College Or Truck Driving.

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David V.'s Comment
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Hi guys. So I have a pretty serious decision to make. I'm 19 years old. I took a year off school because....honesty I didn't like it. It's not somewhere i would like to be. BUT i am really good at it. Math, English, physics, science, it all comes easy to me. With that being said, I was granted this opportunity to work for a truck driving company making $16/hr as a temp. The pay will go up as I get hired & receive my license to drive trucks. To me, this seems like an extremely good job opportunity. Especially because of my age. Making that type of money, benefits, job security....it's really appealing. On the other hand, there's college. I plan on getting a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. I understand they make ~$50,000 + a year, and most likely benefits. The thing about the degree is it'll take me ~ 5 years and cost me ~ $20,000 (if I'm lucky - going to comm. college for 2 yrs.) to graduate with the degree. PLUS I'll have the work part-time. I just don't want to look back in five years thinking i should of got the degree or think " I should of took job." What's seems like the most beneficial, practical, logical answer for a 19 year old. ? Hopefully your years of experience and expertise can help me. Put yourself in your 19 year old shoes. Thank you.

David V.'s Comment
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*Mechanical Enginnering make ~$70,000

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Dave, I have been a schoolteacher, and I see some stuff in your message that I think predicts your decision. No, I'm not going to say "Go to College" because for some people it's really not the best thing.

For your current trucking job you say "To me, this seems like an extremely good job opportunity." And you list the benefits. True, at the Over The Road Semi-truck driver level, most people aim for $40,000/year to start (with those medical, etc. bennies.) On top of that you claim you didn't like (high?) school. College certainly is a different ball game from how High School works - mainly you have your own responsibility to get things done.

Then you are considering Mechanical Engineering. Lots of math and physics in there. And these days, you may need to take come calculus classes, but in the real world, you'll do that heavy lifting with a tablet computer.

Here's the problem I see. Excuse me while I talk math. Rounding your age up to 20 to make this easier, "today" you see 5 years and all that money ahead of you for school. ONE FIFTH MORE OF YOUR LIFE (you graduate at 24/25) IN A CLASSROOM?? From my perspective at 65, I went to school a total of maybe 5 years to get an MBA. So for me that's one tenth of my life, "pocket change" for the experiences and satisfaction I have gotten. The investment of your time and learning will get you into a different place than driving a truck will. I also had opportunities to do other things, so I could spend several days thinking of "What if...?" But that's all behind me now.

Take a hard look at your expectations and ambitions - what do you want to get out of life? Will it be worth the investment?

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Big Scott (CFI Driver/Tra's Comment
member avatar

I agree with what Errol said. I would like to throw this idea at you. Until you are 21 you will only be able to drive intrastate. You could keep working with the trucking company. I assume you got a dock to driver position. If that's the case, you will eventually be running local routes and be home every night. You could start your degree online and work at you own pace while working the trucking job. By the time you get to classes that require your physical attendance, you may have the benefit of having the trucking company pay for some of your schooling. Also, If you get a CDL and protect and keep it, you would always be a refresher course away from a trucking job. FYI, I am 50 years old and did not have the technology to get unbiased life advice when I was your age. I wish you the best of luck in whatever path you choose. No matter what path you choose, in the long run, you will make more money and have more satisfaction, doing something you love.

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.

Intrastate:

The act of purchasers and sellers transacting business while keeping all transactions in a single state, without crossing state lines to do so.

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.

Calkansan's Comment
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With student loan debt so prevalent today, I would recommend driving for a few years to save the money to pay cash for college. Graduate college late 20's with no debt and you are way ahead of your peers.

Lynn H.'s Comment
member avatar

You remind me of my son. He is your age, and school has always been effortless for him. He went to college for about a year and a half and did well. But one day he thoughtfully explained that he did not want to have any debt and feels college is a waste of time. He wants to learn a trade, maybe be an electrician or welder. By his demeanor I could tell he'd pondered it thoroughly, and I feel he's making the best choice for him right now. I mean, I went to school for a gazillion years, and job-wise it's been of little benefit. My student loan debt is huge and ridiculous. Why would I recommend something that panned out so little.

But, it panned out otherwise. Several years ago I got accepted into a writing popular fiction masters degree program that's not that easy to get into. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and now I'm friends with all kinds of published authors, and I'm part of a warm community that has greatly contributed to my happiness and fulfillment. I'm still poor, but my artist's soul is happy. I never could have been a part of that if I hadn't finished my bachelor's.

You just don't know what doors might open. Something to consider.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Bear with me on this. It's long, but I've decided this is going to be the topic of my next podcast. So here's your essay:

I'm in the same boat as you. I was taking a college calculus course and getting straight A's at 16, was accepted into the Engineering Society at the University of Buffalo before I ever even attended my first day of class, and was also accepted into the Coast Guard Academy. Coulda been a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon or a Coast Guard officer if I had wanted to.

I didn't want to. Went to college one semester and quit. Boring as heck, felt like a total waste of time.

So in 1990, at 19 years, old I packed my bags and headed to Atlanta where I lived for a while in an old Chevy van with my buddy, who today is helping me run this website. We lived in parking lots for a couple of three-week stints, ate peanut butter and soup out of cans, and made $4.40/hr to start as temp workers and were hired full time soon after at $5.50/hr. Got to move up to an apartment in the ghetto, where shots rang out one night outside our door, so we moved back into the van in a parking lot in a safer area.

After getting a better apartment in a better ghetto I worked lowly jobs in the area until I went to truck driving school at 21 and got into OTR trucking. As you can imagine, becoming a truck driver was mortifying to my mom who knew I had opportunities that not 1 in a 1000 people could dream of.

That started a 15 year career in trucking, which lead to a long list of crazy adventures including travelling coast to coast for many years living in the truck, short stints living in various states, and several forays into other careers. That lead to starting my own small businesses and that's where I'm at today.

To me, your decision should be based on your personality. You can teach yourself way more relevant knowledge far more quickly using a combination of online learning and real world practice than you could ever learn in college. The problem is that no one is going to offer you any opportunities in the corporate world without that piece of paper saying you chased girls, drank a lot, and spent $50,000 in tuition over four years learning almost nothing of value. I swear I truly believe most jobs that require a college degree do so because the person doing the hiring had to waste tens of thousands of dollars and several years of their life in college, and now so must everyone else.

I've had numerous careers and even today I'm pursuing many other skill sets to add to the long list I already have, but traditional schooling isn't part of that strategy. However, I do pay for numerous online educational opportunities that mostly involve books, podcasts, and video tutorials. But you see, I don't need a job. I have my own business. No one cares if I have a graduation certificate or not, they only want to know if we can do the job.

So I'm thrilled with my life choices because they work for someone like me who's blessed with a great brain and is super highly ambitious. I love adventure, I love taking risks, and I love being challenged in every facet of my being. I also love running my own business.

But here's the downside that you have to be very aware of. Think about the ridiculousness of this scenario:

I went through my first computer programming book when I was about 11 or 12 years old. It was a 300 page book on the BASIC programming language, which I completed cover to cover, in about 1981 and I was using a Radio Shack TRS-80 at my grandpa's house.

In the late 90's I started pursuing hardcore programming, database, and server admin skills when I was still a truck driver on the road and the Internet was this amazing new thing. I transitioned out of trucking and started this website 10.5 years ago and have sat at this computer an average of probably 55 - 60 hours a week all these years, and almost lost my house and went bankrupt early on in the process.

I've learned programming in numerous languages, database admin, and linux server admin, all at very high levels and I have over a decade of real world experience running a large, successful website. I've built real-time GPS tracking systems, adaptive learning algorithms, and all of the software from scratch myself that runs this entire website, which handles millions of visitors every year.

And yet, if I needed a job in tech today the corporations would laugh at me. I literally wouldn't even get an interview because I never graduated from college. Even if they did give me an interview I would fail it in a matter of minutes because I don't know the right lingo and I haven't practiced the odd puzzles and off-the-wall theoretical questions I'm told they ask in these interviews.

....continued

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.

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.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

I'm thrilled with the path I've chosen because it's perfect for me. I would rather stab myself in the eye with a pen than be in the corporate world, and the corporate world is glad I feel that way, I can assure you. I'm fiercely independent, highly motivated, and fearless when it comes to throwing my entire life in the garbage and starting over in a new pursuit.

I've been a tree climber in my own tree service, Harley mechanic, welder, bus driver, truck driver, web developer, factory worker, and warehouse worker. I played guitar for many years, I tinker on the piano, I'm getting into rock climbing, and I have years of hiking and snowboarding behind me. I even raised cows, chickens, and turkeys and had a huge garden for a number of years. I'm now pursuing film, photography, and sound in an effort to add to the web development skills to pursue bigger and better business opportunities.

I can pretty much do anything, except land a decent paying job.

No one would dream of hiring me because I simply didn't take the path employers insist that you take. So for the rest of my life I will have little choice but to run my own businesses. And I intend to do exactly that anyhow.

So you don't have to go to college to make a lot of money or have an amazing life. But just understand that you're giving up a lot of easy opportunities by giving up college and you're taking on a much heavier burden, walking a far more difficult path, where you will have to either settle for blue collar work or forge your own path into the business world if you ever really want to have anything.

To survive long in business you have to be highly motivated, adventurous, courageous, creative, adaptable, full of unique ideas, talented, and willing to fight your way along a much more difficult path without a safety net. Choosing to avoid college usually means you're foresaking the easier path for the privilege of making your way through life on your own terms, but you'll pay a huge price for that privilege.

If you were to tell 100 people to get themselves to the top of a mountain, 90 of them would enjoy a quick and relatively safe ride in a helicopter, 9 of them would walk a long but relatively easy path with a few scary spots, and one of them would just grab a rope and harness and climb straight up the damn thing, risking their life every moment, grinding it out one gruelling inch at a time, for the privilege of having an experience you simply can't get any other way.

You simply have to choose the path that's right for your personality. Just don't kid yourself about who you are and what you're prepared to do. If you ain't the kind of dude who's gonna grab a rope and climb straight up the damn thing then don't start down that path. It's easy to drop out of college by tricking yourself into believing you're ready for the awesome challenge of greater pursuits, when in reality it's because you're lazy or you're bored.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

Blue Hotel's Comment
member avatar

Mechanical Engineering sounds like a good major. Opportunities for people who are excellent at math and science will always be there. Keep in mind that any type of engineering or STEM degree is performing a lot better on the job market than sociology or history, not that sociology and history aren't important things to learn about. If I were you, I'd become a mechanical engineer. The average trucker is around 50 years old, and the turnover rate is high, so the opportunity to switch careers and drive will be there for you for a long time. Unless, of course, robots and computers take over trucking. Then they'll probably need a mechanical engineer.

Also, if the job market gets tough, a mechanical engineer could become a teacher without going back to school simply because so many schools struggle to find people qualified to teach math and science to teenagers. Or so my friend who teaches at Richmond Public Schools says. I don't think she'd lie to me.

Everyone who has advised you here has spoken from their life experiences. Those experiences are valuable and insightful, and though I may contradict them in what I say, everything said here is worth considering.

What do you value? If it's money, get your degree and you'll have a bigger long-term payoff. Uber isn't working to automate mechanical engineers. Job opportunities of all sorts will be open to you, at least on paper.

If you want freedom, do both. Drive a truck, save your money, and pay for your college that way if you can. Have both experience driving and get your degree. Then your likelihood of being unemployed in the next recession will decrease. I was your age when the recession hit in 2008-2009. My only option was to go to college because nobody was hiring people my age and sitting around at home is a bad idea. I'm grateful that I did what I did at school, met the people I met, and so on. If I didn't go to college, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do some of the things I did there.

But things didn't work out the way I wanted them to. I think for everyone in the world, life doesn't go according to plan. You might get in that truck one day, thinking about all the money you're making, and then find Ms. Right, get married, and buy a farm somewhere instead. Or you might be like me. I got my degree, got my "dream job," then got fired unfairly within three weeks. Afterwards, I couldn't get hired elsewhere. So I went to trucking school. That might be you. Plans and schemes hardly work how you want them to.

Think about what will bring in the most money and job opportunities in the long run. Don't do something just because it makes you happy. Happy won't pay the bills in a recession, happy won't always put food on the table. Do what will make you money for the longest stretch of your life possible. Anyone who thinks money can't buy happiness has clearly never had to sleep in a house with no heat in the winter, had to take a cold bath, and had no chances at finding love because women don't date men who are broke (even if they are good men), and wives leave otherwise good husbands who are down on their luck. I'm telling you right now, the ruthless pursuit of the dollar is the only thing in life that makes sense.

Do both if you can, you'll make more money. If not, then pursue the degree.

That sounded so toxic. I'm sorry, I guess I'm not good at expressing my thoughts.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
I'm telling you right now, the ruthless pursuit of the dollar is the only thing in life that makes sense.

How sure of that are you?

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