By: Allen Smith
The trucking life is tough and is not for everyone. In fact, many newcomers to the vocation will leave within the first six months, discovering that the exciting life on the road is not for them. As new regulations are implemented, truck drivers are finding it more difficult to succeed in a job that already contains its share of struggles. There are struggles for trucking companies as well, working hard to keep up with the ever changing face of the U. S. trucking industry.
The struggles and hardships of being a long haul truck driver are well known. Often it is very easy to point all the blame toward the motor carrier. Although many problems are fact and well-founded, it should be reiterated that there are good trucking companies to work for who do their best to provide a decent living for their drivers, while battling the new regulations and struggles within the industry.
Even with a good company, the professional truck driver will still have to possess the qualities required to achieve success. A very good friend of mine had those qualities and proved that through hard work, dedication and sacrifice, that ultimately, it is up to the driver to determine which path a truck driving career will lead.
Mike and I grew up together and after graduating from high school, he set his sights on driving a big rig. At the time, I thought he was crazy. He kept telling me that he “had a plan.” For three years he basically did nothing, once taking off on his motorcycle from Oklahoma and set out on a three month trip to Alaska. It was at this point that I absolutely knew that he was nuts. He kept saying, “Allen . . . I have a plan.”
The day he turned 21, Mike ran down and obtained his CDL license. This was back in the good ‘ole days, before CDL schools and restrictions. Within days, Mike was gone, setting out on his new life as a trucker and had put his plan into motion. For years, he was seldom seen. Every so often, I would see his long nose Peterbuilt parked at his parents house, but within a few days . . . he was gone again. As time went by and all of us other guys were starting our lives with families and various careers . . . Mike was somewhere out there . . . trucking. As years passed, memories of Mike faded.
In 2007, while visiting my old home town, I heard someone from behind say, “Hey Allen, remember me?” Turning around, there in front of me was my ‘ole pal Mike . . . 27 years older and still looking crazy. Finally, after 27 years . . . I discovered what his “plan” had been.
Having ran the road for so many years, he never bought a home, he never married and he was determined to never obtain all the debt that comes with the “normal” way of living. His days off were spent all over the country and he continued to sock away his pay checks, spending only what he needed to for the bare necessities. He pounded away at his company 401K plan, as well as various saving accounts. Now, in 2007, he was off the road for good.
Six months earlier, he had bought his first home . . . with cash . . . had purchased his very first automobile . . . with cash . . . and was getting married within a few weeks. With his savings and cash on hand, Mike had achieved his “plan” through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. At the age of 48, he was officially retired.
I had to think to myself . . . who was really the crazy one?