The Weigh-In: Owner-Operator James Rogers on the Importance of Health

In this installment of the Weigh-In, James Rogers collaborated with Uber Freight to share how mentors were essential to his health and business. Watch the video to learn more on why community plays such a vital role for James.

James Rogers

I call my truck the war rig.

After 9/11, joining the military was the highest sacrifice I could make for my country. And after coming home a disabled veteran in 2014, I still felt the need to be a part of something greater than myself. For a while I struggled to figure out what that would look like, until I became a truck driver. Being a part of this industry became my way of giving back, my saving grace.

The trucking industry is the blood in my body, the oil in my engine. Day in and day out, I am moving commodities that people need to survive. Without this industry, and without the drivers powering it, the country stops. Even though we are painted as lone wolves, behind every truck driver is a network of support and a community of friends. Anybody can drive a truck, but no one can do it alone.

A Lucky Break . . . . And a Steep Learning Curve

My journey to becoming an owner-operator was unexpected. Someone nominated me to win a truck, and I was shocked when I found out I had actually won. Up until this point, I had only ever been a lease-operator and a company driver. Now, I had my own truck and was working to get my own authority. The shift from a mega-carrier to an independent owner-operator was intimidating and stressful. All of the risk, liability, and finances fell squarely on my shoulders.

I began to look for outside help to guide me in the right direction, and actively sought out industry veterans who I could learn from. I listened to everything they offered and learned as much as I could. Not every piece of advice is going to be applicable, but the more pieces you gather, the more you can piece together your own best course of action. If I didn’t have mentors in the industry who were willing to help me along each step of the way and with every detail, I wouldn’t have made it.

How Having a Mentor Extends Beyond Business

When I came home after deployment, I was mentally and physically broken and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I fell into addiction and depression, and it took tremendous effort from my wife and hours of counseling to begin to heal. Having been completely disconnected for so long, building relationships with other drivers uplifted my mental state and helped keep my PTSD at bay.

Truck drivers are in a uniquely isolating position, but I believe that shutting yourself off from others will set you up for failure. It’s not unusual to know someone in the industry that struggles with mental illness, and to me, it makes sense. We’re sedentary, we’re on the road, and we’re in a small space for hours on end. I’ve learned that if you slip mentally, your business will quickly follow.

Staying Healthy and Active Through Community

My advice is to be proactive about reaching out to others and place as much value on your mental health as your physical health. At truck stops, hop out of the cab, walk around, and introduce yourself to other drivers. Offer to share a cup of coffee or a meal. One time I struck up a conversation with a guy on the road, and he handed me a Bible with his phone number written inside. I had only met him briefly, but I called him out of the blue and we spoke for four hours. Relationships have to start somewhere; having mentors doesn’t mean you can’t be that same support system for somebody else.

I call my truck the war rig because it’s a constant reminder of the sacrifices I’ve made and the hope that I carry. Truck driving isn’t just a job. It’s a way to serve your country, a way to connect with others, and for me, it’s a way to heal.

The views expressed in this post are solely those of the individual being featured. Experiences may vary.

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