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Is trucking worth it anymore?

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Daniel's Comment
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If you're an experienced driver, what advice would you give people considering a career in trucking?

I'd ask them to ask them the same question for any job: What is it you're looking for in life? It's pretty much black & white to me.

I'm a nomadic, anti-social person. I've always been that way. I love exploring (normally on foot, or by bicycle; semitruck works too!). That's just me though. All 3 of my friends think it's awesome that I started working OTR (including my girlfriend of 1yr). :)

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.

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Thanks for the article Brett.

I'm coming up on a year with my company. Back when I was still researching trucking (which I actually did for like 2 years before I pulled the trigger), I eventually stumbled across linehaul trucking. I knew right away that linehaul was what I wanted to do, before I even went to trucking school. However, at that time I only thought that OTR was an option for a rookie fresh out of trucking school - I was wrong. Turns out that location trumps experience, and I happen to live in a trucking mecca.

Linehaul trucking is sometimes done by some of the truckload companies, and oddly enough TMC calls some of their trucking gigs 'linehaul.' But typically, when one talks about linehaul, they're referring to the world of LTL (less than truckload), not truckload. And it's the LTL companies that pay very well. Drivers are pulling doubles , and typically have their hazmat , doubles / triples, and tank endorsements. Until recently, most LTL gigs, whether linehaul or P&D (pickup and delivery), were reserved for truckers with years of experience. These are coveted jobs because they pay very well, and the driver gets home every day, or at least a few times a week, and usually has a set schedule. Nowadays, if you're in the right location, a student driver can get on with an LTL company and land a gig as a P&D or linehaul driver. I did.

When I was researching trucking, what appealed to me about linehaul was the pay, the hometime, and the routine. I like routine, and one of the best things about linehaul is going to the same places, over and over again. Plus, you don't deal with customers, but rather co-workers at terminals. You don't handle freight, unless your company asks you to take on the role of a dockworker. My company doesn't do this. I never handle freight. It's drop and hook , from terminal to terminal, finish your shift and go home.

I'm on track to make 70k my first year. I get paid .57 cpm and am on a schedule run. I'm home every day, with two days off, and i start at the same time every day - and go to the same places. The only catch is that I'm currently on night shift, but I'm coming up on enough seniority to land a daylight schedule very soon. With an average length of haul schedule from my terminal (530 miles), a driver can make close to 80k a year, gross. Some make 100k. P&D drivers are usually around 50-60k.

I say all this not to gloat, but to paint the picture of MY perfect trucking job. Trucking for me is a job, although it has also become something of a lifestyle. I take pride in my company, enjoy the family of drivers at my terminal, get along very well with my dispatchers, and I spend enough hours of the day working to better enjoy what I do! I work an average of 12-14 hours a day, but for me that's worth it. I'm home every day, and I have two days off a week to spend time with my family. I work hard so my wife doesn't have to. That's worth it for me. I don't live out of truck stops or have to use shower shoes. When I did have to lay over during my longer runs, my company put me up in a hotel. I don't stay out like that anymore. I can make a great living as a truck driver - better than any OTR gig - and yet I also get to enjoy my life with my wife and children, rather than being an absentee provider.

I was prepared to go OTR, I'm glad I didn't have to. For me, linehaul IS trucking. If I couldn't run linehaul, I'd probably look into being a yard jockey, run P&D, haul fuel, or become an electrician.

If trucking was only OTR, I wouldn't have been able to sustain that long-term. Not with a young family. Besides, even if I didn't have young children, I want to spend as much time with my wife as possible - life is too short. Trucks are cool, but time with my wife and children is more important to me. I work long hours, but I don't know of many jobs that are 9-5 gigs where you're making 70k plus a year.

Is trucking worth it? Yep, if it's linehaul or local. Linehaul pays the most out of local gigs. If sometime happened to my linehaul gig, I'd start looking into becoming an electrician. The trades are great jobs to have - my BA degree and higher education didn't do me many favors in the job market. My 2 cents.

If anybody wants to learn more about LTL trucking or the job of a linehaul driver, I made a blog a while back.

LTL Trucking: My Linehaul Job

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

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.

P&D:

Pickup & Delivery

Local drivers that stay around their area, usually within 100 mile radius of a terminal, picking up and delivering loads.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers for instance will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

Linehaul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Dispatcher:

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.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

Quality1's Comment
member avatar

I've written a new article entitled Is Trucking Worth It Anymore? where I discuss my opinion on today's trucking industry and whether or not a career in trucking is worth doing any longer.

Every one of us has a different personality. We live under different circumstances and have different life goals. Some people want adventure and travel, others want a quiet life at home with family and friends. There are a ton of jobs to choose from, but in the end trucking isn't the answer for most people.

If you're an experienced driver, what advice would you give people considering a career in trucking?

If you're considering a career in trucking or you haven't begun just yet, what are the major factors in making your decision?

A Truckdriver said he heard a pop and then his trailer started swirling from side to side and he lost control and crashed into a concrete barrier the truck went up in flames killing the other driver that was in the bunk,my question is this can a tire blowout on a trailer cause this terrible accident?

This is such a tough decisions for so many people. I'd love to hear what it came down to for you and how you feel about the industry today.

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.

Shawn F.'s Comment
member avatar

Well I have been driving local for around 12 years in the oilfield. First time I got laid off was around 6 months ago. And now at my new job hours are getting cut. The oilfield is not a good place to be right now. I live in western oklahoma and the oilfield has paid my bills for a lot of years but now I am struggling. I have spent the last several days looking for a different job inside and outside the field but either no one is hiring or I would be in the same boat I'm in now, so I am going to try OTR (company driver). OTR is the only thing around here that is going to pay any where close to oilfield. Do I really want to leave the family, no but I gotta provide for them some how. I was in the oklahoma army guard for 13 years. So I can pretty much tell my family I will see ya when I see ya, but this won't be the same. I'm excited and nervous about it. I have a good friend that works for the company and everything sounds cool to me. Good trucks, GPS, APU. Get home when you want, no forced loads. But I guess I will find out if they are cool with me. I would like to hear your thoughts. Thanks

Shawn (aka pup

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.

APU:

Auxiliary Power Unit

On tractor trailers, and APU is a small diesel engine that powers a heat and air conditioning unit while charging the truck's main batteries at the same time. This allows the driver to remain comfortable in the cab and have access to electric power without running the main truck engine.

Having an APU helps save money in fuel costs and saves wear and tear on the main engine, though they tend to be expensive to install and maintain. Therefore only a very small percentage of the trucks on the road today come equipped with an APU.

Momawolf's Comment
member avatar

This is a 2nd career for my husband and I. We always dreamed of getting the kids through school and hitting the road and now that dream is one week away from becoming reality. My husband and I are very used to hard work, he was a firefighter for 24 years and I was a trauma nurse for 18 years. We have read a multitude of posts on trucker sites that made us leary of working for any company, it seems that all the companies have its share of haters. We have kept coming back to TT as it seemed to have fair and honest posts and the moderators step right in and give great advice on how much weight we should be giving the negative posts and the best advice we kept reading on TT was that if you work hard and do a good job you will succeed in this business. My husband and I are from the background of working hard and expecting nothing in return, sometimes you just worked hard because it was the right thing to do and we are not afraid of long shifts, physical labor and stressful situations. Communication has been the cornerstone of our first careers and if you need clarification.....ask.

We just want to pass on a huge thank you to ALL of you who have participated in this incredible truckers site. We filled out over 47 applications and did hours of research and asking questions about the companies who would talk to us. You have to really do your homework, nothing in this industry is going to be given to you. We remember someone on here stating that you shouldn't judge the company based on the attitude of the recruiter and we passed up some of the companies because that aggressive recruiter was working harder for the driver than the company was, again you have to do your homework.

So, a week from tomorrow my husband will be starting his 3 day refresher course and then head off with his trainer for 4-6 weeks. I plan on joining him on the road with our dog after the first of the year. I will spend that time learning and experiencing being in a truck until I feel confident enough to go to CDL school then after all my training is completed I will join my husband. I am not one to be done with the training and walk away going Oh Well......., I will be the one going Hey, I need some more practice on backing etc. I don't think any company worth its salt would agree with a trainer that turned me down for more practice on something I feel I'm not ready to do on my own.

Again, thank you so much TT for the honest, balanced and positive information. We Will keep reading while out on the road!

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.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Again, thank you so much TT for the honest, balanced and positive information. We Will keep reading while out on the road!

Sounds great and best of luck to ya! And make sure you guys keep us updated on how things go for you.

smile.gif

Curt M. Pistol Pete's Comment
member avatar

Ive actually been off the road for a few years, but thanks to DEMOCRATS and our fearless leader, my $75K a year job is going away. So, being a former owner/operator, I decided to take the plunge. I did quite well as an Owner/operator, because I treated it like a business not a field trip. NOTHING in life that is worthwhile comes easy, you have to work for it.

I used to laugh and shake my head back in the 80's when I was running big time, all the time, because Id be eating dinner, breakfast, lunch, snack or whatever in some truckstop and there would always be some guy complaining about not making any money. And sure enough, Id see him down the road somewhere, doing the same thing. My thoughts were, if he spent as much time behind the wheel as he did shooting pinball, he might be making some money!!!

NO TRUCKING JOB IS EASY!!!!! Thats why real truckers are some of the best folks around and some of the toughest. Its because they have a spirit and a need to succeed. A guy once told me, when I asked him if he was doing ok trucking," No, I do this just for the hell of it. Of course I am doing well, do you think I would do this kind of work and be away from home if i was starving to death?"

Form a plan, stick to your plan, prepare for what you can prepare for, dont PANIC!

UpNorthTrip's Comment
member avatar

Wow i love this post and forum i can relate to quite a few of you guys i am also an introvert ,anti social,free spirited person pretty much enjoy being alone just me and my music and some food.

I also been a factory worker for well over 10 yrs Always been the best and gotten overlooked ,underpaid,taking advantage of because im a hard worker and i believe in completing every task im given in an 8-12 hr shift whereas co workers would tell me i need to slow down ,im making them look bad, i need to take extra breaks to stretch the work out etc etc

I start school this monday and im so ready im ready for that independence despite some companies with cameras and just only being worried about myself no lazy asses or ppl to claim the hard work i put into completing the task

Steven W.'s Comment
member avatar

First off I'd just like to say I am a CAD Draftsman and certainly make more money than I will driving trucks. So the money is not my main consideration - although it is of course important. In a sense this is actually a downward carrer move for me.

That being said I love driving and have always wanted to drive trucks. So for me this is more of a "want to" thing than a "need to" thing. After sitting behind a desk half my life I have decided its time to get out and see the world.

I'll be starting my CDL training in a few weeks. Have found this site to be extremely helpful in preparing me for what to expect not only on the road but as I prepare for the tests themselves.

So is it still worth it? I guess that depends on what one wants out of life. But after half a lifetime of 9-5 I'm actually looking forward to a new job for the first time in I don't know how many years.

Wish me the best.

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.
Trucker Mark's Comment
member avatar

Is trucking worth it anymore? Just get 3-5 years of solid reefer experience and give my old boss a call, and you too can earn $60K+ annually with full employer-paid benefits working 5-7 days on and 2-3 days off, driving high-end equipment with plenty of dedicated runs our of Denver.

http://denneytransport.com/pay-package

Dedicated Run:

A driver or carrier who transports cargo between regular, prescribed routes. Normally it means a driver will be dedicated to working for one particular customer like Walmart or Home Depot and they will only haul freight for that customer. You'll often hear drivers say something like, "I'm on the Walmart dedicated account."

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

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