NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When Des Moines, Iowa, native Chris Valentin retired from the military, he wanted to continue doing something that allowed him to get out and see the country.
“I like going place to place, seeing different places,” Valentin said. “When I got out of the Army I was like, ‘What can I do that makes me see all kinds of different things?’ This is it.”
Being on the road gives Valentin the privacy he wants and he said as long as you get the job done, trucking provides a laid-back way of life.
“I like being out by myself,” he said. “You’re out here; you’re essentially on your own. You don’t mess with anybody and nobody messes with you. As long as you do what you’re supposed to do, it’s an easy job, man.”
A company driver for Heartland Express, Valentin has been trucking for 12 years and hauls just about anything and will go just about anywhere.
“We do a lot of Wal-Mart, a lot of Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, just about everything,” he said. “I don’t go west of the Rocky Mountains, but everything east of the Rockies is free game and I like that. I like going everywhere. I like being in North Dakota one day and in Florida two days later.”
Valentin said he really likes Heartland, not only for the money, but for the freedom and the intangibles the company provides its drivers.
“Heartland pays great,” he said. “I love them. They are the greatest. The dispatchers actually listen to you. They have new equipment, new trailers. They take really good care of you. Every time you go by the terminal, you go through the service line and they check the truck top to bottom. Almost all our trucks are brand-spanking new. I’ve got a brand new truck out there that has 2,000 miles on it. As far as pay, you can’t beat the pay.”
Valentin has a wife and a 17-year-old daughter, but said that he doesn’t see his daughter getting into trucking. “Are you kidding? I had a hard enough time just trying to get her a driver’s license,” he laughed.
As for his wife, he said he appreciates the situation they have where he is out a lot like he was when he was in the Army.
“[With] my wife,” he said, [I do] the same thing I did with the military. I was gone all the time. When I got out of the military and was home for almost a year that caused a lot of friction because she’s used to me being gone for a couple weeks and at home for a few days. You know, make an appearance, come home for a couple days, do your honey-do list of what needs to be done around the house, and once you’ve done that, head back out there again.”
Valentin said when he is at home, family occupies most of his time. Fishing, shooting pistols at the range, a night at the movies, or a stroll by the lake are activities he said they enjoy doing. Valentin also said he can’t wait for his daughter to finish school.
“Hopefully she’ll hurry up and graduate,” he said. “My wife wants to come riding with me and we’ll just stay out here.”
Though the freedom, privacy and pay that trucking provides suits Valentin’s way of life, there are a couple of things that bother him about the profession.
One is the inconsistency of the hours, he said: “Sometimes you’re driving during the day and then you’ll end up having to sit for a while and then you’ll drive at night. And then you’ll have to switch back again and drive during the day and that can be rough. You’re not used to that because your body works on that time clock.”
He also said that trying to find parking has gotten tougher in the past five or six years, especially after 8 o’clock at night. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons in Valentine’s eyes.
“I never understood why more people don’t [drive a truck],” he said. “I don’t understand why more women don’t do this job. It’s not labor intensive. They can drive just as good as anyone else. I’d recommend it for everybody.”
Tony Lenahan of The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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