In May of 2011 Randy and I both lost our jobs. Although the company we worked for took good care of us, we immediately started looking at our options. The job market did not look very good and nothing seemed promising. With our kids starting college and leaving home, we felt that we needed to look at this layoff as an opportunity. Maybe this was a perfect time to look into driving a big truck. We spent hours and hours on researching the trucking industry. We really did not have anything to lose so we decided to go ahead and go to school to get our CDL licenses. In the meantime, we continued with our research. We asked tons of questions. Any opportunity that presented itself for us to learn something new, we jumped on it. We talked to all sorts of people, all sorts of companies, all sorts of unhappy and some happy drivers, all sorts of owner operators and to all our teachers. We talked to anyone that was willing to speak. Overall the response was mostly negative. We were disappointed and undecided. Then we found a blog about a couple, a husband and wife team, who drove for US Express. Their story was not much different than ours. I contacted them immediately. They were a happy couple who seemed to love what they did. They concentrated on the positive aspects of the job and they definitely looked happy. It seemed like they had a ton of fun. They were able to enjoy themselves and make money at the same time. I remember the excitement I felt every time they posted on their blog.
Believe it or not, we still walked into the industry totally in the blind. We had no idea what this was going to be like. I felt like we were getting into one of those pyramid companies where you were promised the world and you had a certain amount of time to make up your mind or the offer was off the table. It was crazy if you ask me. I was even told that the recruiters lie to you just to get you in the door. If it wasn’t for Anne and Craig, the couple from US Express, we would not be driving.
We started school in July of 2011 and graduated in October of 2011. Randy received the President’s award in our class and boy was he ever proud. It seemed like driving the big rig came naturally to Randy. I struggled a bit, but I did well in the end. Not knowing how all this was going to pan out, we did not want to sign any contracts and be obligated. Con-way accommodated that requirement. We wanted the flexibility of being able to go home if we chose to. After all, we were leaving the three most important people in our lives behind. That was the hardest part. Even though the kids were getting older and moving on with their own lives, leaving them behind was really tough. Two weeks after graduation we left on a Greyhound bus headed for Joplin, MO to start our venture with Con-way Truckload. The bus ride was definitely a memorable experience. Let’s just say that we will never do that again. I know, I know, you should never say “never”. I think we spent a total of 38 hours on that bus.To my amazement, I sincerely enjoyed driving and touring the country. I enjoyed spending everyday with Randy. I loved the fact that nobody was over my shoulder telling me what to do, with the exception of Randy, lol. I got to experience new places with someone I loved and I was getting paid to do it. Our experience with Con-way Truckload was a very positive one. I am not saying that it went off without some hiccups, but over all we did not have anything negative to say about Con-way.
After driving for a little over a year, both Randy and I felt that we wanted to look at other opportunities. At this point we knew how we felt about the trucking industry, we knew the risks that were involved, we had some driving experience, and we had an idea of the possible potential. Randy started looking and asking questions all over again. I was desperate for us to try something different and new. I wanted to move forward, yet not jeopardize what we had with Con-way. Randy decided he was going to be the one to tread in the new waters. He applied with a tanker company located in our home town and was hired. He was very excited about this opportunity because the potential was there to make more money and be home a lot more often. If all worked out well, then I could have joined him in the future. For the time being I stayed on with Con-way and looked into becoming a trainer. Teaching was right up my alley.Randy did not want me to be out there in the big bad USA all by myself, but I insisted. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do the job and I also wanted the new experience. I can tell you all that I absolutely and positively hated it. I had to do everything by myself and it was not easy. For example, moving the tandems, pulling the tandem handle, pulling the king pin handle, strapping cargo, closing the uneven doors, putting placards on and off in the rain, parking, docking, pre-tripping, fueling, cleaning out the trailers, cleaning the windshield that I could not reach, and the list goes on. Solo driving was not for me. I recall telling Randy that I knew why I liked the job before he left me. It was because he did all the work and I only drove. Mostly, I felt that solo driving was very dangerous and way underpaid. My dispatcher was good to me, but I still did not think it was worth the risk. By the end of the second week I finally started to come around. I stopped crying and I found ways to be and feel safer. I worked out a schedule which made life a little bit easier day by day. Of course I had my little support team. My friend Dianna called me every day to keep me company over the phone. Some days we talked for hours. Dianna was my moral support and she continuously reminded me that I can do the job. My friend Donna cared about my well-being. She kept track of where I was at all times, she monitored my locations for weather and road conditions, and she made sure that I was safe. The minute I was not logged into Google Latitude (a mobile location service); she was on the phone wanting to know why. It was very refreshing to know that people out there cared for me so much.
Randy was busy acclimating to his new position and learning another facet of the trucking industry. Pulling tanker and working with different chemicals required a lot of focus. There was much more to the job then just driving. The majority of the materials hauled in tanks included flammable and hazardous chemicals. One small mistake could result in a major catastrophe. The loads were usually very heavy and more difficult to control. Even though Randy was only in his training process, he still managed to be home quite often. Randy was impressed by the company and the laid back atmosphere. Everyone was always happy and very positive. With this kind of job, a driver’s mind frame was very important. The job included a lot of responsibility, not only to the new company, but also to himself and to the general public. He needed to be very focused and clear minded. Randy was about to start his one week hazmat training in South Carolina when he realized that he could not do it. He could not move forward with a clear conscience. He knew for a fact that his mind was elsewhere. He was constantly worried and thinking about me.Randy was fortunate to leave the company on good terms with an open invitation to come back. He rejoined me at Con-way Truckload at the beginning of February. Con-Way has a 30 day no questions asked policy which Randy took advantage of. Both of us were very grateful for the experience and knowledge we gained during that transition and we were excited to be back on the road together as a team.
Not too long after being on the road together again, we started looking into taking the next step and the possibility of becoming Owner/Operators. We looked at many different options and decided that buying a used truck would work out the best. In March of 2013 we purchased our first truck from Con-way Truckload. We did all the research on driving for other companies and we realized that going from Company Drivers to Owner Operators at Con-way would be a very easy transition. We had the help and support we needed, which made life much easier. We also met some wonderful people who we are proud to call our friends. Since we were very happy and comfortable, we decided that we would stay at Con-way Truckload as Independent Contractors.
Today, we continue our research and look forward to taking yet another step.