What Types Of Jobs
Are Available To Drivers
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Three Major Categories of Driving Jobs
There are Three Major Categories of Driving Jobs: (OTR "Over the Road" , Regional, and Local). Each has some similarities, but there are several MAJOR differences that will be key in choosing which is right for you. Let's start with over the road.
Over The Road
Most new truck drivers will start driving over-the-road. Most of the major carriers that hire new drivers do mainly long-haul, and it's the best way for drivers to gain experience while minimizing the risk. Over the road driving usually entails staying out on the road for at least three weeks at a time.
Let me say this right off...if you have a family, becoming an OTR Driver will be very hard on them. The general rule to expect is 1 day home for every 7 days out on the road, though it will vary wildly from company to company and depend on the flow of freight. Regional and dedicated jobs will normally get drivers home more often, from a couple times a week to bi-weekly, while local and pickup & delivery routes will be day jobs with drivers going home at night.
Over the road is much more than just a job...it is a lifestyle. Traveling the country, living in the truck, and never knowing where the next load might take you becomes your life. Yes, you get to go home every few weeks, but you'll find that you are no longer part of the everyday lives of your family and friends, so you will be treated more like an acquaintance than a loved one. This was one of the most shocking parts of traveling for me. After you've been on the road for a few weeks you're thinking, “hey, I can't WAIT to get home and see everyone! Wait til they hear all of these stories! It's gonna be GREAT!” Well, no, it probably won’t.
You see, people have their own day to day lives that don't involve you anymore. They haven't seen most of the places you have, they haven't driven a truck, they haven't lived on the road, and they simply cant relate to anything you've been through. They have their own concerns at work, at home, and with their friends. Your stories will interest them for a short bit, but they will soon want to get back to their own lives, of which you aren't really involved in anymore.
The other thing that surprised me right away about living on the road is the ENORMOUS amount of time you spend alone. And I mean ALONE. I'd estimate 20 out of every 24 hours each day you will be by yourself. You will pretty much never come across even one single person you know. It's a life of solitude and strangers. Waitresses, dock workers, and other drivers will be your main company.
The nice part is that truck stops are open 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. You can go inside anytime and have somebody to talk to. Anytime. There will be waitresses and other drivers in there and someone is always interested in a talk. Funny thing is, after years of being on the road I got used to this. I came off the road and bought my own house where I live alone.
I found myself going up to the local truck stop quite a bit because I was used to having people to sit and talk with anytime I liked. I missed it. So it just goes to show that you can learn to enjoy almost anything once you've gotten used to it.
Now the money part of over the road driving is great. With most companies you will get paid by the mile (there are some exceptions I'll discuss later) and will almost never, ever have to unload any freight. If you are willing to do a lot of driving and would like to make as much money as you can without burning yourself out, you can expect to make around $35,000 your first year, and anywhere from $40,000-$55,000 from your second year on. The days are long, but all you really do is drive.
Because you actually live in the truck for weeks at a time, the equipment at any decent company is usually top notch. You normally won't have to drive a truck that is more than 3 years old, and good companies take excellent care of their equipment. They usually wont hesitate in the least when you request to get some work done. The truck pretty much stays in brand new condition.
Life on the road definitely takes A LOT of getting used to. But after a while you'll find that if the lifestyle suits you, it really is incredibly fun. We called ourselves “professional tourists”, which really is pretty accurate. You basically get paid to drive around the country in brand new rigs, see the sights, meet new people everyday, eat great food, and make great money. If you decide to give up your apartment or home, which most people end up doing because you're paying for something you almost never use, you'll be able to save up tons of money. Your only living expenses are food and fun. You have no rent, utilities, insurance, or car payments, so all that money just piles up in the bank.
Most companies will let you take your truck home with you, and if you're a good, safe, reliable driver and you kinda lay low, they'll let you use your tractor as your personal vehicle when you are at home, so you wont even need your own car. Besides, when you come in to visit family and friends for a few days each month they will usually take you places or let you borrow their vehicle if need be. So living this lifestyle is a great way to save up a lot of money fast.
Lastly, over the road jobs are by far the easiest to find and have the lowest qualifications because they are hard jobs for the companies to fill. There just simply isn't enough people that are able or willing to live this lifestyle, at least not for long, so the companies are always desperate to fill these positions first. That's why they are usually the best paying and easiest jobs to find in the industry.
Ok, now regional jobs are a great option for many people. With regional jobs you are usually out 5 days a week and home on weekends. Now understand something: the freight you will be hauling is usually not predictable. Yes, there are some customers that will provide steady freight from one place to another on a rather predictable schedule. But the vast majority of it will not be.
They will do their best to keep you moving during the week and get you home on time for the weekend, but this is not always going to happen. Generally you can expect to get home sometime between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.You will then be home around 36-48 hours. Often times you will bring a load home with you that will deliver on Monday morning, hopefully somewhere fairly close to your home.
Local jobs generally involve being home everyday. You stay close to home and often times make several daily deliveries in your area. Local jobs can include dump trucks, dumpster trucks, food delivery trucks, and a whole slew of others. Local driving provides the largest variety of choices when it comes to the type of driving, the type of job duties, and equipment you may use, including cranes, operating heavy machinery, pumping bulk fluids or liquids, or moving livestock. Now you might be thinking, “hey, why spend so much time away from
home when I can be home every night?” Well, a lot of people feel that way...and the principle of supply and demand kicks in. The greater the supply of drivers, the more difficult it is to find a job, and the lower the pay. Local jobs pay by far the least of the three types of jobs. The willingness to spend a lot of time away from home commands a much higher salary.
With such a variety of types of local jobs available there are opportunities to make a bit more money, but it will generally involve unloading. A good example is food delivery. Restaurants, gas stations, convenient stores, and bars all get deliveries several times per week. Generally these drivers are required to make anywhere from 5 to 20 deliveries per day and they do all the unloading, and sometimes even stock the shelves themselves. It can be very difficult, and at times even a bit dangerous.
Heavy lifting, walking through ice and snow, and walking up and down stairs and ramps are all part of daily life for these drivers. Injuries unfortunately are somewhat common. The constant lifting will get you into great shape, but definitely takes a couple months to really adapt to....a LONG couple of months.
The pay for these type of jobs will vary greatly. The easier jobs such as driving dump truck or most six wheel box trucks will generally be around $25,000. The more difficult jobs like food delivery where the driver puts in long hours unloading everyday can pay quite a bit better. Many are in the area of $35,000-$45,000 per year. But there are other things to beware of when you are considering a local driving job.
For starters, the days are often VERY long...anywhere from 10-15 hour days are common. Many drivers, myself included, come off the road at one time or another with aspirations of living a “normal” home life only to find that the only time you have at home is to eat, sleep, and shower. Eight to ten hours per day at home doesn't leave time for much of anything.
You realize you were making a whole lot more money getting home on weekends, didn't work as hard, and still had the same home and social life as you do now. But again, if you're married with children, try explaining to them why you're only home two days a week. Being a regional or over the road driver may not be an option, but at least you have the opportunity to make pretty good money driving locally if you're willing to work hard for it.
The other concern for local drivers is the conditions. Regional and over the road drivers spend the majority of their time on interstates, while local drivers are on regular streets full of stop lights, pedestrians, and heavy traffic all day long.
It obviously takes a tremendous amount of skill and attention to safely navigate local roads day in and day out. This is CERTAINLY not to say that the other forms aren't difficult or dangerous, but the hazards seem to come from all directions at all times on these local routes.
Lastly, because there is a larger pool of drivers to draw from on local jobs, often times the companies may require a bit more experience to qualify. This isn't always the case, but you should be aware of it.
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