Image courtesy of Colin Henry Colin Henry at a bookstore, one of his favorite kind of places to visit on his travels.
Image courtesy of Colin Henry
Colin Henry at a bookstore, one of his favorite kind of places to visit on his travels.

Even though they have their diplomas in hand, many new King’s graduates might not have the slightest idea as to what they want to do after they graduate. Some students may jump right into looking for a career that relates to their major, while others might just be looking for a job that can quickly pay the bills. One job that many might overlook, though they shouldn’t, is truck driving, a fascinating job where stories form.

I would like to tell the stories of two different truck drivers, one from the past and another from the present day.

It’s New York City. 1986. The sun is out and the people are up and moving. Daytime or nighttime, nothing in New York was different. It was still full of people with places to be and things to do. One of the  city’s residents was a young man named Steven, who had been up at the crack of dawn.

No, he wasn’t out partying. He was working.  He was a truck driver, working for a paper supply company that required him to travel to Wall Street in the middle of the day, find parking, and use a liftgate (a large attachment at the rear of a truck which can be raised and lowered to unload a shipment) to deliver whatever Wall Street needed that day, which was usually office supplies.

“Yeah, it was tough, it was very tough,” Steven stated as he remembered his early days of trucking.

But he was a professional driver, equipped with a twenty-two foot long truck with ten wheels and a liftgate, who had just started his career. His experience was low, but his ambition was high. And because he was still a professional driver, it was just himself on the road, with his eyes and concentration and thoughts focused only on the road and other drivers.

“There’s no entertainment (or, in other words, real entertainment like movies and TV). When you’re out driving, the only thing you can do is concentrate on driving. Remember, there are lives at stake,” Steven said seriously.

The only slight form of entertainment he had was a map of the United States to read whenever he got lost and a CB (Citizens Band) radio to keep him company whenever things got lonely, though that was not one of the radio’s two main functions. The CB radio’s uses were to keep the driver alert and allow the driver to hear from other people what is happening on the roads. No matter whether or not the driver had plans to travel on said roads, it’s still the closest thing to entertainment a professional truck driver had.

It’s a lonely job, really. Just a driver and the road ahead. Sure, the CB might pick up an anonymous voice or two, but still, it doesn’t replace the feeling of actually talking to another person. There were some occasions where Steven worked “in teams” with another driver. But these occasions were rare, and the only reason why he did it was to earn money, and to have another driver drive while he was asleep, seeing as how the engine never stopped running.

However, there were still opportunities to interact with people. For example, small children in bright yellow school buses wanted Steven to blow his horn. They signaled that to him by either yelling out of the bus’ window or by pulling on an invisible cord. He blew his horn for them too, because it made the kids smile and it also got them to put their arms and heads safely back into the bus.

While watching the other cars on the road, Steven said, it can really hurt to take just a quick look inside and see a happy, smiling family passing by. It tends to remind the drivers of the one thing they don’t see that often and the one thing they miss most of all: their families. Truck drivers tend to only be home on the weekends, as the week is spent driving. They don’t get to experience the feeling of coming home after a long day of work on a daily basis. They only experience that on a weekly basis.

Of course not all truck drivers have the same experience, or the same reasoning behind their actions.

Now it’s 2013 in Northeast Pennsylvania. The sun is out and people are moving through their daily lives. Yet, the area still keeps a small sense of serenity and peace through all of that activity. In this area lives a young man named Colin Henry who was also up early in the day, not partying, but working, just like Steven.

Colin worked for a company called the US Xpress. He too performed runs in teams. Though, unlike Steven, he usually did his team runs with his brother and a GPS system, instead of a map and random strangers or barely-familiar co-workers.

“We both did it for the adventure, I guess,” Colin told me.

And adventure he had! According to Colin, he had seen forty-five out of the fifty states, with the only five he didn’t see being Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, and South Dakota. He also informed me that he enjoyed sightseeing whenever he was in a big city, which is a big perk from a job like that.

“My favorite city was Portland, Oregon,” Colin said. “It had the best bookstore in the country, Powell’s City of Books, which had multiple floors of any genre of literature imaginable.”

He was also a big fan of history, even to the point of deciding to return to King’s College to complete his history degree. While his job had a lot of perks and benefits, one particular perk really made his job all the more worthwhile.

“Being a history major, when passing multiple places in the country I would get interested in when they were settled and the history of various towns and cities.” Colin told me while stating a few perks of being a professional driver.

However, not all of this driver’s adventures were pleasant. He told about a time where he was doing a team run with his brother towards Seattle from Oregon and he ended up getting off at an exit that would’ve led him straight into a low bridge so low that it would’ve trapped his trailer in between it and the road below.

It was five in the morning, traffic was scarce, he had four months of driving underneath his belt, and his vision was limited when an idea on how to get out of his predicament formed. He would have his brother get out of the truck and direct him while he backed his truck back up the interstate. He told me that if his brother were not there he would have called the state police to direct him instead, as it was too dangerous a maneuver to perform by himself.

Overall, however, Colin enjoyed his work and would recommend it to anyone looking to make a lot of money in a brief amount of time. He told me that to do this job effectively a person has to be patient, as professional driving requires 150 hours of training sessions and an endless amount of hours spent sitting in traffic.

I was also told that if an aspiring truck driver needs to get their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), they should look into getting one from a facility that is reliable, as that tends to lead to more job opportunities with good companies. After all, in this business, there’s always a job open.

“As the United States economy is always in flux, it is good to know that, being a driver, there will always be an opportunity.” Colin stated. “I felt it was a great growing experience for me.”

Colin also recommended that aspiring truck drivers should avoid being local or regional drivers, as that limits them to only being able to travel to a few certain states and areas. Depending on their route, they might not ever get the experience of being able to see a bookstore as big and amazing as Powell’s in Oregon or get to travel all the way into Canada with no questions asked.

Despite the fact that my two interviewees had decades between their experiences, they both do have the same overall belief: Trucks, truck driving, and truck drivers are crucial for the world.

Sure, the job might not sound like the most “prestigious” job there is, especially when a lot of people don’t think too highly of truck drivers, but then again, all the things that most people (including those with “prestigious” job titles) own or use were, more than likely, on a truck at some point during its life.

According to Steven, any country that is capable of maintaining a trucking industry needs those trucks to survive and send their products all over their land and lands overseas.

Professional truck driving teaches the driver to be more appreciative of the things that most people take for granted, such as food and clothing, by showing them exactly what it takes to receive said things.

“Many times a driver takes something all the way across the country to get something you enjoy to market,” Steven said.

It is because of sacrifices like that both drivers agree that people should never take things for granted, because without someone’s sacrifice, there’s a good chance that they wouldn’t even have those things in the first place.