Driver Spotlight: Derek Pineda
In early 2020, Derek Pineda, a 20-year-old Dollar General manager out of Southern California, decided that the retail scene was not for him. He sought a career with more freedom, more opportunity, and most importantly, more money.
Of course early 2020 was far from the most opportune time for job seekers like Derek as the unemployment rate climbed and businesses started facing the reality of the earliest days of the pandemic. Derek realized finding the perfect job–and one with stability, no less–was going to be a challenge.
Itching to take his mind off of pandemic stresses for a few hours, Derek and his mother drove to a state park for a socially-distant day of fun. He couldn’t help but notice that the notoriously congested highways of Southern California were eerily empty with one notable exception: tractor trailers.
For the first time, Derek considered that perhaps commercial truck driving could be his ticket out of the retail world and into something with a better future and better pay. He enrolled in a local trucking school, but as the start date neared, Derek started having doubts.
“I was scared, because as a queer person, you’re like ‘can even be in this field?’ Am I even capable of doing this? I was so worried about being different,” he said. “But truck driving showed me that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought I was.”
After getting his feet wet with another transportation company, Derek joined Dot Transportation in early 2022 after combing through positive reviews on trucker-specific Reddit threads. He couldn’t believe that drivers were guaranteed weekly home time.
“I was like, there’s no way they’re letting people go home after four days when I’m on the road for months with just a few days off,” he said.
Another major perk? The money. His first paycheck came out to roughly four times what he had been making with his previous employer.
“This was no joke,” he said.
As a new driver, Derek struggled with the over-the-road isolation that comes with being a solo driver. But he says that the apprehension has subsided over time and the environment actually helps him stay focused and grounded.
“I used to think I would hate open fields and the countryside, but I find those areas the most peaceful. Through driving, I’ve gained more patience than I’ve ever had.”
At just 22 years old, Derek is one of Dot Transportation’s youngest professional drivers, but he’s taking the wheel with the confidence of his far more experienced peers. He runs a traditional schedule and opts to handle his own freight in an effort to stay in shape.
An accomplished and self-taught guitarist, Derek spends his free time connecting with fellow musicians and producers through a recording studio he and his friends operate out of Southern California. On especially long trips, Derek makes sure to bring along a guitar to squeeze in some practice time in between stops.
Derek resides near Dot Foods California in Modesto with his fiancee. He’s thankful for the opportunities provided by DTI and encourages anyone looking for a new adventure, regardless of age or experience, to consider truck driving.
“You’re really going to get to know yourself as a truck driver,” he said. “At my other company, I was just another driver. But at DTI, you actually know who you’re driving next to and who is helping you break down freight. That’s what I enjoy the most.”
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