1. Driving trucks is more like a lifestyle choice than a regular job. This is not the kind of job where you'll be home for dinner every night. You stay out, driving shipments back and forth, for weeks at a time, and then you get a couple days off back home. It's impossible to have a real life because you're always on the road. Even on the days off, when you want to spend time with your family or your friends, you have to sleep and do your laundry and go to the grocery store to get snacks for the road and then, before you know it, you leave again. It's a very harsh lifestyle.
3. The starting pay isn't great, but you can move up the pay scale pretty quickly.When I first started driving, I was making 27 cents for every mile that I drove, which equated to around $35,000 a year — so, not great. But by the time I quit three years later, I was making $55,000 a year. Pay raises are regular, and your rate goes up if you hit goals each quarter, like making on-time deliveries, driving without accidents, staying under the speed limit, and having more years of experience under your belt.
4. The job can be super lonely, but you can also choose to drive with a partner. I drove by myself for the first 10 months, which was fine but a little lonely. Later, I convinced my boyfriend to get his commercial driver's license and join me in the truck, and we started to team truck drive. This is pretty common, especially for women truck drivers, who feel more comfortable having someone with them. When I was driving, my boyfriend would sleep, and vice versa. We could cover a lot more ground that way, because we each drove half the distance to the drop-off destination and didn't have to stop. Teams are paid for the total miles they drive together (you split the pay down the middle) so you can make a lot more money this way.
5. Everyone is shocked to see a woman driving a truck, and they'll let you know it.Women only make up about 5 percent of the truck driving industry, according to the American Trucking Association. But that doesn't make it any less sexist when people act like a fish is riding a bicycle when they see a woman behind the wheel! I had to get used to people constantly gawking at me or going out of their way to tell me they'd never seen a woman driving a long haul before. You have to develop a thick skin and shrug it off.
6. You should learn to like audiobooks if you don't already. Radio is the no. 1 thing truck drivers listen to, but it's tricky, since you're constantly passing through new airwaves and can't listen to the same radio station for very long. I listened to audiobooks all day long — series are the best, like Harry Potter or Stephen King novels — because it made the day go by a lot faster.
7. The truck becomes your home. You sleep in your truck, you eat in your truck, you spend every minute in your truck. The trucks have sleeper berths behind the cab, with bunk beds and cabinets and a few shelves, and that basically becomes your home for weeks at a time. When my boyfriend and I started team driving together, we decided to buy a new memory foam mattress for our truck, because the mattresses that come in the trucks are like summer camp cots. We bought a crockpot to cook food on the go, and we had a really nice set-up. It's not glamorous, but you make it your own. The one thing you don't do in your truck is go to the bathroom and shower, which you get to do at special areas of rest stops and at "service plazas." You learn to get by on a shower a few times a week (or less) and hold your bladder for as long as possible, because every minute you're stopped at a rest stop is lost income. Some truck drivers even wear diapers to avoid stopping at bathrooms — not kidding.
8. Forget about working out or eating well. You're sitting all day driving, then you're sleeping. That's your life for as long as it takes to get home. Forget exercising; you're barely standing up throughout the day. The only way to make money is if your truck is moving, and as long as your truck is moving, you're on your butt. You're also eating like crap, since your only options on the road are fast food and the non-perishables you can bring in your truck, so you're living off a diet of hamburgers and canned vegetables.
9. You're constantly traveling, but you don't get to be a tourist. In a day, you could easily clock 600 miles; in a week, you could span more than 3,000 miles, or double if you're team driving. That's an insane swath of the United States to cover — and yet, you won't experience anything you can't see from the highway. Sure, you're passing through lots of cool places, but you're on the clock and you can't just park your truck somewhere and go sightseeing.
10. Sexual harassment is extremely common. It's awful and it's gross, but it's too common to ignore. Once, I was driving in Chicago, and I noticed a pick-up truck in the lane next to me matching my speed. Sometimes people rubberneck just to catch a glimpse of the rare woman in the driver's seat — sexism, remember? — but this was different. I finally made eye contact with the guy and he was exposing himself to me, staring directly at me, while driving. I've been catcalled by regular drivers on the road and from other truck drivers; even the customers I delivered to made overtly sexual comments toward me. Other women have reported sexual assault during training and while on the road, which is an uncomfortable reality for any woman in this industry.
11. The job is very dangerous. Each year, trucks account for thousands of fatalities and even more non-fatal crashes. Truckers get tired, bored, and rushed to make specific delivery windows, which can lead to reckless driving. Even if you're a perfect driver, it's challenging to operate a vehicle this big. It's normal to stop during really bad weather, like a blizzard, but any amount of wind, rain, or snow can make it scary to drive. Fortunately, trucking companies typically have good insurance policies for their drivers to protect against accidents.
12. Most truck drivers don't stick around for long. Truck driving has a notoriously high turnover rate: 84 percent of drivers quit in 2015, which is shockingly the lowest turnover rate in years. People either get sick of the lifestyle or realize they've capped out of the pay scale, and move onto something else. As for me, I always saw truck driving as a temporary job. I wanted to pay off my student loans and save up some money to go back to school, and once I accomplished those things, there wasn't much keeping me there. It's a rough life, and it can really wear you down. But for a few years, it was a means to an end.
13. Even with all of the downsides, there are some beautiful moments. If you Google "best things about being a truck driver," you're not going to find much. But for the right person, there's a lot to appreciate: You get to be in charge of your own schedule and how you spend your time in the truck. You can save a lot of money, since your living expenses are minimal while you're on the road. And the views from the driver's seat beat any office window.