One Trucker’s Change to Freedom and the Open Road
Truckers come from all backgrounds. Tod Walker, 52, veteran, came into the industry with a degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology from Southern Illinois State University. Before he became a trucker Walker worked as a paramedic and worked as the Lieutenant of a university security department for 17 years.
He has almost two years of trucking under his belt, yet Walker both started leasing his own truck and training rookie drivers after 8 months. Now Tod travels all over the country with his dog, Daisy, and loves the job.
The following interview unfolds Walker’s reason for transitioning to a new lifestyle, his transition, and where he is now.
Why did you make the transition after you established a career in law enforcement?
Some things were changing in the department, and I didn’t know how some of the things were changing, mainly the change from a security department to a police department.
I was getting old and I was was getting sick and tired of dealing with drunk college kids and stupidity in general all the time.
How long were you in the force?
Did you ever think that you would become a driver?
It’s something that I wanted to do for many years. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. I’m not the kind of person who likes change.
Huge changes in my life kind of scare me, so that’s why I put it off for so long. Fear of the unknown. Not having anybody in my life who had done OTR trucking, I didn’t have any concept of what it would be like. There was nobody who would give me advice on what I should do, or what I should expect to fill me in on the lifestyle as an OTR truck driver. I came into it not knowing at all what to expect.
How long did it take you to become comfortable with your skills from the moment you started training? What is the most difficult aspect of driving?
About 4 months. Backing a 13’ 6” tall, 8.5’ wide, 53’ long machine, that’s the most difficult part of the job is backing things where you need them to go.
At what point, since you began, did you feel like this was something you really wanted?
Pretty much immediately. I pretty much enjoyed it from day one.
So you had a dog named Daisy before you were trucking, was it simple to integrate your new lifestyle with your pup OTR?
It was a very easy transition for her and me.
What words of wisdom would you give to someone who wants to join the industry?
Don’t ever get married and never have kids and never have anyone at home who actually needs you to be there every once in a while.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while not driving?
About three weeks ago I was at a truck stop. I can’t remember exactly where it was. I was taking a 30 minute break in this truck stop. I went to one of the urinals, urinating, and a guy walks in and washes his hands. So I finish and I go to the sink. And another guy walks in and goes to the urinals, he was urinating, and then the guy who was washing his hands goes to the stalls to urinate. The second guy who walks in goes to the sinks, washes his hands. And then the first guy who walked in leaves after urinating. The second guy who walked and me look at one another and said, “That was weird.” And then the the second guy said “Now I could understand if he was a mechanic. He would wash his hands before, but then he would also wash his hands after.” *Laughter*
How old were you when you started?
How long have you been driving?
It’ll be two years come October.
What are some of your favorite things about the job?
Driving. I love it with a passion. And the other is being more independent, relying on myself instead of having to rely on others to get the job done. It is all me out here. I don’t have a boss screaming over my shoulder every minute of everyday telling me what to do and how to do it. The independence of it is awesome.
Besides driving, what’s something you started doing consistently that you weren’t doing before you were trucking?
Reading. I read a lot now. I never really had the time for it. Or the patience for it before I started truck driving. Since I started driving I’ve read 23 Stephen King novels. At least 23. It might be more than that.
How often do you read?
If I’m sitting at a pickup or waiting to get loaded or unloaded, I’ll read for awhile. Basically any time I have a chance.
The cab isn’t big enough for a lot of books, how do you store the books?
I download them on my iPad.
So you are a trainer for the company you driver for, is it tough to ride with someone?
I don’t find it difficult. Everyone has done a good job as far as driving. Nobody has scared me to death thus far. A lot of people get uncomfortable when someone else is driving their truck, but I just relax.
What are some character traits that you think would do well as a trucker?
You need to be able to work independently for sure. You gotta be good at time management skills. You gotta have a little bit of an adventurous side to you with never knowing where you’ll go the following day.
What is one of the greatest difficulties of the job? What is the biggest drawback?
The main one is you are never home. I have been home for two days in the last four months. That’s not a whole lot of time to get stuff done when you need to do stuff for you. You basically never have time for yourself because you are always working. You gotta really really enjoy it or you’ll get burned out too quick. You gotta love to drive because that’s what you’re doing most of the time. Even getting the registration to get my personal car renewed was difficult.
For me there’s no one at home that I must see. Just me and Daisy and we are together all the time.
Do you miss anything now that you are on the road?
There might be a few things I miss, but not so much as to stop driving. I miss going out to shoot pool on a regular basis, for one. I miss cooking all the time. I love to cook. I get to do that for a little bit when I go home.
Tod is now on his way to becoming an Owner Operator and loves his time OTR.