How to Become a Professional Truck Driver
Garrett Sweet has been a professional truck driver for nearly a decade. He entered the field when his father-in-law, who is also a professional truck driver, brought him along to show him the ropes. After getting in some practice, Garrett took the required test to earn his license and began driving professionally. Although he entered the field without formal education in truck driving, Garrett cautions that more and more employers are exclusively hiring truck drivers who have gone through formal training courses. Garrett has been an owner-operator and has also worked for private companies. He has hauled a variety of different loads and has driven many different types of trucks. When it comes to experience in the truck driving field, you name it and he has probably done it.
Why did you decide to become a truck driver?
It was the quickest thing I could do to make decent money and take care of my family. It definitely wasn't something I was thinking of as a career in the beginning.
Are there common misconceptions about your profession?
That all truck drivers are steering wheel holders, and don't do much else, which is not true at all. If you come into trucking thinking you are just going to drive, you will have a rude awakening! Also, a lot of people don't realize the mental capacity it takes to be able to drive for long periods of time, by yourself, in all sorts of road conditions, with all sorts of bad drivers on the road.
What is a typical day like for you?
I get to work, check the schedule for loads needed and go get those loads. Then I load them into the tanks and sit and wait until the factory needs more! It's a little more complicated than that, because you have to be careful of the hot materials, hook and unhook the hoses, and watch the tanks so they don't overflow, but for the most part, it is pretty simple.
I complete some paperwork, but not much. I do fix a lot of things that I can on the trucks and tanks, when I'm not super busy. It saves the company money, and makes me money, so no complaining there!
The level of my work load varies; it can get really busy in the summer, but for the most part, 13 days on, 1 day off. Depending on how busy the factory is, I can work an 8-hour shift or a 12-hour shift per night.
What are your favorite aspects of your job?
I enjoy working by myself at night, even though I'm working for a company now and not out on my own. It's nice not to have a boss constantly breathing over your shoulder. The health insurance and pay are nice. I also enjoy the interaction with my co-workers; we all get along, and that helps.
What are your least favorite aspects of your job?
Not having the weekends off, but the company makes up for that in spades, so you take the good with the bad.
What personality traits do you think would help someone to be successful as a truck driver?
Common sense, the ability to be alone with yourself a lot, and the drive. You have to want to be a truck driver.
What personality traits do you think might hinder someone's success as a truck driver?
The exact opposite of my last answer. Don't get behind the wheel if you don't have any common sense. Especially an 18-wheeler flying down the freeway at 60 MPH!
What advice, or words of caution, would you give to a student who is considering studying to become a truck driver?
Well, just know that this is what you want to do, as with any career. And make sure you also at least get an associate degree in some kind of business management, because you won't always be able to throw tarps, strap and load, and unload. Or have the mental capacity anymore. You need to be able to move into the management side of things when you get older. Either that or save really well and retire early!