Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fashion, diet tips, beauty and … trucking?

Every now and then a mainstream publication will do a story on the trucking industry. Often they miss the mark. On occasion a publication will have a relatively accurate piece on trucking. The latest case of the latter comes from a very unlikely magazine: Cosmopolitan.

In a story titled “13 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Long-Haul Truck Driver” (mainstream publications love listicles), Lindsay Slazakowski gives Cosmo readers her perspective as a woman driver. There are a few points of criticism, but for the most part, it’s a fair representation.

In the style of the mentioned article, I’ll address each point in a numbered list in the order presented. This is my attempt at getting away with a listicle at Land Line.
  1. “Driving trucks is more like a lifestyle choice than a regular job.” No argument here. Slazakowski lets readers know time with family and friends is limited and that free time is used to catch up on what most people do in their daily lives. She doesn’t glamorize or demonize the lifestyle. Just states the reality.
  2. “Don’t stress out about finding a job.” This is oversimplified. Slazakowski claims that jobs are easy to get due to a driver shortage. She goes on to claim the ease of getting into the industry. Cheap jobs are easy to find, and getting a good one may not be as easy as the writer indicates
  3. “The starting pay isn’t great, but you can move up the pay scale pretty quickly.” Slazakowski mentions that starting pay was $35,000/year and reached $55,000/year after three years. This is coming from the perspective of a company driver. Owner-operators might have a different story. Either way, there is earning growth potential in trucking. However, other factors may apply (*cough* driver-facing cams *cough*).
  4. “The job can be super lonely, but you can also choose to drive with a partner.” After 10 months solo, the writer’s boyfriend joined her as a team driver. I like this anecdote. I don’t think too many people are aware of this option, which may entice some people who are on the fence. It may convince that significant other that is not too excited about the time apart.
  5. “Everyone is shocked to see a woman driving a truck, and they’ll let you know it.” It appears this gawking at a woman driver is coming from nontruckers. Truckers are no stranger to women drivers and consider it no big deal. The average person? Not so much. It’s an unfortunate reality.
  6. “You should learn to like audiobooks if you don't already.” Not a bad idea. My work commute is only 30 minutes, and I have considered this. I like to read, but don’t have time. This is two birds, one stone. I would also like to throw out another suggestion: podcasts. There seems to be an infinite selection of podcasts, and nearly all of them are free.
  7. “The truck becomes your home.” This speaks for itself, so I’ll let it stand as is.
  8. “Forget about working out or eating well.” My biggest beef with the article was this right here. It’s true that money is earned on the driver’s seat and fast food is more readily available, but using that as an excuse to abandon all hope of a healthy lifestyle is limited thinking. Healthy living is more difficult, but many truckers achieve it. I’ve seen it. They come in the Land Line office all the time.
  9. “You’re constantly traveling, but you don’t get to be a tourist.” Huge lesson for new drivers, especially younger folks. This point dispels any glamorized myth of life on the road. When I was younger, I thought how cool it must be to see everything the United States has to offer as a trucker. You’re on a job, not a vacation. With that said, there are many breathtaking visuals on the highways and plenty of opportunities during periods of downtime to see more than the average American will ever get to experience.
  10. “Sexual harassment is extremely common.” Ugh. I’d like to say Slazakowski is overstating the issue, but she’s not. Another unfortunate reality. However, she did focus on criticizing everybody for harassment, not the industry specifically. It’s a societal issue, not just an industry issue.
  11. “The job is very dangerous.” Another important lesson for prospective drivers. Some people take the act of driving for granted. The odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1:112, according to the National Safety Council. That’s pretty darn high. Yet, the average person gets behind the wheel with the auto-function similar to brushing your teeth. Driving is always risky, no matter who you are.
  12. “Most truck drivers don’t stick around for long.” Yup. In fact, Slazakowski lasted only three years.
  13. “Even with all of the downsides, there are some beautiful moments.” Amen! 
Overall, Slazakowski’s story was on point. Every anecdotal opinion piece will have inconsistencies compared to an industry as a whole. With that said, Cosmopolitan readers received a fair look at trucking. Maybe we’ll see a few behind a tractor-trailer in 10 weeks, which is how long it took Slazakowski to get certified and land a job.

I know. From no experience to long-haul driver in 10 weeks is not exactly cramming for the finals the night before, but it can certainly be improved. That’s a whole different blog.