Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Jurjen Hettinga and I’m 33 years old. I was born in the Netherlands, immigrated to Canada in 1982, and I now reside in Kitchener, Ontario. I’ve been a long-haul truck driver for 12 years. For fun, I enjoy mountain biking, working on cars, running Tough Mudders, and spending time with family and friends.
How did you get into trucking?
Growing up on a farm, I was always fascinated with the variety trucks that would come to the farm. Cattle trucks, dump trucks, even giant crane trucks kept a kid’s imagination spinning. I particularly remember a blue Freightliner cabover delivering feed being my favourite.
I decided to get into truck driving after going away to college and driving back home on the weekends, passing all the trucks. It just seemed like something I’d enjoy more than sitting in a classroom.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about truckers?
The thing I run into most is the belief that truckers do drugs (meth, crack, amphetamines etc). I’m not sure why this myth persists. Another common misconception is the level of freedom we have. Yes, we get to see the country – but it’s through a window at 65mph. We rarely have time to stop go sight-seeing. We’re always on the go, on tight schedules, constantly in touch with dispatch and customers. It’s a high stress job with long hours away from home.
Drivers are often portrayed as rednecks and cowboys in films and television. While they certainly exist, the average trucker is typically a well informed, clean cut professional.
What sort of training did you go through before you started driving?
I took a six-week training course at a driving school and then another four weeks of training with the first company I worked for. There is always ongoing training – safety, compliance, hazmat etc.
Can you tell us about an average day on the job?
My typical day starts when I wake up at a truck stop, or rest area, or parking lot of a customer (my truck has a full high-rise bunk, two beds, a fridge and a microwave.) I inspect my truck, update my logbook, have a quick bite to eat, and hit the road.
I typically make three or four deliveries or pick-ups per day, driving an average of 800 kms a day, sometimes up to 1200 kms. My days are typically 14 hours or longer. I’m usually away from home 2-3 days at a time, but occasionally as long as 10 days. Weekends tend to be short – home Fridays or Saturdays, back out Sunday or Mondays.
About how much money do you make?
I typically make around $75,000 a year. For the right company, and if you don’t mind being away from home a little more, 100k a year is possible.
What are the best parts of being a long-haul trucker? The biggest challenges?
Best parts are working on your own, meeting new people, seeing things, and actually driving a big truck! Random napping is also a huge bonus!
For me, the biggest challenge is balancing demands of customers and dispatchers with legal requirements (hours of service) and trying to maintain a life outside of work. Another challenge is leading a healthy lifestyle. Long hours behind the wheel, irregular sleep, and poor eating habits are hard to avoid when on the road. On that note, truck stops have really started adding healthy meal options, plus some even have exercise rooms.
Do you think this will be your lifelong career?
No, I’m actually looking to move into something else within the next year. I’m hoping to get into service advising at an automotive dealership. I want to have more free time to do the things I enjoy, see the people I care about, and hopefully start a family.
What advice would you give to others who are interested in becoming a trucker?
Do your research, talk to as many truck drivers as you can. If you can, try to go on a run or two with a truck driver to see what it’s like. There are many different kinds of companies, hauling all sorts of things, and each comes with its own set of challenges.
It can be a rewarding career if you find something that fits within the lifestyle you want lead.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jurjen! Are any of you guys truck drivers – or have you thought about becoming one?