As a child, I dreamed of countless careers I could pursue as an adult. For a while I wanted to be a teacher, then a veterinarian, later a pop singer, and eventually the writer I became. But I recall, from a young passenger’s perspective, thinking that being a truck driver would be fun. I liked the idea of venturing out on the open road, looking down on all the other cars as you barreled past. I even liked the idea of truck stops, since the stores there tended to tout odd novelties, random souvenirs and a comprehensive collection of snacks.
But last week, as I was buckled in the passenger seat of an enormous feeder tractor (aka, a big rig), with two trailers attached to the back (making for a load of about two tons), I knew was out of my element. UPS arranged for my drive with driver Becky Ascencio, while I was interviewing the company for a story I was writing on the growing shortage of drivers, and how millennials could possibly fill the gap. Becky (I feel like I know her so well now that it would be weird to call her by her last name) is a 56-year-old female driver who just celebrated 30 years as a UPS driver. I met her at her base dock in Sylmar, California and signed on for a 12-hour shift that would take us up to Fresno for unloading and reloading, and then back down.
Being On The Road Can Be Exhausting, But The Love Of The Job Makes It Worth It
I didn’t really know what I was in for when I climbed the rather serious set of steps up to my seat in my boxy “browns” (company slang for the UPS uniform I was required to wear). Honestly, I was dreading the 12 hours on the road with only two 15 minute breaks and one half-hour lunch. “Aren’t there shorter shifts?” I whined. There are, but Becky is one of the few female feeder drivers in my area and she scarcely works less than 10 hours a shift. Though she did not disclose her pay, she makes the most you can as a UPS driver, paid an hourly wage and also provided full healthcare, a 401(k) plan and a pension. “I’m incredibly lucky,” she said. “I make great money, I work with wonderful people and sure it’s tough and exhausting, but I love my job.”
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