Need Advice!

Topic 9287 | Page 1

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Tom W.'s Comment
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Hi All, Well, I am just about finished with my driving school (3 hour night drive and my test should happen next week) so I am at crunch time with regards to picking a company and the type of loads to haul.

I will probably start another thread asking for advise about the particular companies I am considering. But for now, let me start with asking about the type of trailers to pull. I am still uncertain about whether to jump right in and learn flatbed or tanker, or if I should stick with dry van/reefer in order to focus on learning the basics first before adding extra skills right away.

My thinking goes something like this: As long as I'm spending time learning the ropes regardless of the type of load I'm pulling, I'd rather add an extra skill or ten while I'm at it in order to become "more valuable" to a company more quickly. Also, I do desire to learn all of it over time (partly for the challenge, partly to try something new from time to time).

Regarding flatbed specifically, I am 47 years old, in fairly decent shape (still overweight but have strength), had neck surgery last August (totally recovered and doing great)...I am not very concerned about being able to do the physical work but others might be. I realize if I don't jump into flatbed within my first few years as a trucker, the opportunity to do so will probably pass me by.

Regarding tanker, I love the thought of all the opportunities that would be open to me should I learn tanker and do it safely. However, some may have concerns with rookies jumping right into driving tankers with the surge and high center of gravity. My basic thinking here is if I'm going to learn to be safe while driving a dry van , I can also learn what it takes to drive tankers safely as well. If one starts out learning to take turns even more cautiously than other drivers must with other loads and to brake in an even more cautious fashion, it seems to me that great safety habits can be formed quickly and won't be lost should such a driver later switch to other types of trailers.

Finally, what will the reality be with regards to pay with the different trailers? How different will the miles be and what non-mileage pay must truly be recognized as significant factors affecting total pay? Generally speaking, dry van pays the lowest cents per mile while flatbed seems to pay the highest. In the end, does this difference wash out due to mileage factors or load times? Does the higher pay per mile with reefer get washed out compared to dry van because dry van may have much more drop and hook (less waiting around)? Tankers probably get the lowest miles per week but does this get compensated for with tank washing pay, unloading/loading pay, etc.?

I wanted to give everyone a look inside my mind (scary, isn't it?) not to push my ideas as being correct but rather so you might know what ideas I have that need to be corrected, or at least challenged, and what I am completely missing altogether. Any thoughts, questions, concerns, or miscellaneous comments?

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

Tom W.'s Comment
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I should have asked for "advice", not the verb "advise". Okay, so I'm not the best speller! smile.gif

Old School's Comment
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Tom, it seems to me that you are kind of thinking of flat-bed and tanker as being higher paying jobs, and I'm not for sure if that's the way you should be looking at it. They may pay more per mile, but they may also demand more on duty time where you are doing physical labor. I think over all it is a wash as far as total compensation is concerned when you start trying to compare one category of trucking to another, especially for an introductory level driver.

Here's the way I would approach this if I were you: Decide which type of truck driving you think you would enjoy the most - don't try to figure out which one is going to pay you the most. Here's the deal on the compensation - if you are enjoying what you do, you will figure out and learn how to excel at it. This whole career is performance based pay, so you want to excel at what ever type of driving you do. I meet a lot of truck drivers across the country who are miserable in their jobs, they just don't get it and I'm starting to think they never will. They have tried this and that, and they have switched companies time and time again, and they are constantly laying the blame for their misery on their employer.

In any given trucking company you are going to find that there are core groups of top performers who that company will do just about anything to keep on board, and then you are going to find lower tiered drivers who often times are just hopping around from one company to the next because they have not figured out the way to success yet. There are reefer drivers out there who are making great money, just like there are dry van guys doing the same, and flat-bedders, and tanker yankers. There are also folks in all those different types of trucking who are just barely making it. What I'm trying to stress is that you can't focus on the different types of trucking, but your focus has to be on how you are going to approach this job, and how you are going to apply yourself to figure out how to be the best you can be at it. It is easier to want to do your best when you are enjoying the type of truck driving you've chosen.

I jumped straight into flat-bedding as a rookie, and I see no reason why someone interested in it should try and start out as a dry van driver if flat-bedding is ultimately what they want to do. I enjoy the added challenge of doing the math and calculating the load securement measures needed to safely secure a load. I enjoy the added physical work involved. I like the variety - there are just a lot of things that make it a positive experience for me. At this point in the game I don't see myself doing any other type of driving. Some folks are surprised that I don't want to just settle into an easy drop and hook type job with dry vans, but the problem with that is that I would be bored to death - I need the added challenges to keep it interesting to me.

There are plenty of flat-bed operations that are willing to hire new entry level drivers onto their fleets, so that tells you they are not afraid to bring a rookie into the fold. Generally the training is very good at most of these flat-bed operations.

I would make up your mind how you want to go about this and then that will narrow down a lot of your choices, making your decision a lot less stressful.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Old School said it well but I will add this.... When you learn to drive a van or refer you will learn to drive a certain way and those become habits. Habits are hard to break and could be disastrous when switching to a tanker or a flatbed with a top heavy load. Pick what you want to do and go from there.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Thanks for the post Tom! You and I have similar thoughts. I need to have challenge on top of the normal routine or I become bored. So I too am deciding between Tanker and Flatbed. Unlike you I have quite a while to think on it as I won't be able to start the madness until Spring.

Thanks OS and Pat for your responses. Look forward to hearing more thoughts from Flatbed and Tanker drivers.

Tom W.'s Comment
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Guys, Thanks for the excellent feedback. This is why I love TruckingTruth and have told many people about it, even some of the recruiters I've spoken with.

Tom W.'s Comment
member avatar

Old School said it well but I will add this.... When you learn to drive a van or refer you will learn to drive a certain way and those become habits. Habits are hard to break and could be disastrous when switching to a tanker or a flatbed with a top heavy load. Pick what you want to do and go from there.

Pat, This has been one of my thoughts about tanker. My thoughts do come from a bit of ignorance on the matter, though, so it is good to hear you give your perspective about the habits we learn. Being that one must be even more cautious and controlled when driving tankers, if I'm taught to do it properly from the beginning, I'm confident I will do it as taught. Then, should I transfer to another division, it seems that it would be easier to adapt to the different safety needs.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Sorry for screwing up my response to Old School. I tried to respond to several of his quotes one at a time and realized, after submitting it, that I didn't do it correctly.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

Tom W.'s Comment
member avatar

Old School, Below is my response to your post without your quotes mixed in:

Guys, Thanks for the excellent feedback. This is why I love TruckingTruth and have told many people about it, even some of the recruiters I've spoken with.

Old School, You've given me great stuff to think about. Yes, you are completely correct that I have been, at least in part, looking at the pay differences. Part of the reason for my post was to get an insider's perspective on whether there will be a difference at the end of the day (or 1st year) in the pay and, if so, how much is the difference. Then that "extra" pay needs to be compared to the additional responsibilities one is accepting, the amount of work that is required, and whether I would enjoy that work. Your point about the overall compensation being a wash, "especially for an introductory level driver," lines up with a suspicion I've had but couldn't figure out on my own. Certainly the recruiters' info will not make this very clear.

If this online community's (TruckingTruth) main point to those of us starting out in trucking could be summed up in one paragraph, you may have just done it. A trucking career will be what we make of it. It is performance based and if we enjoy it and take responsibility for our own success, we can make any situation a good one. For several months now, I've allowed that sentiment here to be drilled into my head. It's generally the way I think anyway, but it's helped a bunch to have the veterans here refuse to allow drivers to blame one company after another for their lack of joy or success in this industry.

I plan to get into the "core group" of drivers wherever I land and being as "indispensable" as possible. I realize that saying this won't make it so but it is my intention to stay thankful for this opportunity to start a new career and become a true professional over time. Your point about this being easier if you enjoy what you are doing is well-taken.

Your point about flatbeds and having to do math and calculating the load securement measurements is the first time I've really thought about that. That would be one of the things about flatbed that I would very much enjoy but it might be one of those things others would struggle with or simply not enjoy. I'm glad you mentioned it.

The fact that only a couple of companies that I'm aware of will hire entry level drivers for tanker tells me something. It makes me think twice. However, one of those companies is Schneider and everyone I've spoken with who has direct knowledge of their training program have raved about it. That encourages me should I make the choice to start with tankers. I don't think a company with a great reputation for training would allow rookies to drive tankers if they weren't confident they could train them to do so safely.

Finally, one of my problems has been narrowing down the good options before me. I will take your advice and run from there. Thanks.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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

Seadragon H.'s Comment
member avatar

So, which company did you choose? I see your last post was over 2 months ago, so I'm assuming you're on the road now. I would have recommended Waggoners Trucking.

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.

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