As vice president of sales for Freightliner, my job revolves around commercial trucks – all day, every day – as it has for years. Most of the time, as you might expect, it’s an office job. However, I recently had a great opportunity to put myself into the shoes of a long-haul truck driver. Over four days and three nights in a truck, I gained valuable, on-the-road insights that I never could’ve experienced in any office, and I made a new friend along the way.
I had the privilege of riding along with Rick Tetreault, an experienced, professional driver for Averitt Express. Founded in 1969 and based in Cookeville, Tennessee, Averitt has locations in 18 states, mostly in the Southeast, with a fleet of 4,500 trucks primarily providing truckload, LTL and supply-chain management. Averitt will receive 750 new Cascadia trucks this year.
A senior trainer and one of Averitt’s advisory group members, Rick is a safe, focused and conscientious driver who was gracious enough to let me ride along and happy to give me a guided tour of what his life in a new Cascadia is really like. Rick loves his job and knows it well, inside and out. He describes the new Cascadia we traveled in as “the best driving, best handling truck” he’s ever driven, with “the coolest front end” on the road, which of course made me smile.
During our trip, Rick and I invited employees of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) and Averitt to accompany us (virtually) by submitting questions to our “From the Driver’s Seat” Facebook page or via email, which we answered online, along the way.
Our travels took us some 1,400 miles through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia. It was particularly important to me to live the life of the trucker as a driver experiences it, so I spent three of those nights in the truck, after long days of driving. It was definitely an eye-opening experience. I always knew that truckers had a tough job, but living it myself, even if only for a few days, I reached a greater understanding of how difficult the trucking life can be.
Drivers are usually paid by the mile and must perpetually create income, so they’re unbelievably focused. They meet target windows throughout each day, managing not to drive more than 11 hours, but adding another three hours of non-driving work for an exhausting, 14-hour day, all while dealing with variables outside their control, like weather, motorists, traffic, accidents, noise, lack of sleep and much more. It’s like a high-stakes game of chess. For truckers, what often amounts to a small irritant for an average motorist can result in major delays and problems that can impact their days exponentially. A little extra convenience can go an awful long way.
I learned quite a bit from my trip with Rick. I was encouraged to see how much he liked the new truck and to hear how much he appreciated many of its features. I also got first-hand information about a few details that we can (and will) improve upon. Most of all, I now feel an even greater respect for the men and women who spend a large portion of their lives in our trucks. We want them to be the best trucks on the road, and we’ll keep doing our best to make that happen.
At Freightliner, as is true of every DTNA brand, we’re focused on creating innovative products that create comprehensive solutions for our customers who rely on them daily. Trips like the one I took with Rick will help us keep improving. See you soon, Rick, and safe travels out there!
At Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), we’ve been immersed in innovation since our founding, when Gottlieb Daimler invented the commercial truck. Striving to achieve and perpetually maintain an innovative mindset is something that impacts our every move, but we’re not simply chasing means to ends. Even our finite goals are built on a determined strategy to continually set innovative industry benchmarks, and we think perpetual innovation demands unique approaches to problem-solving and collaboration. One of many ways we’re thinking outside the box is through our collaborative partnership with Portland State University (PSU).