Story: How Trucking Went From One Of The Best Jobs In America To The Worst

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Rick Dees's Comment
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I don't completely agree with this story but it makes some interesting points

How Trucking Went From One of the Best Jobs in America to One of the Worst

Adam B.'s Comment
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That article is pretty spot on about the downsides of trucking, at least on OTR. I wouldn't say trucking is one of the worst jobs, but it certainly is one of the most grueling and life changing jobs.

In my opinion, and to most people the hardest part about OTR is being away from home for weeks/months at a time. When people say OTR isn't a job, it's a lifestyle, they are not lying. Most people can't handle that and I think if companies want to reduce the driver shortage, they should really be looking at more home time for the drivers. Going along with this, while the HOS regulations say you can only work 70 hours in 8 days I believe that if I'm not home because of work, then I'm still working. That includes sleeping, watching tv, etc. If I'm stuck in the truck because of work, I'm still working. Now of course if you're not working, you're not making money which brings me to point 2.

I think being paid per mile is terrible. It's usually not accurate in the first place (end up driving more miles usually), plus it doesn't account for non driving work such as refueling, dealing with shippers/receivers, trip planning, etc. There is a ton of unpaid work in this industry. Turn that Qualcomm , elogs device into a time clock and start paying drivers hourly for on duty time. I'm sort of surprised the government lets this go unchecked for so long. This would bring a pay raise to drivers and would help offset the increased home time drivers can take.

Elog:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

Elogs:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

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.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
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Both the linked article ("MONEY" magazine) and the one through a link there ("The Atlantic") focus on leasing and driver contracting. Company drivers are not mentioned. There is a passage that Brett could have written:

Trucking companies outsource many of the risks and costs of trucking to truckers themselves while declining to pay for benefits, all while advertising the arrangement as one that empowers truckers as small business owners.

That's not to say company drivers get a much better break, annual pay of $40,000 is mentioned. I feel both articles are accurate, just remember leasing and contracting are highlighted.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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It was typical of articles you find way too often these days and I'm kinda surprised it's coming from such a well known entity. It's written by some guy who knows nothing about trucking, did an hour of research, tossed in a few stats, added a few common catchphrases like "indentured servitude" and "income at or below minimum wage" and "driver shortage", and published it so he could get onto the next one. His previous articles were about pot sales, grapes selling for outrageous prices in Japan, and the stock price of a gun manufacturer.

So there's no news here, really. Certainly nothing new to any of us.

If I'm stuck in the truck because of work, I'm still working

Unfortunately there are millions and millions of people who travel as a regular part of their jobs and rarely do they get paid when they're lying in their hotel room reading a book or sitting on a flight or eating a nice meal in a restaurant, just like you won't.

And to be honest, I think the worst thing that truckers can do is complain that they're not getting paid to take a nap or read a book. Our image is bad enough as it is without adding "complains about not being paid while sleeping" to the list. If truckers want to make more money we should target services we're providing to the company which the company is making a profit from. Ask for more mileage pay or extra stop pay. Ask for a bigger share of the profits the company is making from the work you're doing and people will at least listen. Ask to get paid while you're sleeping and people are just going to roll their eyes and think even less of us.

Old School's Comment
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YAWN...

More of the same old stuff from folks who don't understand the dynamics of success in this highly misunderstood industry.

I still have days where I am amazed that someone is paying me to do this job. Sure, everybody always thinks they are worth more than they are getting, but in trucking you actually have the power to do something about it. Of course I find that few drivers understand the competitive nature of this job, and in competitions only the best come out as winners.

If we had a few more winners and a lot less whiners we'd be getting a much clearer picture of this dynamic industry and how to succeed in it.

G-Town's Comment
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Brett wrote:

Unfortunately there are millions and millions of people who travel as a regular part of their jobs and rarely do they get paid when they're lying in their hotel room reading a book or sitting on a flight or eating a nice meal in a restaurant, just like you won't.

Describes my pre-trucking, professional life to a T. I never got paid for layovers, cancelled flights, delays, sleeping in the airport or sleeping in a hotel. When I was actively engaged in a project many times I'd leave at either o'dark thirty on a Monday morning or Sunday afternoon, returning home midnight on a Friday.

My Saturday was spent catching up on sleep, doing laundry and repacking for the following week.

I know many people, friends and my brother still in that rat race.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rick S.'s Comment
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Viscelli blames the decline of trucker fortunes on the rise of independent contracting—an arrangement wherein trucking companies outsource many of the risks and costs of trucking to truckers themselves while declining to pay for benefits, all while advertising the arrangement as one that empowers truckers as small business owners. But the reality can be anything but empowering. Viscelli notes that some contracts in which truckers lease their vehicles from companies bind them in an kind of indentured servitude until the full cost of the lease is paid. In some cases, a trucker who wants to switch companies or leave the job might be hit with a bill of as much as $65,000.

Yeah - agreed. But I wouldn't blame the ENTIRE DOWNFALL of the driver in the equation, on leasing. Though it is the same indictment of the reasons why leases aren't recommended here at TT.

Another part of the equation - at least for most folks here.

If you're young, and this is your first "career type job" - $40K a year for an ENTRY LEVEL POSITION, isn't bad - considering that many entry level jobs pay in the low $20's, even with a college degree (we're not talking lawyer or doctor here).

The downside to the decent starting pay is - it doesn't get that much better. The laws of physics (and HOS) limit your miles to around 3K a week (give or take), and topping out at the $0.55 (+/- - also factoring in bonus's for fuel/safety/etc.) doesn't give much room for upward mobility in the finance area of the career.

Many of us older folks - are looking at a second career, after much of a lifetime in another career. So $$ is a factor - but not a HUGE ONE (as compared to other young folks with kids at home/school, large overheads to carry, etc.).

It's not a whole lot of $$ for the LIFESTYLE (keeping in mind OTR trucking IS A LIFESTYLE - not just A JOB), but it becomes a LOVE for most that stay in it. So the "lifestyle" isn't considered "suffering", but actually a BENEFIT of the job.

The main body of the article in The Atlantic magazine - is more an indictment of the leasing model - than of the industry itself.

Do we get paid LESS for MORE HOURS of work than the average "hourly wage" employee? Obviously.

Would most drivers that are HAPPY with OTR Trucking as a lifestyle, trade it to be (possibly) PAID MORE for flipping burgers or something else? Highly unlikely. Would drivers that are doing this as a second/retirement career be happier doing "something else"? MOST LIKELY NOT - since what they are doing is ABOUT THE LIFESTYLE and NOT ABOUT THE MONEY.

Rick

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.
Tractor Man's Comment
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Another thing that wasn't mentioned in the article is that Wages in ALL sectors of the economy have been pretty much stagnant over the last 20+ years. In inflation adjusted dollars, most of us have less disposable income than we did in the 80's.

Rajinder M.'s Comment
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It was typical of articles you find way too often these days and I'm kinda surprised it's coming from such a well known entity. It's written by some guy who knows nothing about trucking, did an hour of research, tossed in a few stats, added a few common catchphrases like "indentured servitude" and "income at or below minimum wage" and "driver shortage", and published it so he could get onto the next one. His previous articles were about pot sales, grapes selling for outrageous prices in Japan, and the stock price of a gun manufacturer.

This article is basically just commenting on another article from The Atlantic (linked to in this article). If you read the Atlantic story, you'll see that it was written by U. of Penn sociologist Steve Viscelli who wrote a book called The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream.

Here's from the amazon description of the book:

"The Big Rig explains how this massive degradation in the quality of work has occurred, and how companies achieve a compliant and dedicated workforce despite it. Drawing on more than 100 in-depth interviews and years of extensive observation, including six months training and working as a long-haul trucker, Viscelli explains in detail how labor is recruited, trained, and used in the industry. He then shows how inexperienced workers are convinced to lease a truck and to work as independent contractors. He explains how deregulation and collective action by employers transformed trucking’s labor markets--once dominated by the largest and most powerful union in US history--into an important example of the costs of contemporary labor markets for workers and the general public."

It looks like this guy does his research and knows his stuff!

Old School's Comment
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It looks like this guy does his research and knows his stuff!

confused.gifrofl-1.gif

A guy who didn't last more than six months as a driver is now considered an expert who "knows his stuff!"

And as far as 100's of interviews goes...

I've spoken with plenty of drivers who don't have a clue, even after years of doing this.

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