Rusty Dow, a Corps truck driver, traversed the Alaska Highway during the 1940s. Image: Army Corps of Engineers
Cosmopolitan is not where most would-be truckers will turn for advice on launching a career behind the wheel. Just because roughly 95% of American truck drivers are male and Cosmo is a women’s magazine— not to mention one known more for its expansive coverage of beauty and sex than anything else.
Apparently, though, even the editors at that glossiest of zines have heard of the driver shortage. I can’t think why else they would feature an “as told to” post on the ins and outs of driving a truck for a living in a section titled “Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Career.”
Presented by contributing writer Arielle Pardes are 13 key insights gleaned by Lindsay Slazakowski during her three-year stint as a long-haul truck driver. Slazakowski for the most part sticks to the format, talking about what she discovered working and thus living out on the road.
Perhaps most notably, she also reveals what led her to climb into a truck cab in the first place: “I always saw truck driving as a temporary job. I wanted to pay off my student loans and save up some money to go back to school, and once I accomplished those things, there wasn't much keeping me there.”
I can’t speak from personal experience, having not even a CDL to my name, but based on what I’ve observed as a journalist for over 30 years of the working life of long-haulers, Slazakowski’s take on the job tracks true..
Her 13 points take in the good, the bad and the ugly of driving, including just how ugly it can get for a woman just trying to do her job. She reports that sexual harassment is all too common: “I've been catcalled by regular drivers on the road and from other truck drivers; even the customers I delivered to made overtly sexual comments toward me. Other women have reported sexual assault during training and while on the road, which is an uncomfortable reality for any woman in this industry.”
Slazakowski also weighs in on other negatives to making long-haul a career, noting that the starting pay “isn’t great,” the job can be very lonely if not driving as a team, that you should “forget about working out or eating well,” that the job is dangerous, and, yes, “you're constantly traveling, but you don't get to be a tourist.”
Yes, Cosmo is offering career advice on truck driving. Oct. 1965 cover image via Slate.com
On the other hand, she appreciates that she was able to increase her pay “pretty quickly… When I first started driving, I was making 27 cents for every mile that I drove, which equated to around $35,000 a year— so, not great. But by the time I quit three years later, I was making $55,000 a year. Pay raises are regular, and your rate goes up if you hit goals each quarter, like making on-time deliveries, driving without accidents, staying under the speed limit, and having more years of experience under your belt.”
Slazakowski also liked that the job was just about hers for the taking: “There's a huge shortage of truck drivers, so getting hired is basically as easy as getting your commercial driver's license. It's a 10-week program to get the certification, and by the time mine was over, I had a job lined up with a company.”
She liked something else, too. What she calls the “beautiful moments.” Slazakowski advises those included being “in charge of your own schedule and how you spend your time in the truck. You can save a lot of money, since your living expenses are minimal while you're on the road.
"And," she adds, "the views from the driver's seat beat any office window.”