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

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Old School's Comment
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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.
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.
Errol V.'s Comment
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Old School says,

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.

Really the only time you might have other drivers "laughing at you" is when you back into a spot at a truck stop. If you get started backing in the wrong way, you will "feel" the other truckers watching you. But you know, the other drivers don't know how much experience you have or don't have. And finally, that feeling is 95% in your mind only! So forget about it and just get your truck backed in!

Beth S.'s Comment
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If you have to be "manly" enough to drive a truck, I better rethink my whole wardrobe! rofl-1.gif

Matthew G.'s Comment
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Old School and Brett Aquila, Thank you VERY much for your detailed reply. You answered a lot of my questions and really helped me make up my mind. I'm very lucky to have had the both of you talk to me about this because you both really know what you're talking about.

You've helped me make up my mind.

I'm going to try this. The more I think about it, the more my preconceptions and worries were proven false by you two, the more this seems like it would be a wonderful fit for me. But I'm not going to jump into it yet. My current lease is up in December. Its a small bunker of a studio apartment that we both share, and between now and December we are going to focus on finding better jobs so that we can qualify for a better apartment when we move. I'm going to take a food delivery job so I can make tips. Come January, if nothing else comes up, and we are set up in a new place with a new lease and we are both pretty well grounded I'm going to ask them to make the sacrifice of only being able to see me for a little bit, and if they can handle that then I'm going to start CDL trailing with KNIGHT TRANSPORT and go from there. If I can't do it and wash out then at least I can say I tried and gave it an honest shot. If I succeed, then after a year I can get much better routes where I'm home much more often and who knows, maybe we might even be happy.

In the mean time I'm going to read the resources and books and forums here on this site so I really know what I'm talking about when I drive romantically off into the sunset (then immediately obscure it with a cloud of black smog).

Does this sound like a good and feasible strategy?

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.
Matthew G.'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.

Thank you. Thank you so much. This has been on my mind the past day and a half, and it's made me very happy. That intelligence and resilience is the only thing that has carried me through so far. I've lost all my possessions in my family' eviction, lost my grandmother, lost all of her possessions, lost the house she left me and my aunt, lived with three different craigslist drug addicts, and I moved my whole life to another state all by myself. I've been trying to rise above it all for years but all I've managed to do is tread water. I don't mean to sell myself short, but with all I went through I wasn't able to finish even my AA degree, let alone transfer. All those things I'm looking for, and driving a truck for that level of pay seems like a sensible next step. I may not do it my whole life, but it certainly allows me to solve a lot of my lingering problems. It lets me put out ALL my fires, rather than letting one burn so I can put another out, moving from problem to problem like a whack-a-mole. I'm glad in the eyes of people who have "made it" already that I am "dude enough" to do anything I wish. All of you drivers seem a lot more supportive than most kinds of people I've met.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

Matthew, you can definitely be successful and make a decent living in trucking. It takes a bit to get things going as you hone your skills and build your reputation. It's like anything else though. If you work hard, pay attention and learn how things work while taking the advice of those here who really do care, you'll be successful in no time and eventually get to a point where you're effectively writing your own paycheck. Is nice to be known in your particular terminal as the go to guy, the driver who runs hard and does it smart. Keep your head up, don't give up and the rewards will come your way. I can promise you that.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Susan D. 's Comment
member avatar

Matthew, this site does indeed have it all. Training, job links, and a whole "family" of genuinely kind, honest, and experienced people who answer all our crazy questions, cheer us on when we begin to doubt ourselves, and teach us how to survive in the trucking industry.

Welcome to TT! You'll quickly realize, like I did, it's the ONLY forum/website you'll need while you get it all figured out.

Frito's Comment
member avatar

Of course I don't know your circumstances but since both you and your significant other are in the market for new jobs perhaps you both could attend school together and ultimately run as a team. You could, conceivably, go so far as to ditch the apartment all together for a year or two, live on the road and sack some serious cash. Just a thought. Sounds like an adventure for a young pair of free spirits. Best of luck with whatever you may choose.

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.

Steve L.'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.

Matthew, I had operated my own businesses for about 12 years and had to stop about a year ago (due to not making enough $) and became a Driver. Many companies offer a schedule you can live with and while I won't promise lots of gold you can make $2,500-$3,500/month pretty quickly as a Driver.

I average 30,000+ miles/quarter. If you did that and only got paid $.33/mile you'd earn $40,000/year.

Old School is a fantastic resource and Brett has put together a website second to none. I can personally attest that the High Road Training Program will get you through your written (permit) test.

Good luck!

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