Before you lease your truck

After years of being a company truck driver, you are considering buying a truck and leasing it to a company. Before you lease your truck with any company, you should consider a lot of factors. This brief review is just that – a brief review. I will provide expanded details in other sections for most of this issues and why you may want them.

I strongly recommend that before you even talk to any company about being one of their haulers – you research the company. Research should more then anything else include talking to multiple Owner/Operators who are already signed on with the company. Regardless of what the recruiters tell you – people in the field will tell you the rest of the story. And it is also important to talk to multiple because you can guarantee that at a few are not going to be unhappy – and generally these people are always unhappy about everything. Want to spot a driver that will give you a balanced review, look for the guy or girl with a great looking truck: clean and well maintained.

Just like the day you decided to be a truck driver in the first place, there are 100s of little decisions that you will need to consider as a possible Owner/Operator. In no special order, lets review some of the things you should consider.

Type of freight

Most drivers will stay with what they have most experience with. Few drivers will want to jump from van to flat bed or bulk to reefer without a strong reason. And the reason should not be a recruiter or magazine ad that boasts of the amount money the driver can make.

Area of Operation

Hate big city driving – pay close attention to the operating areas of the company. If you hate Northeast traffic, be certain the company does not haul there. Lots of companies will have hiring areas in the midwest or central south – but that does not mean their traffic is mostly with in those areas.

Truck Liability Insurance

Insurance companies, as you know from your personal auto experience, are weird companies. You might have 10 years experience as a driver but being a new truck owner, you might find some companies will not provide you with your bob-tail or truck base liability insurance or will jack your premiums extra high.

Weekly Settlements

Every week you will be spending a lot on money on operating expenses. You will have (likely) daily fuel purchases, meals, showers, (maybe) parking and tolls. The longer it takes to get paid, the money you will have spent out of your pocket and the longer you family has no income.

Direct Deposit/Payment Settlements

It will do you no good to have $1,000s in checks sitting in the mailbox at home while you are on the road. Even if you have a spouse or family member receiving your checks and depositing them for you, the delay of the mail (2-3 days) then any delay (2-3) days for the person to make it to the bank to deposit, you have another week or so before you money is available.

Base Plates

Your truck will have to ‘base plated’ in the state where it is registered. Some companies offer base plate programs that allow you to base your truck in states with better (lower) registration fees.

Fuel Surcharge Payments

Most companies keep their freight rates flat, at least on an annual basis. However, fuel prices change constantly. As a result, shippers often pay a fuel surcharge as fuel prices increase. You want to make sure you get all the fuel surcharge since you are paying for the fuel.

Trailer Rental Fees

If you are required to provide the trailer, you may want to check to see if the company has a trailer program. It might (MIGHT) be cheaper if they provide trailers with plates and maintenance rather then you having to do it.

Freight/Cargo Insurance

Who pays for cargo or freight insurance is a big issue. Signing on and then finding out you have to pay this could put you out of business.

Bobtail Mileage Payments

It is important to know if the company will pay you bob-tail or trailer miles when you have to drop a trailer in one location and then drive substantial distances to get another trailer, you may want to be paid for it.

Toll Road Fees

More and more states are installing sections of toll roads and those with them are increasing fees. One trip thru Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and you will understand why you will want the company to pay tolls.


The time and fuel spent every year exiting the interstate to cross the scales and pull right back out add up. Using Prepass to motor on down the highway can save you 15-20 minutes effectively every time you pass the scales. That can add up to several driveable hours every week.

Detention/Layover Pay

Being forced to wait to load and unload will happen often. If you are where you are suppose to be when you are suppose to be there and the shipper/consignee is not ready, who pays for all waiting? Sitting for 6 hours because of no fault of yours is costing you money unless you paid Detent Time.

Qualcomm or Satellite Fees

Nearly every company now uses some form of satellite tracking system. You should know who pays for the equipment, the installation, any required maintenance and the monthly fees.


As I stated, this is just a listing of the things you should consider. Look for detailed information on each section to learn more about how different programs/services work and can affect you – the new Trucking Company Owner.

Happy Trucking, John

TripPak – Load Submission Program

Owner Operator Extras

Companies that use a large number of Owner/Operators (O/O) may provide their contractors will programs and extras to assist them in being successful. Like a broken record, I have to repeat the statement, every company does thing differently and it is important to get in writing all matters and to make sure you understand them before signing your truck up to work with any company.

Qualcomm or Satellite Service

With so much freight being sent Delivery Just In Time or Time Sensitive, many shippers and consignees want instant access to the status and location of their shipments. The flagship of satellite tracking is Qualcomm. The cost of installation of the units and the monthly maintenance fees care an added expense for Owner/Operators. As a part of recruiting, companies may offer to pay for either the installation cost, which can easily be $500 or more depending on circumstances and also the monthly service fees. A consideration regarding the satellite equipment is that companies may charge you a deposit out of your settlement checks and when (if) you terminate your agreement with them, they will hold the deposit (which could be $1,000s of dollars) until you return the equipment in good condition. If the equipment is damaged, they may deduct money from your deposit or final settlement. If at all possible, it is recommended that you personally deliver your removed unit to prove no damage or have it removed by an authorized installer for the original company.

Fuel Purchase

Fuel is the largest single expense of operating a truck. Anything that you can do to lower this expense is critical. Some companies offer fuel purchase programs that allow drivers to fuel up at selected locations/sources for a discount. This may be done by enrolling the O/O with a fuel card such as Fleet-One, Fuelman, etc., or with a fuel network (Pacific Pride, CFN, etc). While individual trucks can enroll in these programs, a company that enrolls 100s of trucks may be able to achieve better rates and discounts. Companies that provide refrigerated services may also arrange for discounts on used for the trailer reefer fuel, which is not always included in discount programs.

Maintenance Programs

Tires and routine maintenance (Oil/Lube/PM) expenses are always on the truck owner’s mind. These little expenses add up over the course of a year. Larger companies will try to establish discount programs thru nationwide or regional maintenance companies such as Blue Beacon, Speedco or Wingfoot.


The availability of benefits such as medical, dental, disability and life insurance at group rates can make them much more affordable. Even under Obamacare, group plans can be a much better bargain.

Truck Insurance

Your truck liability insurance is of course a substantial annual expense where you can benefit from 10% to 20% in group discounts. This could be more important if you are newer driver with less then 5 years of experience. Even if the company does not advertise this being available, check with the recruiter to see it is available. It is also important to know if you have to provide freight insurance or if the company is providing it. If you are required to provide it, does the company have a program that allows you to obtain it at group rates.

License Plates

Another one of those programs that may save the Owner/Operator money is when the company provides base plates. However, consider if the plate will be in another state then where you live so that you do not encounter both states charging you income taxes. Check with a tax professional before you plate your truck in a different state then then your residence.

Fuel Tax Filings

You will be required to file IFTA reports and pay appropriate fuel taxes regardless of where you plate your truck and where you run. Some truck owners are comfortable filing their own IFTA reports. while others would prefer not to do the actual paperwork. Some companies will prepare the filings for free. Some companies require that you use their services.

Trailer rentals

Sometimes Owner/Operators are required to provide their own trailer. Not all owners have already purchased a trailer. They may have been working for a company that provided trailers or they may be changing from vans to reefer or flatbed. To assist new lessees, companies may have contracts with trailer sales companies with lower initial payments or better interest rates on the lease. It is important to shop around if you will be needing to obtain new equipment. If you have a relationship with your local credit union or dealer where you purchased your truck, you may be able to get a better deal.

Loaner Truck

breakdown coverage
Truck breakdowns happen. When that happens you sidelined for a few hours to a few days to a few weeks on more serious events. The company you contract with may offer some form of Loaner Truck program allowing you to continue to work while yours is in the shop. Do not jump on this without checking with the company performing the maintenance about their programs. Some dealers either have trucks available for short term use or have arrangements with leasing companies. While a loaner truck program may be available, it will not be free and may not be a good deal. The primary purpose of offering loaner trucks is so that the freight will be moved – not your daily operating costs.

Settlement to bank account

Unless you have a spouse, friend or family member that can receive your mail and deposit your checks every week, you may want to make sure that what ever company you sign on with can deposit your payments direct to bank or a payment card. Smaller companies may not offer this as the banks like to charge excessive fees for such services. Unless the company is large enough to muscle the banks into better deals, they may not want to offer direct deposit services. Luckily, several non-bank financial services companies are starting to provide direct money transfer services.

Factoring of Load Payments

Cash flow can be important to all businesses – especially 1 or 2 truck owner operators. Depending on your lease arrangements you might have to wait 1 or 2 weeks for payment for delivered freight. A few sudden maintenance bills or even personal expenses might require you to get your money fast. Freight Factoring is a service where for a fee, a company will pay you sooner for your outstanding invoices. This service could also be very important if you are a new leaser and need to buy fuel. Be very careful when using freight factoring because it is not expensive and over the course of a year could become a large annual operating expense.

Truck Drivers Benefits

Companies that are trying to recruit career employees have learned that in addition to pay, other benefits are generally needed. While this was not true prior to unionization in the 1930s and 1940s, it common now for full time employees. In addition there are Federal and State laws in effect that can also affect available benefits, such as over time pay and certain other work condition requirements.

As stated in other sections, companies differ vastly when it comes to offerings. Some offer little more then 5 paid holidays and workers comp (state required accident insurance) up to generous paid vacations, retirement and other perks. If a benefit is important to you, get it in writing and understand all the conditions that require. Not to accuse recruiters of lying, but what you think someone said does not mean that is what they said.

You might have started truck driving as a single person and you are now married and kids are being added to the mix. These life changes require you to consider your total benefits package. As your experience grows, you may opportunities to work for other companies that offer better benefits then what you have now. However, before you jump from one company to another consider what you may be giving up (dispatch seniority, higher pay rates for years with the company, etc) for what ever new benefit you might be offered.

However, understand that when companies offer a benefit, make sure you know the parameters. Companies provide differing levels of benefits. Some benefits are paid for by the company. Some are partially paid for, as the company pays the basic and you pay for enhanced coverage. Other benefits may be offered at discounted group rates but without any company contribution to the costs.

Vacation Time

Most serious companies now offer some amount of paid vacation time for full time drivers. Normally one week is the minimum but you may not qualify for it until after 6 months or, not uncommonly, after 1 year. Many companies (but from all) now provide two weeks, but again the qualification period may be only after starting your 2nd, 3rd or 4th year with the company. Vacations generally have to be taken the year after completing the qualifying for it. So during your 2nd year with the company you will get the one week you earned the prior year. Vacation pay may be calculated by taking your annual earnings and paying you proportionally. Others have a set rate. The set rate could also be higher for more seniority drivers.

Paid Holidays

If a company recognizes and pays for Federal Holidays is vary subjective. The Federal government has 12 key holidays, although most USA employers only provide for 10 paid days off. Many (smaller) employers will provide for about 5 of the major ones as the only paid days. For Over The Road drivers, at some point you are going to be on the road during at least some national holidays. Depending on the company, you may be paid for the day in your paycheck when it occurs (assuming you were forced to sit because you could not load or unload) or you will be given an extra day you can take off during the year (a flex/personal day). Not all companies even pay for holidays, they just give you the opportunity to not have to work.

Health Insurance

With the amount of information available on line about different plans, there is no reason for me to discuss this. Also with all the rapid changing conditions, by the time I finished typing this, it would be changed. The important part is to understand what the company pays for. Just you. You and 1 or 2 dependents? Do you have the option to pay for additional coverages? Health insurance packages have many options so read them carefully.

Dental Insurance

Again, this is covered a lot in the news. Your coverage may include family members and if you have kids you will want to be certain to Orthodontics and Braces coverage, even if you have to pay the extra premiums yourself.

Short Term Disability

Short Term Disability can provide an income in the event you are disabled and can not work because of an accident. Short Term Disability will generally not pay over 1 year but policies vary greatly. Short Term Disability may pay your full [expected] salary while others pay only a portion. Truck driving is a hazardous job. If given the opportunity to get disability pay, it is strongly recommended, even if you have to pay the premiums. Every year, drivers are injured when opening the doors to their trucks from cargo falling that has shifted during transit.

Long Term Disability

Long Term Disability Pay will pay you a salary replacement in the event you have a more serious illness or injury. These can pay as little as 50% to 75% of your lost salary but that is better then nothing. Depending on your job, Long Term Disability may be more important (flatbed, heavy haul, specialized, etc) exposes the driver to more hazardous conditions. However, just the fact that you are spending all day on the road (accidents happen!), you are routinely getting in and out of the truck cab, hooking and unhooking trailers and being around moving equipment unloading and unloading cargo, you are at more risk then an office job.

Life Insurance

What would happen to your family if you were killed or died suddenly? Many people understand the importance of life insurance to provide some security to their family in the event of the loss of life. Life insurance is not as common in trucking, but it may be available through a group plan with the company and you should strongly consider it.


Repeating comments that I have already made: different companies will offer vastly different benefits (or even none at all) and you will want to get information in writing. Some benefits require premiums to be paid and you should know what, if anything, the company is paying. Trucking is hazardous work and having medical insurance, short and long term disability insurance is strongly recommended.

Bonus Pay for Truck Drivers

Truck Drivers are sometimes offered different bonuses. These could be one time, such as Sign On Bonuses or could be earned repeatedly such as Safe Driver Bonuses. Not all companies offer bonuses and earning the bonuses can sometimes be fickle. The best way to treat bonuses when considering where to drive for – assume you will never see them. Then if you get a bonus, it is just that it – a bonus. Check with the company and get information about bonuses in writing.

Sign On Bonuses

Sign on Bonuses are commonly advertized by companies. But signing the agreement does not put the money in your bank account. Also, Sign On Bonuses are often only available to experienced drivers. Generally Sign On Bonuses require a minimum duration of working for the company, with 1 year not uncommon. Other performance requirements such as no accidents, a minimum number of miles driven or other requirements may be tied to earning the bonus. Sign On Bonuses may be available to company drivers and owner/operators.

Truck Driving School Reimbursement

Not technically a bonus, some companies will reimburse truck driving school graduates for their tuition costs. This is almost a form of Sign On Bonuses, since it is designed to recruit drivers to the company. Again, the new driver will nominally be required to meet employment requirements including performance and longevity minimums. Tuition reimbursement and sign on bonuses are seldom both paid to the same driver. You will qualify for one or the other – or neither.

Safety Bonuses

Truck Drivers that get tickets or are in accidents create headaches for companies. Truck drivers that don’t add value to the company. As a result, some companies will offer safety bonuses to drivers that follow the rules and stay out of trouble. Correct log books and correct daily logs generally can be an indication that the driver is playing by the rules. Each company that offers such rewards use numerous different rules to figure who gets bonuses. Some Safety Bonuses are awarded to every driver that makes the cut, some companies only offer the bonus to one or more of all the drivers who qualify, such a Top Driver.

Fuel Bonuses

Fuel costs are one of the largest expenses for all trucking companies. Truck Drivers can save – or cost – their company a lot of money depending on their driving habits. There are numerous ways to figure fuel bonuses. Some companies will calculate a fleet fuel average and reward drivers that achieve some amount better then the fleet’s numbers. Another method used by a few companies is to allow the driver to option to set truck’s speed governor at lower speeds, i.e. 60MPH. The company then reward the driver with 1 or 2 cents per mile in their earnings. Fuel bonuses can be additional pay to the base rate or it could be cash at the end of the year. Seldom do Owner Operators qualify for company fuel bonuses. The O/O pays for the fuel and so any owner that saves on fuel is cutting their own costs.

Longevity Bonuses

Trucking Companies spend a lot of money recruiting and training new drivers. When truck drivers stay with the company longer, it can cut those costs. Depending on the company, both company drivers and occasionally Owner/Operators, can earn bonuses based on their time with the company. Occasionally referred to as seniority bonuses, these bonuses can be additional money added to the base rate or cash bonuses paid annually.

Recruiting Bonuses

Every business knows that word of mouth is best advertising. Be it finding new customers or quality new employees, employees of the company can provide valuable input. Since companies realize that most people will only refer honest, trustworthy and reliable co-workers, they will pay a bonus to the current driver and may also pay a sign on bonus to the new driver.

As with all matters regarding your trucking career, get it in writing.

Happy Trucking, John

Truck Driver Pay – Extra Pay

Trucking companies reward their drivers will basic pay (Per Mile, Percentage, Hourly) and depending on the company, pay for other time or effort may be made. Not every company pays all of these and there are others that I might have missed. Some companies do not pay any of these. And many companies will advertise that they pay – but don’t, at least without a fight.

Detent or Detention Time

Waiting or Detention Time may be paid to drivers who are required to mail to load or unload, if not at fault for the delay. Normally, companies will not pay for the 1st and often the 2nd hour. There is also normally a maximum number of hours the driver can collect for. As such, if the delivery was scheduled for Friday but the driver has to wait until Monday morning, they will not be paid all those hours. Also, companies are seldom generous with Detent Time. Often, the driver will have to make an issue about being paid for it. I never once collected this payment when working as an Expediter, although in a some cases I know the company billed the customer.

Orientation Pay

Nearly every company will require an Orientation. It could be a few hours in a smaller company hiring only highly experienced drivers to upto a week for some companies. Normal Orientation is typically 2 days. Depending on if a company driver or owner/operator, the company may pay mileage to/from training, motel, meals and other expenses. When working for a company that is a Owner/Operator contractor to a larger company, check with your direct employer about payments. Companies may ongoing or additional training which should be paid in some form, but not always. As an expediter, I was required to attend 2 or more drivers’ meetings each year, none of which was paid at all and I lived 60 miles from the office.

Multistop Pay

Occasionally, you may encounter a load that has multiple unloading points. When this happens, the driver is normally paid a Multistop Pay. The initial loading and final unload locations do not count for Multi-stop payments, only intermediate stops. It is also important that get paid for all miles involved, because generally Multistop loads involve more miles then just the distance from the load to final unload points. If you are a percentage driver, this may not be a factor as the load should have higher payments anyway for the extra freight. Also, if you happen to work for a LTL (Less the Trailer Load) carrier, this will not apply. Most LTL companies pay for all miles.

Mileage Variance Pay

Also known as Short Haul Pay, Mileage Variance payments are used during shorter runs. When drivers are paid by the loaded mile, it is obviously more work for the driver to do two 100 mile runs then a single 200 mile job. For this reason, some companies will add to base rate for shorter runs. Like everything else in trucking pay, differences between companies are huge. Some pay for less then 200 miles, some only for less then 100 miles and some – yep – not at all. The pay could be 1 or 2 cents per mile for company drivers or as much as 25 cents or more for owner/operators. Companies that pay for all miles may not pay for short haul.

Over Dimensional Loads

Drivers with Flatbed or drop deck loads may or may not be paid for loads that exceed normal trailer sizes, such as over hanging the sides or the rear of the trailer. The amount of oversize can also be a factor in calculating over sized. A load that 9′ wide may not qualify for payment while a load 10′ will be.

Tarp Pay

Flat bed and drop deck loads on a routine basis are required to be tarpped of covered. Some companies will pay extra for the labor, some do not – so check with the company before signing on.


With 100 companies, you will likely run into 100 different pay structures if you count all the combinations of base pay, extra pay and bonuses you can earn as a truck driver. Making a chart of the information could be useful because you will not be able to directly compare multiple companies with each other.

Happy Trucking – John Carter

Truck Driver Pay – Basic

Pay Rates – Basic

Truck drivers, depending on the company, can be paid several different ways. In addition to the driver’s basic pay, drivers can be paid bonuses or for extra services. Different companies will use different combonations of basic pay and extra pay. Some payments are available only to company truck drivers and others are normally restricted to Owner/Operators. Some companies may make payments to both. It is important to understand the company’s complete pay program before you sign on. Understanding how, when, why and what you will be paid in advance will prevent you from feeling used and abused by your company.

Some of the basis calculations used to pay truck drivers are

  1. Per Mile – All,
  2. Per Mile – Loaded,
  3. Percentage of Load,
  4. hourly.
  5. The of course, there are ways to fine tune with in those general terms.

    Per Mile – All

    Some companies will pay drivers for all miles they drive for the company. It does not matter if the truck is loaded, unloaded or even Bob-tail (no trailer). This can be an important consideration depending on the number of unloaded miles the driver is working. All truck drivers will have a percentage of unloaded miles. Unless you are strictly running terminal to terminal and never empty, there will be unloaded miles. Every company has a different mix of loaded to unloaded miles. You may be unloaded short distances or even 100s of miles. It just depends on where your company can find loads. The driver may also be required to bob-tail (drive with no trailer) substantial distances after dropping a loaded trailer at one location and then having no empty trailers to use, must travel to a location to get one for the next load.

    Per Mile – Loaded

    Another common pay method used for truck drivers is to only pay loaded miles. Do not confuse loaded miles with miles pulling a trailer. If the truck is not moving freight for payment, then the trailer is unloaded and you are not paid for it. Do not automatically assume that being paid for loaded miles only is less pay then all miles. Companies that pay for all miles are basically under paying loaded miles to subsidized unloaded miles. Companies paying only loaded miles often (but not required) pay more base male rates. If working for a company that pays only loaded miles and the companies adds more customers, you could end up with few empty miles and be earning more total money.

    Percentage of Load fees

    This is especially common in Expediting or Fast Freight services, however it can occur in other trucking services such as bulk (gravel/sand), flat bed, heavy haul or specialized. Many times, the companies that are using a Load Percentage calculation do not pay empty (dead head or Bob-tail) miles. One reason for pay by percentage is that some loads will require more work and the drivers that accept the extra work are paid more then the driver that takes the easier load. For example, a HazMat load generally pays more for the same miles/weight/time as a non-HazMat load. The the driver has more responsibilities with HazMat. Thus more pay for the work.

    Used mainly for local deliver or union route jobs, hourly pay is the goal of some truck drivers because it is home nightly. Hourly positions are subject to not only Federal Hour of Service rules but also state work hour rules.

    Closing Comments

    Every company has different ways to operate, so check with every company you are considering driving for individually. Making a chart of the information may be useful because you will not be able to directly compare multiple companies with each other.

    Happy Trucking – John Carter

The Great Recruiting Lie by Trucking Companies

The Great Lie from every trucking company is that they value their drivers. While not entirely untrue but it is also not actually actually as the websites and the recruiters are implying.

Please understand, companies do value their drivers. They also value dispatchers, maintenance, safety/compliance and accounting personnel. And like every industry, some companies that do a better job then other others at caring. There are some companies who specialize in hiring new/trainee/driving school graduates. Other, these companies have less generous pay and benefits packages and also offer less home time (per month) or require more time spent running in a team truck when you want to run solo. As these companies hire 100s of drivers each year – you may appear to be less important to them then you would like. But even in these driver mills, the longer you are with the company, normally the better you will be treated.

As your experience grows, the more opportunities and often more respect will be available to you. This could include being higher up to get a new truck, more pay, the option to get preferred loads/routes. And the longer you are with the same company, the more opportunity to receive company awards (safe driver, etc) which will be your acknowledgement you are not just a number.

There are also many companies that will only hire you if you have multiple years of experience. These companies may be smaller and you may have the opportunity to develop a relationship with your dispatches and other co-workers. This is give you the impression that you are more then just a number, even if you are.

For all trucking companies, the driver is an important part. But trucking companies are a team environment. In college sports a solo event is wrestling, however, it is still a team event that requires multiple people to win individual matches for the team to take the trophy. Baseball, basketball, volleyball and football need the coordinated efforts of numerous people at the same time.

Trucking is no different. Even a small company may have a person that handles load scheduling, paying the bills, processing load paperwork to get paid by shipper and paying the drivers. As the company grows, the more specialized each department will be. When a company hits 100s or 1,000s trucks, the departments will multiple employees. Additionally, there will be other departments such as Safety/Compliance, Payroll, Maintenance/Fleet Management and Personnel.

It is not a Great Lie that companies do value their drivers. It could be more about the driver not being as important as they think they are. Nearly every company will state “you are more then a number”. Sorry, no matter what, you really are a number. An employee number. A truck number. A load number.

You are part of the total process to provide quality service. Dispatch receive the load and determine which driver/truck should move it. The driver must pick up and deliver it as required. Billing must process the paperwork and collect payment. Payroll will disperse your cut, while accounts payable will pay for fuel, insurance, truck payments and other company expenses. Are you important as a driver? Of course you are. But so is dispatch, accounting, sales and the maintenance department.

Many times drivers take the Great Lie meaning they are the most important person in the company. Thus what is important to them is important to everyone. Get over yourself. You are one member of the team. And need to understand that. That is not to say that you should allow yourself to be pissed on or treated like garbage. But you must understand the bigger picture of a large trucking company. The newer you are to the company (less seniority) and the larger the company – the less the boss is likely to know your name.

If you think you are going to find the perfect trucking company – give up now, there are NONE. That is correct, no perfect company to work for. Every company has issues. You must find the one that has issues somewhere you don’t care about, or care about the least. If you are young in good health and with no kids, the health plan may not be as important. If you want to haul long haul, look for a company that specializes in long haul rather then work for a company that does a lot of local work. If you want to be an Owner/Operator with the opportunity to lease-purchase, then how the company drivers are paid should not be as important to you. Each company functions slightly differently but they all also operate the same. All trucking companies have shippers, consignees, truck maintenance, drivers, dispatchers and other employees – each with their own personality, their own needs and their own priorities.

If you research where you will work with great care and select a company that meets your needs and desires, then focus on being a team player for that company, very likely you will have a great time and you will feel like you are an important part of the team – and you are. When that company no longer meets your needs (pay package, routes, types or loads, etc.) carefully review other companies for a new position.

Happy Trucking – John

Truck Driving – Solitude or Solace

Truck Driving – Solitude or Solace

Life as a truck driver can be one of long times by yourself. Local delivery drivers will often have much more interaction with customers and even company dock workers. However, most new drivers will not be working locally. They will be at best regionally and most likely Over the Road (OTR).

The result is that you will be spending a lot a time alone. Some people become truck drivers because of they crave this loneliness. Some are tired of the rat race of office politics or the being just a number of factor working. Some people are natural introverts and being alone is no big deal.

Every person deals with the alone time differently. Some people do not realize how lonely driving a truck can be. They think that they are going to enjoy it, yet all their employment thus far has been part of a team. A truck driver is part of a team – but they are operating as independent team member. The truck driver has to be a self motivated and self starting person by nature or must be able to learn these skills and traits.

The ability to handle and deal with the Solitude or Solace of being a trucker, especially an Over The Road driver gone from family for weeks at a time, can seriously affect your health. A long haul (1,000 mile average) driver who literally will spend 90% of their time locked in their truck cab is about like being a prisoner in solitude. The driver will have dock interaction picking up the load, getting fuel and maybe stopping to eat and then when they deliver the load. The rest of the time, it is just them. That is a lot of alone time.

This solitude, unless accepted and even appreciated, can also affect the safety of the driver and the rest of the traveling public. Solitude can be very tiring. And a tired truck driver is a dangerous truck driver. The sudden increase in Solitude that a person that had previously had a daily interactive family life and was part of an office or business environment with numerous co-workers could be more then some drivers can stand. One of the ways to deal with this sudden shift in social interactions would be to be part of a team driving. Most new drivers will spend several months as a trainee driver anyway where they will be working with an experienced trucker to learn their job. It may be necessary or at least recommended for some new drivers to seek opportunities as a team driver member even after completing any training requirements.

On the other hand, there are many people that the change from an interactive life style to one of solitude as a truck driver is actually a blessing. It may just what they need to achieve the mental state they relish. Being alone does not mean being lonely – it just means you are comfortable without the need for external reinforcements.

Being a truck driver, especially a new one working over the road, is a different lifestyle then most people are use to living. It can be one of Solitude or it can be a life of Solace.

Happy trucking, John

Work Attire for Truck Drivers

You may be a company driver. Or work for a contractor. Maybe you own your own truck and you lease to a company. You may even be 100% on your own with your own truck, your own authority and book you own loads – but it is time to wear the appropriate Work Attire for being a truck driver.

Good Work Attire

Uniform shirt and pants are not necessarily a requirement, but you should dress in a manner that is presentable and appropriate for your job. I have watched drivers walk on to shippers docks wearing (dirty) t-shirts, cut off shorts and flip flops. You have to wonder if the driver was a professional employee or a guy on his weekend break at beech.

One of the allures of truck driving is the relaxed world of being on your own. No boss. Limited co-workers. Your own little world. You can smoke if you do. Drink sodas or coffees. Snack while you drive. A lot of little bits of freedoms that you will not have on an assembly line or in an office environment. You have the opportunity to chat away on the CB or the cellphone – as long as you use handsfree.

While you are in the cab of your truck, you are in your own little world. However, the minute you step out of the truck and into the dock / shipping / receiving area of your company’s customer – you are now representing the company. You should and you must present yourself professionally.

Long Hair and Beards are not no-nos. Many truck drivers have both. Clean and groomed however is expected. The more physical your job – the more important that you take the time to wash/shower as needed. A long haul, dry freight driver may be able to get by with skipping showers. However, a flat bed driver doing a lot of physical work climbing on loads and working with dirty tarps will need to max use of truck stop showers.

A trick that some drivers regularly use is to change clothes. They have work pants, a uniform shirt, a company hat and steel toed shoes that they will don before checking in to load or unload. Once loaded with the trailer buttoned down – they will stop and slip into a t-shirt, shorts/sweat pants, tennis shoes to be comfortable during the drive. Then change back before they unload.

Many drivers also like to carry coveralls that they can slip on during fueling or maintenance activities so that they can keep their work clothes clean and looking for the best during time at the dock.

There is zero reason to not enjoy the freedoms of being a truck driver, yet also looking and presenting yourself and your company in the best right at the times when it matters the most – at your company’s customers locations.

Happy Trucking = John Carter

Your 1st Trucking Job

Your 1st Trucking Job

Once you have your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you will start looking for your first truck driving position. While it is possible to work an entire career for one company, most drivers will change jobs at least a couple of times. This is not a reflection of the drivers and their loyalty but a combination of numerous factors.

A key reasons drivers will change jobs, especially very early in their career is a lot of the best companies  for will not hire new/rookie drivers. Also, many desired jobs (daily work, home nightly) are very competitive with a lot of drivers applying. With a lot of drivers to pick from, companies will [generally[ hire the best they can, often the more experienced drivers.

When you start looking at truck stop magazines or online for truck driving openings, you will see 3 common statements. They may be worded differently but they will say something such as:

  1. Students Encouraged (so new drivers are okay)
  2. 1 Year Experience required (Unless you can prove 1 solid year of OTR, do not apply. Even 6 months will generally not be sufficient.)
  3. 2 or More years required (Again, they are looking for someone that will require little to no training and those will sell then the sufficient experience will not be considered.)

You can always down apply. A driver with 20 years experience may at a company that will hire students, but not the other way around.

Companies will set these requirements based their ability or desire to train drivers. Regardless of your opinion of your driving skills and the fact that you completed a CDL Training course, you have a lot to learn about real world of trucking. Such as planning routes; handling changing traffic conditions; the proper paperwork/records; planning fuel stops; understanding different dock procedures and dealing with shipping and receiving clerks. And that is just the start.

Where ever you get your first driver’s job, you will be expected to work with a Driver’s Trainer in a team driving pairing for anywhere from two (2) to (6) months. Again, like it or not – but it will happen. The school taught you how to pass the tests – experience will teach you reality.

When selecting your first position (shall we not call it a job), you need to consider numerous factors. While clearly limited by your lack of experience, you will have fewer choices. However, that does not mean you have to settle for what is offered. Every person is different and every person has different desires. Plus where you live may offer opportunities now available everywhere.

Just a few of the things you will want to think about (and this is not inclusive)

  • Tuition Reimbursement. Some companies may offer to pay your school Tuition. Not all companies do. If this is important be sure to ask, even if not included in a company’s advertisement. If you do start with a company that pays your school costs, know the terms and make sure you can accept them. Most likely you have to agree to work their a minimum amount of time, often at least 1 year.  And generally they will not pay it all up front. They may pay it prorated over a year or more, or they might not pay any of it until the end of the year as a lump sum.
  • Where you will be working. Even companies that will hire new drivers may have weekly home time, while others you can expect to be OTR 25 out of 30 days. If you are single and want to make the maximum money – a lot of road time may be best for you. You may be driving coast to coast and border to border. Family demands may require you to spend more time with in a few states and home more often.
  • What you will be doing. Do you want to spend more time driving, you might look for a company that does more long hauls. It may pay less per mile, but you book more miles. Maybe you enjoy shorter runs, which means more time in and out of docks. Higher per mile pay but few daily miles on average. Do you hate sitting around waiting to unload? Some companies do most of their freight drop and hook – you back in to the specific dock, unhook the trailer and then hook to a different trailer and take off again. Sometimes the trailers may be dropped and/or picked up from a drop lot. Do you like a challenge – flat bed cargo may be for you. See Your Future Truck Driving Job part 2 for more info on types of trailers and cargo.
  • Rider Policy. Some companies do not allow any riders at any time under any circumstances. Others will allow your spouse or a child (16+) to ride with you under limited circumstances. Some are more generous then others. Under all circumstances, Federal Law and Insurance Requirements will demand that all ‘guests’ in your truck must be preapproved by the company. Pets may or may not  be allowed. If either of these are important, ask before you even waste your time setting up an interview.
  • Age of Equipment. Not much else to be said, but if other factors are equal, why drive a 10 YO rattle trap when you can pilot a new rig. Note,new trucks go to senior drivers, so you will get a hand-me-down.

Again, this is only a few of the things you will want to consider before you start you first career building position. But you will want to research because if you start at one company and leave after only a few months, you may find it harder to get a new position because the new company will be afraid to take a risk on you. And if you trade positions every year, again, companies may be afraid to hire you. No position is perfect, select one that is close your desires.

One simple way, after you have narrowed your selection of possible companies to work for would be go to any busy truck stop and approach drivers with your target companies in the fuel island or restaurant (never bang on the door of a truck) and ask this question “Knowing what you know now about [company name], would you hire on with them again?” You will get an answer real quick about the good, the bad and the important about the company.

Happy Trucking and welcome to your new career.