staff, “Well what if I just, I don’t want to do it anymore? What would happen if I decided down the line to go back and get it?” The man’s one-line response settled his decision. “You would have to start from scratch.”

Terry renewed his license

Is truck driving a job or a way of life? Driving is certainly one way to pay the bills, but so is being a mechanic or practicing medicine or starting a business. For many drivers, especially those long haul truckers who drive OTR (Over The Road), the open road is ingrained in the core of their identity. It’s the freedom of open roads and a clear sky. The precision and finesse of mastering a vehicle with immense power and knowing how to handle it, just so. For Terry, each drive in a big rig is also personal. It’s a bond back to his childhood on a North Dakota farm. Agricultural work, in particular, has always connected him through years and miles to the small North Dakota town he once called home.

medical professionalsTwo Essential Professions

When 2020 started, cheerful New Year’s parties rang through the country. Blissfully unaware of the months to come, no one in the United States rang in the decade with even the shadow of a global pandemic. By March, COVID-19 was sweeping from the ports of the coasts to the center of the heartland leaving sickness and death as unwelcome guests in big cities and small towns alike. Storefronts stand empty and the number of Americans filing for unemployment applications steadily climbs. Millions of Americans are suddenly working from home, and we’ve become acutely aware of the essential professions that are keeping this country moving forward. 

Medical professionals and truck drivers are at the top of the list

Four years from now, Terry Christofferson will be happily retired and traveling the world with his wife. But before then, he wants to join his fellow drivers on the road. “Truck drivers are one of those backbones of society that are really being highlighted right now. Absolutely amazing. I mean, every truck driver out there right now should pat themselves on the back… And when I watch it, even though I’m not actually out there doing it with them right now, I still feel pride hearing that on the news.”

Time to Drive

For Terry, it’s time to hit the road. He’s not leaving his job as a respiratory therapist—instead, he’s planning to drive on his days off. After decades of working to maintain a CDL license with several endorsements, Terry is in conversation with a California freight company. In a perfect symmetry that calls back to his Great Plains childhood, he’s hoping to haul agricultural products.

As we wrap up the call, Terry tells me about his wife, children, and grandson. He has a daughter who is becoming a nurse and a son in the construction industry. It’s clear he couldn’t be prouder of them. Their chosen lines of work stand as a living testament to his own duality. Before we hang up, he reiterates his appreciation for all the drivers who are working and delivering essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Definitely proud of all the truckers out there. It’s been awesome to listen to them getting interviewed in a profession that doesn’t get recognized enough. And it’s really nice to see them getting recognized.”

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face masks

Cleaning supplies are hard to come by these days. Go to most grocery stores, and you’ll have a hard time finding disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, or protective face masks. For Americans staying home, that’s inconvenient, but soap, water, and some good old’ fashioned elbow grease will do the trick. For essential workers like truck drivers, going without these supplies is a significant health concern. Now, in some states, it’s also illegal. 

There is a lot of conflicting information being shared among the trucking community about face masks for truck drivers. When in doubt, the best thing you can do is to ask your company about their policies and what resources they offer. However, especially if you are driving OTR, it may be helpful to be familiar with the policies in multiple states. Here’s what you should know about face masks for truck drivers during COVID-19.

When to Wear a Face Mask

gas station

COVID-19 spreads most dramatically through person to person contact. Any time you are near other people, try to put 6 feet of distance between yourself and the other person. In any situation where it is difficult to maintain socially distancing practices, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing a face mask.

For most truck drivers, that means that your risk when you’re alone in your cab is low, but a mask may still be required. Whenever you make contact with others, a mask is a must. That includes pumping fuel, going into a truck stop or gas station, picking up food, and being at a shipper/receiver.

Geographies with Specific Rules

There are some situations where you are required by law to wear a face mask. International border crossings are one of those times. If you are traveling between the United States and Canada or between the United States and Mexico, you are required to wear a mask for border crossings and while in transit. If you do not show any symptoms, you will typically be able to continue your route. However, if you display any symptoms, you may be required to stay in quarantine for 14 days. 

Similarly, in many of the states in hard-hit regions, truck drivers are required to wear a non-medical face mask. The penalties for failing to wear protective face equipment range from large fines to imprisonment.

As of April 24, the states that legally require truckers to wear a face mask include Connecticut, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. In addition, several states have cities or regions that require a face mask. 

States with at least one region requiring a face mask include North Carolina, California, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts.

As we understand more about COVID-19 and ways to reduce spread, mask regulations are becoming stricter. The list of states who legally require a face mask is likely to grow. To be confident that you are always within regulations, follow the CDC recommendation to wear a mask at all times when you are in public. 

Types of Face Masks

When face mask regulations are passed for truckers, you don’t need a medical-grade face mask. In fact, you’re expected not to. The best types of face masks are N95 respirators and surgical masks. Both of these types of masks are currently in short supply and are reserved for medical professionals. As a driver, you have a few other options that will help keep you safe and healthy. 

Bandanna or Similar Face Coverings

This is a great quick-fix option for drivers. A bandanna is easily folded and tied to cover your mouth and nose. It’s not medical quality, but it’s better than nothing and will slow the virus transmission. 

DIY Masks

You’ve probably already seen people wearing DIY face masks in everything from plain colors to crazy patterns. The beauty of a DIY version is that there are many effective ways to make one, and most people already have the materials needed. 

Cotton is the recommended material for face masks because it is a tight-knit fabric that reduces virus transmission. You can get cotton fabric squares, but an old t-shirt will also do the trick. The key to a good mask is multiple layers. The face mask should fit snugly but allow breathability. You can make a no-sew mask following this video from the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams. The CDC also has recommendations and instructions for a sewn version of the mask.

Get the most out of your face mask

When used correctly, a cloth face mask can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In order to make sure you get the maximum benefit, wash your mask regularly. A washing machine is effective in sterilizing the fabric. Wash your hands before and after you put on or take off a mask, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth in the process.

The Bottom Line

The regulations for face mask requirements are changing rapidly. At a minimum, the CDC recommends that all Americans wear a mask in public. As a truck driver who travels between several locations, it’s best to be prepared. Keep a mask in your cab and plan to wear it when you go outside.

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