Possible Career Transition

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Lusion's Comment
member avatar

Hello All,

I have been lurking for some time now doing a bit of research and enjoying the rookie and veteran stories. I finally decided to make a post because every time I walk into my office it feels like a little bit of me is being torn away and that I'll never get it back. I have always been interested in trucking and my wife's uncle and cousins are all truckers. I turned to them for advice and although they have been trucking for years they all proclaimed that their method was better than the others. So here I am.

I have no delusions of what I would have to sacrifice to become a truck driver. Not just on earnings but also with the loss of face time with my wife and kids. However for my own mental well being this is something that needs to be done. Where I have conflicting information, for which I now turn to you fine ladies and gentleman, is what would be the earning potential for a truck driver. I've gathered that your first year is especially low because I would be learning to drive and proving myself. However, I also see some people be very content with making 40 thousand a year after their first year which would not work for me and my plans for retirement. I have already resigned to selling my home which is fine since the value has nearly doubled since I bought it. I am considering moving to a more remote area of North Texas where I could purchase a home cash and lower my cost of living. So here are my questions:

(I have read most of this forum but information and opinions change every day so I apologize if you feel a certain section of this forum already covers my questions.)

What is the ballpark earnings potential for a company operator?

What type of freight would pay more or method of transporting (ie. Flatbed, Reefer , Dryvan)? I have been leaning heavily towards flatbed because of the challenge of securing loads and because I feel is the one where I could get the most physical exercise.

I have read on this forum that a new driver should take advantage of company sponsored training and the family said I should just get my CDL and go work hauling glass. I'm not sure I feel confident in being able to learn all that I need to myself and be an effective driver that doesn't have bad habits. I worry about picking up bad habits however the idea of being with a trainer for X amount of weeks also worries me.

I had more questions but at 12:15am I seem to have forgotten them. I apologize for the ramble and the order of my writing. Thanks!

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.

Dryvan:

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

Company Sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

Mary H.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello Rui,

I am a long-time lurker here, too, but also an experienced driver. I've actually had 2 driving careers. The first was back in the '90's when I was 20-something. Like you, I started to feel more and more detached from my current job and driving truck seemed like a great way to escape from the everyday drudgery of the office. And, it was a great escape, for me!

My first trucking job was with one of the "mega" truckload carriers. They had a school of their own, which I attended, and then I worked for them for one year, honoring the commitment I had made in exchange for the training they provided. I made about $36,000 that year, which was about average for first year drivers at that company. I was safe and reliable, but I didn't push too hard. I wasn't in it for the money so much as the lifestyle. I would say that nowadays you could make anywhere from the 35 to 55K driving over the road in your first year. It really just depends on how quickly you can learn to operate safely, efficiently and productively out there.

I quit that job after 1 year for personal reasons and pursued another line of employment for the next 20 years and then in my late 40's decided to go back to driving truck. This time I attended a private school and was able to land a "local" driving job right out of school. I am home every day, sleep in my own bed, and usually have 2 days off per week (sometimes only 1). I am paid hourly, average about 55 hours per week, and I made just shy of 70K in my first year.

My point in responding to you is that there is a wide range of opportunity for first year earnings as a driver. It depends what kind of job you pursue and how you perform, but anywhere from mid-30's to 70K is possible.

Living near Dallas, there is likely opportunity for you to land a "local" driving job right out of school, but I'm not sure if that is something you'd be interested in. It sounds more like you're leaning towards over the road driving. And, if you move to a remote part of Texas, then OTR will probably be your only option, anyway.

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.

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.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Rui and thanks for stepping out of the shadows.

So yes, agree with Mary's summary. Just a couple of things I'd like to add.

Tricking is highly competitive and performance based. If you are able to prove yourself, drive safe and make your delivery times your income will likely increase and go above the "average" level. Not so much the first year, but beyond that if you are a top performer you will also be a top earner.

A suggestion on local work; get several months of OTR before attempting a local job. Even better if you give OTR a full year commitment before attempting the local transition. Local work is many times far more challenging than a rookie driver can handle with their limited experience.

Unlike Mary I chose to continue driving for the company that trained me. I do completely agree with her regarding the opportunities available for a driver beyond their first year. That is also true for the company you started with. Into my fourth year with Swift..no reason to look elsewhere.

Good luck and let us know how else we can assist you.

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.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

I want to welcome both Rui C, and Mary H!

First I also want to give a big thumbs up to Mary H. That was just about one of the best first posts from an experienced driver in here in a long time! Miss Mary, you deserves some dancing bananas! dancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gif

Rui, Mary is correct when she speaks about how important your location is when it comes to the possibilities of getting a local job as a rookie driver. It is actually pretty rare for new drivers to be able to land those local positions, but those who live in an area where there are a lot of those jobs available are definitely more likely to land one. It is the old supply and demand thing working itself out.

You expressed your concerns about how to get started well when you said this...

I have read on this forum that a new driver should take advantage of company sponsored training and the family said I should just get my CDL and go work hauling glass. I'm not sure I feel confident in being able to learn all that I need to myself and be an effective driver that doesn't have bad habits.

Many truck drivers who have been doing this for a good while don't realize how things have changed as far as the best procedures to follow when getting started as a greenhorn. It is certainly possible for anyone to get a CDL on their own. Years ago I owned a very small fleet of trucks, and I would help employees of mine go down and obtain their class A CDL by showing them what to study and then allowing them to use one of my trucks to take the driving test in. It wasn't a lot of trouble on my part, and I got another legal driver on board that way. We were using our trucks to haul our own products, and it was fairly easy to train them sufficiently for what we needed them for.

Eventually I started having trouble getting my insurance provider to accept my new drivers that came on board this conventional way. What once was common place is now not such an acceptable method, and it is all because the insurance companies began to insist that drivers had some form of training that satisfied their willingness to take that driver on as a liability that they were going to be required to pay for. Most professionally run trucking companies now days will no longer accept a new driver unless he can produce a training certificate indicating 160 hours of training which generally will come from one of the private Truck Driving School Listings, or a Company-Sponsored Training Program. It can be done either way, based on your personal preference.

I chose to go through a private school when I got into this for my second career, but since then have realized that the company sponsored route is an excellent way to go with little or no out of pocket expenses to incur. Don't let yourself get all wound up over the commitment it requires. There is no "free lunch." You can't just expect someone to go to the expense of training you (national averages put this expense at roughly ten thousand dollars) and then letting you just go scotch free wherever you want to go. That one year commitment is more important to your success than the few short weeks of training in my opinion. It is during that time that you will develop your skills and begin to get a handle on how things work at your company. Don't be fooled by the ingrates who call it "slave labor." It is all a part of your training if you want to do well at this, and it is only fair that you make a commitment to the folks who took such a risk on you as a newbie commandeering one of their nice powerful rigs across the country.

Continued...

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.

Company Sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

Company-sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar
I've gathered that your first year is especially low because I would be learning to drive and proving myself. However, I also see some people be very content with making 40 thousand a year after their first year which would not work for me and my plans for retirement.

Rui, one of the things you have got to keep in mind is that this whole career is performance based. The movers and shakers are at the top of the food chain. To do well, you have got to perform well. That means bringing your "A" game into play everyday, and that is a tough proposition in this business. It requires commitment, dedication, good sound judgement, and being able to make quick decisions on the fly. The target is constantly moving in this business, and for some that is overwhelming. I have always been a top producer out here, but it isn't always easy. I recently got this message from my dispatcher...

1fa7cbbf-9c07-4e65-8e35-c8a90827f192_zpsb4cdf5e8-c8a0-4097-b741-6bd801198d41_zps

The point of sharing that with you is to point out that he is amazed that I consistently get it done. He is accustomed to drivers who let him down quite often. I'm not even saying they are bad drivers, I'm just trying to help you realize that this is a tough gig at times. If you want to do well, and make good money at it, then the onus is on you. Don't get hoodwinked into this current trend of thinking among drivers that if they could just find the right company they could be making a fortune! I've met drivers out here who have been chasing that elusive dream for twenty years now, and the only place they need to look to understand why they aren't doing well at this is in the mirror.

You can make a decent salary out here, I know that is true, because I have been doing it consistently since I first started. Top pay is going to level out somewhere in the 65,000 - 75,000 dollar range at this point in time, but I'm being honest with you when I say that relatively few ever manage to make those kinds of dollars. It is possible, and it is doable, but you must work for it.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

Mary H.'s Comment
member avatar

Miss Mary, you deserves some dancing bananas! dancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gif

rofl-2.gifthank-you.gif

Lusion's Comment
member avatar

I'm so rusty with HTML but hopefully this comes out right.

Rui, one of the things you have got to keep in mind is that this whole career is performance based. The movers and shakers are at the top of the food chain. To do well, you have got to perform well. That means bringing your "A" game into play everyday, and that is a tough proposition in this business. It requires commitment, dedication, good sound judgement, and being able to make quick decisions on the fly. The target is constantly moving in this business, and for some that is overwhelming. I have always been a top producer out here, but it isn't always easy. I recently got this message from my dispatcher...

I am more than prepared to get in there and work my butt off and prove myself. An always moving target is what I desire. I currently sit in my office glazed over for 8 hours and then leave.

The point of sharing that with you is to point out that he is amazed that I consistently get it done. He is accustomed to drivers who let him down quite often. I'm not even saying they are bad drivers, I'm just trying to help you realize that this is a tough gig at times. If you want to do well, and make good money at it, then the onus is on you. Don't get hoodwinked into this current trend of thinking among drivers that if they could just find the right company they could be making a fortune! I've met drivers out here who have been chasing that elusive dream for twenty years now, and the only place they need to look to understand why they aren't doing well at this is in the mirror.

You can make a decent salary out here, I know that is true, because I have been doing it consistently since I first started. Top pay is going to level out somewhere in the 65,000 - 75,000 dollar range at this point in time, but I'm being honest with you when I say that relatively few ever manage to make those kinds of dollars. It is possible, and it is doable, but you must work for it.

I understand the stay with a company and work your tail off but in some instances the company really isn't the best fit. I feel like Prime would be a good place to go for training but potentially not to stay with long term. I could be all the way wrong about Prime but I don't have a calling to be a L/O in the near future and it seems like the only way you can make money with them is to become a L/O and also be a trainer.

I am fearful of making the wrong decision. Specifically the type of freight I'd be pulling in the first year. I believe I would like to do flatbed but what are some of the pros and cons if each type?

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar
I understand the stay with a company and work your tail off but in some instances the company really isn't the best fit. I feel like Prime would be a good place to go for training but potentially not to stay with long term. I could be all the way wrong about Prime but I don't have a calling to be a L/O in the near future and it seems like the only way you can make money with them is to become a L/O and also be a trainer.

You are not only all the way wrong about Prime, but you are not understanding how each of these big companies has a core group of rock solid drivers who are the back-bone of their operation. I don't care which carrier you can name, they have got some really solid drivers there who have been their "go to guys" for years.

I'm not even sure how you came to those assumptions about Prime, but I'd like to hear your explanation. We've had many company drivers at Prime who did quite well with them, and never felt any need to enter a lease.

I want to reiterate my stance that you will be the deciding factor in your success. Countless drivers out here never understand that concept, and they spend their whole careers making statements like you just did concerning Prime, all because they do not understand that success at this career comes to those who simply apply themselves where they are, stick it out through thick and thin while they learn how their chosen company operates internally, and are super productive while being easy to get along with.

I don't know what your income expectations are, and you don't necessarily need to let us know what you are looking for. I'm thinking you may already have false expectations, and trust me, misconceptions and false expectations are some of the top reasons why new drivers fail at this endeavor. I tried to lay it out for you in very clear numbers above, and even gave the caveat that few drivers reach those levels. I know you think you can do this just as well as the best of them, but realize if it were relatively easy there would be a lot more top producers out here, and these companies would not be constantly trying to figure out ways to get drivers in the seat of their trucks.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

I guess I may have perceived some comments on a different forum, facebook and on youtube the wrong way. It's difficult to cut through the bullsugar at times and determine what is authentic. I opted to post on this forum because of the wealth of wisdom and sincerity most of you have. Again, I did admit that I could be all the way wrong.

I have an expectation to provide for my family whilst enjoying what I do to provide for them. What I currently earn could never be met by being a trucker and I have already come to terms with that. That is why the house will be sold and smaller home in a smaller town is the plan. I have the material things I have now because my income supported it. I am more concerned with being happy than I am driving (insert car brand here). Or living in some house that's larger than we truly need.

I don't feel like I can do as well or better than the top earners. I have never driven a truck, I wouldn't know the first thing about being a top producer. I just want to make the right decisions going into it so to minimize regrets. Also, I don't know what in what I said lead you to assume that I feel as though I can come in and be a top driver. You seem to have taken my ignorance with Prime and taken it personally and then made assumptions of my thought process.

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.
Lusion's Comment
member avatar

You seem to have taken my ignorance with Prime and taken it personally and then made assumptions of my thought process.

And this too is an assumption.

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