Questions About Becoming A Professional Truck Driver

Topic 30872 | Page 1

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Brian G.'s Comment
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Hi All! Forgive me if this has been asked countless times but I'm looking for some current and possibly future information (estimates?).

Some background. I'm going to be 63 this year. My current position is an office job. I've got a wife who is disabled and a 20-something son who lives with us. I currently make $50,000/year with paid health insurance. Even though Social Security says I can retire at 66 years and 6 months, our financial dictates that I'm probably going to need to keep working until at 70 to build up some savings.

I've always liked trucks and what they do for this country. I started checking out The Trucking Truth site and have gotten some good information from there, but I don't see anything 2021-related as far as career advice and initial salaries. I understand that as a rookie coming out of CDL won't typically make a normal salary the first year and that the first year is the most brutal as far as the hardest year in trucking.

But with the current outlook on trucking professionals, is it reasonable to assume that carriers are paying more than the $35,000 starting salary and that initial working conditions have improved because the of the current situation? I'm trying to look into trucking as a career that I'll be able to at least make what I'm making now in a year if I work hard.

Does one type of work pay better than others? Is home every week a myth?

Thanks for your help in advance!

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.
Old School's Comment
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I'm going to be 63 this year. My current position is an office job. I've got a wife who is disabled and a 20-something son who lives with us. I currently make $50,000/year with paid health insurance. Even though Social Security says I can retire at 66 years and 6 months, our financial dictates that I'm probably going to need to keep working until at 70 to build up some savings.

Congratulations - you are an average American worker!

There is nothing wrong with that, and your idea of looking into trucking could serve you well. It will be difficult with your situation at home. Is your wife able to take care of herself with some help from your son? My first concern would be your situation at home. The trucking career can serve you for as many years as you are able to continue with it. I know of several drivers who have continued their trucking careers well on up into their eighties. Check out this conversation about Eugene...

Trucking For The Long Haul

I currently make $50,000/year with paid health insurance... with the current outlook on trucking professionals, is it reasonable to assume that carriers are paying more than the $35,000 starting salary and that initial working conditions have improved because the of the current situation? I'm trying to look into trucking as a career that I'll be able to at least make what I'm making now in a year if I work hard.

First off you have to get accustomed to the idea that there are no salaries paid to truckers. We get paid what we earn. This career is performance based. You can take two truckers who are rookies and have them working the same job for the same employer and still have them produce very different incomes. There are huge disparities in truck driver's pay. Those who quickly learn and adapt to the career will do better than those who struggle along with the realities of performance based pay.

It is very typical for most current rookie drivers to be able to produce an income in the $45,000 to $60,000 dollar range. I think you can be confident you can produce close to what you are making now. You will probably be sharing (payroll deduction) in some of the medical insurance expense. That will be determined by your employer.

I'm not sure what you mean about the working conditions in "the current situation." Trucking is a lifestyle. It is hard to get around that. There are a lot of differing types of truck driving jobs available, but an over the road driver has a lot of different conditions he will learn to deal with. Some do well with adapting and others do not handle it so well. The working conditions change like the weather. We learn to deal with them. They are part of our lifestyle.

Does one type of work pay better than others? Is home every week a myth?

LTL jobs are some of the highest paying jobs in trucking. Most of those drivers go home daily. Rookie drivers can sometimes find these jobs depending on their location. Seniority plays a big part in those jobs, but they are more readily available now days than they were a decade ago. You may want to look into that aspect.

If you think you might enjoy a little more adventure in your job, you may be more pleased with an OTR (over the road) job. These are generally the best way to start as a rookie. There are also regional or dedicated fleets that may be able to get you home weekly for a break of about 34 hours. Many of the flatbed companies offer this type arrangement, and some dry-van jobs can do this also. Some of the flatbed companies offering home weekly include McElroy, TMC, and Maverick. Keep in mind you may give up a little income for home weekly, but it is probably an insignificant amount once you have established yourself as a productive driver.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

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.
Brian G.'s Comment
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Thanks for the information and advice Old School! I appreciate it immensely!

I didn't know how to word "current situation". Didn't know if it's an actual driver shortage or if the offers, bonuses and pay is just a relatively short-lived bump.

My wife is a below-the-knee amputee that can function without me. We're planning on moving down to Florida in a couple of years so I'd probably want to be based out of there. If I can get a job where I'm home maybe a week out of a month then it would definitely be doable. We've talked that the first year would require me being away from home more than being at home, and while it's a bit scary, we feel we can manage.

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