Truck Driving: An Escape From Poverty Or A Silly Fantasy?

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Matthew G.'s Comment
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Not sure where I want to start this. I've been browsing this site for a few days and a lot of my preconceived notions as to what truck driving is and what we've all seen in movies have already been blown away. Still, I'm not sure what to expect. After what I've been through and the life-long poverty I've endured the idea of getting paid even 12$ an hour blows me away, and I know trucking pays a LOT more than that. I'm not looking to match an attitude or take on some identity or lifestyle. I just want a living wage. But is truck driving worth it? I've been trying to find non CDL driving and delivery jobs in Phoenix but they are few and far between, and I'm still waiting to hear back from the one place I had an interview with. I wanted to do it for a year so I could tell whether I would enjoy driving for a living as much as I thought I would. I love driving. I love road trips. I LOVE maps (I collect them) and the one job I've had that wasn't silly minimum wage was a merchandising job with a company called CPM where I was left alone, worked without a supervising "boss" and had to complete tasks on time within a certain amount of time. The best part of all of that was the driving cross county and I didn't even get paid for that part! So since I don't seem to be getting any bites and most of the hooks are beyond my licencing Its starting to look like it might be a good idea to just jump the gun and go straight for CDL trucking. I know a lot of companies offer free training (but at what catch) and trucking certainly seems like an industry where the labor seems to have a fair bit of power and independence. Worlds away from what I've been doing wearing silly costumes and paper hats and selling people gas or office supplies, or what have you for 8.50$ because I'm just a 22 year old kid.

But still....I'm unsure and need advice. What kind of people drive trucks? Who will I have to deal with day to day? I'm not looking to enter a high school like environment where I have to "prove myself" to a bunch of guys. I just want to drive, and make a living wage, and provide for the one I love so they can be happy. All the technical stuff, the driving, in different places all the time, that I know I can handle. I might even be able to find a job that only runs me locally, or within the state so I can be home almost every night! Maybe I can even find a place that works me weeks out of the month and the 4th week I get off. (stop me if I'm being silly.) Point is, what can I realistically expect to find. Being as tired of my life as I am I'd tend to view this thing through rose colored lenses. I'd hate to waste a bunch of peoples time getting training in CDL, only to hate it because I'm only home 3 days a month, and have all this money but can never take the person I love out to dinner because I'm never there, or am constantly harassed because I'm not "dude" enough to drive a truck in the eyes of the people I work with.

Honestly, what can I expect, and should I even be taking this seriously?

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.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

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

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Best Answer!

Matthew, Welcome aboard!

I was so intrigued by the title of your first post that I am going to spend a little time answering some of your many questions. But first, in a general sense, let me answer the query your title poses. Truck driving, and the trucking industry in general, has helped many a family escape poverty, and has been a place for a good solid paycheck that many people have run to for a safety net when they needed one. A good example of this is that we are currently seeing a lot of new people in our forum who have lost their very well paying jobs in the oil fields, now turning their attentions to the trucking industry. There are millions of truck drivers, and there is still a strong demand for more. You will be the one who determines whether or not it is a "silly fantasy" because it does require some sacrifice, as do most jobs where you can earn a decent wage. Trucking has it's own set of problematic sacrifices that make it very appalling to some, while at the same time very appealing to others.

What kind of people drive trucks?

Matthew, the simple answer is all kinds. This is an industry that is so incredibly diverse that it uniquely works for a very wide group of people. I am a former business owner who retired and decided that I wanted to drive a truck. Errol, who responded earlier to you, is a former school teacher who just got burned out with the whole "system" and chose to drive a truck. Daniel B. who is just a youngster was driving a fork lift in a warehouse and was thrilled by the intriguing places the trucks were bound for after he loaded them, and of course the stories of adventure the drivers of those same trucks shared with him lured him in, so he decided to become a truck driver. And I can tell you that in his case it did save him and his lovely young bride from poverty - I think he quadrupled his pay - that means he makes now in a week, what he once made for the whole month! I've mety old guys out here (up in their eighties), young guys, fat guys, skinny guys, all kinds of ladies (take my advice, don't ever refer to the ladies as fat!) I.ve met retired police officers, a retired lawyer, and a retired dentist... I could go on and on. The point is to answer your question though... there are simply all kinds of people out here driving trucks, some of them may not be so pleasant, but for the most part they are a wonderfully creative group of people.

Who will I have to deal with day to day? I'm not looking to enter a high school like environment where I have to "prove myself" to a bunch of guys.

This job is very much an independent working environment. My DM (driver manager, or dispatcher) is really the only person I ever have to deal with at my present driving job, and the truth is that I may only see him about once a month if at all. He sends me messages on the computer in my truck, or maybe he will call if we need to discuss something. He knows that I will take care of my business, so there is very little need for interaction between us - he likes it that way, and so do I. He mentioned the other day that he was going to submit some information to "our boss," and I suddenly realized that I don't even know who my boss is! I've been working for this company for over a year now, and I don't even have a clue who my boss is.

You mentioned "proving yourself to a bunch of guys" - if you're thinking you have to be "man enough" to break into the crowd of truck drivers, forget it! The only time you will even be around other truck drivers is when you are taking a break at a truck stop, and they won't care one whit about what kind person you are. Some of them are so lonely out here on the road that you won't be able to get them to quit talking to you while you are trying to finish your meal at the lunch counter - at least that has been my experience.

Most of the people you will have to deal with are the clerks at the shippers and the receivers you will go to. Some of them can be a bit quirky, but for the most part if you treat them respectfully they will return the favor. You are going to always find a few of them who are a pain, but it is only a minor part of the job.

You will, however, have to prove yourself as a competent independent worker who gets things done. It actually is a competitive environment... the most productive, efficient drivers are the ones who start getting the best loads, and end up making the best money. Slackers beware, they may end up constantly complaining of how the company is treating them, when the truth is that they made their own bed and now they are sleeping in it.

I might even be able to find a job that only runs me locally, or within the state so I can be home almost every night! Maybe I can even find a place that works me weeks out of the month and the 4th week I get off. (stop me if I'm being silly.) Point is, what can I realistically expect to find. Being as tired of my life as I am I'd tend to view this thing through rose colored lenses. I'd hate to waste a bunch of peoples time getting training in CDL , only to hate it because I'm only home 3 days a month, and have all this money but can never take the person I love out to dinner

Local driving jobs are difficult to find for a new driver with no experience. It is not impossible, there are some drivers in this forum who've done this, but let me continue this thought...

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.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

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.

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.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!
I'm not looking to enter a high school like environment where I have to "prove myself" to a bunch of guys. I just want to drive, and make a living wage, and provide for the one I love so they can be happy

You will have to have a thick skin at times and you will deal with some real idiots once in a while. That's life in general, but a little more so when you're talking about industries that attract a lot of Alpha personalities like trucking. Some instructors will even target you a little bit to see if you have the toughness and nerve it takes to survive in trucking. So expect that a little bit, but not constantly. Once you've completed all of your training and you go solo you'll be alone 90% of the time so no big deal.

You can also find quite a few jobs straight out of school that can get you home on weekends, and sometimes home every night. Most of the time you'll have to get a little bit of experience before you'll find anything local that gets you home every night. Often times even three months of OTR experience is enough though.

Definitely go through our Truck Driver's Career Guide from beginning to end and follow all of the links you come across. It will walk you through the various stages of getting your trucking career off the ground and take you throughout our website to see everything we have to offer.

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Local driving jobs for rookies are hard to find, but occasionally if you are in the right location you will be fortunate enough to find one. As a general rule here is what we advise people to do who are wanting to have a local driving position: Get yourself employed with one of the many over the road companies out there. Over the road driving is considered industry wide as the way to gain experience. Most of the local truck driving jobs you will find require at least one year of experience, and many of them two or three years. It doesn't hurt to apply to them anyways, because you just might get lucky and find someone who needs a driver bad enough to bend the rules a little and take you on. But, be aware that local driving jobs can be really brutal, especially on someone new and inexperienced. They usually require very long hours, and lots of physical labor loading and unloading freight. There are some jobs like "Line haul" which don't require the loading and unloading, but they are even more scarce to the rookie. Again, we have a few line haul drivers in here who landed jobs straight out of school, but traditionally most people will have to get a year of experience as an over the road driver first. Over the road drivers generally handle "no touch" freight - I think you get the idea... we just drive the truck from point A to point B - somebody else loads it and unloads it.

You made a reference to only being home three days a month. Okay, that is the harsh reality of the over the road driver's life - you may hate it, but if you and the "one you love" can look at it as a stepping stone to a better life, then you can agree to take that step and make a one year commitment to it so that you can gain the experience you need to start looking for a job that will get you home most nights. This is the counsel I give to most people who don't want to take on the lifestyle of the over the road trucker. Personally I love the lifestyle, but I also have a strong wife at home who can put up with my absence. It is certainly not for everyone, and I understand that completely. If you love someone, you are often times willing to make sacrifices for that person. Consider putting in a year of sacrifice so that the two of you can enjoy a much more prosperous life together. You will be surprised at how fast that rookie year will fly by. It will be filled with adventure, challenges, and victories. If you want to have your girl along with you, most of these over the road companies have policies in place that allow you to take a rider with you.

Here's a link to a trip I took my daughter on, it just might give you an idea of what the lifestyle is like, and it definitely will show you how much fun it can be to have a rider along with you in a big rig.

Hang around here Matthew, and I think you will find more than enough information on how to make this decision, and how to get started if you so decide.

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.

Line Haul:

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.
Justin N.'s Comment
member avatar

Before I got my cdl I did pizza delivery, flower delivery, and mail delivery. All decent driving jobs where you got home every night.

A rural carrier associate job delivering mail pays about $20 an hour here in Dallas but is a pain to get. Got to sign up for a test and then be one of the top scores out of hundreds of applicants.

Pizza delivery was the easiest job I ever got, walked right in and the guy hired me right there at the counter. It also paid pretty well, some days I made over $200 with tips, average was maybe $14 an hour before deducting fuel and other expenses.

You got to be willing to endure a lot if you want to drive a truck. I started out being on the road for six months straight without ever going home averaging about $400-$600 a week.

After that though things got a lot better. Got a dedicated route I enjoy and making $1,100-$1,300 a week and am home every weekend.

If you are not certain that trucking is what you want to do then you probably are not going to put up with all the hassles that comes with it, especially in your first year or so.

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.

Dedicated Route:

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."

Matthew G.'s Comment
member avatar

And just what are those hassles? What can I expect in the first year? I hear that a lot, that the first year is hard to get through but after that it gets better. 500$ a week... That's more money than I can imagine. That would pay my rent in one week alone. As it is right now rent is 90% of my income. Can you choose to do local or state-wide routes, or 7 days on the road and 7 days home? I really need some basic information. I can endure a lot, and I'm willing to work hard. But I want to know what I would be in for.

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Matthew wants to know:

Still, I'm not sure what to expect.

Have you looked at this: Truck Driver's Career Guide and read this: Brett's Book?

Matthew G.'s Comment
member avatar

Wow this site has everything huh? Thanks for your guy's help!

Rob T.'s Comment
member avatar
7 days on the road and 7 days home?

Roehl offers that schedule, just keep in mind you won't make as much (when ur sitting u aren't being paid)

Matthew G.'s Comment
member avatar

I don't mind that. I'm not raising a family looking to finance a house or anything. I just want to be able to pay my rent no problem, and have money left over to save. Even if I make 1500$ a month I'll be happy.

Jetguy's Comment
member avatar

I don't mind that. I'm not raising a family looking to finance a house or anything. I just want to be able to pay my rent no problem, and have money left over to save. Even if I make 1500$ a month I'll be happy.

At Prime, the second phase of training called TNT- trainer and trainee, it pays $700/week.

TNT:

Trainer-N-Trainee

Prime Inc has their own CDL training program and it's divided into two phases - PSD and TNT.

The PSD (Prime Student Driver) phase is where you'll get your permit and then go on the road for 10,000 miles with a trainer. When you come back you'll get your CDL license and enter the TNT phase.

The TNT phase is the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with an experienced driver for 30,000 miles of team driving. You'll receive 14ยข per mile ($700 per week guaranteed) during this phase. Once you're finished with TNT training you will be assigned a truck to run solo.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!
I'm not looking to enter a high school like environment where I have to "prove myself" to a bunch of guys. I just want to drive, and make a living wage, and provide for the one I love so they can be happy

You will have to have a thick skin at times and you will deal with some real idiots once in a while. That's life in general, but a little more so when you're talking about industries that attract a lot of Alpha personalities like trucking. Some instructors will even target you a little bit to see if you have the toughness and nerve it takes to survive in trucking. So expect that a little bit, but not constantly. Once you've completed all of your training and you go solo you'll be alone 90% of the time so no big deal.

You can also find quite a few jobs straight out of school that can get you home on weekends, and sometimes home every night. Most of the time you'll have to get a little bit of experience before you'll find anything local that gets you home every night. Often times even three months of OTR experience is enough though.

Definitely go through our Truck Driver's Career Guide from beginning to end and follow all of the links you come across. It will walk you through the various stages of getting your trucking career off the ground and take you throughout our website to see everything we have to offer.

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.

Frito's Comment
member avatar

You are a very insightful, articulate and intelligent young man, perhaps beyond your years based on many I've met in their early 20s. I hear your search for stability, happiness, direction and meaning. My intuition says the solution for you lies beyond a CDL , something larger......something different.....something that provides for you more than just "paying the bills." I'm sorry you have suffered. I applaud your resilience. I wish I had better answers and could offer a better sense of direction but I believe with the good head you have on your shoulders, a positive and fulfilling life experience lies ahead in a world that is full of opportunity. Please don't sell yourself short. You are, in my eyes, "dude enough" to be successful in just about anything.

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.
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