This week we bring you an interview with our Team of the Year: Donald and Sonya of “The Thompson Team." (The Thompsons retired from TOTAL and trucking in early 2020.)
Hi Thompsons, congratulations on being our Team of the Year for 2019!
Donald: Well, thank you very much!
No, thank you! How long have you driven for TOTAL Transportation?
Sonya: We’ve been with TOTAL for almost 3 years. Before that, we worked for National Freight for about 3 years.
How long have you been driving trucks?
Donald: I’ve been driving for about 6 years, but I’ve had my CDL since ’89 because I used to move oil field equipment with my dad.
Sonya: Well, I’ve been driving commercially for almost 18 years.
What made you choose to come to TOTAL over your other options?
Sonya: Well, we had a friend of ours that worked for another company and was talking about TOTAL. He said friends of his really liked the company and we were ready for a change. So we started digging and looking at the benefits. Then we talked to the Youngblood team who worked for TOTAL, and they said they really enjoyed it. So, that’s how we came aboard.
From your experience, what do you folks think makes TOTAL different from other companies?
Donald: For the most part, they treat you more like a person and not a number. You’re not just a driver. We were impressed with the benefits and the pay has always been really good. You know, they even offer college and vacation.
What have you enjoyed most about TOTAL?
Donald: We’ve gotten regular raises and mileage bonuses and we love that. We’ve also enjoyed the equipment. We got a new truck when we first started and then two years later we got another new truck. They’ve been reliable, and when something did happen we were able to get it taken care of quickly.
Do you have any tips for drivers about working with your fleet manager?
Donald: Yeah, keep in contact with them and communicate. That's the big thing you know, you‘ve got to communicate with them. The more you can communicate, the better your life's gonna be.
What do you think it takes to be named TOTAL’s Team drivers of the year?
Sonya: Dedication, hard work, and honesty. You know, those are the biggest things.
Do you have any advice for new drivers to be successful?
Donald: Communication and patience. Not everything will go as you first planned, but it will always get worked out one way or the other. You have got to have patience, dedication, and work hard.
What made you decide to give trucking a try?
Sonya: Well my ex-husband was a driver and I didn’t want to be stuck at home. I figured I could do it and make money too. To be a dual-income home was my main reason.
Donald, what made you decide that you wanted to give it a shot?
Donald: Pretty much same thing. As I said, I've had my license forever. Sonya said she wanted to go drive a truck again. I waited for about a month or so and decided it was a dang good idea and we should try it together. Like she said, the money from two checks coming in at the same time is great.
Any advice specifically for married teams?
Donald: Keep one in the sleeper (laughs). Again, everything comes down to communication and safety. You don't have to alienate one another just to survive the day and drive. Sometimes it gets a little tough out there working and living together 24-7 and at times things can get stressful. When it's time to take a break and get your head right then do it.
Sonya: You need to take time to take a break from the road too. You’ve got to have time as husband and wife without being co-workers as well. That's the big thing.
What's the longest you’ve been out?
Donald: Like at a stretch? Probably about nine weeks, somewhere around there.
I bet that blends together.
Sonya: Yeah it does. Fortunately, we were running out to California and we really enjoyed that. It made it a whole lot better. We always did our 34 there and then got off the truck and did things.
With all of your driving around the country, what's your favorite part?
Donald: California, Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest. Definitely not the Northeast (laughs).
Sonya: My favorite is actually driving through the desert going through Arizona. And the desert parts of California. That was my favorite.
Is there any advice that you could give to brand new truck drivers?
Donald: Yeah. Don't be afraid to ask other drivers, your friends, or your fleet manager something. Don’t be afraid to talk to drivers and ask questions. Don’t come across like you think you know everything because you don’t. Don't be scared to ask for help. We’ve had some fantastic fleet managers. Anytime there was a question they couldn't answer they would go and find the answer for us. They’ve always gone to bat for us. That made us feel a lot safer and more secure out there. Just don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
On the flip side of that, do you have any advice for experienced drivers?
Donald: Don't get complacent. Things may go so smoothly that your mind drifts. Or, you will get so aggravated with the crazy drivers out there that you become distracted at times. Safety has to be the number one thing. Just slow down, there is no load worth getting killed over. Take your time, be patient, and do not get complacent.
Sonya: And again, same with experienced drivers. You know, don't just assume. If you're not sure, ask. Ask your fleet manager. Ask somebody. Don't just assume anything because you've been driving for however long. Things change. Your FM is there to provide you with guidance and to answer any question you have.
Is there anything else on your mind you'd like to say to either our drivers or drivers in general?
Sonya: First, I would highly recommend TOTAL. I have driven for a lot of companies over my years of driving and I'm telling you, this is the best company that I've ever worked for. And I'm not just saying that. That is God's honest truth, I would totally recommend TOTAL.
Well, we appreciate that. We know, as far as support goes, we do everything we can to help our drivers out there. And we really appreciate what you do.