Making a career change to a truck driving job is a huge decision, even if you’re young and don’t have a spouse or family. But for the average truck driver with a wife and children to support, the decision becomes even more difficult to make when you consider that this career move will not only affect you, but your immediate family as well. Your decision will make an impact on your family financially, but emotionally as well, so it’s important that you have their utmost support when you decide to embark on your journey to becoming a professional truck driver.
We talked to recent Driver Solutions grad Debra Garcia on just this – her switch to a truck driving job and the support she found in her children throughout the process. Keep reading as Debra discusses how important it is to have the full support of your loved ones before getting started on this career path and what its like pursuing a stereotypical "male industry"!
First off, tell us a little bit about your experience with Driver Solutions?
Well, about 6 weeks ago I decided I needed a better paying job because I have a son in college and a daughter who's about to be a freshman in high school. I'm actually a certified phlebotomist. I got my degree in 2010 and I'm really proud of that, but I couldn't find a job. I kept seeing all these ads for truck driving jobs and wondered if I could do it. I saw your ad for PAM Transport and went ahead and applied. The next day, I got the call from my Driver Agent, and soon all the paperwork was done and I found myself at C1 in Fort Wayne. Four weeks later, I had my CDL! It really was that fast. I am just so thrilled.
What type of discussions/support have you had with your family about this career change?
My family is 100% supportive. My kids think I can walk on water, to be honest. They had no doubt that I could do it even when I did. The week of school work wasn't hard, but the week after that was. Three days after I started training on the range, I came home and told my son, "I can't do this." He asked what it was I couldn't do and I said, "I can't do this, I can't parallel park a 70 foot vehicle!" And he just kind of looked at me like, "Mom? Are you serious? Parallel park a semi? It's been THREE days!" My kids have been so supportive. When my son said that, it brought everything in perspective and I thought, wow, I'm talking about trying to parallel park a 70 foot vehicle. Why am I stressing? And then you know what? When I took my range test, I didn't get one point and I did it perfectly. I really am truly amazed and I couldn't be happier.
My wonderful children are committed along with me and I couldn't do this without them. I have to stay with the company for a year, then I can decide what to do. At the end of the year I may stay OTR because I like it, or I might do something local because once you get a year of OTR experience, local truck driving jobs start becoming available. I'm not sure which way I'll go to tell you the truth, but at least I have opportunities and options.
I was talking to the kids recently and telling them I just feel like this is the path I was supposed to follow because it all happened so quickly. I worked every day while I was in school too, because I have to support my family. It's been nonstop work, no days off since June. And it hasn't felt hard, it's been easy, so that tells me I'm doing what I need to do.
What tips do you have for new students/females entering a stereotypical "man's world?"
You can do it. Just trust the instructors. They'll give you the tools if you just trust them. The first three days or so I didn't really fully trust that they'd be able to teach me. They knew I could do it, but I didn't know that. Once I finally trusted them it was just very easy and I was treated very respectfully. It might be a man's world, but everyone was very respectful of me being a female in a predominately male industry.
It's been a wonderful experience, and I have nothing but great things to say about my classmates and instructors. Everything was positive -- not one negative (other than me thinking I possibly couldn't do it). I just persevered because they told me not to quit and that they wouldn't let me quit. And I did it and I'm so happy! It feels awesome when you do accomplish it. I told myself that this is a man's thing, but I can do it too!