Have you ever imagined life behind the wheel of a big rig? In my eight years as a carrier account manager at C.H. Robinson, I often wondered what life is like on the road. I recently got my questions answered. I had the chance to talk with Anthony Brown, a commercial truck driver who has been driving for A.N. Webber for the past six years. Anthony has 10 years of driving experience. In his entire career, he has driven 1.2 million miles. Thanks to his experience, Anthony was able to answer all of my questions about living on the road.
Me: How did you get into trucking?
Anthony: I owned a lawn care business for 18 years and then developed skin cancer. I had to switch careers since I could not be out in the sun. An office job was not for me, plus my Master’s degree in human relations was 30 years old and had never been used. I wanted to see different areas of the country, this brought me to trucking.
Me: What is your typical week/day like?
Anthony: A typical day for me is wheels moving. I am never in the same state for a day or the same region of the country for a week.
Me: What is the best part of your job?
Anthony: The best part about my job is being a paid tourist with a nine foot view—except I do not get to stop as often as I would like. Every day, I get to see the different terrain and landscapes America has to offer. It is amazing to watch how the wildlife and scenery change throughout the states. I get to start my day in one state and end up in another—not everyone can say that.
Me: What is the most challenging part about your job?
Anthony: This will be a two part answer. First, is seeing people on the road doing everything but paying attention to driving. Distracted driving is so common, I see more people driving distracted than paying attention. This is challenging because the dangers of distracted driving have serious consequences. Us truck drivers are very aware of our surroundings because we need time to maneuver 70 feet of tractor trailer, which can weigh up to 40 tons. Secondly, the details on a load do not always get passed to me in a timely manner. This is an issue across the entire trucking industry. Once a load is built, the information does not always get to me right away or is relayed in bits and pieces. There are things on a load that every truck driver needs to know. Dispatchers, shippers, consignees, and truck drivers all need to be on the same page. If I am not given the load information, I have to spend extra time making a call to get the information that should have been relayed to me in the first place. Time is money and I usually do not see that money for the time spent.
Me: What’s the craziest/most unexpected thing that’s ever happened to you while on the job?
Anthony: I was driving in Montana. I had exited off the interstate and was on a county road. I went around a curve and I saw 400 cows and their calves taking up both sides of the road. I slowed down and came to a stop, the calves came up to my truck to sniff the tires. The cows stood at the front of my bumper, protecting their calves. All the cowboys—in this case, cowgirls—were trying to herd the cattle with their horses and border collies. It took one hour to go five miles; but they eventually cleared a path for me to get through. Even though my truck needed to be washed after I got through the cows, it was a great experience.
Me: On average, how long are you away from home at a time?
Anthony: I am gone 45 days at a time and home for 10 days.
Me: Where is home?
Anthony: Home is on 15 acres in Kentucky. My family is my wife, seven dogs, and a donkey.
Me: How do you stay connected to home while you are away?
Anthony: My wife and I stay connected by talking on the phone and texting—occasionally Facebook.
Me: What is your favorite over the road food?
Anthony: My favorite foods are the foods I make in the truck. My specialty is baked potatoes with mushrooms and onions. I rarely eat fast food, but if I have to eat it I will go to Bob Evans, Denny’s, or Perkins and get breakfast anytime of the day.
Me: What technologies do you utilize to make your job easier?
Anthony: I use my smartphone, GPS system, and tablet. I use mobile apps to primarily check fuel prices, fueling locations, construction zones, and weather.
Me: Any advice for up-and-coming professional truck drivers?
Anthony: Think about how it will affect the people in your life. Patience is an attribute you must have. Time management is a skill you must have.
As you can see, a truck driving career is a world of difference from your typical nine-to-five job. Your delay in a project might be waiting on others to meet a deadline. A driver’s delay could be from cows in the road. You might never leave the town you live in, while a driver is rarely in the same part of the country for even a week. You get to sleep at home every night while a driver may not have seen home for 45 days. Thanks to my interview with Anthony, I have a better understanding of what it’s like to be a truck driver. What interesting stories about life on the road can you share?
The C.H. Robinson Foundation is once again offering a Truckload Contract Carrier Scholarship Program. Up to ten $2,500 college scholarships will be awarded to qualified students of employees at eligible contract carriers of C.H. Robinson. Applications for the 2014 scholarships are now being accepted. Please visit the scholarship website to learn more about the program and 2013 recipients.