Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part V: Comparing Large Trucking Companies To Small Ones

by Brett Aquila

In part one of our series, Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part I: Factors That Effect All Companies, we talked about different factors and considerations which will affect your experience at any company you go to work for.

In part two of our series, Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part II: You and "Your People" Are The Most Important Factor, we talked about surrounding yourself with the right people, understanding factors that affect the freight you'll be getting, and things you can do to put yourself in the best position to succeed.

In part three, Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part III: How Your Family and Lifestyle Will Affect Your Choice, we considered your personality and lifestyle. Are you married? Do you have children? Do you love adventure? How long would you like to be away from home? These questions all figure into the process of choosing the right truck driving job.

In part 4, Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part IV: Advantages of Large Trucking Companies, we of course talked about the advantages of working at a large trucking company.

Now in part 5, we're going to talk about some of the disadvantages to working for a large trucking company, and discuss what life is like at a small company. stevens5.jpg Ok, so large trucking companies must have some disadvantages, right? Of course they do. At a large company you are simply a number, not a name. You hopefully will get to know a few people working in the offices like your dispatcher , his or her boss, and maybe one or two middle managers like a terminal manager or operations manager. If you get to know that many people... and by get to know I mean they actually recognize you by name or truck number, you've probably done either an excellent job or a terrible job over a period of many months, or maybe even a couple of years. It's tough to stand out when there are thousands of drivers at one company. So if you like that personal attention and family-type atmosphere, a large company is not going to provide that for you.

Because of this, you will find it very difficult to get any special consideration for anything. Doing a great job for a couple of years is going to get you an automated thank you letter and maybe a patch for the company jacket you had to buy from your own company store when you wanted one. On the other end of things, you may find yourself in a unique situation, and nobody will take the time to understand your side of things. They don't have the time, and frankly many of them don't really care. I'm going to go deeper into this subject in a moment with a few stories related to this theme.

Smaller companies, in my opinion, don't have too many advantages over the larger ones from a driver's perspective. You will definitely get to know everyone in the office, and they will certainly know you. Often times if you live nearby your main office, the people in your company will even get to know your family and the families of the other employees. This family atmosphere is nice in a way, but you also have to be aware of a couple things.

For one, just like in any tight group of people, everyone tends to know everyone else's business. Maybe you don't want everyone at work knowing about an operation you're going to have, or the tough times you're having with your marriage, or the trouble your kid got into at school. Maybe you got a well deserved raise, but now the other drivers are envious and raising a fuss. Or maybe your excellent performance is being rewarded with more miles and a nicer truck, which again causes problems with the other drivers. As you can probably tell, I've been in these type of situations before and I'm not really too fond of them. Having co-workers as close friends is not always an easy thing to maintain, especially if there is any type of competition between employees when it comes to pay, equipment, or freight.truck1a.jpg

The other concern with regard to company size is how much your company will count on you. At a large company, if you'd like to take some time off, nobody really cares. I've taken MONTHS off at times and simply been told, "Ok, just turn your truck in to the terminal and let us know when you're ready to return and we'll get ya goin' again." But at a really small company that's not likely to happen. You may be one of ten drivers in the whole company, so if you take time off, they just lost 10% of their fleet! The smaller companies rely on you much more so than a big company does, so you don't have nearly as much flexibility.

One time I worked for a small company pulling food-grade tankers. There were only eleven drivers in the company. I ran really hard for them and before too long, they came to expect a bit too much from me. Things got to the point that I was running an average of about 4500 miles per week. That's a ton! As time went on, the owner of the company expected more and more of me. It was getting ridiculous. Finally I stayed out on the road for almost six straight weeks, averaged about 4500 miles per week (totally illegal - you can't log that many miles legally), and when I returned home he booked a load for me to haul two days later. Six weeks on the road, two days at home, and I have to leave again? I don't think so. Well, he told me I could either run the load or be fired. I had been there a year, and I had a perfect safety and service record. I was also second among the drivers in average miles driven per week, but I guess that wasn't good enough. Turns out the owner was in serious financial trouble and I found out the company closed just a couple of months later.

So it turns out that he was desperate to get all the money coming in that he could get to save the company. But he had a good thing going with me and ruined it. Not only that, but he put on my DAC report that I abandoned his truck, which was not true at all! But since he went out of business, he couldn't respond to my claim that he falsified the report, so I didn't have any trouble moving on to the next job. A little advice - don't make the mistake of running that hard. Don't run so hard that you'll damage you mind, your body, or your license. Think long-term and make smart choices. I was really young at the time, was making a lot of money running that hard, and wanted to push myself to see what I could do. Well, what I did was make myself sick. I wore myself down, got burned out, and spent about three days in bed with some sort of flu/cold/whatever virus at one point. Remember, long term success means planning for the long term and making smart decisions all the time, not just some of the time.

So just be aware of the fact that small trucking companies will count on you far more than large companies will. There will be advantages and disadvantages to any company you work for. Keep in mind that it's always somewhat of a compromise when you're choosing where you'd like to work. It's just a matter of finding what works best for you.

In part 6 of this series we're going to discuss a couple of different types of truck driving jobs - dry van and refrigerated carriers!


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.


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.


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.

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.


Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.


Operating While Intoxicated


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.

by Brett Aquila

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Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part I: Factors That Affect All Companies

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

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