Mentoring a New Generation of Truck Drivers
As anyone new to truck driving knows, it can get pretty overwhelming at first.
Especially if you’re driving solo and you’re looking for a piece of advice to make your life on the road better, such as how to drive in the mountains or alternative routes in and out of Chicago.
It can be harder, if you’re a driver from a far-away place, such as Guam, a territory of the United States, located 5,663 miles from Seattle.
“We wanted to create a safe, online community where professional truck drivers from Guam could connect with other drivers to not only feel more “at home” on the mainland,” says Charlie Tenorio, a professional driver with Transport America who grew up on Guam, “but to have a safe place to go with questions and concerns.”
Tenorio and his wife, Ann, created Chamorro Truckers (www.chamorrotruckers.com), an online community of truck drivers dedicated to helping each other navigate the U.S. trucking system.
The group originally started out as a place where drivers from Guam and other islands, such as Hawaii, could come together and share information. However, since it was founded more than three years ago, truck drivers from all walks of life have found comfort and camaraderie in the group.
“Our intent is to create better, safer, more well-rounded drivers who make more money,” says Charlie. “It goes with being from a small island culture – it is an honor and privilege to share our knowledge not only with each other from Guam, but with all new truck drivers. We want to raise everyone up. Everyone is welcome to join our group and learn from each other.”
“It’s our way of paying it forward,” Charlie adds.
So far, the group has attracted 90 drivers who work for a variety of trucking companies from all over the country.
Getting Their Start
Charlie started his driving career in 1987 as a truck driver for the U.S. Army while stationed in Europe. After completing his time in the service, he continued to drive professionally for a number of trucking companies when he returned to the United States.
In 2010, his wife Ann, a third-year nursing student, also from Guam, decided to join him on the road after earning her CDL. Driving together as a team since 2010, Charlie and Ann joined Transport America as company drivers in 2014. In November 2017, they were named by Transport America as its team of the month.
“We left Transport America for six months and then rejoined the company,” says Charlie. “We thought there was greener grass. We were wrong. We are so happy to be back home with Transport America.”
For those wondering, over-the-road, long-haul trucking is practically non-existent on Guam. Trucks on the small island are used either for construction or moving shipping containers according to Charlie, so if you enjoy truck driving and want to make it a career, the mainland U.S.A. is the place to go. On top of this, explains Charlie, the pay between what someone can make on the mainland versus Guam is like night and day.
“If you enjoy driving a truck, you can make substantially more money driving on the mainland,” says Charlie.
Calling Camas, Wash., a suburb of the Portland, Oregon-Vancouver, Washington, area their home away from home, Charlie and Ann have made it their mission in life to “share the truth” with other truck drivers, particularly the new drivers. As such, in addition to their participation in Chamorro Truckers, Charlie and Ann are often asked by Transport America to share their insights with new Transport America driving teams.
For example, the other day, a new driving team was having difficulty finding a safe place near Portland, Oregon to park their tractor-trailer. Charlie went out to meet them and guide them to a safe location.
“They were very frustrated,” Charlie says. “But you know what, we understand the struggles of new drivers. As drivers, we provide new drivers the context to help them stay focused and start building a successful career in trucking.”
According to Ingrid Riemann, their fleet leader, Charlie and Ann are often teamed with other new teams with little driving experience on their first three to four trips.
“Charlie and Ann help our teams learn how to drive the mountains and everywhere else,” says Ingrid. “They’re really good at what they do, have great attitudes and they understand how to teach.”
It’s that same helpful teaching attitude that led to the formation of Chamorro Truckers traces back in 2012 when Charlie and Ann helped another truck driver from Guam navigate his way through the industry and realized that there are many other drivers out on the roads who call him and Ann for advice or direction. The group grew organically from there to include drivers from nearly every state.
“We’ve learned the hard way. There are a lot of trucking companies who were not truthful with drivers, say anything to get drivers to come and work for them only to find out the truth when it is too late,” Charlie says.
“Often times,” he adds, “it’s pride that gets in the way. The driver of another trucking company doesn’t want to admit that the trucking company they are working for isn’t working out for them.”
That’s why everyone in Chamorro Truckers is dedicated to sharing the truth with one another. The group’s mission is help each other — especially the newer drivers (regardless of what company they drive for) — understand how to be better truck drivers.
“Everyone in our group collectively works together to help each other be better drivers and to make more money,” Charlie says.
Using a closed group on Facebook, Life360, as well as WhatsApp, the group has become a safe place where members can share questions ranging from how to safely drive during winter conditions to learning how to determine if a trucking company is treating its drivers right.
As the group has grown in size, friendships have been cemented over barbeque during Chamorro Truckers’ annual BBQ get-together, which is hosted by a member within the group each summer.
“Our fleet leader, Ingrid Riemann, has been a big help in supporting our efforts,” Charlie says, “she understands our desire to create more balanced, safer drivers who want to make a career as professional truck drivers.”
At the end of the day, what Chamorro Truckers proves is that what is old is still new – the idea of a community of driving professionals who want to grow and be more successful through the sharing of their experiences, insight and some good grinds – and Transport America has helped many of them embark on successful driving careers.