Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part I: Factors That Affect All Companies

by Brett Aquila

This is part one in a multi-part series on choosing a truck driving company and being happy and successful in the industry. I will be adding a new part each day or two for the next week or two so stay tuned! truck1a.jpg

As you are likely aware, there are easily tens of thousands of trucking companies nationwide. There are some as small as one truck and some that have tens of thousands of trucks. There are local, regional , and over the road companies, and some that are a combination of two or even all three. There are tanker, flat bed, reefer , dry van , dump, and a multitude of other types of trucks you can drive. There are companies that specialize in one type of truck, and some that have a combination of several different types.

So with all of these choices presented to you, how do you know where to go next with your career? To tell you the truth, it's not that hard. Here are some of the key points we will be focusing on in this series that will help you choose the trucking company you would like to work for. Once you can answer these questions you will be able to narrow your choices down to a much smaller pool of trucking companies and then you can pick the one that seems right for you.

  • How often would you like to get home?
  • What areas of the country would you like to run in?
  • What would you like your work duties and lifestyle to be like?
  • What size company would you like to work for?

Let's start this series by debunking a few myths and giving you some generalizations and insights into all trucking companies, the trucking industry in general, and you as a driver and what you can do to put yourself in the best position to be happy and successful. Without understanding these factors, all of the rest of the above questions will not help you be happy and successful at any company you choose.

The Elusive "Best Trucking Companies" and the Mythical "Perfect Trucking Company"

Let me make one important generalization first. There is no such thing as the "perfect company" or the "best company to work for". To be more precise, you could label a company "the perfect company for me" or "the best company for me", but there are no "best trucking companies" or "perfect trucking companies" for everyone. At times I have worked at companies that I would not have recommended to other drivers, but I absolutely loved working there! I really had it made! And then at other times, some of the best trucking companies I have ever worked for were just a nightmare for a small percentage of the other drivers. Why? There are a number of reasons for this.

The Trucking Industry Is Very Dynamic

For starters, trucking companies and the trucking industry itself is very dynamic and the competition is fierce - both within your own company and between the companies themselves.

Competition and Politics Within Each Trucking Company

Different Divisions Working Together, or at Times, Working Against Each Other

Trucking companies, especially the larger ones, are often times comprised of many different divisions that all must work together, but at times by nature must work against each other. For example, many companies have dispatchers and load planners. The load planners will generally decide, with some input from the dispatchers, which trucks get assigned to which loads. The dispatcher's main job is to handle all communication with their drivers and convey information to the load planners about the driver. The dispatcher can "campaign" for certain loads for certain drivers. Maybe one driver has had 4 straight runs in the northeast, so he/she can let the load planner know that it's time to give that driver a run to a different region. Or maybe a certain driver has been running really hard and isn't feeling well, but can still handle a short run for the day. The dispatcher can let the load planner know this. As you can see from this example, the two divisions - dispatchers and load planners - must work together for the good of everyone.cringe.jpg

On the other hand, you have the logbook department. Man, I cringe just saying "logbook department". It's like the principal's office of the trucking world. You never just go there to say "hi" or see whassup. You go there knowing bad things are about to happen to you!

Anyhow, the drivers, dispatchers, and possibly the load planners - depending on the structure of the company - are mostly looking to get as many miles as possible. For some of them, that means cheating the logbook at times - many times for some drivers (innocent look on this writer's face). So the logbook department by nature must keep the dispatchers and drivers in check. Even though the more miles you run the more money you'll make, you still have to abide by the Federal Hours of Service Rules and so the logbook department must at times work against what the drivers and dispatchers would like to do.

Competition Within The Company

Most drivers get paid by the mile. So the more miles you run, the more money you make. Often times, dispatchers and load planners may get paid bonuses or commissions based on the number of miles their drivers are getting, or at least the efficiency at which their drivers are executing their loads. Things like on-time service and deadhead (empty) miles factor heavily into their final rating. So everyone is looking to make all the money they can make by generating the best statistics for themselves.

Well, this naturally breeds competition within a company. Dispatchers are jockeying for the best loads for their drivers and the load planners are trying to run things as efficiently as possible. In the meantime, drivers are pushing their dispatchers for the best loads they can get. Well, there are only so many "desirable" loads to go around - so who gets the best ones? It depends on a number of factors:

  • Efficiency - the load planners want to keep the deadhead miles to a minimum
  • Reliability - dispatchers and load planners want to make sure the hardest running, safest, and most efficient drivers get assigned the most important or most difficult freight so that the chances of on-time, safe service are as good as they can be
  • Individual Driver Circumstances - They have to take into account how many hours a driver has available, how the driver is feeling, what types of loads the driver has been getting recently, and whether or not the driver is due for hometime soon, amongst other factors
  • Politics - unfortunately this is one of the realities of truck driving - or life in any company. Whether or not the driver gets along with the dispatcher , and whether or not the dispatcher gets along with the load planners will be a factor in determining who gets what loads. Should this be a factor? Ideally, no. But it is. That's the reality - and an important one. If you refuse to accept this reality based upon your ideals, then you'll soon find out the hard way just where your ideals end and the realities of the job take over.

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So as you can see from these few examples, competition, cooperation, and politics can play heavily into your success and happiness as a truck driver in any company. The next topic I will cover will discuss what the driver can do to help his/her chances of finding success and happiness within any company you may be working for, including how you will be affected by the people you surround yourself with, how important it is to get to know the right people, and the proper attitude and expectations a driver should have.

Any and all comments are very welcome and appreciated! If you'll tell us what you think, we can improve our site and the content we produce for you! Thanks!

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

Deadhead:

To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

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.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

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.

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.

Dm:

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.

Fm:

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.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

by Brett Aquila

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

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