My 1st Year with USA Truck - Tips for the Lifestyle Change

So far Don Dennard, our Facebook Fan of the Week, has shared insight on his CDL training experience and how his first year with USA Truck is going. Today, he shares his thoughts on the lifestyle change and adjustment that accompanies a career in truck driving.

If you missed them, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with Don.

Q: Working a truck driving job means making a lifestyle adjustment. Now that you’ve got about a year of experience, fill us in on some tips for success.
A: You need to understand up front that this (truck driving) is a lifestyle, not a job. Driving on the road IS a lifestyle. It’s different from anything you’ve ever done. If you’ve got a wife or girlfriend or husband or boyfriend, you need to make very sure they understand and they know what they’re getting into. Make sure they support you. The biggest thing for me is that my wife supported me a lot through this first year of my trucking job with USA Truck.  As you go along, you don’t have to be out here so long at once and that makes things a little easier.

You have to learn that you can’t always eat what you want to eat; you have to eat what’s near you. Learn to be patient, and learn to be a constant defensive driver. Always be watching for the other guy. You’re always on the road. The scenery always changes out here, and you never know where you’re going to be next. This is a big country and the culture is a little bit different everywhere you go. You need to be a people person – go out and talk to people! Get along with people. You’re going to deal with people more than you think. It’s a lonely lifestyle – you’re alone a lot, but you have to deal with people a lot too. I kind of equate it (working a truck driver job) to camping – I’m setting up camp in Savannah, Georgia tonight. That’s basically what you’re doing, kind of like the wagon trains of the old west. You’re moving across the old country, and when it’s time to stop, you got to set up camp somewhere. I got my little RV here set up pretty nice. Once you get your own truck, you can set it up the way you want. I don’t have a refrigerator. I know a lot of guys have refrigerators or coolers, but I don’t really have a need for one. I have a microwave and a coffee maker and the food I buy is stuff you don’t have to refrigerate. Stuff like warm soup, Vienna sausage, cornmeal dinners, chicken and potatoes. Emergency food, as I call it. What if you get stuck somewhere at night and there’s no food? You need to have some kind of emergency food all the time. You may not be able to get into a truck stop every night and there may not be a Denny’s, or a Subway, McDonald’s near. It really is kind of like camping. Like I said, Vienna sausages, peanut butter, canned food. Stuff like that…not real healthy, but it’ll do in a pinch.

A lot of times I’ll eat lunch backed up to a door. We make money when the wheels are rolling. You don’t make anything sitting in a Burger King. I can take 35, 40 minutes and go in and eat, but if I’m back up to a door and I’ll be there a few hours, I’ll make a peanut butter sandwich and eat lunch while I’m sitting there anyway, then I’m ready to roll.

Q: What do you do to make your truck a home away from home? A: I have one of those mosaic pictures in my truck. It’s an 8x10 frame that I keep by my bunk with pictures of my wife, kids, and grandkids.

Q: What are some of your favorite states to travel through or some cool things you’ve seen out on the road?
A: You see a lot, but you don’t get to visit a lot. The gateway arch in St. Louis is cool…the gateway to the west. The first time I saw that was really cool. I’ve probably seen it 30 times now. I’ve seen it down the right side of my truck 15 times, and down the left side of my truck 15 times. There’s nowhere to stop a truck though. But that was cool – I’m a history buff. I liked old Route 66 – that was cool. I took a load to Denver and drove the old Pony Express route. There was actually room I could pull off and check that out. I enjoyed that. Oh, doggone you know I got so close to Niagara Falls I could almost smell it, but I didn’t see it. I like the mountains too… it’s not a whole lot of fun driving through them but some of the most beautiful places in this country are in the mountains. I-71 going through West Virginia is beautiful country. I-80 going across eastern Pennsylvania, through Amish country. That’s the most beautiful place in the country. Spring, summer, and fall, it’s so beautiful. I hate winter in Pennsylvania though. I’m a Southern boy by heart. I like it down south. But I’ve been all the way up to Maine and as far as Minnesota…all the way to Duluth, Minnesota. I’ve been down to Laredo, Texas several times. That’s not the most pleasant place though.

Where's your favorite state to travel through? Stay tuned for the final part of our interview with USA Truck driver Don Dennard. Next time, Don shares some advice for newbie truck drivers and those considering starting a truck driving career with the Driver Solutions training program.

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