Trucking faced a very challenging and frustrating start to 2016. Freight was down and tempers were up. At the end of March, I decided to turn in my keys and head home to the farm. After all, I could just plant crops and watch them grow. Sounded blissful, so that’s exactly what I did.
After the seeds were in the ground, a friend approached me about becoming an independent contractor for another very large trucking company. The draw? Selecting my own loads from a large and plentiful pool of freight just waiting for drivers to come and deliver them.
I have to admit I missed being on the road. It does get into your blood so I took him up on his offer. I quickly discovered that things weren’t going to turn out as I’d imagined. During my ten-week adventure with “the other guy”, I learned a lot of things that I would like to share with you.
If the grass is greener on the other side, it’s most likely artificially produced. True enough, I did get to select my own freight and honestly, I stayed right where I wanted to be geographically. I was at least through home once a week and I knew for several days in advance exactly where I was going to be. Unfortunately, that was the only upside I experienced. That was the only positive thing the company provided.
A brand new truck is not just a brand new truck. Though I leased a brand new 2017 Freightliner, it was nothing more than a shell of a truck. It had none of the safety equipment Prime equips their trucks with. Things I grew to depend on to get my job done were absent in my new tractor. To make matters worse, in ten weeks, my truck was in the shop nine times with major issues that severely impacted the safe operation of the vehicle.
Support is not guaranteed. Unlike Prime where I just send a message to Road Assist 24/7 if I have issues and they pull out all stops to get me back up and running quickly, at the other guy I was forced to battle the big truck manufacturer on my own. David was fighting trucking Goliath while my company remained completely hands off.
All equipment is not the same. Silly me. I used to grumble about waiting what seemed like an eternity for driver inbound to inspect and repair my trailer, never considering the alternative. Then I witnessed the other side of that coin. Imagine an environment where a company purchases the cheapest equipment on the market rather than the best and safest. Then imagine that those substandard trailers are never inspected or repaired until something major occurs (usually broken down on the side of the road or after the defect has caused an accident). Yeah, that was my ten-week learning curve into the world of trucking outside Prime.
Resources are not plentiful. I have NaviGo navigation system. Today, if I suddenly need a place to stop because I encounter an equipment problem or the weather goes bad, I punch a button or two and know just where the nearest safe haven is. Imagine if that function was completely disabled while driving and there was no place to pull off? Prime offers many, many resources to drivers, far more than the other guy. But imagine what your driving day would be like if even those limited resources you did have were not available unless you were sitting still? That was my experience with the other guy.
I’m actually glad I left Prime for that brief season. I started my trucking career with Prime. I went through CDL school here. I loved Prime then and still do today. Before this truck driver roamed, I’d never known any other way of trucking. When the going got tough, I thought the grass was greener on the other side. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz also dreamed things would be better outside of Kansas. After being faced with untold issues, problems and attacks from all directions, we both learned that without a doubt, there’s no place like home.
If you’re frustrated and think things will be better if you leave and go to the other guy, I urge you to think again. Take it from one who has been there, done that and has the battles scars to prove it. You’ve already got the best. Take a moment to think about the good things at Prime. The benefits. The perks. The people. It won’t take long for you to realize how good you have it here!
It’s great to be home. I made a personal vow that never again will I wonder where truck drivers roam.
Written by Reba J. Hoffman
Reba J. Hoffman joined Prime in 2014 after spending a year riding her bicycle alone around the country helping women victims of violent assault. She left Prime in early 2016 and recently joined back this Fall. A therapist by trade, Reba uses her understanding of people and how they tick to help them live their dream of being a trucker by serving as a CDL Instructor. When out of her truck, you’ll find her somewhere in the wilds of nature.