There’s No ‘I’ in Team: A Day in the Life of a Team Driver

November 15, 2023

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • What is a Team Driver?
  • Why Are Team Drivers Important to Alaska?
  • A Day in the Life of a Team Driver
  • Challenges and Rewards of Team Driving
  • Why You Should Consider Becoming a Team Driver
  • Become a Driver for Carlile
  • Key Takeaways

Welcome to the world of team driving, where partnership and shared responsibilities are key. Recently, we had the pleasure of talking with two seasoned pros in this field, Penelope Turner and Darren Radel. They’re veteran team drivers for Carlile Transportation in Alaska, an approach to driving that is especially crucial in Alaska, where the challenges of vast distances and unpredictable weather make teamwork not just advantageous but often necessary. In the Last Frontier, team driving is more than a job–it’s a lifeline that keeps essential goods moving across the state.

What is a Team Driver?

Ever wondered what it means to be a team driver? In the trucking world, a team driver is one half of a dynamic duo responsible for operating a single truck. This setup allows for nearly continuous driving, helping to get essential goods to their destinations more quickly. During our interview, Penelope and Darren elaborated on the nuances of this role, emphasizing how it’s far more than just shared driving; it’s a shared commitment to safety, efficiency, and reliability.

Now, you can’t just hop into the truck and decide to be a team. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets specific guidelines and hours of service regulations for team drivers. These rules ensure both road safety and adequate rest for the drivers.

Why Are Team Drivers Important to Alaska?

In Alaska, the role of team drivers takes on a heightened level of importance. This isn’t just about covering more miles; it’s about ensuring communities stay connected and supplied. In our interview, both Penelope and Darren highlighted the vital nature of their work, especially when Alaska’s challenging weather conditions are factored in.

In Alaska, roads can be blocked by snow for weeks and daylight is scarce for months. In such conditions, the benefits of team driving become abundantly clear. One driver can take over when the other is tired, allowing for more flexibility in tackling the challenges that Alaska’s unique geography presents. In the cast of Penelope and Darren, one can drive during the day while the other drives at night.

But it’s not just about overcoming logistical hurdles. Many Alaskan communities rely solely on road-based freight for their supplies. A delay of even a few hours can have significant repercussions, especially in medical emergencies or when supplies run low during extreme weather conditions.

Team drivers also play a key role in maintaining Alaska’s economy. Many industries in the state, such as fishing and oil, are time-sensitive. Delays in transportation can lead to ripple effects that cost businesses and, ultimately, the consumer. In these sectors, the reliability that team driving offers is invaluable.

A Day in the Life of a Team Driver

Let’s get personal and take you through a day in the life from our team drivers Penelope and Darren. A typical day starts long before the sun rises, with pre-trip inspections to ensure the truck is in optimal condition. Once on the road, one of of them takes the first driving shift while the other catches some much-needed rest in the sleeper berth.

Penelope shared how she and her husband have their shifts perfectly coordinated. “My husband drives the night shift, and I drive the day shift. It’s the perfect match for our preferences,” she said. When one’s driving, the other is doing something productive or relaxing. “When my husband’s shift starts, I start cooking dinner in the truck while we’re driving. We then get to eat together before I head to bed while he drives through the night.”

One of the most memorable trips involved a trek from Prudhoe Bay to Newfoundland. “We got paid to travel— including 6 hours on a ferry. We sat back and took in the views while our truck was ferried across the water. And the best part? Getting paid the whole time!”

Challenges and Rewards of Team Driving

Navigating the road as team drivers brings its own set of hurdles and high points. From our chat with Penelope and Darren, it’s clear that this is not a lifestyle for everybody. “There are times when we drive for 5 days straight. 24/7,” Darren shared. It can be a grind, but it’s also a commitment to ensuring goods reach their destination, no matter how far or how challenging the route is. Darren and Penelope are quick to remind us that this schedule is one that they took upon themselves: “If you want to be a team for Carlile and you don’t want to run as hard as we do, it’s OK. Carlile will work with you. We get to choose what we want to do.”

Interestingly, Penelope pointed out that driving an Alaska truck is often easier compared to the lower 48 states. “Driving in the lower 48 is honestly more difficult than driving in Alaska. Carlile’s trucks are top-of-the-line and built to handle Alaskan roads—in all weather conditions. It’s the unsafe drivers on freeways in the lower 48 that make it more difficult to drive there,” she noted.

But it’s not all grit and grind. There are moments of genuine joy and fulfillment. For example, Darren refers to their job as a “paid tourist.” Penelope says: “Being a driver down in the lower 48, it’s almost the same day. It’s the same day. It’s the same traffic. It’s the same day here. It’s never the same day. We’re always getting something new, something different, something exciting.”

There’s also a deep sense of responsibility that comes with the role. “We didn’t want to get the COVID vaccine, but since Alaska relies on team drivers for food, we felt it was our duty to get vaccinated so we can continue driving through Canada and ensure Alaskans are taken care of,” Darren mentioned.

The challenges are real, but the rewards—both tangible and intangible—are well worth it.

Why You Should Consider Becoming a Team Driver

If the stories from Penelope and Darren have sparked your interest, you may be contemplating a career in team driving. This unique path offers several advantages that are worth considering. For starters, the opportunity to explore Alaska and beyond is unparalleled. As Darren so aptly put it, you can become a “paid tourist,” turning your workspace into a grand landscape of ever-changing vistas.

Camaraderie is another factor. The shared responsibilities and experiences create a unique bond between driving partners. Team driving isn’t just about logistics, it’s also about human connection, making the long hours on the road more enjoyable and fulfilling. And you don’t have to be a married couple like Penelope and Darren–most driving teams aren’t.

But beyond the personal benefits lies a greater purpose. Team drivers play an indispensable role in Alaska, ensuring that essential goods reach both remote and populated areas. Your contributions have a direct impact on the well-being and sustainability of Alaskan communities. It’s a career that not only pays but also enriches lives, including your own.

Considering all these factors, becoming a team driver offers a unique blend of adventure, companionship, and meaningful work.

Become a Driver for Carlile

Inspired by what you’ve read? Consider exploring opportunities for team driving with Carlile. It’s not just a career; it’s a path filled with unique experiences, meaningful contributions, and the chance to make a real difference in the lives of Alaskans. Take the wheel and start a journey with truck driving jobs in Alaska at Carlile.

Key Takeaways

  • Team Driving Defined: Team driving involves two drivers sharing the responsibilities of operating a single truck. This approach is particularly important in Alaska, where the geographical and weather conditions present unique challenges.
  • Regulatory Oversight: Team driving isn’t a free-for-all; it’s governed by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations to ensure both road safety and driver well-being.
  • Alaskan Necessity: In Alaska, team drivers play a critical role in keeping communities connected and supplied. They tackle harsh conditions to deliver essential goods to both remote and urban areas.
  • A Day in the Life: Insights from veteran team drivers Penelope and Darren shed light on the daily routines, challenges, and rewards. The lifestyle allows for personal preferences in driving shifts and offers unique experiences like being a “paid tourist.”
  • Challenges and Flexibility: The job comes with its fair share of hurdles, such as long driving hours. However, companies like Carlile offer flexibility to suit individual preferences.
  • More Than a Job: Beyond the logistical aspects, team driving offers a sense of camaraderie and deep responsibility. Drivers often feel a duty to serve their communities, especially in times of need.
  • Career Considerations: The role offers a unique blend of adventure, companionship, and meaningful work. It’s a career choice that can be both personally and financially rewarding.
  • Join the Team: Opportunities with companies like Carlile allow aspiring drivers to enter this fulfilling field, promising a career that’s as challenging as it is rewarding.