Women in Trucking - A Woman Driver's Guide
Give Yourself Every Chance
We are starting a new CDL class at the Technical College where I teach part-time. We are once again blessed with a room full of nice people. I know, however, that not all of them will make it through the class. Some, for reasons beyond their control, will find it too hard to work and attend class, some won't get their APs, some will simply find out it wasn't what they thought. Many will learn it is harder and more complicated than they realized, for some that will be too much. For others it will be a challenge, one they will meet head on and those are the ones that will make it through class.
But even that is no guarantee that they will make it as a trucker. The student must possess a real work ethic that extends beyond the classroom or training course. The lifestyle is impossible to imagine from the outside: the hours of time spent alone, the endless miles; the holidays, birthdays, and special events you won't be home to share.
There is no one else to pick up the slack or to do it for you. You must work every day you are expected to, and there are very few paid holidays or sick days. You will have to do your own laundry, shop for your own food, make up your own bunk.
And most annoying of all is the paperwork! First, keep track of your information, start a folder, a notebook. Keep all originals, MVRs, certificates of completion of all courses, schools, and awards. Keep a duplicate set in another location. Start dates, as well as departure dates are important. Complete addresses and phone numbers, with supervisor's names are easily forgotten. When you fill out applications you must give a 10-year history. If that takes you back to high school or when you entered this country, state that. Leave no gaps over 30 days. Keep records and copies of anything you fill out.
When you start on the job, pay attention in orientation! Each company has its own paperwork requirements as well as their own way of doing things. Learn to do things their way and your life will be easier. Ask questions and make notes and use a brief case or bag, organization helps. Read the company manual, read the owner's manual that comes in the truck. Keep your bills of lading in a safe place-the same place every time will keep you from frantically searching for them!
When you get out there on the road, have an open mind and be free of set expectations. Write down directions, you are likely to go back there. Write down names: the dock foreman, the loader, and anyone else you might see again. Knowing their names will get you better service. Get phone numbers and complete addresses. Call and get your own directions when the ones they gave you don't make sense, always ask someone in shipping or receiving. Notice where you enter, and where the shipping or receiving areas are. Drive slowly in parking lots, use your four-ways and don't blind other drivers with your headlights. Get out and look. Check the area you are backing into carefully and often.
Now, even if you have the world's best trainer and you give it your best effort, you may still have awful days when everything goes wrong. Please don't throw in the towel because of one bad day, or even a few bad days, that is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Too often drivers will burn their bridges, and sometimes before they have given themselves enough time to really know the trade.
Do not abandon your truck and do not quit under a load-you may never drive again. Even if you do it because of a family emergency, communicate with your company. Go to the top, do what it takes. I am sorry but there is never an excuse to quit that way! And it's likely you will find out nothing else pays as well, or has as much work available. Looking in the papers, the want ads are pretty skimpy but the driving jobs are there.
The economy has slowed down, freight has slowed down but it doesn't stop. Prepare for the lean times. There is a slow-down immediately after Christmas every year. Put back enough for three months as soon as you can. You'll make some money the first two or three months of the year, but not as much as the rest of the year. Don't waste your money out there on the road. Give your self every chance to succeed. There is more to driving than driving.
Stay safe out there.