OTR As A Family Man

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Aaron M.'s Comment
member avatar

I've been lurking on TT for a couple of months now. I finally decided to join up and put myself out there to seek advice. This is where I'm at presently.

I'm pretty much hired with Roehl Transport. I've done the DOT physical and passed the hair and urinalysis drug test. All that is left is to get the CLP , which I plan to do this coming Tuesday. I'm set to start with Roehl up in Wisconsin on the 5th of September.

Presently I have my own landscaping company. Last year my revenue was just at 30k, but revenue is not what you actually make. My taxable income was only 6k, and I ended up with 4k worth of a "tax return" due to "earned income credit." Not bad seeing as how I paid no taxes. Due to my low income I actually made money. I have two children and a wife. My children are both boys ages 4 and 7. My wife is a photographer and is also self employed. In the past I was an EMT for an EMS agency for 6 years, and I worked for a convalescent transport company for 2. Before that I was a roustabout tending bar all over the U.S. Before that I was a nuclear engineer in the USN. I was on the USS Carl Vinson when 9/11 happened. We dropped 3 million pounds of ordinance on Afghanistan and it amounted to the first bombs dropped.

My father made a career out of Truck Driving, as did his bother and my grandpa. My grandpa actually died OTR in a motel six when I was 8 years old...massive heart attack. I have found memories of going with my dad OTR when I was 8-10. I fell in love with the sound, with going to sleep in the sleeper while the truck moved on down the road, with the smell of diesel. I never saw my father growing up due to many of reasons, beyond him being an OTR driver, my parents got divorced when I was 4. I saw him a couple of weeks out of a year and that only occasionally, and that when I went with him OTR. I mention that to give a snaps shot of my life long love affair with driving a truck OTR.

Now I'm 37. My business does well, but I'm in South Carolina, and once the leafs have dropped, and I get them up, I'm out of work from about December to mid April. That is, my business makes no money for about 4 months out of the year. I go from about 3k a month in revenue to 0, and it stays that way for 4 months. We moved in with family five years ago, so we have no mortgage to pay, and that's how I've managed to be self employed in a profession that only provides money 8 months out of the year. In the years past I've survived on savings over the winter months. Last year we ran out of money around February. My credit suffered due to that.

Now that I've introduced myself, and given a bit of my past. I'd like to ask some advice. I red Brett's ebook. He said, in so many words, that if you have a family you should not go OTR as a truck driver. He pretty much pleaded. I know it's hard on families. Everybody in our little sphere of influence has horror stories about trucking, and how bad it sucked, and how screwed they got, or someone they knew. Everybody says it's a mistake to even contemplate it, much less do it. Still, here I am, getting ready to do it.

Roehl has offered me .39 cents per mile after training. I'm going to be a flatbedder because that's what they are hiring for in my area. They say I can expect 2300-2600 miles per week. Granted, I understand the nature of freight, and nothing is guaranteed. Still, I figure I can gross 40k the first year. My attitude towards this is good. I'm all in. I'm excited about the prospect. I realize that it's many 18 hour days, alone, and that I won't be a part of my families daily life anymore. I realize that to exceed in the business you have to be willing to break some rules. I'm all in, and I aim to be the top driver with Roehl.

My wife is supporting the decision. We made the decision together. Due to my nature, working in some plant, or going to the same place everyday to do the same repetitive thing, over and over is a hell I won't do. I am a loner by nature. I like people one on one, but in groups I can't stand them. Left to my own devices I read books and write, and I have always been that way. I'm very solitary, and so I welcome a profession that mostly leaves me to myself. I really don't like people much at all. However in person I'm cordial and respectful, and I know how to handle people. I know how to act to get people to do things for me.

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.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

CLP:

Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

Last Shadow's Comment
member avatar

Aaron, welcome brother, I know that for most of us making the decision to go OTR is not easy, when you have to leave family for weeks at a time, however I have 4 kids and been married for 21 years I'm 42, and as supportive as my wife and kids are 2 are in the university, the younger 2, 10 and 12 years old, it gets tough at times but to me it's worth it, I did 12 years in the Army and I would like to say that you get use to it, some drivers say they do, but I'm not there and I don't think I will, but I've been driving for 11 month now and let me tell you, knowing that I'm supporting my family is what keeps me going, plus I love my rig and the open road, I do 3 to 4 weeks out and it's working for me, hopefully it will work for you as well,, Roelh is a good company or so I hear, you definitely got the right attitude, so now its all about determination, personal goals, and sacrifice, good luck brother, a prayer for direction it's due as well.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Matt M.'s Comment
member avatar

I think it's commendable to make sacrifices for your family, and I wish you the best of luck.

I really don't think I would look at OTR as long term with kids that young. Sure get your year in or whatever it takes to get a local or regional route where you can spend some time with your boys. They grow up so fast, you will miss most of it out on the road.

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.

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.

Aaron M.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the replies.

I don't want to miss my children growing up, but we need money. The only thing that is truly difficult about this decision is the amount of advice I'm getting from all directions amounting to "you are making a big mistake, you will hate it, it will destroy your family." Naturally, I have no desire to destroy my family. I love my family. Ironically, my love for my family is why I'm going to do this. However, not a day has gone by that I don't wake up thinking about whether I'm making a huge mistake or not. The money will be nice (and needed), but at what cost?

I feel like Last Shadow, ahead of time, in that it will be worth it because I will be providing for my family, and that's the point of it.

I'm kind of hoping that it won't be so bad as it used to be due to our current communication technology. There's facebook and facetime now, and there is a cell signal most everywhere...ditto wifi. I won't be a part of their daily lives in person, but I will be virtually, and we will still see each other a few days a month. If it sounds like I'm trying to convince myself that I'm making the right decisions it's because I am. It was nice to hear from another family man on the issue.

What's another profession I can make 40k at in the first year without going to college...possibly even 50K. 39 cents per mile is about as good as it gets being a rookie with no experience. I have no desire to go back to school. I've been in and out of school my entire life. I'm tired of school. I'd go back, if there was something I could go back for that would guarantee money. Any of those options are options I would not want to take.

The best I can do is hope that I'm not making a mistake. Yet, going into it thinking I'm making a mistake will make it even more difficult. I already know that Brett thinks I'm making a mistake. I'm going against his advice being here in the first place. This forum is for Truckers and aspiring Truckers. I'm a couple of weeks away from CDL school with Roehl at this point.

Lastly, I've recently learned a lesson about life. That lesson is that nobody knows what is best for anyone else. Nobody. Those closest to you, who know you and your situation best, are in a position to offer sound advice given that they should be offering advice in the first place. We all must make our own minds, and decide what's best for ourselves. I'm not here on this forum to be deluded, at least not consciously. If I'm being completely honest, however, I suppose I was looking for some responses that would be encouraging...some responses that went contrary to all of the advice I've received on the topic so far.

It's probably most likely that everyone is telling me I'm making a mistake because I am. Being here is my last attempt at clarifying this for myself. I want to do this for a lot of reasons, but maybe it's that I should find another solution to my money problems.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Matt M.'s Comment
member avatar

You will know after a year of OTR what impact it's having on your family life, and can make a decision from there.

I think it would greatly behoove you to keep up with what's available locally, and maybe even meet with some of those folks. A year of experience OTR will also open a lot of doors.

If you really enjoy the lifestyle, but find that it is negatively impacting your family life, you can always return to it after your kids are grown.

My wife and I enjoy the lifestyle, and our children are grown, but we still consider regional work to spend more time with them and other family and friends. I know we would enjoy the work less, but there's something to be said for being home weekends.

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.

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.
C T.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello and welcome aboard. I was in a similar situation last year. I have a very young family so it probably won't be as difficult as your situation. But we needed the money driving was the quickest way to get there for us. I'm also flatbed, been with maverick for over a year. We're usually home on weekends, which can vary in length. Otr and or regional jobs can and will be tough on you and your family. Make sure that your family is on the same page as you, communication is key because you will be gone all the time. It does get better eventually, but you have to make the most of it. 40k shouldn't be a problem 1st year and roehl has top notch training. Be aware of that contract and what it entails. I don't know if things have changed but they wanted 75k miles driven to fulfill the agreement when I applied 2 years ago. Best of luck.

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.

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.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Welcome to the Trucking Truth Forum Aaron.

I read your posts and thought it pertinent to offer some grounding for you to think about. Not sure where you live, or what company you will ultimately hire-on with, but I know many drivers, some on this forum able to earn a living as a truck driver and be an active part of their family. It doesn't need to be gone for 3-4 months and home for three days. The most important piece of your situation is the relationship you have with your wife. You and her must be in total lock-step with this decision. Encourage her to read Becoming A Truck Driver: The Raw Truth About Truck Driving so that she will have a better understanding of what to expect and what you will be going through. Especially in the beginning, your time must be 100% committed to your career due to the steep and at times, very unforgiving learning curve. Considering the family dynamics, it's a balancing act,...however once you have some experience, preferably a year plus, your opportunities expand 10-fold beyond what you have available as an entry-level driver.

Here is a strategy I have seen played out numerous times:

- After reading Brett's Book and reviewing the thread A Truck Driver's Career Guide, I strongly suggest working with Trucking Truth's High Road Training Program. If nothing else, takes all of the guess work and painstaking memorization out of studying and passing the CDL-A permit exams.

- Choose your school:

- Train with a company OTR for a minimum of 4 weeks. There are a myriad of options in that parameter; any company listed in: Company-Sponsored Training Programs fits the bill.

- Once solo, work towards that magical one year of experience. Learn how-to balance your budding career with family responsibilities. As you adjust and learn how to optimize your clock, plan your trips, and work to get your home-time, things will become less stressful, more routine.

- After your year is up, you will have a much clearer picture of what you want and how-to go get it. Including local driving opportunities. Just look at all the trucks delivering product to convenience stores, construction sites, and other commercial establishments. It's limitless once you have experience and have proven yourself a top performing driver.

Some other things to think about:

- LTL (Less Than Load) as a possibility. Many LTL drivers are home every day. The only condition is living in close proximity to a terminal. Companies like Old Dominion, YRC, ABF, FedEx and UPS have what they call line-haul work that is an out and back type of job, terminal to terminal. Search on; The Local Thread or Six String for further details on LTL.

- Shuttle driving. One of our Moderators and fellow Swift Driver, Errol is a shuttle driver. He is home every day. Again this requires a driver to live within a reasonable commuting distance from their terminal. Intermodal work has a similar criteria, but with the benefit of being home every day. Search on his name or make a separate post entitled “Shuttle Driving Opportunities and Experience” to get his attention.

- Dedicated Accounts. Many of the larger TL (truckload) Carriers like Schneider, Swift, Prime, US Express and Werner have Dedicated accounts available, most are NOT advertised, and some are tough to get into (like Target and Cosco). When I started with Swift over 5 years ago I knew eventually I wanted to be on their Dedicated Walmart account, but I needed some OTR experience (accident free, 100% on-time deliveries, etc.) in order to be considered. After only three months I was offered a position with a Grocery Distribution Center (DC) in Northern PA that was a 6-day out, with 1 or 2 days off at home. Again, living reasonable close to the terminal or DC is key to making this work. I am still running as a Dedicated driver on the Walmart account and would not trade it for anything at this point in my life. Click on this link for more information on my Walmart Dedicated experience - A Day in the Life of a Walmart Dedicated Driver. My only caution with considering Dedicated, is avoid any Dollar General account (search on this, you'll see what I mean).

Aaron, initially this will be a huge adjustment for you and your family. I cannot stress enough the importance of regular and almost systematic communication with your loved ones. In this day in age with all of the electronics and robust networks, visual communication is very easy.

Good luck!

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

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.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

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.

Intermodal:

Transporting freight using two or more transportation modes. An example would be freight that is moved by truck from the shipper's dock to the rail yard, then placed on a train to the next rail yard, and finally returned to a truck for delivery to the receiving customer.

In trucking when you hear someone refer to an intermodal job they're normally talking about hauling shipping containers to and from the shipyards and railyards.

Company-sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

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.

Paul's Comment
member avatar

Aaron, you and I are in almost the exact same boat. First, an aside, you have incredible writing skills. You're concise and articulate, and I dig that. But anyway, you are right in that there is nobody, aside from God--whether you believer in him or not--who can tell you you are doing the right or wrong thing. I respect Brett very much and I agree with him on this issue--but as so many things in life often are, there is no one-size-fits-all to this. Personality types, family dynamics, even religion and spiritual stances all play a role in whether this is right or wrong for a family man.

I have wanted to become a trucker for a long time. I love driving and have been an owner/operator of a taxi for two years. That business is failing badly. I was driving 70 hours a week for the basic necessities in life. I was grateful to have them, and let me tell you living below your means and cutting out all luxuries is an excellent practice in today's materialistic world. But you can still do that while earning a good living and increase your charitable giving and do wonderful things like have health insurance for your family and even save a bit of money for that absolutely incredible vacation you're going to take at the end of your first year.

I'm 36 and have three girls--4, 5 and 7--and I have never been apart from them. I have been away from my wife once in the last twelve years, and that was for a night or two. I'm leaving for training at Prime on the 27th and will likely be gone for ninety days, and it is so very hard. My 7-year-old cries often and tells me that she stays up at night crying. My wife is extremely supportive, but she is suppressing waves of sadness. I am suppressing waves of sadness and remorse and doubts, just as you seem to be. I wonder if this is a mistake. I wonder if I'm putting too high of an importance on money, when money in truth comes and goes and matters little. I have had family members stand against me on this--my mother sent me a video message yesterday telling me that she thought I was very much wrong.

And then doubts, for me, surface about whether I'll be one of the few who make it or if I'm putting my family through all of this only to be on the bus home with the majority of the others. On that note, my wife said 'And so what...what have you lost if that happens? You went for it, you tried your best, and it wasn't for you.'

The truth is, if this is what you feel is right for you and your family, go for it. Go for it, give it your best, and struggle through the emotions--don't allow emotions to dictate your decisions. Emotions are unstable and unreliable. They are good and necessary, but not for decision making. Know that when the storms of loneliness hit you, and they will hit you hard, they are not permanent and will subside, leaving peace and joy once again.

I was in ministry for a long time and thought I should be again. Then it became crystal clear that my ministry is my family. How do I serve them best? For me, it will be to provide for them and to give them not the luxuries but the tools they need to succeed. And make every moment I have count. Then, after my year is up, possibly switch to regional or local and have much more time. Sacrifices in life are necessary to grow. Going through hard stuff smooths down the edges and oftentimes presents and end result that is so much better than before.

I don't think this, or Brett's, advice is for every family man. There are some family dynamics that simply demand the husband and father stay close to home. That is a decision to be made by a responsible, mature father and husband.

Anyway, just my thoughts. smile.gif

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.

Harry H. [ navypoppop ]'s Comment
member avatar

Aaron M., I drove over the road for over 42 years but mostly regional , being home 1/2 the week and I missed many special occasions with the family. School events, sports and sometimes family gatherings and if family is a top priority then look for a regional or local gig. If you also enjoy your business in lawn care why not purchase a snow plow to put on your truck and look for some snow removal contacts that would supplement your "off season"? Being as you are able to obtain a large return from IRS remember that even with all your deductions and per diem you probably will not see as much back from IRS. The bottom line is you will sacrifice a lot from your family time but I too had a family of truck drivers and I totally enjoyed every minute that I was out there on the road. Good luck in your decision and be safe and happy.

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.

Over The Road:

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.

Per Diem:

Getting paid per diem means getting a portion of your salary paid to you without taxes taken out. It's technically classified as a meal and expense reimbursement.

Truck drivers and others who travel for a living get large tax deductions for meal expenses. The Government set up per diem pay as a way to reimburse some of the taxes you pay with each paycheck instead of making you wait until tax filing season.

Getting per diem pay means a driver will get a larger paycheck each week but a smaller tax return at tax time.

We have a ton of information on our wiki page on per diem pay

Paul's Comment
member avatar

Being as you are able to obtain a large return from IRS remember that even with all your deductions and per diem you probably will not see as much back from IRS.

I take issue just with that one sentence. I, too, receive a large tax return, and I always feel guilty. I file my taxes correctly, but when my gross is 60,000 and my net is 20,000 due to the uber high cost of owning a cab, I'm due a refund. Even though I paid nothing in. Honestly, I would prefer to pay my taxes and not get a return and support my family not off the charity of the government but on the work I put into it. I know Harry's comment was deeper than that, but this part stuck out.

My grandfather called me the other day and tried to convince me to be a car salesman, then a delivery driver, and on and on. Everything but what I felt I should do. Others will often try to side-track you. They care about you, even all of us on here do, but I simply trust you're mature and responsible enough to see the other options available to you and to still make the correct choice.

G-town, by the way, you rock man. :-)

Per Diem:

Getting paid per diem means getting a portion of your salary paid to you without taxes taken out. It's technically classified as a meal and expense reimbursement.

Truck drivers and others who travel for a living get large tax deductions for meal expenses. The Government set up per diem pay as a way to reimburse some of the taxes you pay with each paycheck instead of making you wait until tax filing season.

Getting per diem pay means a driver will get a larger paycheck each week but a smaller tax return at tax time.

We have a ton of information on our wiki page on per diem pay

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