For many married couples who drive for a living, sharing a truck may seem like a bit too much together time. But for OTR drivers James and Debra Maxwell, the benefits of team driving far outweigh any pitfalls. Nearly seven years ago they decided to share the road together, both as husband and wife and as a driving team for PAM.
James and Debra met when they both drove for another company. But Debra decided PAM was the place she wanted to put down roots for a long-term career.
“PAM treats women with more respect than a lot of companies,” Debra says. “They’re never rude like some people I’ve worked with in the past. Everyone at PAM, from the dispatchers to the office workers, they have a great deal of respect for you as a driver and as a person. They understand that without people like me, they don’t have a job!”
After hearing how much Debra enjoyed driving for PAM, James decided to join her where they had the opportunity to share a truck as a team. It was also the ideal time to begin a lifelong partnership with his “best friend.”
“We got married at the PAM Transport Terminal in Tontitown, Arkansas,” James says. “Now we’re together more on the road than we are at home, and that’s just fine with us, because we have each other for company. That’s where teaming has its advantages, because you’re not out here for four or five weeks by yourself.”
Respect: The Secret to Team Driving Success
Debra says she enjoys driving with James because they treat each other as equal partners, both on and off the road. She says the key to success for any driving team is to create a structured schedule and stick to it. Because Debra is a night owl, she drives at night and James takes the wheel during the day.
“It’s important to get your rest,” Debra says. “When it’s time to go to bed, go to bed. We do not divert from our schedule unless it is absolutely necessary. That’s what makes teaming work for us.”
“I think she just hit the nail on the head,” James says. “You have to stay on your schedule when you’re teaming.”
He says there cannot be two “bosses” on a driving team. The person behind the wheel is in charge. He and Debra also try to give each other their space.
“Do your own job yourself,” Debra says. “I don’t wake James up and ask him for help backing into a space or for swapping trailers. And he doesn’t wake me up for that sort of thing either. We each do our jobs and we take responsibility for ourselves when we’re each behind the wheel.”
“And don’t try to boss your partner,” James adds. “Debra works just as hard as I do, and that’s why our team works. You can’t have a successful team if one driver goes for 11 hours straight and the other driver just goes a couple of hours and parks. Somebody’s going to get mad!”
Overcoming Driving Challenges as a PAM Team
Both James and Debra agree that finding alone time is a challenge when you’re part of a driving team. While they enjoy going to casinos together in different cities during their free time, they also make time for a little self-care.
“When I have the opportunity, I get out of the truck and go to a motel room to relax, watch TV, and take a hot bath for hours,” Debra says.
“It’s definitely important for drivers to have their alone time,” James says. “That’s what your sleeper compartment is for. It’s got a curtain for privacy. You can watch TV, play on your phone, and get your rest until it’s time to get ready to go back to work.”
He says one of his biggest challenges on the road is the lack of respect Debra sometimes gets as a female driver.
“A lot of drivers out there don’t like female drivers,” James says. “That’s too bad, because from what I’ve seen, most of the women drivers are more careful than a lot of the guys.”
Debra says it can be challenging dealing with shippers or receivers at other companies who may have a little “truck envy” of a woman who gets to drive for a living.
“Sometimes I have to deal with someone who’s bitter because they’re stuck behind a desk and I get to drive a truck,” Debra says. “There are also times I get some attitude because I’m a woman and because they don’t think I’m an American. I’m a Native American! People are genuinely surprised when they find out I drive a truck. Some people are impressed when they find out I’m a driver, but some won’t even give me the keys to their office restroom.”
“That just doesn’t make sense to me,” James says. “Debra’s been driving accident-free for 11 years. And I’ve been driving accident-free for 10 years. We’re a successful PAM driving team because we’re both careful. We watch everybody else and not just ourselves when we’re on the road.”
The Perks of Team Driving as Husband and Wife
Debra says she loves team driving because it gives the driver who isn’t driving more opportunities for free time when the other takes the wheel. She especially likes driving with her husband, because they get to share the perks of travel as a couple.
“We get to eat together, go to casinos together, and we’ve even gone to a zoo to see the animals,” she says. “We work hard, but when we’re together we really enjoy each other’s company. He’s my best friend. I don’t think we’ve ever had an argument! I guess you could say we were meant for each other.”
James says he started team driving for PAM because he wanted to be with Debra. He soon discovered added benefits, such as the ability to earn more as a team than as a solo driver. Teams have the ability to load and unload freight more quickly, which means drivers can log more miles and earn more money than going solo.
“And when you’re married, all the money stays with you,” Debra says. “Everything you make is yours together.”
“The hardest part of team driving is finding someone you can get along with,” James adds. “But when you click with someone and each person does their own job, team driving is the way to go. It’s not just about pay. If you can’t find someone you get along with, it’s not going to work!”
But once you find the right team driving partner to share the workload, James says those coast-to-coast OTR runs feel less like work, and more like an adventure.