Am I Crazy?

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Suburban Outdoorsman's Comment
member avatar

Hey Guys & Gals,

First, I just want to thank everyone who has contributed to this website, so much good information to someone like myself who does not know much about trucking and is interested in it as a possible career path...possibly for a few years, maybe longer, who knows?

Secondly, I am just hoping to get some opinions from you folks about my situation. I graduated college with a BS in Biology on a Med School track almost two years ago. Unsure if it was the right career path for me, I went to EMT school to get some real 'hands-on' experience. I was an EMT in FL for a year before moving to NYC to pursue a research opportunity in Nov 2015. That did not pan out, but being unemplyed for a couple of months (recently got a job as a bike messenger for now, which actually pays way better than I got as an EMT sadly, but not a great salary for NYC) but it did give me time to think about my life and career path. I have decided medicine is not for me for a number of reasons I won't get into on this initial post. So basically at this moment, I have a worthless BS degree (for now), have a sizable amount of debt, and live in one of the most expensive cities in the world without a ton of job prospects or ideas of what I want to do long-term.

However...I am considering becoming an OTR truck driver for at least a few years while I decide what I want to do long term (go back to school? do something biology related? Truck driving? Who knows!) I will not lie, finances are a driving factor, I would love to start making money and truck driving pays pretty decent from what it sounds compared to a lot of other jobs I am looking at. I would never do anything for just the money though, and actually feel I would enjoy many aspects of the jobs that have been described here. I am young, single, would love to see the country, love driving (both as an EMT and road-trips), and enjoy being alone, but get along with people just fine when I need/want to. I feel this would be a great way to make money, save on living expenses, and give me time to think and learn about myself and what I want to do long-term, while learning a new skill and seeing a lot of great places. I am considering going to a company sponsored school, and based on some limited research so far, swift and roehl seem like two great fits for me. I should also mention I am willing to move ANYWHERE in the US to start working...my main priorities are quality of the company and best starting pay/best in first few years...assuming the company is reputable.

My main questions are:

What is the best company to start at? (I know that is a hard question, but any opinion would be great...as I said, I see swift and roehl as good choices)

How much down time is there while OTR? Is this time usually located at a shipper/receiver? How close are they normally to interesting areas?

How much space is there in cabs for personal items?

I know many mentioned irregular hours...how much sleep on average do you all average per night? Is it just irregular hours or is it minimal sleep on a constant basis too?

As a person who has driven stick once (self taught for 3 hour road-trip from philly to western PA via you-tube videos lol), will learning a stick on a truck be taught with the expectation of prior manual transmission or will I be ok?

Again, I really appreciate the info on here, and any and all feedback it welcome. While I'm not a trucking expert or a car wiz, I'm no pretty boy either, so please don't think I can't handle some of the rougher aspects of the job. I have had a number of manual labor jobs, and actually was a maintenance and delivery man for my dad's print shop before college, and have always done minor maintenance to my vehicles such as oil changes and alternator replacements. I am excited about the prospects of trucking for however long it may be for me and learning much more about the industry, lifestyle, and vehicles themselves.

So...am I crazy for considering this as my next step on this journey we call life???

Thanks,

Dylan

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.

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.

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

TZ's Comment
member avatar

Not to dismiss your hardships or anything but have you tried working as an EMT in the city? EMT licenses are usually good for 2 years unless you forget to renew. Finding work as a med tech in hospitals is an option for getting hands on healthcare experience (having a phlebotomy certificate helps) in addition to volunteering at your local ambulance company for the purpose of networking.

As for your "useless" degree, at least it's a hard science degree. Your degree will get you in the doors of a hospital or healthcare facility for administrative work - patient admissions, etc.

Just a thought if you need $ to start repaying your college loans. Don't forget to contact your loan provider & ask for a forebearance to delay repayment. Economic hardship or whatever best describes your situation. If you can, pay the interest you owe or it will be added to your loans.

Are you from here (NYC Metro) or FL? There are trucking schools all over the country, if you are from FL & have a place to stay w/ friends/family, it might be best (financially) to return there while you are in trucking school (adding temporarily to your college debt).

Most of the answers to the questions that you have can be found by gleaning the info off of these forums but at least you are in the right place. You have a lot of good questions to ask but it's impossible for someone to tell you what's best for you.

You mention Swift & Roehl. Call those companies and ask those questions of them, see if they fit your needs & then post back here your experience so that others might benefit from your wisdom.

http://dmv.ny.gov/get-cdl NY CDL info http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/cdl.html FL CDL info http://www.thetruckersreport.com/ alternate trucker's forum

There was a post here that gave a good intro on what to do before heading off to a school to get your CDL, can't find the link.

Perhaps someone else can share it below. It essentially said to get your: 1) DOT medical exam (in the state that you will attend trucking school) from an authorized medical examiner, 2) get a background check on yourself, 3) get your driver's abstract from the DMV where you have your driver's license, 4) get your CDL A permit w/ as many endorsements as you can, 5) bring your original birth certificate & non-laminated social security card, 6) bring money/debit card/cell phone in case of emergency

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.

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.

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.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
TZ's Comment
member avatar

Regarding sleep:

https://www.truckingtruth.com/trucking_blogs/Article-1766/the-sleep-cycle-of-a-truck-driver-it-doesnt-exist

That's one trucker's experience

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi Dylan! I was EMT back when paramedics were just getting started. My brother was also EMT and became an early paramedic in Los Angeles.

First some thoughts on your life choice. EMT and emergency medicine is a lot of knowledge. If you leave that business for a while, you will not be able to get back to it. I consider EMT to be a "portable" job you can do it pretty much anywhere. If NYC too pricey, think about moving somewhere else. However, to answer your questions here are my thoughts: Trucking is a 24/7 business meaning you could be driving any time of the day or night or weekends. There are federal regulations that limit you to 11 hours of driving in any one day and a minimum 10 hour break between shifts. So there are limits to how much driving you can do. As for the size of your living space, go into your bathroom and stand next to the tub, if you have one. That would be your bed. Now stretch out one arm. You are already reaching into one of your cabinets. There plenty of space for you to stand up straight, though.

Here is some reading about the trucking lifestyle: Truck Driver's Career Guide and Brett's Book.

A year ago I went through Swift's company school. So if you ask me, Swift is a great place to work! You can also check out our Truck Driving Schools and How To Choose A School. Here's the same thing for Trucking Companies and How To Choose A Company.

Feel free to bring any questions back to this forum!

(BTW, have you seen Premium Rush? A great movie about New York bike messengers!)

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

Hey Guys & Gals,

First, I just want to thank everyone who has contributed to this website, so much good information to someone like myself who does not know much about trucking and is interested in it as a possible career path...possibly for a few years, maybe longer, who knows?

Secondly, I am just hoping to get some opinions from you folks about my situation. I graduated college with a BS in Biology on a Med School track almost two years ago. Unsure if it was the right career path for me, I went to EMT school to get some real 'hands-on' experience. I was an EMT in FL for a year before moving to NYC to pursue a research opportunity in Nov 2015. That did not pan out, but being unemplyed for a couple of months (recently got a job as a bike messenger for now, which actually pays way better than I got as an EMT sadly, but not a great salary for NYC) but it did give me time to think about my life and career path. I have decided medicine is not for me for a number of reasons I won't get into on this initial post. So basically at this moment, I have a worthless BS degree (for now), have a sizable amount of debt, and live in one of the most expensive cities in the world without a ton of job prospects or ideas of what I want to do long-term.

However...I am considering becoming an OTR truck driver for at least a few years while I decide what I want to do long term (go back to school? do something biology related? Truck driving? Who knows!) I will not lie, finances are a driving factor, I would love to start making money and truck driving pays pretty decent from what it sounds compared to a lot of other jobs I am looking at. I would never do anything for just the money though, and actually feel I would enjoy many aspects of the jobs that have been described here. I am young, single, would love to see the country, love driving (both as an EMT and road-trips), and enjoy being alone, but get along with people just fine when I need/want to. I feel this would be a great way to make money, save on living expenses, and give me time to think and learn about myself and what I want to do long-term, while learning a new skill and seeing a lot of great places. I am considering going to a company sponsored school, and based on some limited research so far, swift and roehl seem like two great fits for me. I should also mention I am willing to move ANYWHERE in the US to start working...my main priorities are quality of the company and best starting pay/best in first few years...assuming the company is reputable.

My main questions are:

What is the best company to start at? (I know that is a hard question, but any opinion would be great...as I said, I see swift and roehl as good choices)

How much down time is there while OTR? Is this time usually located at a shipper/receiver? How close are they normally to interesting areas?

How much space is there in cabs for personal items?

I know many mentioned irregular hours...how much sleep on average do you all average per night? Is it just irregular hours or is it minimal sleep on a constant basis too?

As a person who has driven stick once (self taught for 3 hour road-trip from philly to western PA via you-tube videos lol), will learning a stick on a truck be taught with the expectation of prior manual transmission or will I be ok?

Again, I really appreciate the info on here, and any and all feedback it welcome. While I'm not a trucking expert or a car wiz, I'm no pretty boy either, so please don't think I can't handle some of the rougher aspects of the job. I have had a number of manual labor jobs, and actually was a maintenance and delivery man for my dad's print shop before college, and have always done minor maintenance to my vehicles such as oil changes and alternator replacements. I am excited about the prospects of trucking for however long it may be for me and learning much more about the industry, lifestyle, and vehicles themselves.

So...am I crazy for considering this as my next step on this journey we call life???

Thanks,

Dylan

Crazy? No. But as the saying goes; the world is your oyster.

Question is; what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?

You have a USEABLE college degree and only some student loans for responsibilities. Hmm...military is an option. You're willing to relocate so why not search jobs in other cities and consider house/apartment sharing until you get settled?

How many private schools badly need science teachers? Those parents will support you in teaching their kids.

Driving is a job I enjoy, but you'll likely see a lot more loading docks and distribution centers than you will California sunsets or the Gramd Canyon.

When driving OTR you may see opportunities in places you never even considered.

Either you worked really hard for that degree, which would be a shame to abandon OR; it came fairly easy to you which might be an indication you'd be really good in the biology field and with relatively little stress.

Whatever you decide, good luck to you.

Sorry for rambling.

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.

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.

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

Suburban Outdoorsman's Comment
member avatar

Hi Dylan! I was EMT back when paramedics were just getting started. My brother was also EMT and became an early paramedic in Los Angeles.

First some thoughts on your life choice. EMT and emergency medicine is a lot of knowledge. If you leave that business for a while, you will not be able to get back to it. I consider EMT to be a "portable" job you can do it pretty much anywhere. If NYC too pricey, think about moving somewhere else. However, to answer your questions here are my thoughts: Trucking is a 24/7 business meaning you could be driving any time of the day or night or weekends. There are federal regulations that limit you to 11 hours of driving in any one day and a minimum 10 hour break between shifts. So there are limits to how much driving you can do. As for the size of your living space, go into your bathroom and stand next to the tub, if you have one. That would be your bed. Now stretch out one arm. You are already reaching into one of your cabinets. There plenty of space for you to stand up straight, though.

Here is some reading about the trucking lifestyle: Truck Driver's Career Guide and Brett's Book.

A year ago I went through Swift's company school. So if you ask me, Swift is a great place to work! You can also check out our Truck Driving Schools and How To Choose A School. Here's the same thing for Trucking Companies and How To Choose A Company.

Feel free to bring any questions back to this forum!

(BTW, have you seen Premium Rush? A great movie about New York bike messengers!)

Hi Errol,

Appreciate the thoughts and concern about leaving the EMS field. I guess I should clarify that long-term, I do not have an interest in the field. While there are many aspects of the job I loved, it was more something where I wanted to get some hands on experience and learn about the health care field from the bottom up before I spent a lot of time, money, and effort to go to med school. I am certainly glad I did this as I learned a lot, some good, some bad, but realized that was not what I want to do for the rest of my life. As I mentioned, I am in NYC at the moment as I thought I would have a research position, but that fell through, and it has been during this time that I have made the very difficult decision not to attend med school. I do not plan to live here long term, cool to be young and single in a city, but I am a country man at heart. I could have become an EMT here temporarily, actually got my NY State License when I moved, but really it's not what I want to do long term, and pay is not great. To put in perspective, I made 10.60 an hour in FL, up here starting pay is around 12-13 an hour, and as a bike messenger, I am average around 16-17 an hour after tips.

As for the rest of your post, I definitely appreciate your answers, very helpful! I also did read Brett's book...and I guess my main question is...am I really going to be able to sleep during those 10 hours, or at least part of it? In the book, he mentions how common and sometimes expected it is to cheat the system...I am wondering (not sure how long ago it was written, but it seems to be probably about 5-10 years old?) if that is still commonplace with how far tracking technology has come, and if it is if that will affect sleep. As an EMT, I worked overnights at times so I feel I can handle that aspect, but after about 20-22 hours of being up, I am ready for a solid sleep.

Have not seen that movie but will definitely check it out! Certainly a crazy job, have already had my helmet run over and gotten hit by a car...good money but not a great long-term career lol.

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

Got it. Decision made.

Brett worked in the old days when Men drive Trucks and Logs were paper. You could easily be creative there. E-logs have a bit of "futz-ability" but not like the old days.

Your sleep time is mostly up to you. As long as you make your appointments, and you stick to the Hours of Service (the drive/duty time regulations) it's up to you.

And being alone in that cab with no one to bother you, you pretty much can sleep in the times you feel like it. Yes this is an individual issue.

Suburban Outdoorsman's Comment
member avatar

Not to dismiss your hardships or anything but have you tried working as an EMT in the city? EMT licenses are usually good for 2 years unless you forget to renew. Finding work as a med tech in hospitals is an option for getting hands on healthcare experience (having a phlebotomy certificate helps) in addition to volunteering at your local ambulance company for the purpose of networking.

As for your "useless" degree, at least it's a hard science degree. Your degree will get you in the doors of a hospital or healthcare facility for administrative work - patient admissions, etc.

Just a thought if you need $ to start repaying your college loans. Don't forget to contact your loan provider & ask for a forebearance to delay repayment. Economic hardship or whatever best describes your situation. If you can, pay the interest you owe or it will be added to your loans.

Are you from here (NYC Metro) or FL? There are trucking schools all over the country, if you are from FL & have a place to stay w/ friends/family, it might be best (financially) to return there while you are in trucking school (adding temporarily to your college debt).

Most of the answers to the questions that you have can be found by gleaning the info off of these forums but at least you are in the right place. You have a lot of good questions to ask but it's impossible for someone to tell you what's best for you.

You mention Swift & Roehl. Call those companies and ask those questions of them, see if they fit your needs & then post back here your experience so that others might benefit from your wisdom.

http://dmv.ny.gov/get-cdl NY CDL info http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/cdl.html FL CDL info http://www.thetruckersreport.com/ alternate trucker's forum

There was a post here that gave a good intro on what to do before heading off to a school to get your CDL, can't find the link.

Perhaps someone else can share it below. It essentially said to get your: 1) DOT medical exam (in the state that you will attend trucking school) from an authorized medical examiner, 2) get a background check on yourself, 3) get your driver's abstract from the DMV where you have your driver's license, 4) get your CDL A permit w/ as many endorsements as you can, 5) bring your original birth certificate & non-laminated social security card, 6) bring money/debit card/cell phone in case of emergency

D,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply and info. First, I just want to apologize if I can off implying I have suffered any hardships or you felt I was complaining. I certainly understand how hard some folks have it am and not complaining about the position I am in not do I feel sorry for myself. I fully understand I made this bed, and I was more making fun of myself for the situation I have put myself in than anything...but I was trying to give you all some insight as to where I am at in life and what choices I am try to make from here.

As far as the whole NYC/EMT thing...as I mentioned above, pay is not great as an EMT and I don't wish to pursue long-term...it is true I could work for hospital at one of those positions, but again, not something I would want to do long-term and pay is usually minimum wage. I am from FL, and won't be in NYC much longer. Cool place, but crazy expensive too. I should say my degree is useless...it was more a bad joke really, but it is true it does little to help me find a job in a field unrelated to biology, and even in biology, as most of the classes I took were related to pre-med tracking and not the classic field of biology. You would be surprised how many jobs now require specific classes in undergrad or even a masters degree in the field of biology. And even then, pay is not great, less than what a starting trucker appears to make from everything I have read. And most of those jobs I know I would not enjoy. I would much rather be behind the wheel than in a lab all day.

As I mentioned before, I have no idea what I wan't to do long-term with my life, and I need some time to reflect and think and learn about myself. I certainly see going back to school as a possibility, but right now, I really just want to make some money and see the country. I love driving, and getting paid to do that and see a lot of this country sounds really cool. I understand it is a job and I won't be driving through exciting places all the time, and there will be plenty of frustrations and tough times throughout, but I do think it sounds fun overall and think it is feasible to make a decent amount of money without spending a lot for a few years before I decide what I want to do long-term...again, appreciate all of the skepticism because as I said, I am wondering if I am crazy for thinking about doing this even though I have poured over this site and other and everything I have read has only heightened my interest.

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.

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.

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.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

BTW, Dylan, I was EMT (got an A in the class!) in 1976. I was paid minimum wage to save lives back then, too!

Suburban Outdoorsman's Comment
member avatar

Steve,

Great thoughts, and I am certainly along the same mind-set...whatever my long-term career is, I want to be passionate about it. The problem is...I am not quite sure what that is at the moment, and rather than live pay-check to pay-check thinking about it, why not gain a new skill, save some money from a well-paying job, and have a lot of time to myself to think and learn about what I want out of life? That sounds like what I could gain out of going into trucking for a few years...I understand it won't all be rainbows and butterflies, but I usually enjoy challenges that arise...how boring would life be if everything went according to plan? Trust me, as an EMT, patients vs the dummies in school are very different...live bodies are never the same, but that's what made it exciting.

Military is an option, but I do like the freedom of being a civilian...teaching could be something down the road, but not interested in that at the moment. I do appreciate the ideas though.

I agree I worked hard on the degree, and enjoyed the subject matter (which I would also say came naturally to me to a degree), but at the same time, education vs. the realities of the actual job itself associated with said degree can be vastly different...and that is why I have decided to look in another direction. At the moment I do not know where that might lead, and as I said before, I apologize if I seem ungrateful for the position I am in or the degree I have. I will almost certainly use it at some point, whether it be doing something else n biology or using some of the more basic credits to apply to another major or masters program. But for now, I want to take some time to make some money, and think about my long-term career so if I do decide to get more education, I will actually use it to find a job I want to do the rest of my life.

I guess I just really like the idea of seeing the country, making money, driving, and being alone for some time. As I said, I know that is a vast over-simplification of the career, but that does seem to match some of the high points talked about on this site, and some of the complaints I know I can deal with, and actually may enjoy in some instances.

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