How To Make More Money In Trucking

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Old School's Comment
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Editor's Note: See also The Complete Guide To Truck Driver Pay

This is a favorite topic of mine. I have done very well in this career, and I like to help others see their way to success. One thing that stands out to me as I observe new drivers is their unwillingness to commit themselves to making themselves into a driver who is worth more money. They always seem to think the path to more money is switching companies or becoming a lease/operator or owner/operator.

Very seldom (more like never) do I see people trying to figure out how to be more effective in their job, or how to maximize the use of their time. It's always this idea that says I have to be looking elsewhere, and therefore they seldom ever obtain their goal which keeps them very disgruntled in their career. They are always considering their options, but never seem to see the one option that is helpful.

To make more money in trucking you simply focus on producing better results.

You can do that at any company. It takes time, commitment, and resolve. All of that is difficult to face head on because it makes us focus on the real issue. It's not nearly as easy as switching companies, and it requires us to accept the blame for our own shortcomings. Most of us prefer the path of least resistance, and the easiness of laying blame outside of our own responsibilities. Thus trucking has it's own culture of complaining malcontents - it's a non stop whine-fest of people who can't seem to make enough money.

For some strange reason people get their CDL and their head explodes with the idea that they are suddenly valuable. There is no such thing as instant value in trucking. Nobody becomes a valuable asset overnight or even during their first year or two. Experience breeds expertise, and value is built on the foundation of consistent execution of that expertise.

I'm pulling a quote from another conversation in our forum to illustrate this. Listen as a relatively new driver says...

The only reason I’d even consider owner operator is because I’m locked into a low mileage rate. I’d love to get .67 a mile. I’m not sure if the hassle is worth it though. I may have to switch companies though if I want a raise. I’m considering my options right now.

I have no idea what "low mileage rate" this driver thinks they are locked into. But, I started my career at 27 CPM , and managed to turn that into almost $50,000 my rookie year. I never once focused on my CPM rate. I never once "considered my options." I committed myself to executing my duties in a way that nobody else was even attempting. I focused on being the most productive driver that company had ever seen. All my thoughts and efforts were to improve my results - that is key to success at trucking. Everybody focuses on changing their circumstances and it's completely ineffective. The only way you become valuable in this business is to be valuable.

You can be a job hopper. You can be an owner/operator. You can be anything that you aren't right now, but it will never result in increasing your value like honestly and consistently evaluating and improving your results. Set goals for yourself and don't stop until you've reached them. Then set higher goals. Be realistic, be honest with yourself, examine each week's results and see if you can see what it is that would help you be more productive. That's the key to profit in trucking. You've got to fine tune your own strategies for productivity. We get paid based on our productivity. That's the key takeaway here.

Be hyper productive. Be successful. Be happy and content. Quit looking outside yourself for more money. You can measure out your own pay in this career. I made a killing starting at 27 CPM, while my companions complained and quit the company or even gave up on trucking altogether. Value is something we build ourselves. It doesn't come from the name on our truck doors, nor does it come from who actually owns the truck. Value in trucking comes from what the driver can actually accomplish with the truck.

Show Me The Money

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.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Another fantastic gem from Old School! Great stuff.

The very first thing I look for when trying to evaluate the potential that someone has is their sense of personal responsibility for their own results in life. If you'll listen for it you'll find that everyone falls into one of two categories; those who are constantly trying to make themselves better and those who think the cause of their problems is always outside themselves. This latter category is the "complain, blame, and criticize" group that our modern society seems to be nurturing in terrifyingly large numbers. They don't know how to do anything well themselves, but somehow they don't see any shortcomings in themselves, only faults in others. They're also uncoachable. They don't realize that the easiest, surest path to success is to start by heeding great advice from the right people.

You'll also find two vastly different levels of success amongst those types.

As Old School said brilliantly, continuously look for ways to make yourself better. That's the ticket to becoming a truly valuable Top Tier Driver who is making top wage and getting all the special perks.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

OH! Let me add something to that. There is unfortunately no shortage of bad advice out there on just about any subject, but trucking is especially rife with bad actors. You will also find two distinct groups amongst people giving advice; those who are always telling you how to become better, and those who are always blaming, complaining, and criticizing others.

The easiest way to avoid getting career advice from the wrong people is to find experienced professionals who have been very happy and successful in their careers and are willing to teach you how to get better. So when you come across the many grumpy old curmudgeons out there who are constantly negative about everything to do with a career in trucking you know you're not getting career advice from the right people.

Look for the people who are happy, successful, and always willing to point out how you can make yourself better. Those are the people to listen to.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Old School, your timing could not have been more impeccable, for me.

There's not a whole lot I can change about my manager, or the company I'm with, but I can look at my own performance. I'm on a dedicated route with a set weekly schedule, so it's not as though speeding up my turnaround time would put me back on the road sooner. The only difference getting back to the yard sooner brings me, is more time home between runs. So in that sense, yeah, the sooner I get home the more I have made for myself hourly.

In that regard, I have sort of maxed out the possibilities of this job. It served its purpose. I needed something boring, and ordinary and somewhat predictable so that I could clean up my record and get a few years between my last company and the present. We have had a couple of raises, and that's been good, but as far as my particular job is concerned, I can't do much more. I don't get bonuses for safety, and yet I am one of the few drivers out of the 22 here who has been completely accident-free. and when the roads are closed in Wyoming, if another driver going in same direction has chosen to drive that route, however in our dangerous, somehow I'm the bad guy for choosing not to.

Blech. Could I run a little harder sometimes? Absolutely. But I think it's safe to say that I am burned out with this guy and this run and probably have been for 6 to 12 months. Sometimes I even get excited when there's foul weather and it's dangerous, just because it's more of a challenge for me.

At the very least, I've driven this route each way, 700 + times, 450,000 miles. I admit, there are nights when I couldn't give a crap, as long as I get there safely.

Sometimes I actually get a little worried that I'm too casual about this route because I know it so well.

And come to think of it, it's not so much the money today. If I got paid the same or even a little bit less, I'd be happy to do something else. For that reason alone, although there are many others, I need to find a new job and a new company.

-mountain girl

Dedicated Route:

A driver or carrier who transports cargo between regular, prescribed routes. Normally it means a driver will be dedicated to working for one particular customer like Walmart or Home Depot and they will only haul freight for that customer. You'll often hear drivers say something like, "I'm on the Walmart dedicated account."

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.

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.

Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

Mountain Girl, I can see your point about getting restless in your situation. I just wanted to comment on how different it is for an experienced driver like yourself to be thinking about a change than for rookies like me to start thinking about switching companies after just a short time with a company. We don't see much on TT from experienced drivers complaining about their company, most of it comes from the new drivers, many times while they're still in school or training!! And when a seasoned driver makes a career change, it's almost always for a sound reason. For new drivers in their first year, it's usually a case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

No individual driver is going to change company policy. The only things we have the power to change are things about ourselves, like Old School has pointed out. If we make ourselves better drivers, we make our companies better at the same time.

So if you want a new challenge, go for it! You have the experience to make a good decision and I hope it works out well for you when and if you decide make a career change.

mountain girl's Comment
member avatar

Thanks, Bruce.

You probably weren't around here when I was a rookie driver, but I went through two companies in my first-year and a half, myself. The first company had a brand new training program, although it is a big organization. I had arrived there with a new CDL , but when I didn't pass their test after their 6-week course, they didn't quite know what to do with me. Looking back, they could have easily trained me one more week and re-tested me but the trainer was not going to have any of that. Back then, he kinda' "made sure" I didn't pass. I learned later that some time after that, he got busted with a DUI , lost his trainer position, and ended up on the dock, there. Karma got him.

The second company I worked for turned out to be just as bad, if not, worse. I was a p/d and (occasional) longhaul driver. A combination driver. Of the females they hired to be drivers there, the only ones who didn't get set up for failure were the ones who were married to drivers already working there. Out of 120 drivers, seven were females, and all 5 of us single, female drivers were fired, eventually --all having been given multiple delivery routes into mountain switchbacks, tiny city docks, and any situation possible, that was too difficult for a new driver --just so that we would end up with enough accidents that we'd be fired.. I can say from experience, if you were female, blonde, and single, Old Dominion was NOT the place for you.

Regardless, Old School is referring to situations inside the norm, where if you made yourself useful and indepensible, by your willingness to hustle, you would naturally get more runs from the dispatcher and make more money than the common complainer, for sure.

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.

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.

DUI:

Driving Under the Influence

NeeklODN's Comment
member avatar

Have to add this to the conversation. It's a Message I sent my dispatcher this morning.

0252768001557324661.jpg

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.
Tractor Man's Comment
member avatar
I learned later that some time after that, he got busted with a DUI , lost his trainer position, and ended up on the dock, there. Karma got him.

Gotta love that S#!T!!!

smile.gif

DUI:

Driving Under the Influence

Grumpy Old Man's Comment
member avatar

I have only been solo for 45 days.

My first trainer got loads of 200 - 350 miles and travelled from truck stop to truck stop, sat to be unloaded at places we could have dropped and hooked to milk his clock, since we are hourly. We would get to a truck stop with 12 hours or more to our appointment. He would look for reasons to get his truck serviced, snow shoveled off the trailer, etc.

My second trainer ran hard, stoppped anywhere we could find, are, slept, and started driving again. He consistently got long mileage loads.

I have been striving to run like the second guy. I rarely live unload or stop unless I have to. I consistently get high mileage runs, and turn 55 to 60 hours or more a week, with as much of that time as possible driving.

This week, my wife is on vacation. I don’t get vacation for a year. I got home Monday with 25 minutes on my clock. My load was scheduled to deliver Thursday after my reset. I messaged my DM and asked if he could switch it to Tuesday and let me sit till Friday 1600 or so because my wife was on vacation and wanted me to visit the grandkids with her.

No reply for 15 minutes, then my load came over scheduled for Friday at 1700, and a message saying enjoy.

It pays to strive to do your best.

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.
Rob T.'s Comment
member avatar
Have to add this to the conversation. It's a Message I sent my dispatcher this morning.

Neek that is a great idea. You handled it professionally and it shows your dispatcher you want to be the best you can. Many times they're able to look at your logs and see how you could have saved time. At a bare minimum it'll show him you want more work.

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.
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