By Dr. Becker
It’s a well-known fact that a majority of Americans own pets. According to a recent Harris Poll survey, 62 percent of U.S. families include one or more pets.1
But, what may be surprising to many people (including me) is another statistic: over 60 percent of over-the-road truck drivers are pet owners, and 40 percent take their pets with them on the road.
Trucking with Pets Has Many Benefits
Longtime driver Barry Starr brings his dog Scrappy with him in his truck.
“He is great company; he keeps me laughing a lot,” Starr told Fleet Owner. “He is also a great source of exercise [as] walking him and playing with him will definitely keep me active. But the number one thing is he’s an awesome alarm system.”2
Another driver, long-haul trucker Stephanie Klang, believes her pets bring her good karma on the road. Klang says her cats (yes, cats!) help keep her stress level down while she’s on the road.
Fleet Owner, an Internet resource for the commercial trucking industry, alerts its readers to a growing trend:
“If the results of the Harris Poll are to be believed, fleets better be ready to accept more requests for pet ownership from younger drivers, as pet ownership is highest among the two youngest generations the firm sampled: some 65 percent among Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) and a whopping 71 percent among members of ‘Generation X,’ those born between the late 1960s and 1980s.”3
Tammy Prop, wife of Steven, who takes their dog Riley on the road with him, told Road King:
“Having your dog with you on the road helps to break the ice with other people you come into contact with. Plus, there is nothing like having your best friend riding shotgun while on a long stretch of highway.”4
The Props adopted Riley, a pit bull mix, when they found him wandering the streets, eating food out of trashcans. They knew the first time they put Riley into the cab of Steven’s truck that he was a road dog!
Trucker’s Dog Comforts Shelter Dogs En Route to New Homes
David Binz is the owner-operator of a big rig and dad to Izzy, an 8-year-old Blue Heeler/pit bull mix:
“The bond a trucker has with their dog is much like the bond a parent has with their child. We eat, sleep, play, and go to work with our pets every day,” says Binz. “And I never have to leave my pet to go to work and my pet never has to leave me!”5
Binz believes having a furry passenger along for the ride makes him a happier, safer driver, and he should know, since he volunteers for two pet rescue organizations that deliver adopted animals to their new families. One of Binz’s longest road trips was 4,500 miles in 9 days to deliver a 4-year-old Pekingese to his new family in North Pole, Alaska.
Binz and others like him have transported hundreds of dogs, who ride alongside the truckers’ own pets.
“When you pick up a pet and put it in the truck, you become a much safer driver,” Binz tells Road King.
“All of a sudden you have a brand-new responsibility because you are responsible for somebody’s pet, or somebody’s future pet.”6
Fortunately, Binz’s own dog Izzy is an excellent canine ambassador who has a calming affect on the dogs headed for new homes. “A lot of these dogs coming out of rescues settle in really fast, and I think a lot of it’s because of Izzy,” says Binz.
Izzy even has a positive influence on the cats Binz transports:
“The last cat that I transported, Pepper, they were loving on each other!” says Binz. “Izzy’s quite a help with these animals. She’s a very, very, very good dog.”
Rules of the Road
I’m certainly no expert on the subject of over-the-road trucking with pets, but I picked up a few dos and don’ts while researching the subject and added a few of my own:
- Many trucking companies don’t allow pets, so make sure the company you drive for does. Don’t assume you can break the rules once you’re hired – your contraband dog WILL be discovered at some point.
- Only experienced drivers (those with at least six months’ experience under their belt) should attempt to drive with a pet. There’s a lot to think about and attend to on the road, and fresh out of trucking school, you’re still learning how to do your job.
- Dogs around 25 pounds or less seem to do best as road buddies. Larger dogs take up too much room in the cab, which results in very cramped, uncomfortable quarters for both driver and dog.
- If your pet rides in the passenger seat, use a harness or other device that will secure her in the seat in case you have to brake suddenly.
- Always leash your dog before letting him out of the truck.
- Learn how long your pet can comfortably “hold it” and plan rest stops accordingly.
- Bring along plenty of clean, fresh water, and make sure your dog stays well-hydrated on the road.
- Also bring enough of your dog’s regular food for each trip, and if you feed fresh meals (which I highly recommend), you’ll need to figure out in advance how to keep the food frozen or refrigerated on the road.
- Since your dog will spend much of her time in the cab of your truck, it’s crucially important that she gets plenty of walks and at least one full hour of exercise each day. The good news is that by committing to exercise your dog each day, you’ll also benefit!
- To keep your pet mentally stimulated, bring along a selection of dog toys, puzzle toys, and treat-release toys, and offer them in rotation to your pet while you’re on the road.
- Truck cabs are small, confined spaces, so keeping shedding under control is very important. Short-haired dogs and those that don’t shed much are ideal, but daily brushing and frequent baths can be very beneficial in keeping shedding to a minimum. Also use bedding for your dog that can be washed at least weekly, and carry extra filters for your heating/air conditioning unit and change them regularly.
- It’s not a good idea to allow your dog to jump into or out of the cab unassisted, as it can be quite hard on his hips, knees, and joints. Either lift him up and down, or invest in a device like the Pet Loader.
- Travel with a crate or carrier for your dog, and make sure she’s comfortable going into it when necessary. There will be situations in which she’ll need to be crated for short periods, for example, if you deliver to a facility that doesn’t allow pets inside the gate.