Gerald Johnson, known on social media as Trucker G, has been in the trucking industry for the last 28 years. He’s been a company driver, trainer and currently is a contract owner-operator. Trucker G has helped 100s of drivers get their CDLs and today mentors new drivers. He travels with his wife, Mrs. G, and two dogs on the road and frequently posts videos on his Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channels.
In addition to sharing best practices and knowledge with other truckers, Trucker G often talks about how to make the industry better and why old school and new drivers should work together. He believes that truck drivers should respect and look out for one another while showing more kindness to everyone on the road and remaining open to learning something new every day.
In our recent conversation with Trucker G, he discussed autonomous trucks, his favorite features in the Trucker Tools driver app, and how and why truckers can and should help one other.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into trucking?
“I got started in trucking in 1992 when I was 18. At the time, I was working for a construction company and I quickly realized that the end of a shovel was not where I wanted to be. I ended up getting my CDL through that company and started running equipment for them and doing labor. It was a tough job. I was doing pipeline back then. In my free time on the weekends, I taught myself how to operate some of the construction equipment and also haul it. They made me a foreman and not too long after that, I decided that trucking was what I wanted to do. It was what I’d wanted to do since I was a little kid. I had my CDL, so I thought why don’t I go to work for a trucking company. I had no idea what I was getting into. I’d only driven for construction companies running dump trucks and backhoe trailers and didn’t realize what the difference was. I found out really quickly.
I went to a trucking company and met with the safety manager. She had a young kid (older than me at the time) do a driving test with me. I jumped in the truck with him and pulled out between two trailers and started cranking the wheel way too soon. He guided me and told me that as long as I didn’t wreck the truck or kill us, that I’d pass. So I just followed his directions. He had me try to back into the dock. I had no business being in that truck at the time. He ended up backing the truck into the dock. We got back to the office and the safety director asked him how I did and he said, ‘Oh, he’s a great driver.’ He lied through his teeth. So I left on a load that night to California. That’s where it all started.
I taught myself each day. I parked at all the rest stops that I could. That way I didn’t have to back in because I was scared. I had a few drivers along the way guide me, help me out and give me some pointers here and there. That’s why I’m so big on helping new drivers now. I remember what it was like. I didn’t have someone to teach me, like the trucking schools that they have today. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a trucking school back then. There was, but I didn’t know anything about it. ”
What it was like working as an instructor for a CDL school? What did you learn from teaching?
“I worked for Prime for eight years as an instructor and trainer. I’d take the students out and teach them how to drive and they’d take the CDL. If I liked the student, I’d take them out and do their training course, also. I’d be on the road so long. I used to stay out eight to 10 weeks at a time. I missed a lot of my kids growing up. So I went and worked at another school. That way I could be home more often. I taught there for a couple of years. I got 100s of students their CDLs over the years. I worked at another school, also, within those years. I’ve helped a lot of new drivers. I’m good at and I like it, it just didn’t pay well enough to pay the bills.
The veteran drivers are so hard on the guys from the trucking schools. You hear it on the CB all the time: ‘What did they teach you at trucking school?’ Well, that trucking school is just there to get you your CDL. It’s not there to teach you how to be a truck driver. These schools are only three to five weeks long and that’s not enough time to teach someone to be a truck driver. Heck, I’m still learning and I’ve been doing it for 28 years.
What I see is that these students come in, and trucking is really their savior. That’s what allows them to put food on the table. They’ve been struggling for so many years, working at McDonald’s and other places, not getting by. They don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table. And then they come out here and get ridiculed by us older drivers for not knowing enough when all they’re trying to do is make a living for their families. They’ve got hardships. We’ve got to be more lenient with them. That’s what I learned from being an instructor: to be more patient with these younger drivers. That’s the big lesson.”
How did you get started as Trucker G on social media?
“I do all of these videos and it looks like I like to talk. But I could go a whole day and not say two words to anybody. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be doing videos, I would have called you a fool.
I had a student who asked me to do an interview with him and answer some questions for some new drivers. I didn’t know it was out there. I went onto YouTube and searched for ‘trucking advice.’ I was floored by how much advice was available there. Some people out there have great advice, but the bad advice seemed to far exceed the good advice. That kind of made me mad. Some people were charging new drivers for advice. It’s advice that I’ll give out for free and that every one of us drivers out here have gotten for free. It’s our job to keep handing out advice for free. It’s not advice that you should have to pay for.
So I make the videos to make myself accessible to new drivers and anyone looking for advice. I tell them to call me. I had a guy message me the other day and he wanted to pay me for ‘coaching calls.’ I told him I wouldn’t charge him a dime and gave him my number. I won’t take money. It goes against everything that I’m about. The whole reason I started doing this was to help people out. It’s just snowballed into something bigger than I ever thought it would be.”
A lot of current drivers and folks considering getting into trucking are concerned that autonomous trucks are going to take over trucking. What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think they’re a real threat at this point?
“We all know what’s going on with autonomous trucks. It’s no secret that they’re out there. Right now, if we all just hang up our keys and quit because autonomous trucks are here, our whole industry dies. I love this industry. I love driving a truck. I’m not ready to give up on it. I really don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime, where we go fully autonomous. A lot of people disagree. I’ve taken a lot of flak over my videos about autonomous trucks. But I don’t see any insurance company that is going to want to insure these autonomous truck companies any time soon.
I don’t know why the general public would stand for it because the autonomous trucks are going to be driving with my family, your family and everyone’s families out here. I keep hearing Silicon Valley is putting billions of dollars into this. Well, they’ve put billions of dollars into cybersecurity and dealing with hackers over all these years. Has that stopped the hackers? No, it hasn’t. So I don’t see it happening any time soon. And if it does, we’re crazy to let it happen.”
You’d mentioned earlier that you’d always wanted to drive a truck and that you love this industry. What do you like about what you do?
“It’s kind of cliché…you always hear drivers say, ‘It’s in my blood,’ but it’s not a joke. You either love this job or you hate it. It’s a love/hate relationship. You hate being away from home. With me, when I went home, I was always ready to get back on the road. I mean, I love my family to death and I don’t want to leave them, but the road just calls you. She’s just calling you back out there. And when you leave, you want to get back home again because you miss your family. It’s kind of a Catch-22.
I’ve got the best of both worlds now because my wife is out here with me now. Having your spouse with you out on the road will do one of two things: it will either make you hate each other or it’ll be the greatest thing in the world. For me, it’s the greatest thing in the world because my wife is my best friend, even though she probably wants to strangle me quite a bit.”
Why did you decide to work with Trucker Tools?
“Honestly, I never realized how big my social media pages would be. I got a lot of questions about apps from my social media followers. They wanted to know which apps I recommended for routing, truck washes and stuff like that. I didn’t know much about it. I came across Trucker Tools and checked out the driver app. I really liked the routing and fuel optimizer feature, especially for new drivers, whose trainers aren’t teaching them trip planning. With Trucker Tools you have the trip planning right in your hand. There’s lots of information on the app that makes my life easier when it comes to helping new drivers. I spend a lot of time on the phone trying to help new drivers, trying to teach them how to trip plan on the phone. It’s easy for me to do with your app.
I came across Trucker Tools and checked out the driver app. I really liked the routing and fuel optimizer feature, especially for new drivers, whose trainers aren’t teaching them trip planning. With Trucker Tools you have the trip planning right in your hand. There’s lots of information on the app that makes my life easier when it comes to helping new drivers.
I mentor a lot of new drivers and that’s what a lot of my phone calls are, but I also mentor a lot of owner-operators, too. I say this in my videos quite a bit: it’s not all about what you know, it’s about who you know. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you need to have someone that you can go to. That’s what I’ve been to a lot of people — someone for them to go to for answers to their questions. Guess what? Even though I’ve been doing this for 28 years, I don’t have all the answers, either. So I have people that I go to, too. A lot of times it will be a three-way call or a couple of three-way calls to answer an owner operator’s question.
The tools for finding loads in Trucker Tools’ driver app are great, too, especially for owner-operators. As an owner-operator with your own authority, it’s imperative to be able to build relationships. Trucker Tools gives owner-operators access to brokers and allows them to build those relationships with brokers. A lot of new start-up companies work strictly off load boards. What they’re not thinking about is building those relationships with brokers. If you build a relationship with a broker, the next time that broker is really in need of getting a truck, they’re going to call you up. You don’t have to go search for a load. When a broker gives you a load, they may not have a backhaul for you, so that’s where the driver app comes in. You have to diversify. Trucker Tools’ driver app helps with that. You can’t just rely on one resource.”
The tools for finding loads in Trucker Tools’ driver app are great, too, especially for owner operators. As an owner operator with your own authority, it’s imperative to be able to build relationships. Trucker Tools gives owner operators access to brokers and allows them to build those relationships with brokers.
What do you do to stay healthy when you’re out on the road?
“Oh, I’m probably the last person you want to ask for health tips, to be honest, but I am trying to be healthier than I was. I eat healthy on accident, every once in a while. We started doing the gym thing, though with the Coronavirus, we haven’t been going. But Planet Fitness has been great for us. They have locations all over. We can get a workout in and then take a shower there. It kind of kills two birds with one stone. In my truck, I have a regular truck refrigerator, but I also have an Allpicool portable freezer. We keep that fully stocked and we do a lot of cooking on the truck, which saves us a lot of money. It’s a lot healthier because you know what’s going into your food and you know who is touching your food.”
In your videos, you talk about some serious issues like suicide and depression, how to deal with missing loved ones when you’re on the road and how to make a marriage work when you’re a driver. Why do you think it’s important to talk about these issues?
“It’s really important for us drivers because even though we have family at home, we’ve got to be able to lean on each other. It’s so easy to get lost in your head driving down the road. That’s all you have to do is watch that road and think. If you don’t watch your positivity and negativity, negativity will just consume you. You don’t want to dwell on negativity. People can get lost in their heads. I’ve had a few guys call me up and say, ‘I can’t take life anymore’ and I have known a few people who’ve taken their lives out here. We need to be able to reach out to each other as drivers. If you’re feeling that way, don’t be too proud to ask another driver for an ear. Heck, call me up. That’s what I tell people in my videos — call me up.”