Looking For A Career Change; Need Some Guidance

Topic 19587 | Page 1

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Bob O.'s Comment
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I love driving. period. end-of-story. When going on family vacations, I would ask the wife and son if we could drive instead of fly (they both hated this part of the trips), but I loved it...being on the road was the BEST.

For 22 years I have successfully worked in the I.T. industry. I currently earn $78,000 making sure technology stuff doesn't break. But I am burned out.

I have a clean driving record, and a clean background (meaning I'd pass the TSA Hazmat background check).

Is there any chance that I'd be able to earn 60K as an OTR trucker or Hazmat trucker?

I have been doing my research, but oddly, I have more questions now than I did before I began researching. For example, I see salary surveys that put OTR salaries in the 60-70K range, but then I find the naysayers who post negative stuff that might be closer to the truth.

I totally understand that my first year will be rough...and I know that on day 366, my pay won't magically go up, but can I realistically make a living as a truck driver? (I define make a living as: pay mortgage/utilities/groceries).

My wife will be done with nursing school in December 2018, and then I wouldn't worry at all about this salary crap...but I need to make sure that between now and December 2018 she can focus on school and not worry about bills.

(Sidebar: I am also considering working in IT for 2 more years, until she graduates. Right now, as I type this, I am laid off...for the first time ever in my career I'm laid off...but I am also back at work! I have been off for like 6 weeks and I already have an offer letter, but I don't want to sign it...I really want to go to CDL school then become an OTR trucker instead...I had hoped a prolonged layoff would rejuvenate me, but I literally began interviewing 4 days after my layoff, so technically I have working this entire time...in short, I will be back to work before my 2 month severance ends).

I know that entire sidebar sounds like a complaint *and* a good thing all at once, but trust me when you are burned out (even if it's something you love), it is hard to see the good parts.

So question #1 is about salary realities.

Question #2 is one I haven't found an answer to yet: Are salaries consistent month-to-month or do they fluctuate? It would suck to make 4k one month then only 2k the next. Does that type of financial swing occur, or are the salaries consistent once you start driving?

Thank you


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.


Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations


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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Bob!

Absolutely you can make $60k - $70k per year as a truck driver, but that won't happen your first year. It may or may not happen your second year. But if you keep doing everything right, working really hard, and focus on that goal it is totally attainable. We have quite a few drivers here in our forum that are making that kind of money, and even a little more maybe.

The obvious concern is that you need the money for the next two years, and not as much after that. The transition into trucking will be slow. The first few months you'll be in training and your salary will be rather low, probably in the range of $450 - $700 per week gross, depending on where you train and how things go. You can probably count on making $40k - $45k your first year if you really hustle and do things right.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is a performance-based industry and there is a large discrepancy between the top performers and the bottom performers. It's not uncommon for two drivers to not only be with the same company, but even have the same dispatcher , and one guy makes $65k and the other $45k. It all depends on you, especially once you've been established for 6 - 12 months and you've figured out how this game is played.

As what we refer to as a Top Tier Driver you'll learn to manage your time, lobby for miles, and employ all sorts of 'tricks of the trade' to turn more miles than most people will. You simply outwork the other drivers, and outthink them.

It's a tough call for you because of the fact that you need the money right now, and not as much in a couple years, which is when you would be able to count on that type of salary. We have plenty of drivers that have made $45k - $50k their first year, and $50k - $55k their second year, but of course these are Top Tier guys. They hustle, they're savvy, and they've learned as many tricks of the trade as possible.

Go through our Truck Driver's Career Guide and you'll learn a ton about how all of this works.


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
Are salaries consistent month-to-month or do they fluctuate? It would suck to make 4k one month then only 2k the next. Does that type of financial swing occur, or are the salaries consistent once you start driving?

It fluctuates, but rarely that much. You can have large week-to-week fluctuations because you might have a really long run pay off one day after this week's cutoff. So you might get a $550 check this week, and a $1600 dollar check next week.

You normally won't see more than maybe $1,000 difference from month to month, with the holiday season and post-holiday season possibly being an exception. You could see a big run up to Christmas and a pretty dismal January and February.

Vendingdude's Comment
member avatar

Bob, Brett has given you the Truth, for sure. You're in an interesting position, and I feel for ya. Short answer, you're not gonna exactly replace 78k out the gate. It could take years to get to that level, either by working your way up in a company or acquiring tenderfoot experience with company A and jumping to company B that pays better for experienced drivers.

I'm kinda curious about the other side of the equation. Namely, do you really need to make 78k? Can you cut down on lifestyle expenses? Can you move? Can you sell toys, eliminate lattes, whatever? Where do you live? Is there any way you could get by on a couple hundred dollars less per week?

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