In many ways, being an OTR (over-the-road) or CDL driver is more a lifestyle than a job. Its demands, particularly upward of 300 days per year on the road, will certainly limit what time you spend at home, thus impacting relationships with those around you. And because it may be two years before you can move into a regional driving position that allows for you to return home weekly, instead of once every three weeks, spouses or partners deserve some say in your deliberations before you decide if driving a truck for a living is for you.
But if you’re attracted to flexibility, 20 hours of solitude each day, and following a different routine from the rest of the population, then this career is definitely worth exploring. To assist you in a discussion with loved ones, and to fill you in on what to expect in this line of work, consider the eight noteworthy facts below about truck drivers in the US. You may be surprised by what you learn.
- Days can begin really early. Many drivers like to move with the light; others prefer to drive through the night. OTR truck drivers don’t have set starting hours, unless they’re calling in to dispatch after returning from “time off.”
- You may be expected to work up to 70 hours over an eight-day period. After you’ve worked for 70 hours, you cannot drive again until you take a full 34 hours off duty. The 70-hour limit could be reached by working 14-hour days, but you cannot drive for more than 11 hours in a day. You must conclude your “Hours of Service” with a 10-hour break.
- Some drivers are paid hourly, but in most cases compensation is calculated by mile. A delivery driver does not get paid when he or she is not delivering.
- Employers who pay “practical miles” pay based on every mile driven while on the job. On the other hand, “paid miles” is more like drawing a straight-line on a map from Point A to Point B, even though routes aren’t always straight. Your salary can increase if you become a trainer, are willing to haul oversize freight or hazardous materials, or if an employer pays you a percentage of each load you run.
- Often, you won’t know what you’ll be paid until the end of a year. A good estimate would be $35,000 in your first year, and $45,000 to $55,000 thereafter.
- You will either do “drop and hooks” or live loading and unloading, which can take two to three hours each. An OTR driver will almost never have to unload any freight, but you are reliant on various shipping and receiving departments observing your strict schedule.
- Most drivers are expected to cover 125,000 miles per annum. That breaks down to around 2,500 miles a week, which equates to 500 miles a day. Think about that.
- There are many perks that come with a truck driver’s schedule, not the least of which is a unique view of the country, as well as camaraderie among your peers. You’ll mostly get to drive modern trucks with comfortable, ergonomically designed seats to help you stay alert and focused. This is just as well, because most of your working days are spent in an 8′ x 8′ space, but that shouldn’t confine your imagination or ambition.
Truck drivers have a long history of being held in high esteem by the public. There’s an enduring cultural attraction to the ‘Knights of the Road’part cowboy outlaws, part supply-chain sheriffs. There’s even a national appreciation week! Just be forewarned that even if you’re young, single, and keen to be free, it’s definitely not easy to be a “professional tourist.” Talk through the ramifications of this lifestyle, for the sake of your loved ones and yourself.
A good day for a truck driver is always spent on the road (or on the road home).
Contributed to jobs.net by Kim Evans