Pay My Own Way Or "free" Company School? And Which Company Has Best Starting Pay?

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Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Best Answer!

Welcome Space Truckin!

To start out with, the most important thing to get straight right off the bat is to get this junk out of your head:

...how much am I going to be taken advantage of by greedy corp...

...which seems like a bit of a scam...

First of all, what is there to take advantage of with a rookie driver fresh out of school? You will literally be the most dangerous and least productive driver on the American highways at the beginning of your career. You know nothing about being a top professional in this industry early on and you'll be nothing but a liability risk and a burden until they can teach you how things are done out there. So just having the idea in your head that you have something valuable to offer the largest, most successful companies in this industry as a rookie fresh out of school shows you're greatly underestimating the difficulties you're about to face and greatly overestimating the value you provide early on. That's an ominous approach to take in a career that's as difficult, dangerous, and complex as trucking.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they're new to this industry is thinking that having a CDL means they've accomplished something and now they're valuable. Oh it feels like you've accomplished something, but the truth is only about 2% of what you'll need to know to be a top tier professional in this industry will be taught to you during your schooling. The next 18% you'll learn while you're on the road with a trainer. The remaining 80% will be learned the hard way, on your own after you go solo. And each step of the process is far more difficult than the last. School is cake, though people think it's tough at the time. Training on the road is far more difficult and many people never make it past this stage. But driving solo those first few months is a trial by fire and you're going to learn a lot of hard, embarrassing, and frustrating lessons during that time. This is when you'll find out whether or not you have what it takes to make it in this industry.

We lost count years ago of the number of people who have ruined their careers before they ever got off the ground by coming in with the wrong attitude. This whole "company scam" thing and "slave to a contract" attitude will ruin you. Not only will you be blindsided by how difficult it is to survive that first year on the road, but you're not going to understand the serious commitment it takes to learning your trade and how critical it is to prove yourself to your company before you're going to get the great miles, fancier trucks, better runs, access to higher divisions within the company, and special favors the proven top tier drivers get.

So please........do not overestimate your worth and do not underestimate the mountain you have to climb to become a truly valuable professional in this industry. You could almost literally teach a monkey the basic driving skills it takes to get their CDL. A top tier professional driver has years of street savvy behind them.

Am I going to end up having to do a lot of driving at low pay initially no matter who I go and work for?

You're going to have to learn a lot of hard lessons and prove yourself to your company before the better pay, better miles, better equipment, and special favors start coming your way. You're also going to have to adjust to life on the road. No one comes out of school with the mental and physical endurance it takes to turn 3,000 miles a week. You won't know how to work the logbook that well yet, you won't know how to work your way around cities and snowstorms and construction zones properly yet, you won't be savvy enough to wiggle your way in and out of customers as quickly as you need to, and you'll be too stressed out and overwhelmed to handle it all mentally. It takes time.

I hope that doesn't come off as being entitled or having a bad attitude

It does. At least it does relative to where you need to be. Prepare yourself for this first year on the road like it's boot camp. You're going to have a lot of ups and downs, spells of self-doubt, exhausting stretches where you can barely remember your own name, and emotional breakdowns you'll likely never tell anyone about.

And finally, keep something in mind about these large carriers. They are the best in class companies out there. They are the upper 1% in this industry. They would love to continue to grow but the thing that's holding them back is an utter lack of true professional drivers out there. The turnover in this industry is appalling. When you do choose a company, dedicate yourself to them for one full year. Give them everything you've got. Learn how the company works on the inside, learn how this industry works, master your trade, and get to know the right people in management. That is the secret to getting top pay, top equipment, and top miles in this industry. You prove yourself as a top tier driver to a great company, get to know the right people, and all of the accolades you're hoping for will be there. Most people never get that somehow. Even drivers who have been out there for years keep searching for this "diamond in the rough" company and never realize it's their own attitude, their own shortcomings that are keeping them from being as happy and successful as the top tier drivers they think they are.

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.

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.

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.

Space Truckin's Comment
member avatar

I've really taken it to heart though by whats been said by the more experienced drivers especially Brett the founder of the site is that no matter who you start out with you should stick with them for at least a year hopefully longer. Given this fact I've really tried to pin down who I want to drive for right out of the gate and what I want to haul. For me it's going to be flatbed freight.

BJ Moose

I agree completely with listening to those more experienced. And this website is a wonderful resource! Thanks again to all you more experienced guys (and gals!) who take the time to share your hard won knowledge with us noobs. Because, as noobs, we don't even know what we don't know yet! There is actually a term for this, it's called Dunning-Kruger effect:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

:)

I wanted to ask you (or anyone else, feel free to chime in) about flatbed actually. It seems that a lot of people don't want to mess with it. Maybe they are not physically fit enough to do it, or just don't like to get their hands dirty, or be out in the rain, or sweat, or whatever. None of those issues apply to me.

But what that also tells me is that there should be opportunity there. Does flatbed generally pay better, for those of us who are willing to do that kind of work (which I am)? How much more, and is the increase in pay (if any) worth it?

In my estimation, if they pay barely any more, or the same, why bother? You could just stay in your nice comfy truck hauling boxes of dry freight around and not getting your hands (and clothes) dirty, sweating, etc...

Or is it a matter of having extra job security / loads available because no one wants to do it? lol

Or is it a matter of just wanting to stay physically fit, instead of withering away sitting on your duff 10 hrs a day?

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Welcome aboard Space Truckin, We're really glad to have you in here!

Forgive me for wanting to put the brakes on you just a little, but I have witnessed so many people come into this business with the wrong approach to it that I can almost spot them from a mile away now. There are so many of your remarks in your posts that indicate you have already picked up on the poor attitudes and postures that are prevalent among the on-line trucking community, or the group that I call the "whiners and complainers."

We do our best around here to help folks like you (total newbs), make a good start in this career so that they can enjoy success at it. Success in this business is always earned. It really has little or nothing to do with which company you start out with, or move on to work for, but by reading the conversations in most trucking forums you would never come to that conclusion.

Here's just one small example of how your reading has rubbed off on you and it shows when you say such things:

I don't really care about TV, haven't watched that garbage in years, much prefer reading (including getting on the internet, where you can learn dang near anything you might want to, it's a wonderful thing!). APU I do however care about, in fact IMO any company that doesn't provide one, well that to me says a lot how they think about providing some creature comforts for the people out here busting their hump to make them money. OTOH, I am getting into this to make money also myself, and as you say if it's a tradeoff, then maybe that's something I should reconsider. It's just that, in Florida where I live, I know you cannot get restful sleep in this very hot and humid environment without A/C. I'm sure the reverse is true "up north" in the cold, although I suppose you could just have more blankets, up to a point. Lack of restful sleep (when you are able to get it) seems to me like it would cause a lot of other problems with your attitude potentially as well as your ability to deal with situations, as well as your ability to focus, which affects everything and of course safety most of all. So therefore, yes, restful sleep and creature comforts are very important to me, not for selfish reasons but because it seems to me that they would be necessary for a safe and productive life on the road.

Within that one paragraph you have ripped the trucking companies as heartless SOB's, blamed them for making their drivers unsafe and miserable, and taken the attitude that they could care less about their drivers, all in the name of corporate greed. You did all that while taking the stance that you are just a hard working guy who is trying to make money for the company. Basically you are setting yourself up as the good guy versus the bad guys, and brother let me warn you, that is not the way you are going to be successful or happy at this career. I'm not trying to rip you a new one, I just want you to stop and think about this question: "Where did that type of sentiment come from?"

If the answer to that question is that it came about due to your research online, then you need to take a chill from some of the places you've been frequenting and spend a few good quality weeks with us. You will benefit greatly from your little sabbatical, trust me. If you think that the only companies who care about their drivers are the ones with an APU in each truck you are seriously going to limit your potential employers, and your potential to enjoy a rewarding career at this. Take some time and join in our conversations. Read some of our helpful blogs. Learn to navigate your way around in here - there are literally volumes of helpful materials tucked away within this web site. I'm glad you found us, because I think you have probably got a good head on your shoulders, but you've already got some bad influences working to thwart your path to success.

Just recently we started a little thread in here that I had hopes of developing into a growing list of new drivers and how they have found success as beginners. I want you to read it and see the different stories that are there, and the different companies represented. Take notes and see if you can figure out how many of them have APU's or not, and hopefully you'll start to get past some of that junk you've already swallowed and let sour your thinking. You are going to see companies represented in there that you probably have already been pre-disposed to stay away from due to the horror stories online about them. While you are reading about their success stories I want you to realize that I started my career at Western Express, and built a great foundation for success there. Have you ever heard of them? If not, do a search and see what you find about them. I promise you it won't be good, and I will also promise you that it is all a bunch of lies from a bunch of losers who couldn't find success in trucking if you handed it to them on a silver APU! Here's a link to This Is How We Roll!

Continued...

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

APU's:

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

By the way, I have never driven a truck with an APU in it, and I have never spent the night in a sweaty bed or been uncomfortable in any way or fashion while out here on the road. You can find evidence within these forum pages that I cook some really great meals on the road, and enjoy life in general out here, without having an APU. I hope you'll read these threads where I took my daughters out on the road with me, and you will see just how enjoyable this life can be for those who get started off with the right attitude. Here's three different threads where I spent some time with my girls - check them out, you will enjoy the read...

Trip One

Trip Two

Trip Three

I have been a top producer in this business and the companies that I have worked for treat me like royalty! They will you too, but only after you've proven your worth to them. That is the order of things - Get a Job... Prove yourself... Enjoy life out here on the road.

Get a job, it really isn't that important where you start. All these companies are doing the same thing for the same customers, and they are all doing it with the same equipment on the same interstates. It is a commodities business with very little, if any way to distinguish one's company above the rest of the competition.

Prove yourself, that is the most vital ingredient for your success. It is the most difficult part of the formula, and that is why you see all these whiners and complainers online - they are the ones who have never figured out the mystery - that is why they always seem to think there is a magical trucking company out there with all the right amenities, and just the right formula for success. The problem is they just haven't found it yet! This is where the individual driver can distinguish himself over his peers. This job is performance based, and therefore it is the top performers who enjoy the rewards of their efforts. Within any trucking company there is a core group of drivers who enjoy success, and they are rewarded with the best loads because they have proven time and again that they will not disappoint.

Enjoy life out here on the road, this is the easy part, but it is only easy if you get those first two steps accomplished. This is the part that I want you to lay hold of, the enjoyment of it all. That is why I have taken the time to try to shoot straight with you, why I have bothered to lay it all out for you. I know you want to be successful, and it is obvious that you are convinced that you can. Just take care how you go about things, and put a guard on any negative attitudes that are being formed from your online research before you even know the shift pattern of an Eaton ten speed transmission!

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

Space Truckin's Comment
member avatar

Wise words Brett, and taken to heart. As I said I am not necessarily disagreeing with you. I am also smart enough to understand that you hear this all day, every day, for years and I can imagine you are tired of hearing it by now. I am also self aware enough to realize that I am not 99% of people. All due respect (and you are due a lot, by virtue of you taking the time to provide this valuable resource, take the time to respond to people's questions, etc. which I appreciate) but I AM going to be in that 1%. Which means by definition that people like me don't come along every day.

You are right in that I will not be providing a lot of value to a company in the beginning. There is a lot I need to learn. I'll give you that. But like I said I'm a quick study.

However to ignore the fact that there are corporations out there today that advantage of people is naive IMO. In fact it's one of the biggest problems facing our country today. In the last 30 years, productivity, CEO compensation, and corporate profits have all skyrocketed, while wages have remained almost stagnant. Median wage in the US today is $24k per year, making $60k puts you in the top 10% of wage earners right now! Home prices are 5x median income, the highest they have ever been. Yes that is a political/economic problem (a function of the Fed printing money) but who lobbies the Congress to make laws in their favor? These corporations do. Grocery costs are rising, while healthcare and post-secondary education costs have skyrocketed. These are the facts, and this is why an ever growing number of people are getting angry, and that's why we are seeing the popularity of "alternative" political candidates this time around (not that I want to get into a political discussion, but it's germane to the point I am making).

Now, all of that does not necessarily apply to the trucking industry. Not every company, not every owner, and it may or may not apply to some of the companies, especially the bigger ones. It's a criticism of some of the more obvious failings of the system of capitalism itself, and of corporations more generally. But I don't know yet for sure, that's just the sense I get, and so I am going to have to defer to your experience for the time being, and make a leap of faith. And besides, to the extent the companies are making tight margins themselves (if this is indeed true, I just don't know yet) then the trucking companies are not really the problem, and in fact they are just getting caught between the price lowering effects of competition, while trying to maintain expensive fleets, and insurance, and pay the drivers enough to make it worth their while. Truth is, I don't really know exactly where the truth lie right now, as I am somewhat new to this still.

Trucking is actually one of the very few jobs left where a non college degree holder can make some decent (high 5 figure) salaries it seems. Again, recognizing that not everyone will have what it takes to "make it."

Another thing. Do you guys see all the consolidation happening in the industry? Do you know where that ends up once there are only a handful of huge companies left? Look at any of the other industries where this consolidation has happened over the last 30-40 years. It has led us to where we are today, economically, as a country (see figures I have cited above). Although, oddly enough, globalization may have actually benefited the industry, as all these things made overseas still need to be physically transported to American markets, and my understanding is that 80% of that transport still happens by truck.

I suppose your point could be "yes all of that is true, there are underlying trends, but an individuals own attitude is still the most important factor" in which case, while not trying to speak for you nor put words in your mouth, I would agree to split the difference with you and settle on that.

Again, all due respect, great conversation, and thanks for taking the time!

Welcome Space Truckin!

To start out with, the most important thing to get straight right off the bat is to get this junk out of your head:

double-quotes-start.png

...how much am I going to be taken advantage of by greedy corp...

...which seems like a bit of a scam...

double-quotes-end.png

First of all, what is there to take advantage of with a rookie driver fresh out of school? You will literally be the most dangerous and least productive driver on the American highways at the beginning of your career. You know nothing about being a top professional in this industry early on and you'll be nothing but a liability risk and a burden until they can teach you how things are done out there. So just having the idea in your head that you have something valuable to offer the largest, most successful companies in this industry as a rookie fresh out of school shows you're greatly underestimating the difficulties you're about to face and greatly overestimating the value you provide early on. That's an ominous approach to take in a career that's as difficult, dangerous, and complex as trucking.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Space Truckin's Comment
member avatar

Old School,

I actually did read that This is How We Roll thread you started, it's a great thread! And some other threads and logs that you and others have filled out have been very helpful to me! It's those kind of threads (along with hearing the kind of money people can start making once they stick around a while) that have given me hope and excitement about a potential future in trucking!

Also see the case I laid out in my last post directed at Brett, which I think addresses some of your same points.

I am going to check out the other threads you linked, and keep reading around here, but let me ask you this: what am I missing on the APU thing? I mean, I suppose it's fine if companies let you idle, same difference (just less efficient) and so I suppose my disdain is reserved for companies who might disallow idling and also don't have an APU (and/or, an inverter at least, or let you at least bring your own). To me that might suck, but what am I missing? Maybe such companies don't really exist? Or maybe (it's starting to dawn on me, from reading you guys' posts/threads) maybe it's more a matter of: if you are a safe, professional producer then they kind of let you do what you want, take good care of you, and if you are a slug they might be on your case a little more about idling, etc. to the point of driving you to quit, because they know you aren't going to make it anyway?

See I owned a business for 20 years, so I see the owner's perspective. I understand business, and I take care of equipment and customers just like they were my own (i.e., I have more of an "owner" than an "employee" attitude). So again, my perspective is very different from most. Certainly willing to admit I honestly know very little about trucking industry at this point, but that is why I am here, doing my due diligence, and trying to learn.

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.

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Space Truckin, I was the owner of an Electrical Sign Manufacturing business for thirty years before I started driving a truck for a second career. So, yeah, I get this:

I have more of an "owner" than an "employee" attitude). So again, my perspective is very different from most.

Think about this: even if you are pre-disposed to consider these large corporations as greedy, and I think you will find that Brett and I would agree with much of what you stated above about CEO pay, etc., you still have to understand that large companies are always analyzing the different things they are spending money on and the end results of those expenses. Therefore they adjust what they are doing according to the information they get from their "bean counters." This is where you are missing it on the APU thing.

Let me explain. There have actually been quite a few companies who went to all the trouble of incorporating APU's into their fleets only to start removing them after a few short years due to the excessive maintenance expenses they were encountering to keep them running properly. They determined that the old system of idling their trucks was actually more efficient after all, at least from the perspective of keeping expenses down. As a business owner, you know the importance of not spending money unnecessarily. That is precisely why I tell people do not base your decision on where you want to work on the amenities provided in a truck. These companies change their minds at the drop of a hat sometimes. You might spend six months doing research and come up with just the right company for you - they have APU's, they have a pet policy, they let you take your kids along with you, they have pink polka-dotted leather seats! Any and all of those things might change next week, they can not be counted on for longevity. That is why I don't like to use them as a basis for a decision.

It is highly likely you will be disappointed when those are the things that form your choice of company. What you want to look for is what type of freight you want to haul, or maybe if you want to be a regional driver or want to run the lower 48. Maybe you would like a large company with multiple divisions that you could try switching around to so that you can experience different types of trucking without having to start up at another company and spend all that time having to re-establish yourself as a "go to" driver. These are the kind of things that will help you make a good solid decision. The folks with an APU don't sleep any more comfortably than guys like me who idle their trucks. Forget all that nonsense you have read about companies not allowing their employees to idle their trucks. You are their front line in this game, you are the face of the company when it comes to the customers perception, you are the one that wreaks havoc on their insurance rates if you are unsafe and unreliable. They want you to be comfortable and well rested, and I have never had anyone tell me "stop idling your truck, it is costing us too much money!" Now if you can't produce, and as an employee, you are more a liability than an asset, I'm not sure what you might hear - fortunately, I've never been in that camp.

Keep this focus and perspective:

Certainly willing to admit I honestly know very little about trucking industry at this point, but that is why I am here, doing my due diligence, and trying to learn.

This business is complex. It is mysteriously misunderstood by many of the people who are heavily involved in it. That is why there is so much misinformation out there that one will expose themselves too if left to their own research. We see it everyday, well meaning people like you, trying their best to make a start in the business and coming into our forum with perceptions and misguided sentiments that were formed through their own diligence in trying to research the career on the internet. Unfortunately, this world of information that we are enjoying these days is rife with misinformation.

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.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

APU's:

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

I wanted to ask you (or anyone else, feel free to chime in) about flatbed actually. It seems that a lot of people don't want to mess with it. Maybe they are not physically fit enough to do it, or just don't like to get their hands dirty, or be out in the rain, or sweat, or whatever. None of those issues apply to me.

But what that also tells me is that there should be opportunity there. Does flatbed generally pay better, for those of us who are willing to do that kind of work (which I am)? How much more, and is the increase in pay (if any) worth it?

In my estimation, if they pay barely any more, or the same, why bother? You could just stay in your nice comfy truck hauling boxes of dry freight around and not getting your hands (and clothes) dirty, sweating, etc...

I am a flat-bedder, I do this type of trucking because it is what I enjoy. I like the physical aspect of it. I like the fact that I have to understand the calculations that are necessary to make sure a load is secured properly. I enjoy being challenged each day with something new. I take pride in my work - I want you to look at my loaded truck when you see me on the highway and think to yourself, "Wow, it looks like that guy did a great job on that load, it looks nice and neat and it appears that it could go through a tornado and still stay on the bed of the trailer!"

Some of the stuff that a flat-bedder thinks about with his load is discussed in this old thread about securing a flat-bed load. You might enjoy taking a look at that.

The one thing that usually sets a flat-bedder apart from the other drivers is that he loves what he does, and he takes great pride in his skills and his knowledge of the principles of load securement. There is no way at this point for you to know if that really applies to you, but this statement kind of tells me that your main concern is making the most money for your time and effort:

In my estimation, if they pay barely any more, or the same, why bother? You could just stay in your nice comfy truck hauling boxes of dry freight around and not getting your hands (and clothes) dirty, sweating, etc..

Here's something to consider though - Brett was never a flat-bed driver, but he was a top earner as a truck driver. I love flat-bedding, and I am also at the top of the food chain. It really doesn't make a whole lot of difference in which type of freight you are hauling. Each of them has their positives and negatives. If you can find one that you really enjoy, learn to be the best you can be at that type of freight. The money always follows the best performers, not necessarily the best type of freight.

I've got some guys on my fleet that are pulling the same flat-bed freight that I pull, and running in the same group of customers, yet they are constantly complaining that they can't make any money! I asked our manager the other day about some of the ones who I constantly hear complaining. Here is what he said: "Dale, they can't manage their clock, they don't have any understanding about time management. You never seem to have a problem with it. I assign you a load, and you take care of it - I don't have to worry about whether it will be on time or not - you always seem to have hours available to you. The guys you are talking about are constantly on the phone with me telling me they have to shut down because they are up against the clock. I have tried to teach them, but they just don't get it. I'm thinking about letting you do a seminar for our new drivers - what do you think of that idea?"

That is good solid evidence of what we are always trying to teach people in here about being top performers. Being one of the go to guys really has nothing to do with how much endurance you have to sit in the drivers seat for long periods of time, but it has everything to do with understanding how the Hours of Service rules work, and how to work with them instead of against them. In fact, it would be a really good idea for you to start right away by going through our High Road Training Program. It is absolutely free and has a really great section in it on the log rules. Everything in that program is top notch study materials for a green horn like yourself. Get started tonight, cause it is going to take you several weeks to work your way through it, and it will be time well spent.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

See, now there I understand the APU thing. Thanks for taking the time to explain. In truth, I think that blog post I read was a bit dated. And as I said, I think I'm starting to come around to understanding how this industry actually works, thanks largely to posts by people like you and Brett and others around this site.

And here's the thing about me: I apply reason and critical thinking, including being aware of and even questioning my own logical biases. I suspect that you will agree with me that the vast vast majority of people out there in this world today do not do this (and in fact are likely completely unfamiliar with the concept of a logical bias in the first place). As you said in one of your posts, you could give someone a mountain of facts, truth, information but if their biases do not allow them to see the truth then there is nothing you can do about it. Lead a horse to water and all that...

And like you said yes there is a lot of information on the internet - almost too much in fact!. That doesn't mean I value it all equally. You can find "evidence" to support almost any belief you care to hold, no matter how extreme, no matter how dis-provable it is by applying simple logic and rationality. Unfortunately critical thinking skills are not taught in our schools any more these days (and maybe they never were).

I also fully understand that "a little knowledge is dangerous" and believe in the 10,000 hours to competency thing. Heck, remember I was the one to post a link to Dunning-Kreuger principle for Chrissakes (btw, have you had a chance to read that yet?)! LOL!

Having said all of that, what I want to know is if I put in all that time and effort, if I cancel my current life and adopt this new one, learn, eat humble pie, gain enough experience to reduce mistakes to the minimum possible, and do all the things one needs to do to be successful, will the pay materialize in the end? It would seem that the answer is yes, based on some of the things I have been reading around this site. Well, at least for the time being, as I see some disturbing trends on the horizon that may affect the industry for better (globalization(?)) or worse (globalization(?), ever growing corporate power, consolidation, etc.). In short, it's starting to appear to me that I can get in still at this time and make the money I expect / need to, over the course of the next few years. After that point, well, I dunno, and it won't matter because I will have the capital to do what I ultimately want to do anyway and drop out of the system altogether.

Finally, I just wanted to say that I am enjoying reading the posts you linked me to. I just finished the one with your story about going over George Washington bridge into NYC with a wide load. Entertaining story, I smiled at a few points. And it was cool that you brought your daughter along for the ride! :) But here is an illustration of exactly what I am talking about: For all your trouble on that run, how much did you get paid? Because I am pretty sure that the company charged the customer a pretty penny on that load, what with all the parameters, wide load, through NYC, closing a bridge, and all the rest. And marked that all up to the customer. So, for your part in it, all your care in securing the load and transporting it, your responsibility, the ticket you received and presumably had to pay out of pocket (only $50 but easily could have been much worse by the sounds of it), how much was your share of the take? Recognizing of course the company owns the equipment, pays the fuel, and must pay the dispatcher , mechanic, and everything else and then make a profit of course. But how much profit did they make out of that load, vs how much did you make, and is that split fair, given the fact that you bore a much greater portion of the responsibility in delivering it safely and undamaged? And therein sort of lie the crux of my argument. Yes you made a rookie mistake not knowing some specifics about the bridge. But these things are bound to happen. And we as drivers are expected to have to roll with the punches. But how often is the company expected to roll with the punches? Not often is what I'm imagining, although I could be wrong.

Maybe this does not apply to the trucking industry at all, but my experience in working for some of these corporations the last couple years, since I shuttered my own business of 20 years, has been a real eye opener for me. When I had my business I tried to take as good of care of my employees as I could afford to (and sometimes more than I could afford to) because to me as a small business owner they were my most valuable asset. But that mentality has seemed to go out the window nowadays, with everything just becoming a race to the bottom. This is what unfettered capitalism is, by design. The companies keep making more and more, and we the workers (because we are just another expense that needs to be reduced) keep making less and less, while bearing none the less of the workload nor responsibility, and in some cases our share of the load and responsibility has actually increased. But again, these are general trends applying to the economy and workplace in general, and not to trucking companies specifically, necessarily, although I cannot imagine that they have remained untouched by these larger trends.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

Space Truckin's Comment
member avatar

Great discussion Old School, (and others)!

Yes you are right, my focus right now is making money. Perhaps that will change at some point in the future. You made a really good point about joining a bigger company with many divisions, one where I could move laterally without needing to start all over again and become known at a new outfit. I think you can tell I am highly suspicious of big companies, lol, but I have to give that one to you, it's is a legitimate point.

As far as flatbed vs dry box vs reefer , which are the most common? Or are the differences in numbers not that much to worry about? My sense is to start out in something that is more/most common (dry box?), so that the most potential loads might be available. Until I settle into some niche I might enjoy (which, as you correctly point out, I don't even know what that is yet). Unless those "more common" loads pay less than others, but it seems that you are saying this is not the case.

Same philosophy why I want to obtain all endorsements, TWIC , passport, and any other credential I can get my hands on. Because it opens up the possibilities of more different types of loads being available. It's just numbers, really. So I can keep busy, loaded, and making money as much as possible.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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