I'm a long-haul trucker. I set my own hours, see places I never thought I could, and help people every day.

Eric Williams
Driving can sometimes be kind of wild, but knowing I can contribute to making a difference is still cool after all these years.Courtesy of Eric Williams
  • Eric Williams operates his own trucking company and has been in the business for six years.

  • His daily routine can be wild, but his job makes a difference and takes him all over the country.

  • "If I hear about a place, I can go see it," he tells Insider.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Eric WIlliams, a long-haul trucker from Charlotte, North Carolina, about operating his own trucking company. It's been edited for length and clarity. 

I've been a long-haul trucker for six years, and I own my own rig. When I first started out, I got my training through a company that sponsored my commercial driver's license, then I leased a truck from them while I saved up to buy my own. I gave up my apartment, put all my stuff in storage at my mom's house, and spent two months at a time on the road so I could save quickly. When I wasn't driving, I crashed with my mom.

Now that I'm an owner and operator, I can set my own schedule

I can be home every weekend or every other weekend. When my baby was born, I took two months off because I could.

When I'm out on the road, every morning starts with my pre-trip checklist: turn the truck on; walk around the truck to make sure nothing is leaking; make sure the tires are all good. Overall, I just make sure that once I leave a location, I won't end up stranded on the side of the road. If I'm close to my delivery location, I check the traffic to make sure there aren't any crashes or other congestion and plan how to arrive on time.

I have a flatbed truck, so when I make deliveries, I get to my location and it is my responsibility to take everything off the truck — so whatever I am delivering, I have to remove and load into the building. When I arrive, I have to undo all of the security features that kept the cargo on the flatbed in the first place: all the straps, chains, any other restraints that might be appropriate, I have to roll them up and store them safely for the next load.

I'm the only person responsible for doing this. The work is really physical, so when I'm done unloading everything, I always need to change my clothes. Even if it's cold outside, I work up a sweat.

The tools I use to get the job done

Being a truck owner and operator means I have to work a day ahead, because I'm delivering and scheduling. When I'm in the middle of making one delivery, I need to figure out the next one. I had a dispatcher who told me where to go back when I worked for someone else, but now it's up to me.

I subscribe to the Load Board, which is a website that  has a bunch of job postings. I can input where I'm at and say what my specifications are, like how wide or heavy of a load I can take. When I find a match, I call and see if the load is still available and if there are any other requirements.

I've also built a lot of relationships, so I have the advantage of going into certain areas and knowing there will be work for me. Sometimes I get the upper hand, and they'll call me first and say: "Hey, I didn't post this yet, but I have a load available for you."

I try to cook food in my truck

I have an inverter I can plug anything into, so long as my voltage is good. In my truck, I have a microwave, a small refrigerator, and a hot plate. But after a day's work of unloading, I'm hot and sweaty and want something quick, so I don't cook as much as I should.

I have an app called TruckerPath that lists every truck stop in the US, and we truckers write reviews like, "Stay away from this one, it's super tight trying to get in and park." We truckers have the luxury of going to Walmart stores, too.

I also run certain areas enough that I know where to buy snacks like fruit cups, popcorn, and beef jerky. For the most part, I can get by without eating fast food, but it is available if I need it. Lately, I've been cooking a lot when I'm home and bringing the leftovers on the road.

How I stay safe and healthy on the road

Trying to stay fit is hard. If I did something else for work, it would be a lot easier. I don't have the luxury of just opening and closing doors. I'm physical every day, but it's not always like a workout. I do keep dumbbells, a pushup mechanism, and jump ropes in my truck, but my time is so sucked up by driving and loading and unloading that it can be hard to stay healthy.

While I'm driving, I like to talk to fellow truck drivers. I can call about seven or eight people during the day, some of whom I met in trucking school. We do the same kind of work, so it's good to be in constant communication. My fiancée is used to me being on the road, so we talk on the phone a lot. Sometimes I listen to podcasts. I like listening to life stories, and I also enjoy financial ones like Dave Ramsey's show. Sometimes I listen to true crime podcasts, too. Other times, I just want a little silence.

Sleeping in my truck can sometimes get interesting

For safety reasons, truckers can only run a certain number of hours. Early on in my career, I had my first trip to New York City. I didn't realize that once you cross the George Washington Bridge, there's not a lot of access for trucks. So I got myself in a bind, and I used a trucker app to find a safe spot to park, which turned out to be a shopping center. There were people literally walking past my truck the whole night saying, "Hey, I wonder if someone's in there?"

Sometimes I'll arrive to a job the night before, and I'll ask the dispatcher if  there's a safe place to park. Once, in the middle of Texas, a person from the job I was doing told me: "Sure, you can park here overnight." I didn't know the facility wasn't right off the highway though, so I was parked a mile down this dirt road with no cell service. It was pitch black, no lights as far as I could see. That's when I started to regret listening to all those true crime podcasts.

It can be difficult, but it's all worth it

The experiences I've gained and the places I've been are my favorite parts of this job. I'm able to say that I helped contribute to good. I've delivered MRI machines to a children's hospital, and I can look at a building and say: "I helped create that."

We truckers trade stories about all the cool loads we've had. I've gone places I never thought I'd be able to go. I've driven out west and seen Washington, Oregon, and the mountains. It's all so different from Charlotte, North Carolina, where I'm from. I've been to Arizona and seen what a real desert looks like. In Utah, it can be summer and you look up and see snow and ice on the mountains. I've been fly fishing in a river in the middle of Oregon.

If I hear about a place, I can go see it.

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