Everyone who drives a truck, or anything else for that matter, has been there. The first time. Something you’ve trained for. Something you’ve longer for. It’s finally here. The big moment. It should feel amazing, right? Wrong. It can be terrifying.
For months you study and practice. Learning everything you can about how to drive a rig solo across the country. Learning the road signs, the inspections, the laws. You hope it’ll prepare you for the day that you get the keys to your own brand new truck and now it’s here. Everything you’ve learned seems to go out of the window and you doubt every move.
Though you’re not alone, it’s an initiation into the world of trucking. Something you must go through to call yourself a trucker. It happened to the point I could barely get my mind straight and figure out how to turn the truck on! Though once you’ve got it all sorted and you’re on your way for your first job, it all makes sense. The open road.
I imagined that my first time would be like getting my first car. Liberating. Not terrifying. I was wrong. Someone had given me the keys to a brand new rig. Now I longed for the instructor to be sat beside me, to make sure I didn’t wreck it. Of course, I didn’t wreck it, just 300 miles across the state to get to my first drop off. I even only got lost twice! Don’t always rely on GPS, it’s not always good at figuring out that you belong round back at the dock. I learned that the hard way. Trying to back up a trailer full of groceries without hitting anyone’s car in the parking lot, trying my best to look like I knew what I was doing.
Every trucker I know seems to just know where they’re going. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been there a hundred times or never. Like birds flying south for the winter. This is something that I had to learn. There’s always a fast way, an easy way and a way for a truck. Figuring out which one is why they pay us truckers, to make sure it arrives in one piece and on time. In the early days it was easy to forget you’re driving 18 wheels of steel, not a sedan, wondering why angry drivers are shouting at you for blocking the entire road. Oops. I thought I could get through. Now I always look ahead and just know what’s coming. Don’t fear, it gets easier! Promise.
The Rig To Riches
In the early days, I always made sure I was early. I mean really early. Sometimes I’d get there two hours before I was due, just so that our fleet manager didn’t fire me the next day. Watching the other trucks come and go. Trying to figure out how they made it seem so easy! The first time I had to back up to the dock it took me 5 tries. I must have looked completely amateur. Though once docked, the laughs had faded and everyone knew I was the greenhorn, nobody cared. The job was done. Since then, I just learned to take my time. Don’t overthink it and if you do mess it up? So what! Everyone has their off days. Just fix it and chalk it up to experience.
On the I-10 into Houston, traffic backed up for miles I ran out of hours. My planning had failed me. I pulled off at the nearest exit to find a place to park up for the night. I followed a few other trucks into what looked to be a truck stop. Wrong. It was a dockyard. So there I am, stuck at the gate, trying to explain to someone that I really wasn’t meant to be there, with him not letting me in but 3 trucks behind me so I can’t back out. I felt so ashamed. Luckily they finally felt my embarrassment and let me turn around and park on a lot opposite for the night. Finally! Some good luck. It can happen to anyone!
In It Together
In everything that has ever happened, or almost happened, I’ve had someone to call. I never felt completely alone. The best thing to do as a new trucker is make friends with the truckers around you. It doesn’t matter what you think you know, you’ll always find something that you’ll have no idea how to rectify. For that, a quick call to someone who knows their stuff might just get you out of a bind, then you’re off on your way to another load. Another paycheck.
So all I can say is just don’t worry. We’ve all been there, it’s just part of the fun of becoming a trucker! Once you get over the nerves, it only gets easier. Good luck and stay safe.