Paths To Making GOOD Money As A Truck Driver?

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Rob T.'s Comment
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There's so many things that affect your income in trucking its hard to say for certain. As an OTR driver the CPM matter somewhat but most of it comes down to how efficient you are with your hours of service to maximize how much of your 70 is spent driving rather than logged on duty. This could mean parking at shippers/receivers for your 10 hour break so you could hypothetically get loaded/unloaded while logged off duty. It could also mean taking advantage of the split sleeper berth to minimize time spent in rush hour traffic.

With hourly jobs its all about the amount of time spent on the clock and what your pay rate is, as well as if you're paid overtime after 40. For those that didn't know trucking companies aren't required to pay overtime wages in this industry. I made just over $100,000 as a home daily driver delivering to grocery stores and 3rd party LTL freight. I do have to unload my own truck at the stores but its all electric pallet jack and putting it in coolers. This year I believe ill barely squeak by that on a 4 day work week (most days rolling in with minutes to spare on my 14).

Whats your current experience level? If you're just kinda kicking the tires around take it one step at a time and dedicate your first year to learning. After that then focus on where you can make the most money while also satisfying your other desires such as hometime, benefits etc.

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.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

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.

Sleeper Berth:

The portion of the tractor behind the seats which acts as the "living space" for the driver. It generally contains a bed (or bunk beds), cabinets, lights, temperature control knobs, and 12 volt plugs for power.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

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

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

most of it comes down to how efficient you are with your hours of services

There is a good saying in Russian: everyone is a blacksmith of his own happiness. I think it is realky important to set certain limits in order to both make good money and not damage your health or reduce fun :-) For this very reason, for example, I don't play this split berth game - I prefer to take my ten hours no matter what. I do make less money with this approach, but I do not drive at night, do not sleep an hour here, an hour there, and in general feel good every morning...

Banks's Comment
member avatar
where you did you end up going Banks? Been curious since you left Pepsi.

I went back to FedEx. I got a call asking if I wanted to come back because they're losing a lot of people due to transfers because of renters homes being sold. I started at top rate (0.70 CPM/30 HR) and my seniority spot is pretty much the same as when I left.

I did end up with a day spot and I'm pretty happy about that.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

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

Mountain Matt's Comment
member avatar

There is a good saying in Russian: everyone is a blacksmith of his own happiness.

I like that a lot, Andrey! Everyone can shape their own life and happiness in the way they choose, but it takes effort (like blacksmithing). The discussion in this thread show some of the choices and trade-offs to be made with different jobs and ways of running.

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.

Davy A.'s Comment
member avatar

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most of it comes down to how efficient you are with your hours of services

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There is a good saying in Russian: everyone is a blacksmith of his own happiness. I think it is realky important to set certain limits in order to both make good money and not damage your health or reduce fun :-) For this very reason, for example, I don't play this split berth game - I prefer to take my ten hours no matter what. I do make less money with this approach, but I do not drive at night, do not sleep an hour here, an hour there, and in general feel good every morning...

I love driving at night some times. I frequently use split berth. I love the chess game of making time and routes work. I'm a musician, I have a heck of a time waking up early and going to bed early.

I like to run from late morning to early morning. The sacrifice is that I will forever be short on parking. I look for out of the norm hole in the wall truck stops and parking places. For the most part, when I'm running, I choose to maximize my time for getting the most loads and miles in I can. If I can sleep at a shipper or receiver, great. If I can deliver early and get the next load early, great. I enjoy the process.

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.

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.

Andrey's Comment
member avatar

I love driving at night some times. I frequently use split berth.

Good that it works for you. And it is also good that we are all different in our habits! I feel really bad if I have to sleep during the day.

Davy A.'s Comment
member avatar

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I love driving at night some times. I frequently use split berth.

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Good that it works for you. And it is also good that we are all different in our habits! I feel really bad if I have to sleep during the day.

For sure. My wife is from East Germany. Very early morning riser. My sleep schedule drives her nuts lol.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

There have been some great points made in this conversation. I have been a little distracted with other things the past few days and haven't had the time to get back in here. I like the original question. It is a good one for discussion. There is a huge disparity in driver's pay, and it points to what I consider to be one of the most mysterious things about trucking. I say it is mysterious because many drivers never figure out how to be wildly successful at trucking. I've met plenty of drivers who have been at this for twenty years and have hit a ceiling with their pay. Maybe they make sixty to seventy thousand per year and they are content with that. I have a friend who makes exactly half what I make while doing the same job at the same rate of pay. He's happy with that so he doesn't try to put in more effort at mastering the job. That is another part that makes it mysterious to me. Why would a person be willing to let such opportunity lie before them and not at least attempt to capitalize on it?

Part of Chris's question went like this...

What have the people that are making 6 figures done differently?

It is a good question, and one that will prompt a lot of differing opinions. Most of them will skirt around the edges of the real facts. We tend to think it takes specialized jobs to make really good money as a trucker, and I will agree that there are some niches that seem to offer superior pay. You will get people who say you have to be in "Heavy Haul" to make six figures, or you will always have the Line Haul guys claiming they know a friend of a friend who is making six figures as a Line Haul driver. Then you have the ones who think you have to be a flatbedder hauling jet engines or military equipment. Let's not forget the folks who are dead set on the fact that you have to be an O/O to make that kind of money. I think those are all great attempts at answering the question, but they miss the point of what Chris really needs to know.

Chris asked, "What have they done differently?" That gets to the heart of the answer. They have mastered something the others have not. The answer really has nothing to do with how well they can drive. It has nothing to do with their backing skills or the name of the company on the doors of their truck. Highly successful drivers have a motivation that sets them apart. They approach the problems in trucking with their own solutions. Average truck drivers approach those same problems with complaints and suggestions of how their company could be solving those problems. They wait around for someone else to take initiative or if they don't see that happening they move on to another company only to start the cycle over again.

I have been highly successful at this career and I am going to show you just one aspect of how I changed my trucking career and set it in the right direction. I studied my performance and exposed the areas that were causing me to not perform well. They were areas like...

  • Waiting For Empty Trailers
  • Waiting For My Next Load
  • Waiting At Shippers/Receivers
  • Waiting At Terminals For Truck Repairs

It's obvious that we all know about these things, and it's obvious they all involve waiting or burning up our potentially productive hours of service. Average drivers will moan and groan about these events all day long. In fact many will do it all their career. We've all heard them and we've all probably participated in this grueling national trucker's past time. It is easy to complain, but it is non productive. I want to be productive, so I find productive solutions. Productivity is the key to making great money in trucking. Our pay is performance based, only it is not based on how well we perform at complaining. If it were, we would all be millionaires!

Continued...

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.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Line Haul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

What do you guys do when you need an empty trailer? I go get one because I have been keeping my own list of where they are. Most drivers sit and wait for their already overworked driver manager to find them one. That is inefficient. Inefficiency is what keeps us from making great money at this career. We have to take the bull by the horns and make it work for us. I take the initiative to keep up with the details that affect my ability to keep performing at the highest levels. I don't expect somebody in the office to be watching out for me.

What about waiting for your next load? I never leave a shipper with a load before I have communicated with my driver manager my ETA and my PTA. I make sure he knows exactly when I will be ready for the next load and I make sure he has communicated back to me with something like, "10-4, I have sent the planners your message, and they are on it already. Thanks for keeping us informed." That is fast and efficient. All my driver manager has to do is forward that email to my support staff. They know my reputation for keeping my word and they react according to the relationship I have built with them. About 98% of the time they will have me a plan put together as soon as I am empty.

Everybody complains about waiting at Shippers and Receivers. I never show up at a shipper or receiver without communicating with them. They know exactly when I am going to be there. I am fortunate to be on a dedicated account where I have established relationships with my customers. There are a lot of them, but I make sure they know me and they know that I will do what I say. They like that. I have had them go out of their way to meet me at unusual times. They appreciate the service I provide them and they appreciate the fact that they can count on my word every time I give it. By working the phone with my customers I have saved countless productive hours. I know that this is easier as a flat bedder, but I would try everything I could even if I were a reefer driver.

I move my appointments all the time. I communicate and arrange ETAs with customers so they are ready and able to take care of their delivery with less delays. I also communicate any changes to my driver manager. Everybody is in the loop. I have driver friends who like to chit chat on the pone all day with other drivers. They try to get me to do that with them. I am too busy communicating with my customers to play those games. I am focused on making things happen out here. If I am on the phone I am working out something to keep me moving.

I have learned to deal with waiting on repairs. If my truck is going to be in a terminal for more than 34 hours, I get a loaner. I start communicating with my driver manager and terminal manager first. If they don't have a truck available or a plan to get me to where one is I then start with the terminal manager of the location I am dropping my truck. I can usually get something done by taking care of this myself. I don't wait on my driver manager to do these type things. Those guys are busy with a lot of drivers. They have bigger fish to fry than my little concerns. I give them that understanding and I take the reigns. That is how I keep myself moving. It is a pain getting a loaner sometimes, but I just leave everything in my truck except the bare essentials. You can get by with just a few things for a week or two when necessary.

You have to be quick on your feet out here. You have to come up with your own solutions. I don't sit around complaining about not being taken care of by my company. I take action and get things done. It is part of the great commitment I have made to this career. I want to do well at it. I have discovered that my choices and actions are what determines my level of success.

What do successful drivers do differently? They make things happen in their favor. That is something that takes a great deal of experience and commitment. There are lot of things involved in that commitment. I've discussed only one aspect here. I could write a book on this subject. I think initiative is important. Great drivers choose to be problem solvers rather than being complainers.

The question was, "What do they do differently." I hope I have answered it in part.

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.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Driver Manager:

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.

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.

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

Bobcat_Bob's Comment
member avatar
you will always have the Line Haul guys claiming they know a friend of a friend who is making six figures as a Line Haul driver

You have been making statements like this essentially calling me a liar for the entire time I have been visiting this site. I'm not sure why you refuse to believe linehaul drivers can regularly make 100k or more, but it has grown old.

I personally would have hit 100k last year if not for Covid and will probably clear it this year. In fact you can speak to basically any linehaul driver at my terminal who has been here 2+ years and there is a good chance they make 6 figures.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Linehaul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

Line Haul:

Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.
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