Truck Driving Helped Minnesota Man to Reduce Stress, Regain Control Over His Life

The Great Recession was tough on lots of people, but especially those involved in the real estate market, which suffered devastating losses.

While Craig Hunter and his wife survived it, better than most, it was not without some lasting scars.

“We had built a small business of renting offices and small apartment buildings,” said Hunter. “We may have survived, but we were burnt out. The stress was overwhelming. And then I had a health scare, and we watched our health costs soar.”

Then, with five grown daughters, Craig and his wife, Jodi, decided to adopt two children, a boy, 2.5 years old, and his sister, age 9, last March.

“After 30 years of being on call 24/7 to address the needs of our renters, we felt it was time to make a change,” said Craig. “That’s when we decided to liquidate everything and put our focus on our kids and grandkids.”

In his early 50s, Craig still had lots of fire in him to do something. What that was exactly he wasn’t sure. But as the days and months ticked away, a little voice in him grew louder.

“I always had this dream, from the time I was a little boy, to be a truck driver,” he said. “So me and my wife, Jodi, whom I’ve been married to for 30 years, started talking about an entirely new lifestyle where I would be an over-the-road truck driver and she would be a stay-at-home mom and day caring for our grandchildren.

If you met Craig and talked to him for even for five minutes, you’d quickly learn that he doesn’t do anything without thorough research.

“Our decision wasn’t a whim,” says Craig, “I really researched all of the pros and cons of changing careers.”

One of his first big decisions was choosing a truck driving school. For more than six months, Craig talked to the owners of Heavy Metal Truck Training in Eagan, Minn., until he finally pulled the trigger and enrolled. Because of his age, Craig qualified for a job retraining program through the State of Minnesota which offset the cost of his schooling.

“I not only received a great education from them, but they helped connect me with Transport America,” Craig said. “I told them it was really important to be with a company the provides support to its drivers while they’re on the road, a company that values safety and provides its drivers with good equipment, and a company that would get me home to my family when I needed to be home.”

When Craig was offered the opportunity to visit Transport America, he took it based on the advice of Heavy Metal Trucking. He was surprised by the amount of time that the company took with him to help him understand its approach to trucking. But what struck Craig was the screen savers he saw at Transport America — “It’s about the Driver.”

“That’s what got me,” said Craig. “Then I checked out the company on this blog, TruckingTruth.com. It features the viewpoints of a lot of veteran drivers. And they confirmed it. Everything I read and saw at Transport America was spot on. This was a trucking company that really respected the driver.”

Craig has now been driving with Transport America for 18 months. Stationed out of the company’s Eagan support center, the Forest Lake, Minn., resident has been driving primarily east of the Mississippi River, from border to border (Canada  to Mexico).

“I really love what I’m doing,” Craig said. “I still have that entrepreneur in me, so not having a boss looking over my shoulder, is really important to me. I sleep when I need to sleep. I eat when I need to eat, and I drive when I need to drive. And I get the job done. It feels really good to be the captain of my own ship. It’s been a really positive experience so far in working with Transport America.”

What may be even more important is that Craig feels like he’s regained control over his life. Certainly, raising two young children again isn’t easy, especially when you’re on the road for several weeks at a time. But what has changed is the stress.

“I have peace of mind again. I’ve got a paycheck that goes directly into my checking account. We’ve got healthcare insurance. And I’m loading up the fridge in my truck with healthy food cooked by my wife Jodi,” Craig said. “And the biggest surprise? I’ve lost 30 pounds in my first year as a driver!”

Craig says a lot of the credit goes to Dean Patterson, his field safety manager, who has given Craig the confidence to keep learning and growing as a truck driver.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of new drivers quit because they stress out about backing up a 53-foot trailer,” said Craig. “I was one of them. I was pretty down about it. I told Dean how I was feeling and he took over four hours with me one day to practice. I’m getting better at it, and I feel a lot more comfortable all because of Dean.”

“Dean also keeps reinforcing the Transport America safety message. Every time the weather turns bad, especially during the winter months, I hear Dean in my head saying: ‘If a voice inside your head asks you if it’s safe, it’s not.’ So I get off the road.”

Another person that helped Craig is his fleet leader John Yee. “John is a great fleet leader,” said Craig. He and Craig have developed a good working relationship. John’s trust in Craig’s ability to get the job done is shown by giving him trips with Transport America’s most highly valued customers such as Amazon and Federal Express.

As Craig crisscrosses the U.S., he’s included his family as part of the adventure. He tries to call in every night to his wife and their grandkids, and last summer, he took his 12-year-old grandson, Jackson, out on the road with him for two weeks. Craig is looking forward to taking Jackson out on the road again this coming summer.

“When we were running our real estate business, we were anchored to our properties,” said Craig. “We didn’t see much of America. But since I’ve been on the road, I’ve seen a lot of our country and that’s made me both happy and proud.”

After 30 years of being in a small business, Craig likes to be part of something bigger, and helping Transport America succeed.