Bookmobile Librarian Turned Trucker??

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Mountain Matt's Comment
member avatar

Hi Everyone,

First of all, thanks for this awesome site, with the great articles, podcast, and forum. Being a librarian (see below), I do my research from multiple sources, but I truly appreciate the good, no-nonsense but can-do approach found on here.

A bit of an intro to my situation: I've had my class B CDL for over 10 years now, as I drive a bookmobile for a public library (it's a 40' Bluebird bus chassis). For the past several years, I also supervise the bookmobile department, including the maintenance and operations of the bookmobile, as well as its 4 other drivers. I love driving the vehicle and learning about/dealing with the mechanical aspects of its operation; I hate having to not only deal with multiple bosses above me but also be a boss/bureaucrat to those that report to me (as much as I try to be a "cool boss," lol). The problem is, there is no way to make more money as a librarian unless you start supervising others and then eventually become a manager.

For years I've thought about becoming an OTR trucker, and I'm now divorced (again! I must be a delight! lol), and in about a year my kid will be off to college, leaving me with an empty nest. I'm increasingly bored and frustrated with my job, staring at the same walls (these days I spend much of my time in the office), dealing with bureaucracy and HR matters, project management, etc. I like traveling and deal well with solitude. In addition to living alone for about half my adult life, I also usually travel alone, hiking and backpacking solo. Though the transitions will be immense, I know, I figure some of those camping/backpacking skills will translate to living out of a truck on the road.

A further issue is that library jobs elsewhere don't pay as well as they do where I live (I'm near Chicago), unless I become a manager. I've always wanted to relocate somewhere out West eventually, but I feel locked into this job. It makes me a bit nervous and feeling trapped that I can never leave *this* particular job without taking a big pay cut, or without becoming an even bigger bureaucrat than I am already (funny how we become the things we hate... not cool).

So, my initial questions for you good and experienced folks are:

1) Will my class B CDL experience help me at all? I know I'll still have to go to school to earn my Class A, but will it help me at all in terms of getting a better job or anything? At the least, I'm at least comfortable driving a bigger vehicle, though of course maneuvering a trailer will be a whole 'nuther ballgame!

2) I currently make about $60K/year. From all I've read, I expect I'll take a significant pay cut in my first year or two, but it seems reasonable that I could start to come close to this income after a few years, if I follow the advice shared on this website (stick with my first company for at least a year, avoid the leasing fiasco, prove myself to be a hard worker that the company can rely on, etc.). Am I offbase on this? Honestly, taking a paycut to have more independence, job security, and a challenge sound pretty acceptable to me, but eventually I need to get the income back up to pay off those lovely grad school loans.

3) Especially living where I do now (Chicago area), many of the trucking companies seem to operate mostly east of the Mississippi. Any advice if I also want to drive out West? I love the Rockies and have driven out there many times on my own. I would love if I could get some runs that take me out there. I was thinking I'd go for reefer to begin with, though I'm eyeing the possibility of flatbed for when I get more experience down the line (we'll see).

4) Lastly, are there any particular states or cities out West that are particularly good places to make your homebase as a trucker? I saw that average trucker salaries are higher in Washington state and Colorado than in Montana and Wyoming. I'd love to live in/near the Rockies eventually but still keep my trucking career on track.

Thanks for your input. I've been doing a ton of reading and research and still have a year before I would take the plunge (once my kid leaves for college), but nothing beats real-world advice.

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.

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.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Hello and welcome to the world of trucking. I'll add my 2 cents where I can.

1. The class B will only help in the comfort level with a larger vehicle. In the bus when you are backing up and want the back end to go left you turn the wheel to the left. In a semi when you want the trailer to go left you turn the wheel to the right.

2. At $60k now it shouldn't be a large paycut and depending where you work and how fast you learn the ropes and how hard you run you very well could be really close to or surpass that 60k. Although $45k-$60k is realistic for year one. Mostly it depends on you.

3. If you want to go out west just query the recruiters as to what their lanes are. Some are east of the Mississippi only but many are all the lower 48. Each company has their own regions they run. Some even do Canada and/or Mexico with a passport.

4. I don't know that any particular company pays better or worse based on where you live as they run all over the country. As long as you live within their hiring area your address shouldn't matter although if you live within a running lane they use quite often you might get more frequent hometime.

I live in my truck with my dog and have done so for a couple years now (well her for a year and a couple months or so). I too find that the solitary lifestyle suits me quite well. Hope it helps.

Mountain Matt's Comment
member avatar

Hello and welcome to the world of trucking. I'll add my 2 cents where I can.

1. The class B will only help in the comfort level with a larger vehicle. In the bus when you are backing up and want the back end to go left you turn the wheel to the left. In a semi when you want the trailer to go left you turn the wheel to the right.

2. At $60k now it shouldn't be a large paycut and depending where you work and how fast you learn the ropes and how hard you run you very well could be really close to or surpass that 60k. Although $45k-$60k is realistic for year one. Mostly it depends on you.

3. If you want to go out west just query the recruiters as to what their lanes are. Some are east of the Mississippi only but many are all the lower 48. Each company has their own regions they run. Some even do Canada and/or Mexico with a passport.

4. I don't know that any particular company pays better or worse based on where you live as they run all over the country. As long as you live within their hiring area your address shouldn't matter although if you live within a running lane they use quite often you might get more frequent hometime.

I live in my truck with my dog and have done so for a couple years now (well her for a year and a couple months or so). I too find that the solitary lifestyle suits me quite well. Hope it helps.

Thanks, Mikey B! Right, handling that trailer will be quite a different experience. But at the least, I'm used to driving something 12' tall, 8' wide, and 40' long... a bit different than my Kia Soul!

Good to know about the pay. Honestly, the job (despite its many rigors) sounds more appealing and has been in my blood for about 10 years now, and I like the ability to change jobs, move to a different state, or move to a different job and still maintain my pay or potentially even increase it. The feeling of being "trapped" at my current job because of the pay that I can't recoup elsewhere is about the worst thing ever. And having my pay largely depend on me seems like a nice change of pace from I have now.

That's interesting about living in the truck... I've just starting reading about that idea on some of the forums here and am starting to contemplate that. I just rent an apartment alone now, which seems kind of pointless if I'm out on the road most of the time. I could save $10K+ a year by giving that up, which could put a serious dent in my debt. I'll have to learn more about that idea.

And thanks for the input about routes out West and where a driver lives. I'll keep asking questions of the recruiters. Mostly I've been looking at the maps of regions they put online, since I'm still a year out from making this leap. But the idea of running into Canada or even Mexico would be great, and I have my passport.

Anne A. (G13Momcat)'s Comment
member avatar

Welcome to Trucking Truth, Matt M.

It sure doesn't hurt to start with our 'starter pack!'

I'd advise you reading Brett's book; the 2nd line item...it more/less pertains to Class A drivers.

There are SOOOO many resources on here; and many are organized by tags. When you see the 'blue buttons,' scroll down to 'topics by tags' and ..type away with your inquiries!

The TOP search bar 'powered by Google' is actually an 'internal' search of this site, tool. Try that, as well.

Welcome to TT, Matt.

~ Anne ~

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.
Ed P.'s Comment
member avatar

There’s a few things to consider,

Do you have a pension plan with the municipality that you’re working with? Very few trucking companies will offer you that. A 401k yes, but pension, rare. (UPS, and some other Union gigs might, big maybe)

Are you on a Monday through Friday daytime schedule now? That would probably change right away. Your schedule would greatly depend on your customer's demands. Most ( I’d say a lot) of reefer deliveries are overnight and like I said scheduled by them. You might have to sleep during the day and work all night. Your body knows it’s not supposed to be up overnight. You’ll learn real quick about circadian rhythms.

How many hours a week do you currently work? 40? Most drivers are on a 60 to 70 hour clock? Your runs will be determined by your dispatcher and if you have time on your clock they can keep pushing you to meet customer demands. Of course, you don’t operate until it’s safe but your reputation and the type of loads that you get will depend on what trips you can turn. This in turn equates to what kind of compensation you can achieve.

Solitude, mind numbing, sensory deprivation solitude. Imagine driving in the dark for endless hours, nothing to look at but what your headlights show and other’s tailights and headlights. You’re by yourself locked in a compartment the size of a small closet for as I said Endless hours. Cell Phone usage, I would be fired if the driver facing camera even caught me touching my cell phone. I do manage to set up pod casts, utilize YouTube music, use radio apps, and have satellite radio. But I am constantly catching myself putting my job and the public at risk. Very strongly frowned upon (understandably so). More on solitude, personal interaction will be very limited when you’re outside of the truck too. You’ll meet jerk receivers that will get to you when it’s convenient to them. Late for your appointment because of weather or traffic, that’s even worse. Most of the people you bump into are being rushed and controlled by their schedules. If you’re used to interacting with the book reading types, you’re not going to encounter that fractionally on the road. However, trucking has a vast array of the public. You will meet all types out there. On the plus side there are all kinds of podcasts and audio books that I’m sure you could have endless hours of enjoyment. But, you’re just not prepared for the lack of stimuli that is offered by being married to your truck. OTR? you’re out for 3 to 4 weeks at a time and if you have any obligations back home you’re at the mercy once again, of your dispatcher.

You’ve got to weigh all of these factors against the idealistic perception of what you’re imagining. I do really enjoy my work, I don’t enjoy my low seniority schedule. I drive a tanker delivering cryogenics mostly locally. Every once in a while I end up spending the night in a hotel if I can’t make it back. The compensation for what I do is great. (Think 100k) I’m sure that I could sell you on trucking just the same but want you to have a realistic expectation.

There’s also a LOT more to trucking than OTR and reefer. It’s a huge industry and you’re only limited by yourself. Do as much research as you can, ask as many questions as you can feel free to reach out if you have any questions of me.

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.

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.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Mountain Matt's Comment
member avatar

Anne, thanks for the welcome and the helpful resources! Some of them I have worked through, and others I'll keep working on over the next year (I have time). There is *a wealth* of info on here, so I'm taking my time.

Ed, I appreciate the real-life perspective, and that's exactly what I'm trying to do: Make sure I don't have some idealized perspective that I'm jumping ship for. In many ways, the life I have now is definitely easier... but that's part of the problem. I'm just biding time, not being challenged, not pushing myself, getting restless. And I don't have the autonomy or performance-based pay I would like.

I do have a pension where I work now, which I'm already vested in (though of course I would get more money the more years of service credit I put in). But I don't want to just live for the pension, of course (I'm 43 years old). And I do work between 40-50 hours a week (occasionally more), which I know is far less than the typical trucker. So I'm pondering that, but the challenge and the travel are a big part of the appeal. I've read a lot of the articles and blog posts on here about trucking being a "lifestyle" and not a job. Solitude I'm good with, and I don't have home obligations (my remaining cat is currently in the process of dying, lol).

I actually don't interact with a lot of "book-reading types," as I have little patron-contact... mostly I'm dealing with bureaucrats, bosses, and people I have to supervise (blech). I actually feel more comfortable on the "truck side" of my job and think I would enjoy the wider variety of people I would meet out on the road, though it's under less-than-ideal conditions, as you say. What you say about entertainment options and the sensory deprivation is interesting... I might post a separate thread asking about that.

Interesting what you say about your income... If I made that kind of money for 2 years, I could climb out from under the debt that's pinned me down my whole adult life. 2 masters degrees hasn't done that for me, as my pay increase potential is incremental at best.

Anyway, I *really* appreciate what you have to say, as in some ways I have a pretty ideal, cushy job, so this is exactly what I'm weighing. I'm just kind of trapped in my earning potential and bored as hell, caught in a culture where I don't really fit.

Ed P.'s Comment
member avatar

Matt,

I hope you understood the spirit in which my reply was meant (I think you do). No offense to “book reading types”. I once read a book (lol, I have a masters too, I like to think they have very high hiring standards). And no implication of cushy job. A lot of times I think that of driving ( my weight gain might be an indication of that). Maybe I was venting about what frustrates me the most. Anyway, I just want you to be fully aware of the ups and downs in your decision process. There’s a lot of good info out there on the best starter companies (and worst). Best of luck in your decision process. I enjoy sharing my experiences and hope the best for you

Mountain Matt's Comment
member avatar

Ed,

No offense taken at all, and I totally took your words for what they were meant as: advice and perspective honestly and kindly offered. In fact, that's just what I was looking for! I definitely am a "book-reading type" (lol)... it's just funny how little time I spend as a librarian actually reading or interacting with books. In fact, I describe my job as a "social worker bureaucrat" (emphasis on the bureaucrat, lol). My job is indeed "cushy" (I'm using that word, not you) in terms of the hours and benefits, but very frustrating in terms of the hierarchy, bureaucracy, lack of autonomy, and lack of job security/mobility and potential to move elsewhere and earn the same or better money. Even as I write this in my "off hours," I'm trying to find a substitute for tomorrow for one of my guys who just called in sick.

Vent away! It's helpful to hear. There are probably discussion boards where librarians vent (though I haven't found one as honest as this one). I do appreciate you sharing your honest thoughts and experiences, as that's exactly what I'm weighing as I'm making this decision slowly over a bit of time. But honestly, the ability to have control over my own work and to increase my earning potential without being locked into this one job here in Chicago has a heckuva lot of appeal to me. Thanks for your input and good wishes!

Matt

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Ed P wrote:

There’s a lot of good info out there on the best starter companies (and worst).

Out there? Where’s “out there” Ed?

No sir.

Matt please do not look out there for this type of information. The internet does not provide factual, objective information on trucking companies. It will mislead and discourage you.

I urge you to be very careful where you do your research, and who you take advice from. Company websites are a great start... Trucking review sites are predominantly BS. I suggest diving into the blog section of Trucking Truth to get the skinny on every tricking topic imaginable.

And the term starter company? We try not to refer to any company offering training as a “starter”. We believe a good driver can be successful for any company represented in this link: Paid CDL Training Programs

I’ve been with Swift for 7 years running Northeast Walmart Dedicated. No intentions of changing employers; I get consistently great mileage, treated professionally and excellent compensation. There are many of us on this website who have stayed with our so-called “starter company” well beyond year 1.

Good luck.

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.
Anne A. (G13Momcat)'s Comment
member avatar

Anne, thanks for the welcome and the helpful resources! Some of them I have worked through, and others I'll keep working on over the next year (I have time). There is *a wealth* of info on here, so I'm taking my time.

Ed, I appreciate the real-life perspective, and that's exactly what I'm trying to do: Make sure I don't have some idealized perspective that I'm jumping ship for. In many ways, the life I have now is definitely easier... but that's part of the problem. I'm just biding time, not being challenged, not pushing myself, getting restless. And I don't have the autonomy or performance-based pay I would like.

I do have a pension where I work now, which I'm already vested in (though of course I would get more money the more years of service credit I put in). But I don't want to just live for the pension, of course (I'm 43 years old). And I do work between 40-50 hours a week (occasionally more), which I know is far less than the typical trucker. So I'm pondering that, but the challenge and the travel are a big part of the appeal. I've read a lot of the articles and blog posts on here about trucking being a "lifestyle" and not a job. Solitude I'm good with, and I don't have home obligations (my remaining cat is currently in the process of dying, lol).

I actually don't interact with a lot of "book-reading types," as I have little patron-contact... mostly I'm dealing with bureaucrats, bosses, and people I have to supervise (blech). I actually feel more comfortable on the "truck side" of my job and think I would enjoy the wider variety of people I would meet out on the road, though it's under less-than-ideal conditions, as you say. What you say about entertainment options and the sensory deprivation is interesting... I might post a separate thread asking about that.

Interesting what you say about your income... If I made that kind of money for 2 years, I could climb out from under the debt that's pinned me down my whole adult life. 2 masters degrees hasn't done that for me, as my pay increase potential is incremental at best.

Anyway, I *really* appreciate what you have to say, as in some ways I have a pretty ideal, cushy job, so this is exactly what I'm weighing. I'm just kind of trapped in my earning potential and bored as hell, caught in a culture where I don't really fit.

First of all, you're welcome!~

Matt, I get ya, on the cushy job stuff. My other half had that, also. He was a switchman for ICG in telecom. Quite upper echelon of the phone company stuff. (Eugene might not get it, haha! NVM..LoL.. bad joke.) He sat in an office, with the A/C on HIGH, for the components; flew around the US for Lucent and others, on their dime; was fun...so he said. He was getting RIF'd as we met...and tried STNA'ing.. yeah, the 'ladies' loved him, but payroll didn't.

He's quite content, and his wages have paid off our home. Yessir, a few years of this income DID pay off our home! (And my wages helped a bit; not as much as my frugality, tho!)

We owe little to non, on C/cards .. by choice! (I keep telling him I need to use my Kohl's card for the kids, to build/keep our credit, haha!) Not Nordstrom or Macy's, ... right?

Tom's not a 'book' type either; that'd be me. Nerdazoid and tomboy in a wrap.. LoL. I'd be afraid of a vision! A burrito with glasses?!??

BEST to YOU! Glad you liked my links!

~ Anne ~

Ed P wrote:

double-quotes-start.png

There’s a lot of good info out there on the best starter companies (and worst).

double-quotes-end.png

Out there? Where’s “out there” Ed?

No sir.

Matt please do not look out there for this type of information. The internet does not provide factual, objective information on trucking companies. It will mislead and discourage you.

I urge you to be very careful where you do your research, and who you take advice from. Company websites are a great start... Trucking review sites are predominantly BS. I suggest diving into the blog section of Trucking Truth to get the skinny on every tricking topic imaginable.

And the term starter company? We try not to refer to any company offering training as a “starter”. We believe a good driver can be successful for any company represented in this link: Paid CDL Training Programs

I’ve been with Swift for 7 years running Northeast Walmart Dedicated. No intentions of changing employers; I get consistently great mileage, treated professionally and excellent compensation. There are many of us on this website who have stayed with our so-called “starter company” well beyond year 1.

Good luck.

G'Town . . . I can actually 'attempt' to dissect this. Care to email me? Bounce Brett if not. I almost wish the mod's (and the cheerleader!) had a chat option, haha!

Talk soon; thanks for COMING BACK TO ACTIVE MODERATOR STATUS, man. I MISSED your style, your everything. Thank YOU.

~ Anne ~

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.
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