Trucking Is In My Blood - Patrick’s CDL Training Story

Patrick Burcham is a PAM Transport driver and recent grad of the Driver Solutions training program. After recently upgrading to first seat driver with the company, Patrick and his co-driver have begun traveling the states. Patrick took a few minutes to chat with us a bit about his experience in the trucking industry so far.  Let's get started with Part 1 of his interview...

Why Truck Driving?

Q: What were you doing before deciding to become a truck driver and why’d you decide to get into the industry?

A: I worked for a place called Diversified Information Technology. I was driving around in a sprinter van picking up boxes for government and things. It just wasn’t paying a lot, but I liked driving. I was trying to figure out my best option, so I decided to go ahead with truck driving. Also, I’ve got some family in the industry. All three of my uncles drive. My grandfather drove for many years – well over 20 years – and they all loved it, so it seemed natural to me.

Q: When you were looking at getting into truck driving, what were some things that were important to you?

A: The most important was, “what won’t hurt my wallet?” I wasn’t so much worried about whether it was OTR, solo, team, etc; that wasn’t a concern. It was more about getting training done and getting my foot in the door. I didn’t care what it took, I knew I’d do it. So I Googled “CDL training” and y’all popped up and it’s been good ever since.
 

PAM Transport Truck on Highway

How Was CDL Training?

Q: What was the CDL training experience like for you?

A: I had a blast at truck driving school. All of the instructors were great . They taught us proper pre-trip inspection, which is obviously really important. And not only that, but the instructors really took their time with us and showed us everything step-by-step. It was tough to get everyone in the truck in a timely manner because the range instructor went through it so thoroughly, but it didn’t even matter because once we got in a truck, it had been so well-engrained into our heads from him showing and telling us everything. My road instructor, Diane, was fantastic. She made sure I knew what I was doing and that I knew how to drive before she OK’d me to go take the test. I enjoyed my time there and I feel like they did a great job.

Q: What was the most difficult part of training for you?

A: I really can’t tell you because it all kind of came pretty easily to me. It felt natural and I didn’t really have many problems at all.

Q: One of the lucky few! What was your secret?

A: When I was in college, I did pilot training, and it’s very similar. Basically, it boils down to:  take your time, listen to what they say, apply what they say, and you’ll be fine. When in doubt, RTFN – read the F’n notes! That’s essentially what it is. If you have a problem, hold on, think about it, and think about what instructors would want you to do in that situation, and you’re going to do it naturally. If you don’t, you’re probably not meant for the business and you’re gonna cause an accident because you won’t think. You’ll just react, and you’ll be wrong because you didn’t study it.

The Trucking Lifestyle - Making The Adjustment

Q: When looking into truck driving, how much did you consider the lifestyle change it would entail and how heavily did that weigh into your decision?

A: Well, it kinda did and it kinda didn’t. I spent a year living by myself, and I didn’t have any time to visit anybody anyway because I was working so much. Being away from home is difficult because I do miss my family, but overall it’s just another day of work. I think about it when I get off work. I haven’t been home for 7 weeks. We’re supposed to be home very soon though and I'm really looking forward to it.  Like I said, you go into work and you’re there to focus on work, not going home or whatever. The hardest lifestyle change though is eating properly. It’s really difficult because you go to all these places and they always have specials and great prices, but at the same time, there’s a reason that the stereotypical truck drivers are fat guys.

The top of my mind though was how am I going to be able to do this – to go on the road and maintain a healthy relationship with my family and not have any problems. My solution was to get a Bluetooth headset. I call my family every day and check up on them and everything. That’s kind of how I cope with life on the road. Everyone’s got their own process of doing things though. I’d suggest if you don’t want to be gone for so long, take the option of 2 weeks out, 2 days home. That way, you’re home more often in sooner intervals. Myself, I like the 5 weeks out and 5 days home because I get to be home for a quality amount of time.
 

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