“I’ve always been a roamer—an explorer. Truck driving was a perfect fit for me.”
Drivers Tory Finn and Dan Barkow have been best friends for 10 years, so when Dan took a new job driving for Origin Transport, it was natural that Tory followed soon after.
“I’ve always been a roamer too,” Dan echoed. “I drove my parents crazy driving to different towns to see friends when I was younger, and now I drive to places people never even think to go.”
With 32 years of driving between them, we were thrilled to have Dan and Tory at our yearly, company-wide Relay Roundup event to talk candidly about life on the road, the challenges of trucking, and their advice for people new to the industry.
Truck drivers are undeniably the backbone of the logistics industry and in many ways the heartbeat of America—without them we wouldn’t have food on our tables, medicine on our shelves, or any of the daily essentials we so easily take for granted. The job is anything but easy though.
“The biggest reason new drivers drop out is because they didn’t expect it to be as hard as it is,” Dan explains.
While some may imagine the drive to be a breeze with open skies and highways, the reality is that drivers face an onslaught of challenging variables on a daily basis—variables that can often mean the difference between life and death.
From dangerous driving conditions to unpredictable drivers on the road, an uncompromising attention to detail is absolutely necessary to get the job done safely. But, out of all the possible dangers, it turns out that inclement weather ranks the highest.
“Oh yeah, it’s the biggest challenge. Sliding on ice and knowing you can’t slam on the brakes or else the trailer will jackknife—I’ve had a lot of close calls,” Tory said. “But never one mistake,” he adds, having clocked over 1 million miles of safe driving, which is no small feat in an industry that ranks the #7 Deadliest Job in America.
In addition to the day-to-day dangers, drivers also become well acquainted with long stretches away from loved ones, often relying on slivers of time at the end of the day to quickly check in and say I love you before getting to bed and doing it all over again the next day.
“My children are grown now and live in major cities that I drive through all the time, but it was much harder to maintain a family life when they were younger—I missed out on a lot,” Dan said.
Drivers have ways of passing the time though and find opportunities to connect to the world around them with podcasts of all varieties, along with sports radio (a lot of sports radio, they joked) and music. Tory keeps the tunes changing with an eclectic taste in everything from hip hop and rap to metal and hard rock, while Dan’s tastes are a bit more honed in. “I’m a smooth jazz guy,” he winks.
So what’s the draw, we wondered? With a long list of dangers, grueling schedules, and stretches of hours or days alone on the road, what keeps drivers driving?
“Driving trucks is more than a job. It’s in your blood,” says Tory.
And it’s often true. Many, like Dan, come from a long family line of drivers and take great pride in carrying on the tradition. Additionally, truck driving provides unique career opportunities to folks that may not have comparable options available to them. In fact, many companies provide free training to vets and military members helping to foster a seamless troops-to-truckers transition.
For Dan and Tory though, the answer is simple: “We trust them, and they trust us,” said of Origin Transport owners, Travis Arave and John Marienau.
In an industry often known for low truck driver retention due to lack of satisfaction, Origin does things differently by keeping their drivers’ health and happiness at the center of their decisions. From competitive compensation to their strictly Monday-to-Friday driving schedules, drivers have the unique freedom to kick back and relax on the weekends—a luxury in the industry.
Additionally, Origin places a lot of emphasis on efficient operations to keep things running smoothly and to limit unnecessary time on the job. Using apps like Relay, they’ve been able to significantly reduce wait times on the dock with instant lumper payments, as well as eliminate the need for drivers to pay out of pocket or mess with reimbursements. “Relay has made a huge difference for us,” Dan noted.
At the end of the day, drivers choose trucking for a lot of different reasons—pay, benefits, a love of the open road—but after years in the industry and having driven for various companies, Dan and Tory made it clear that they’ve finally found a home with a company that provides everything they’re looking for.
We asked them to reflect back on their time in the industry and to provide one piece of advice for someone just starting out.
“Take it slow,” Tory said. “Master each little phase of trucking one at a time, and when you figure out what works, do it that exact same way every time.”
And as for Dan’s parting advice, “Be patient, be polite, and don’t hit anything.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Thank you to Dan and Tory for taking the time to talk with us and to our valued partner Origin Transport for trusting Relay to get you where you’re going, with instant and secure digital payments.
To learn how Relay can serve you and your fleet, head to our website.