There are more than 1.6 million truck drivers in the U.S., some of whom travel 2,000 to 3,000 miles a week. The industry is growing in response to increased demand for shipping and delivery, but a reputation for long hours and extended time away from home can make it tough to recruit new drivers. Despite pay increases for truck drivers over the last couple of years—the median salary is currently around $40,000 a year—a report from the American Truckers Association, a trade group, predicts a shortage of truck drivers due to the graying of the workforce.
It’s not unusual for a driver to be on the road for a couple days—or even a couple weeks—at a time, making work-life balance a big concern for truckers. Thad Fellows, a commercial truck driver from Iowa, has been doing long-distance hauls for almost 30 years. He describes being away from his family as one of the most difficult parts of the job, as he drives up to 70 hours a week, from the Midwest to places such as Georgia, Texas, and Florida, to deliver shipments. Fortunately, for a year and a half, his wife Dianna—who was recently inspired to get her own commercial driver’s license—drove with him, splitting time at the wheel.
For The Atlantic’s series of interviews with American workers, I spoke with Thad and Dianna Fellows about what it’s like driving cross-country together for work, and some of the challenges of spending so much time on the road. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.