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The Iowa 80, located right off exit 284 on the I-80 is the world’s largest truck stop, and somewhere that almost every OTR truck driver has been to at least once. But do you know about all the unique services they offer or how it became the world’s largest truck stop? Here’s everything you need to know about the historic truck stop.  

What is the Iowa 80?

The Iowa 80 opened its doors for the first time in 1964, before Interstate 80 had completed construction. Bill Moon, founder of the Iowa 80 saw that the new highway was going to be a major freight corridor and truck drivers were going to need a place to refuel, refresh and relax from the road.

The Iowa 80 started out as a small gas station where drivers could get the necessities before heading back out on the road. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s that Bill was able to expand the services and offerings of the Iowa 80 and the rest stop began to resemble what it looks like today. 

We were able to speak with Heather DeBaillie, Vice President of Marketing with the Iowa 80. She talked to us about the stop’s history and what it has to offer for truck drivers. 

The Moon Family has always reinvested in Iowa 80. We talk to drivers and ask them what they need when on the road. What are their pain points? What could we provide that would make their lives easier?  We’ve added all of those things when feasible. A lot of what we build is around saving the driver time and providing them comfort. Our goal was always to be the best truck stop and along that journey we became the biggest too. Now, we strive to keep both titles.”

What Services Does the Iowa 80 Offer?

The Iowa 80 offers everything drivers expect from a traditional truck stop and much more. They have 16 diesel fuel lanes, two dozen private showers, 10 restaurants, and 900 parking spots. It’s all part of their ideology of building bigger so drivers don’t have to wait.  

We want to make drivers’ lives easier by having everything they need in on stop.  We also have a 7-bay Truck Service Center, dog wash, Fuel Center that in addition to 16 fuel lanes includes a small store and two food options; a CAT Scale and a 3-bay Truckomat Truck Wash. We’ve added these options to make our customer’s lives easier.”

Over the years, the Iowa 80 has continued to grow, thanks to the Moon family investing in the stop. It soon became the largest truck stop in the world, offering drivers luxury services like a movie theatre, barber shop, and on-site chiropractor.  

Here’s a list of some of the services the Iowa 80 offers: 

  • Fuel Center 
  • Truck Service Center 
  • CAT Scale 
  • Movie Theatre 
  • Chiropractor 
  • Dentist 
  • Barber Shop 
  • Self-Serve Dogomat Pet Wash 
  • Laundry Area 
  • Custom Printing Shop 

Does the Iowa 80 Hold Events?

Apart from the unique services, the Iowa 80 holds an annual event each summer known as the Walcott Trucker’s Jamboree. The event has taken place every year since 1979 and includes truck exhibits, an antique truck display, super truck beauty contest, trucker Olympics, pet contest, live music, food, and more. 

“The Walcott Trucker’s Jamboree is our way of saying thank you to the millions of drivers who work hard to deliver what we need and keep the economy rolling. The event is free to attend and also gives non-truckers a chance to come and see some really cool rigs and learn more about the industry we depend on to get us everything we use. It’s the biggest Trucking party in the country.”

This year’s Walcott Trucker’s Jamboree will be taking place July 14-16th.  

Iowa 80

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum Main Exhibit Hall

If you’re a history buff, The Iowa 80 has something for you as well. You can check out the Trucking Museum which features some of the earliest known trucks, petrolinia and vintage gas station collectables, and antique toy trucks. 

Heather finished with these thoughts, 

“Like many trucking companies, Iowa 80 is a family owned and operated business. We are family friendly and are now serving fourth and fifth generation driver customers. We reinvested a lot back into the truck stop to create a place we hope drivers enjoy and feel welcomed. There are no locks on our doors, as we’ve been open continuously since our first day of operation in 1964.”

two men in a truck

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Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about driverless trucks and the impact they’ll have on the trucking industry. But, it’s important for drivers worried about their jobs to not give in to the sensationalist headlines. While driverless trucks are definitely the wave of the future, they won’t be replacing truck drivers in the foreseeable future. Here’s the basics on driverless trucks and why truck drivers will still be needed, no matter what.  

What is a Driverless Truck?

A driverless truck is any semi-truck that has at least some level of autonomy. SAE International, (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers has laid out six levels of automation in regard to semi-trucks.   

Level 0 is no automation, and level 1 includes assisted steering and lane departure warnings. Level 5 is a fully automated truck that can drive itself, even in inclement weather without needing a driver. Most companies are introducing level 2-3 automation right now, with level 5 only happening in controlled demonstrations.  

Driverless trucks have been in development by dozens of companies over the last ten years. Big companies like Tesla and Waymo (Subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., the company that owns Google) have been developing self-driving technology for years. There’s also lesser-known tech companies like Plus, TuSimple and Embark that have already gotten billions of dollars in investor funding for their trucks. While there’s a lot of money going into driverless truck technology, drivers shouldn’t be worrying. 

What Do They Mean for Truck Drivers?

While it makes sense on the surface, it’s a common misconception that driverless trucks will put drivers out of jobs. Since most companies are only testing level 2-3 automation right now, the trucks aren’t doing everything themselves. And even when level 5 trucks are on the road, an experienced driver will still need to be in the truck at all times in case something goes wrong. 

That’s because truck drivers do more than just drive. A truck can’t load and unload freight or talk to customers and dispatch about the details of an order. This means that truck driver jobs will be more than safe for the foreseeable future.  

What’s the Future for Self-Driving Trucks?

As of right now, it’s full steam ahead for the companies investing time and resources in driverless technology. Some in the industry believe we’ll begin seeing driverless trucks as the norm in the next decade, but this estimate may be a little optimistic.  

Yes, the big players in driverless trucking are talking about implementing the technology, but it’s still a long way from happening on a large scale. The majority of trucking companies, especially smaller ones, don’t have the money to use this technology within their fleets anytime soon. But, even if and when that does happen, trained drivers will still be needed in the cab at all times. If you’re a truck driver, don’t spend time worrying about driverless trucks any time soon. 

two men in a truck

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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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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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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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5 parenting tips for truck drivers

No one understands the joys and pains of regularly coming home and turning right around and leaving again like a truck driver with a family. Life as a parent and a truck driver is a challenging but rewarding combination. For regional and OTR drivers, a few days of time in person has to sustain drivers through days or weeks away. Even when you’re home, as a long haul trucker, the transition home can take its toll.  Make time for yourself and your family while you’re on the road and when you come home. Here are a few parenting tips to help you make the most of your family time.

1. Master Good Communication

Facetime, Skype, and Zoom are all great video calling platforms that have a free plan for users. Especially with younger children, being able to see and hear each other is huge. Even when you’re away, your kids will know your voice and be excited to see you when you walk through the door.

Connect with your children in a way that works for them. If you have small kids, read them a bedtime story every night. Or, have a family movie night once a week. If you have older children, they might not want to video chat. Instead, send them messages throughout the day. Find out what’s going on in their lives and stay on top of the little things as well as the big ones.

Bunni

For many drivers, spending time with loved ones has gotten even more difficult since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bunni, an OTR driver and mother shared, “I have one daughter. Before Coronavirus I was seeing her at least every other week. Now, she’s self-isolating at her grandparents’ farm. I probably won’t see her for a while because of that. We talk on the phone daily. We use Marco Polo, house party, Instagram, and snap chat as well.”

She added, “Kids will tell you everything if you’re a safe space for them. And sometimes you have to ask better questions than “how was your day” and “what did you do”. Try deeper questions. Ask how they feel about something they did. Or if they had anything happen that made them happy for someone else. The more specific the question the better. And once they start talking, stay engaged. Don’t just “mmhmm” their stories.”

2. Make the Most of Home Time

Even superhero parents can’t do everything. When you come home, you’re probably sharing time between a partner, your kid(s) and trying to rest up for your next shift.

Before you get home, prioritize the most important events & make a schedule. A schedule helps you make the most of your time while also allowing yourself recovery time.

When you make that schedule, there’s one very important rule. Be realistic, even when it’s hard. Kids will be disappointed if you can’t make it to an event. But, they’ll be devastated when you say you’ll be somewhere or do something and then cancel last minute. If you do have the energy to squeeze in an extra little league game or dance recital, they’ll be thrilled when you surprise them and show up.

3. Involve Your Kids

One of the best ways to be a part of your kids’ lives is to let them be a part of yours. If you have a take home truck program, show them your truck. Let them ask questions and sit behind the wheel. As they get older, tell them about the places you go and what it really means to be a truck driver.

Before you leave for your next load, let your family help plan your time away. Even if you don’t follow it exactly, they’ll love mapping your route and know where you are when you next call. You can even give each person a special job for while you’re out. It’s a great way to start conversations and connect.

Marion

We spoke to Marion, a truck driver who shared her parenting tips from driving OTR with 3 children and 6 grandchildren.

“[When I was raising kids] I did regional, home on the weekends. My advice would be to listen to your kids. Especially to the things they don’t say. Make electronics your friend and video chat with them daily,” shared Marion.

She continued, “Teenagers are difficult no matter what. Don’t let things go by because you might have a bad conscience not being there. Stay in touch, let them know they can talk to you. Be a parent, even when you’re not physically there. It’s hard at times, but they will thank you later.”

4. Don’t Forget about Your Partner

Not all parenting tips are about the kids! As you share time with your children, don’t forget to make time for just you and your partner. It’s important time for both of you, and it’s good for your kids in the long run.

Set honest expectations about the shortcomings of trucking jobs. Your partner is sharing in the good, the bad, and the ugly, so be frank about what you both need. A key part of your communication is conflict resolution. Establish a healthy way to discuss conflicts before you need it. That way, you won’t spend your time at home solving all the problems you didn’t want to talk about.

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Transitions are hard and you’ll be making a lot of them. All the parenting tips in the world won’t help if you aren’t taking care of yourself on the road and when you’re home. Be kind to yourself and your family.

Take time for sleep, exercise, and healthy meals. Find your balance between time together and time by yourself.

Know that you’ll make mistakes sometimes. Decide what you can do differently next time, sincerely apologize if you need to, and then move forward. Make sure you do what you can both on and off the job to be the partner and parent you want to be.

Single Parent OTR Trucking

If you’re a single parent ready to start driving, you have a few extra considerations. It is definitely possible to work OTR, but it’s important to consider preparation and timing. All long haul families need a good support network, and that is particularly true for single parents.

Both you and your kids will need help from others sometimes. Have those people in place before you get started and know who you can count on in any situation. You should also think about the timing of your decision. Older kids can be involved differently than young children and may be more understanding and supportive of your decision.

Separated Families with One OTR Parent

As with single parenting while an OTR driver, life over the road as a divorced or separated parent has unique challenges. No matter what, the most important thing you can do is prioritize your child. That also means working to maintain good communication between parents (even when it’s not easy). As much as possible, strive to be consistent in your home time.

Even in the best situations where both parents are trying to make the connection work, scheduling is hard. You’re both working around each other’s schedules and sometimes you may have to make hard compromises.

At the end of the day, make sure you weigh the cost of an OTR vs. a local job. OTR jobs typically pay more, but you give up a lot of time in your child’s life. If OTR is still the right decision for you, be prepared to work closely with the stay at home parent and use these parenting tips to find creative ways to connect with your child both on and off the job.

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thank you truckers

Truckers move America. Last September, we wrote a piece called, “Imagine a World Without Trucking.” Well, because of the coronavirus, a lot of the United States is grinding to a halt or trying to change gears to work remotely. Thankfully, there’s one group who isn’t slowing down. Truckers, this is for you. 

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU TRUCKERS!

We’ve been with you through job changes when many people didn’t recognize your value. Now, the truth is even more clear—America runs on truckers. From groceries, to medical supplies, to clean water and so much more. We couldn’t keep going without you. Thank you, truckers.

As you put in long hours on the road, here are a few things to help you keep going.  

Finding Food

There is no single list of restaurants that are staying open, but Feed the Truckers has a good list started. If you’re looking for a hot meal on the road, try a Texas Roadhouse or one of these local joints. They’ll bring a takeout order to your truck. Many fast food chains are also allowing drivers to walk through their drive thru window. 

Major truck stops are also doing their part. TA/Petro is still allowing you to reserve showers and place take out orders from Iron Skillets. Pilot/Flying J also has showers and laundry open and all restaurants are available for take out. Love’s travel stops will keep their stores and facilities open, but food is only available as a drive through/carry out order. 

Many local restaurants have also taken to social media to offer parking, restrooms, and food to drivers. The Facebook Page Trucker’s has a lot of offers for help coming in from all parts of the country. From coast to coast, Americans are stepping up to help the drivers who are helping us. 

What food should drivers be eating?

We also spoke to Kristin Kirkpatrick, a nutritionist who has appeared on Dr. Oz and The Today Show. She shares advice for the best food and snacks for truck drivers during COVID-19.

Keeping the Cab Clean

Your cab is your house. Many Americans are on stay at home orders, but your home is cruising the highway at 65 mph. Make sure you have what you need in your truck. To protect yourself from coronavirus as much as possible, take a few extra cleanliness measures.

wash hands

1. Wash your hands (the best one we heard was to “wash ‘em like you were cutting jalapenos and have to change your contact lens!”)

2. Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow (because no one touches their face with their elbow)

3. Avoid contact with others or stay 6’ apart whenever possible

4. Clean & disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially if you’re slip seating. 

Get some gloves and clorox wipes and make sure you clean steering wheels, seats, dashboard, shifter knobs, grab handles, CB microphones, cell phones, ELD screens and buttons, keys, clipboards, tables, doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, cups, desks, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

HOS & COVID-19 Relief Loads

Truck drivers are operating under a Declaration of Emergency. That means hours of service regulations are waived. Since the HOS are not in effect, FMCSA does not require drivers to maintain a logbook. If you are keeping records with an ELD, you can make a note in the record to show that you were driving under the emergency declaration or record the time as “authorized personal use” which you will then need to note as emergency declaration drive time. Your employer may also have a specific policy. The FMCSA has a good FAQ section on what are essential loads and other common questions. Truckinginfo also has answers to common driver questions. 

What if I’m Actually Losing Loads?

Your current work depends on the loads you usually carry. While some truck drivers are working around the clock, others were unfortunately displaced due to the Coronavirus.

If you have been displaced from your job, we have resources to help you navigate the transition. Drive My Way can help you find a new trucking job that matches everything you’re looking for.

We match truck drivers to jobs based on professional qualifications and personal lifestyle preferences. Search our jobs or give us a call at 800-411-5840. We’ll help you get back on the road.

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Dangers of being a Truck Driver

Truck driving, like any profession, has risks. There are steps you can take to reduce the dangers of being a truck driver. The best rule of thumb? Think it through before you take action. Sounds simple, but taking an extra moment to slow down often makes a big difference. Even pausing for a few seconds can be enough to clear your head and really think through your choices. Here are the top 8 dangers of being a truck driver.

1. Driving tired or distracted

In 2007, the FMCSA did a study to determine causation of CDL Accidents. The number one cause? Driving tired or distracted. These two categories made up 40% of accidents that were labeled with a critical reason. Nearly half of the large truck accidents may have been preventable by extra sleep or improved focus. Need more convincing to get your sleep? As you’ve likely experienced, driving tired often leads to more distracted driving. Even 1 extra hour or a few 20 minute power naps can have a big impact on your ability to calmly make decisions on the road or to notice all the details of the road conditions

The FMCSA is exploring changes to HOS rules that would allow drivers flexibility to split their 10 hours in the sleeping berth however they want (within reason). The FMCSA is expected to share additional information as soon as the next six months.

As a driver, the best thing you can do is prioritize your sleep. Know your limits, and pull off when you need to. If you’re feeling sleepy, drink water and take a short break if you can. A short slow down will let you keep driving safely in the long run and reduce one of the biggest dangers of being a truck driver.

2. Driving too fast for conditions

All professional drivers know that the weather and road conditions can have a big impact on your route. There is a lot of pressure to meet drop times and make the most of your miles. It’s easy to tell yourself that going a little faster won’t be a problem. It’s much harder to convince yourself to slow down and carefully evaluate the conditions.

Road conditions are one of the dangers of being a truck driver that you can’t control. But, you can control how you react.

More experience and time on the road will sharpen your ability to assess the roads and traffic to make safe driving decisions. 

3. Avoid unsafe areas at bad times and stay alert in truck yards and loading docks

As any seasoned driver knows, there are some places you just don’t want to visit outside of daylight hours. Of course, as a seasoned driver also knows, you don’t always know where those areas are, especially when you’re driving new routes. As a general rule, spending nights at the shipper or consignees lots is safer than most truck stops. If you are driving somewhere new or you don’t know the area, call ahead by a few hours. The receivers can tell you if it’s safe to park and sleep there or if it’s a “daylight only” situation. If the area isn’t safe enough for a sleep stop, calling ahead should give you enough time to find somewhere nearby that is safe to rest.

4. Always do a circle check

Circle checks are a small step that can save a lot of time and energy later. Sure, spending 20 minutes on a walk around every time might seem like a pain, but it’s saving you much larger headaches down the road. A circle check is meant to inspect your rig for any damage or issues that need attention before departure. Want to make sure you’re covering all the steps? Smart Trucking has a good basic guide to the D.O.T. pre-trip inspection to make sure you get where you need to go without any surprise maintenance issues. 

5. Use the buddy system for some repairs

Getting pinned under a rig is enough to give any cdl driver second thoughts about the job. Luckily, it’s preventable.

If you have repairs to make under the trailer, bring a partner. They can immediately assist if something goes wrong.

Be particularly careful when pinning up. Now, there are some repairs you may feel comfortable taking on by yourself. A word to the wise. Unless you’re a properly trained mechanic, don’t mess with the brake chambers. Let a professional mechanic take care of any problems with the brake chambers, and you’ll thank yourself later. 

6. Use caution on trailer decks and loads

It’s tempting to climb up the back of your rig. You might just be going up for a quick fix after all. It’s easy to use that logic, but the consequences can be terrible. One slip or fall from your rig can lead to serious injuries.

Instead, carry a ladder with you when possible or wait to climb until you have the proper equipment. Use extra caution on trailer decks and if you’re standing on a load, especially for with a flatbed truck. 

7. Open your doors one at a time in case your load has shifted

moving truck with white boxes in a garage

Even when you have checked your load before departure, things may shift while you’re driving. The vast majority of the time, you could open both doors of your trailer at once and there would be no problem. But, Murphy’s law says that the one time your load will shift is when you have the heaviest haul.

Save yourself the problem. Open doors one door at a time. That guarantees that your load won’t fall out if things have shifted in transit.

8. Other drivers

In a perfect world, we would all be responsible for our own safe driving. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and we all share the road with a lot of other drivers.

Other drivers are one of the big dangers of being a truck driver. Be alert to your surroundings and the other vehicles around you.

As a professional driver, you’re much more aware of passenger vehicles than most of them are of you. That said, these drivers (and other cdl drivers) can be a danger to you on the road. While there are likely more than a few driving tips you’d like to give to passenger vehicles on sharing the road, you have to watch out for yourself. Pay attention to your surroundings and leave plenty of space between vehicles. 

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