Career Change At 50 To Truck Driver

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>>--HuntinDoug-->'s Comment
member avatar

Hey folks... Great forum! First post:

So here I am... 50 years old, and in a career I love. I'm a luthier. I have built electric guitars professionally since 2006. But, there are 2 main problems: It's extremely hard to find buyers for instruments that range in cost from $1700 to $6000. And, my biggest problem is I have developed an allergy to wood dust, which has triggered asthma = incessant coughing when exposed to wood dust. This has limited my time in the shop over the past 2 years. This has caused lost sales & income. To date I am about $30K in the red. The only reason I have hung on this long is my wife is an RN with a good job. We decided not to renew our lease on the shop building after Dec. Which means I will need to get a "real" job.

For years I have wondered what an OTR driving job would be like. Ironically, in 1976 my Dad changed careers from law enforcement, to truck driving (O/O) at age 50. He loved it! So, the lifestyle isn't completely foreign to me. I went on runs with him as a kid. So, I am very seriously contemplating going with either Schneider, or Roehl. Here are some of my concerns... Maybe you veterans can help me finalize my decision.

Stamina: I'm currently not used to working 12-14 hour days. I feel like I could get there. But, I'm worried about the shock to my system. Right now I only work 6 or so hours/day due to the asthma thing.

Back Pain: I've heard horror stories about how bad driving is on your back. I had L5S1 surgery back in 2002 (herniated disc). My back is OK, but I am careful not to aggravate it.

The Better Half: I've been married for 27 years... I'd like to keep it that way. My wife & I have talked about the separation part of the job, and both of us feel we can adapt.

The Long Term Plan: My plan is to sign on, and drive OTR for 12-18 months minimum. Then, re-evaluate the OTR lifestyle. If it's going good, then I will continue on. If not, I will take the year+ experience, and seek a local dedicated driving job that get's me home every night.

Let me know what you guy's think... Any advice is helpful. Thanks! Doug

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Best Answer!
He could get a student loan or a grant, maybe even go through a state program for the unemployed and go to a community college for 1/4 the cost and then have his choice of company's to work for.

If it was that easy everyone would do that. Most people looking to start a new career can't get a student loan, don't have the money up front for a private school or community college program, and don't have two months to wait around on a grant even if they did qualify for one.

I looked back over everything i said and cant find anything that wasn't 100% accurate

The average truck driver's salary is in the $40,000 range and most experienced drivers are in the $50,000 range. Probably not a lot of food stamps going on. Trucking companies can't pay their bills if the wheels aren't turning.

And what's wrong with the big companies? I loved em. They have great finances behind them, beautiful new equipment, tons of different opportunities in different divisions, national accounts for everything, and a million perks like travel & hotel discounts, free personal and marriage counseling, health & wellness hotlines where you can call and speak with a nurse or doctor 24/7, gigantic driver recreation buildings for downtime, and all kinds of other great stuff.

And my last year at US Xpress I made $62,000 and got home every weekend so you can't say there isn't great money to be made at those companies either. Heck, I was making $52,000-$55,000 the three previous years and getting home every single weekend. You don't have to like em, but don't be telling people there isn't money to be made at those companies and don't go insulting people because they like the big companies. I've worked for companies that had 5 trucks, 11 trucks, and 45 trucks so I know both sides of it. Working for those smaller companies was a pain in the *ss compared with the bigger companies and they had absolutely no advantages I can think of over the bigger companies.

There is no shortage of drivers that hate on the big companies all the time but I can never get any specifics from them about why that might be. In my experience the larger companies had every advantage over the smaller companies from a driver's perspective.

Back problems effect a lot of drivers in this industry

That could be but it isn't something I've ever heard anyone mention. We've had numerous people ask about the effects it will have on your back but we've never once had anyone come in here saying they couldn't drive because it bothered their back. I also can't remember anyone telling me in person all those years that trucking was causing back problems. If you can sit in an office chair for hours without problems you can drive a truck without problems.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

The stamina part you'll adapt to. Everyone is utterly exhausted pretty much all the time the first few months of their career. After a while you'll adapt to the long days and it won't be a big deal.

Back pain really isn't something you hear much about in trucking. The trucks have several layers of air suspension between you and the road. You have airbags in the suspension, the cab sits on airbags, and the seat itself has an air suspension. You'll still be bouncing around somewhat but it isn't bone-rattling awful unless you're on an exceptionally bad road. If you take care of your back by do some stretching everyday and get a little exercise you should be fine. If you can sit in a regular chair for a few hours at a time you should be fine in a truck.

As far as home time, there are indeed jobs that can get you home at least every weekend straight out of school. There are people that have landed jobs that get you home every night straight out of school but those are pretty rare. You'll normally need at least a few months of OTR experience before a local company will give you a shot. But your long term plan sounds perfectly reasonable.

Go through our Truck Driver's Career Guide from beginning to end and follow all of the links you come across. That will give you a ton of information about what it takes to get your career off to a great start.

Some of these giant OTR company's have drivers out there that could qualify for food stamps. Many will steer you to company paid schooling sign a contract and say you must stay with them for a year, (there are other ways i would do it ). There are drivers landing local jobs right out of Community college driving schools. Now when the big company guys jump in here , remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Gary, you're free to dislike working for the large companies and you can do things however you like. But spare us the snarky B.S., the ridiculous exaggerations, and the insinuation that you're somehow smarter or more honest than the "big company guys" or any guys for that matter, ok? We're trying to help people get their careers underway and understand how the trucking industry works. You're not helping. You say you would do it differently. If you were hurting for money and couldn't get a loan, how do you propose someone should go about getting their career underway? The company schools exist to help people get started in the industry that don't have $3,000-$6,000 lying around that they can use on private tuition. And in case it hadn't dawned on you, most people switch careers because they're in a tough position financially and they're looking to make things better.

HuntinDoug, you'll be doing yourself a great service by ignoring that kind of baloney.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Gary M.'s Comment
member avatar

Doug

I started driving trucks in 1978 and OTR for 26 years now. I have raised a family and almost paid for my home. Trucking has been good to me. Would i do it again.. MAYBE... I should have stayed in school and got at least a minimal education.

The decision on the Company you choose to drive for is totally your decision. I have noticed a few select company names regularly being mentioned. Research Research Research!! Ask lots of questions..Driving truck is hard work. Long irregular hours and tough on your health and family life. I cant say wether or not your back will hold up,but i can say the nations roads are deteriorating and you will be in that seat long hours grinding it out.

This is the first forum i have joined so im not sure what i can really say, but i like your idea of local driving work paid by the hour home every night. Some of these giant OTR company's have drivers out there that could qualify for food stamps. Many will steer you to company paid schooling sign a contract and say you must stay with them for a year, (there are other ways i would do it ). There are drivers landing local jobs right out of Community college driving schools. Now when the big company guys jump in here , remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Good Luck To You

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

The stamina part you'll adapt to. Everyone is utterly exhausted pretty much all the time the first few months of their career. After a while you'll adapt to the long days and it won't be a big deal.

Back pain really isn't something you hear much about in trucking. The trucks have several layers of air suspension between you and the road. You have airbags in the suspension, the cab sits on airbags, and the seat itself has an air suspension. You'll still be bouncing around somewhat but it isn't bone-rattling awful unless you're on an exceptionally bad road. If you take care of your back by do some stretching everyday and get a little exercise you should be fine. If you can sit in a regular chair for a few hours at a time you should be fine in a truck.

As far as home time, there are indeed jobs that can get you home at least every weekend straight out of school. There are people that have landed jobs that get you home every night straight out of school but those are pretty rare. You'll normally need at least a few months of OTR experience before a local company will give you a shot. But your long term plan sounds perfectly reasonable.

Go through our Truck Driver's Career Guide from beginning to end and follow all of the links you come across. That will give you a ton of information about what it takes to get your career off to a great start.

Some of these giant OTR company's have drivers out there that could qualify for food stamps. Many will steer you to company paid schooling sign a contract and say you must stay with them for a year, (there are other ways i would do it ). There are drivers landing local jobs right out of Community college driving schools. Now when the big company guys jump in here , remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Gary, you're free to dislike working for the large companies and you can do things however you like. But spare us the snarky B.S., the ridiculous exaggerations, and the insinuation that you're somehow smarter or more honest than the "big company guys" or any guys for that matter, ok? We're trying to help people get their careers underway and understand how the trucking industry works. You're not helping. You say you would do it differently. If you were hurting for money and couldn't get a loan, how do you propose someone should go about getting their career underway? The company schools exist to help people get started in the industry that don't have $3,000-$6,000 lying around that they can use on private tuition. And in case it hadn't dawned on you, most people switch careers because they're in a tough position financially and they're looking to make things better.

HuntinDoug, you'll be doing yourself a great service by ignoring that kind of baloney.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Gary warns:

Many will steer you to company paid schooling sign a contract and say you must stay with them for a year, (there are other ways i would do it ).

What is wrong with a little commitment??!!

No, it's not "company paid", it's company financed. You are going to pay it, either through payroll deduction if you stay with said company, or they will follow you and collect on you if they have to.

One year, and getting paid for working, isn't such a big deal. Also, if you want to jump to supposedly greener grass, your record of job hopping may not set too well with the new company you want to work for so badly.

Mark P.'s Comment
member avatar

Doug I am 50 (51 next month) and have had no worries making this move from the other side of the loading dock. My only physical complaint is shoulder pain from shifting but that shoulder was pretty much bone to bone anyway before I started. I guess everyone has their own limits as far as stamina. I have been out here 5 months now and my suggestion is power nap every chance you get.

The family situation can be tricky. Are you looking at a company that has a rider program where the wife can go along sometimes? I have a Blue Parrot headset and spend huge amounts of my drive time on the phone withthe future Mrs. Not as good as being there but it helps. She will be heading out with me in a couple weeks through the Prime rider program.

Hope that little bit helps.

Pastor C.'s Comment
member avatar

"Depending on location" Schneider and Roehl offer Regional where you would be home every week. Roehl also has a 7 driving then 7 at home.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Doug. Fascinating, a guitar maker. I began my trucking career at age 53 by enrolling in SWIFT's Richmond academy. 3+ years later I still work for SWIFT's Dedicated Grocery team assigned to their Walmart account. Contrary to Gary M's baseless claim of food-stamp dependence, I make a good living and have no problem paying my bills and having some left over to enjoy life with. The dedicated account gets me home more frequently than if I was true OTR. Once you gain some experience, running dedicated for Schneider, Roehl, or SWIFT (others as well) is something to consider as a possible middle-ground between OTR and Local running. Prime and CR England are also good choices to consider. All depends on what you want out of your career.

Although I do not believe I am a kool-aid drinking, big company guy, I happen to work for one and am not shy about sharing the positive experience I continue to have working for SWIFT. Although like every large company, SWIFT is far from perfect, but they are constantly trying to improve the driver experience. Furthermore they helped me get a start and establish a strong foot hold on truck driving in a short period of time. They keep me moving and at least at my home terminal , the driver managers and planners are top notch. I love the job, can't wait to turn the key every day.

The two companies you mentioned are good choices, but there are lots of others to consider. When I was considering trucking as a career I researched a ton of options, narrowed my list to three and made my choice based on what best met my needs. There are numerous links on this website designed to assist with the research, you can click on any of the buttons at the top of the page. I recommend starting from left to right.

Good luck!

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Driver Manager:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Pastor C.'s Comment
member avatar

Welcome Doug. Fascinating, a guitar maker. I began my trucking career at age 53 by enrolling in SWIFT's Richmond academy. 3+ years later I still work for SWIFT's Dedicated Grocery team assigned to their Walmart account. Contrary to Gary M's baseless claim of food-stamp dependence, I make a good living and have no problem paying my bills and having some left over to enjoy life with. The dedicated account gets me home more frequently than if I was true OTR. Once you gain some experience, running dedicated for Schneider, Roehl, or SWIFT (others as well) is something to consider as a possible middle-ground between OTR and Local running. Prime and CR England are also good choices to consider. All depends on what you want out of your career.

Although I do not believe I am a kool-aid drinking, big company guy, I happen to work for one and am not shy about sharing the positive experience I continue to have working for SWIFT. Although like every large company, SWIFT is far from perfect, but they are constantly trying to improve the driver experience. Furthermore they helped me get a start and establish a strong foot hold on truck driving in a short period of time. They keep me moving and at least at my home terminal , the driver managers and planners are top notch. I love the job, can't wait to turn the key every day.

The two companies you mentioned are good choices, but there are lots of others to consider. When I was considering trucking as a career I researched a ton of options, narrowed my list to three and made my choice based on what best met my needs. There are numerous links on this website designed to assist with the research, you can click on any of the buttons at the top of the page. I recommend starting from left to right.

Good luck!

G-Town is right. It is all about what is best for you and your family. I just wanted to put in what I found after extensive research on my two chosen companies. There are a lot of companies to choose from who do driver training. Research is key, and when you are done researching research some more.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Driver Manager:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Gary M.'s Comment
member avatar

The stamina part you'll adapt to. Everyone is utterly exhausted pretty much all the time the first few months of their career. After a while you'll adapt to the long days and it won't be a big deal.

Back pain really isn't something you hear much about in trucking. The trucks have several layers of air suspension between you and the road. You have airbags in the suspension, the cab sits on airbags, and the seat itself has an air suspension. You'll still be bouncing around somewhat but it isn't bone-rattling awful unless you're on an exceptionally bad road. If you take care of your back by do some stretching everyday and get a little exercise you should be fine. If you can sit in a regular chair for a few hours at a time you should be fine in a truck.

As far as home time, there are indeed jobs that can get you home at least every weekend straight out of school. There are people that have landed jobs that get you home every night straight out of school but those are pretty rare. You'll normally need at least a few months of OTR experience before a local company will give you a shot. But your long term plan sounds perfectly reasonable.

Go through our Truck Driver's Career Guide from beginning to end and follow all of the links you come across. That will give you a ton of information about what it takes to get your career off to a great start.

double-quotes-start.png

Some of these giant OTR company's have drivers out there that could qualify for food stamps. Many will steer you to company paid schooling sign a contract and say you must stay with them for a year, (there are other ways i would do it ). There are drivers landing local jobs right out of Community college driving schools. Now when the big company guys jump in here , remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

double-quotes-end.png

Gary, you're free to dislike working for the large companies and you can do things however you like. But spare us the snarky B.S., the ridiculous exaggerations, and the insinuation that you're somehow smarter or more honest than the "big company guys" or any guys for that matter, ok? We're trying to help people get their careers underway and understand how the trucking industry works. You're not helping. You say you would do it differently. If you were hurting for money and couldn't get a loan, how do you propose someone should go about getting their career underway? The company schools exist to help people get started in the industry that don't have $3,000-$6,000 lying around that they can use on private tuition. And in case it hadn't dawned on you, most people switch careers because they're in a tough position financially and they're looking to make things better.

HuntinDoug, you'll be doing yourself a great service by ignoring that kind of baloney.

I will just say you know as well as i do that this is a hard job and very demanding so why sugar coat it? Seriously? "Back pain really isn't something you hear much about in trucking " Back problems effect a lot of drivers in this industry. Will Prime still hire him to pull a skateboard if he tells them he has back problems? I would think (some) company's might even be reluctant to hire someone with known back problems. Because i said (there are other ways i would do it ) meaning i would personally NEVER recommend someone sign a 1 year contract for schooling. He could get a student loan or a grant, maybe even go through a state program for the unemployed and go to a community college for 1/4 the cost and then have his choice of company's to work for. I was not using snarky B.S and rediculous exaggeration, i was telling the truth. Of course our trucks have air ride but ive had jaw rattling nights even trying to nap in the bunk while the wife drove .

In no way do i think im smarter than anyone, i made it clear my book education is extremely limited , everything i learned was looking through the windshield of a truck. I just got my first smart phone this month just so i can communicate with the grandkids and look on a few websites. Im to old to waste anyone's time sugar coating the truth. I just gave the honest truth and my suggestion on how i would do things if i were in his shoes. I have absolutely no problems with big company's , but when there drivers get these large bonuses for referring drivers sometimes the facts don't always make it to the surface.

I looked back over everything i said and cant find anything that wasn't 100% accurate. I don't like to argue in person and sure don't like to argue with my terrible grammar and im real slow on these buttons.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Gary M.'s Comment
member avatar

Gary warns:

double-quotes-start.png

Many will steer you to company paid schooling sign a contract and say you must stay with them for a year, (there are other ways i would do it ).

double-quotes-end.png

What is wrong with a little commitment??!!

No, it's not "company paid", it's company financed. You are going to pay it, either through payroll deduction if you stay with said company, or they will follow you and collect on you if they have to.

One year, and getting paid for working, isn't such a big deal. Also, if you want to jump to supposedly greener grass, your record of job hopping may not set too well with the new company you want to work for so badly.

Nothing wrong with commitment.. Its obvious hes given lots of commitment in his life. When your 50+ years old why lock your self into 1 year contract with an OTR company?. If he decides at 6 months to go home and work local hes free to do so if he doesn't have said contract. The area he lives in has good opportunity for local work.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

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