No, that’s not the start of a bad joke–I actually got the chance to hitch a ride with a trucker a few months ago. Back in September, my road trip with BasicBlock had come to an end in Cleveland, Ohio, and I needed to get back home to Chicago. I linked up with GTS company driver, Eric Prescott who was cool with giving me a lift.
I meet up with Eric as he’s loading up in Mentor, OH. He got his start at 23 years old after struggling with being homeless for a time. He realized “If I’m sleeping in a van and going to work, why not sleep in a truck and go to work,” and he’s been driving since then. Eric sees trucking as a checkpoint, not a final stop.
“I feel like I’m capable of more in my life. This is not a glamorous life to live, but it’s a means and a way to get ahead…if you’re smart, in a short amount of time you can get out of the industry.”
All said and done, he isn’t doing too bad for himself, and he attributes that to making every moment count. In his downtime, he’s started his own side business, Freight Fit, which builds a community for truckers around fitness and nutrition. “If you’re not following your passion, and doing what you need to do to achieve in life…it’s almost like you’re wasting your time,” he adds.
As we’re waiting for the load to be ready, I’m watching a white ball of fur run circles around him. The pup is lively but small–the perfect companion to keep you alert in the cabin. Eric’s biggest piece of advice for drivers to maintain their sanity on the road? Get a dog.
Eyes on the Road
Eric is nearing the end of his journey. He started in Georgia, then headed to Indiana, Virginia, and now to Illinois. After I leave him, he’ll head down to Texas and then toward home in Florida.
We leave Mentor around 9 o’clock in the morning to drive the 370 miles to our destination. The journey will take around six hours to complete once breaks and traffic are factored in.
The first thing we’re thinking about is the weight of the load. Eric says he can get a good sense for the weight based on how things feel once he gets into his seat. That’s why he keeps his seat all the way down, to feel the weight, the tandems, and any changes in the road. Sitting low keeps you safer.
Safety is his priority. He’s seen some crazy stuff on the road. He’s seen cars on fire, cars grinding along the median barrier, and loads strewn across the middle of the road. He doesn’t want him or his company to end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit, so he moves carefully.
I watch closely as he makes a wide turn. He keeps an eye on the right side of his trailer, ensuring he takes himself all the way to the left before cutting to the right, giving his trailer enough space to clear the turn. An SUV scoots out of his way and other vehicles back up warily.
“Just think before you act…It’s all about angles and dynamic driving,” he tells me.
We pull into a station in Edon, OH, around 12:30 p.m. for a fuel up. The dog is excited about the chance to take a few laps around the station. Eric and I bust out some push-ups to use up our excess energy, too.
We talk for a while about the different driver paths. Working as a company driver is where it’s at for Eric. He knows an owner-operator bringing in around $1,700 per week after expenses. “I make around that much, not trying to give everything out…and I don’t have to deal with the stress.”
On working for GTS Transportation, he says, “I’m happy where I’m at, and they treat me well.” He prefers to be with a larger fleet that does everything in-house.
“They have everything in their yard, mechanics, everything you can imagine all in one – dispatchers, safety,” he says. “They rely on themselves, they don’t look for outsourced people to fix their trucks or any of that.”
He also likes the fact they leave him alone to do his job. “They aren’t in your ear every ten minutes asking what’s going on.”
His other advice to those wanting to be a driver is to have a good reason for going into trucking. Are you simply passionate about being on the road, or do you see this as a means to an end? Be clear on your goals, and put aside some savings.
The Final Mile
Before I know it, we’re rolling into the Chicago area around 3:35 P.M. CT after a drive of around seven hours. The smooth, problem-free drive felt a lot faster than I thought it would.
That’s usually how things go for Eric.
“I’ve had a few mistakes, you just learn from them.” For newer drivers, he says you have to do your homework, consider the weather and your weight, make the most of your day, and “don’t make dumb decisions.”
After we drop the load off at the lot, Eric will have nearly five hours of break time, so obviously, we’ll be doing some Muay Thai and Ji Jitsu in that time. Gotta stay Freight Fit, right? Coming from a freight broker background, I’m glad I got the trucker’s perspective right from the passenger’s seat. I’d like to thank Eric Prescott again for letting me hitch a ride.
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