When deciding to choose the occupation of a truck driver, there are a lot of things to consider. In many ways, being a CDL driver is more of a lifestyle than a job. The demands certainly limit what time you spend at home, which impacts relationships with those around you. Because the majority of your time involves weeks on the road, spouses or partners deserve some say in your deliberation before you decide if driving a truck for a living is for you.
If you are attracted to flexibility and following a different routine from the rest of the population, then driving a truck is definitely worth exploring. To help you start a discussion with loved ones, and to fill you in on what to expect in this line of work, consider these 8 facts about truck drivers in America.
8 Facts About Truck Drivers in America
- 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.
- You may be expected to work up to 70 hours over an eight day period. After you’ve worked 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 can’t drive for more than 11 hours in a day. You must conclude your “hours of service” with a 10-hour break.
- Oftentimes you won’t know what you’ll be paid until the end of the year. A good estimate would be $35,000 in your first year and $45,000 to $55,000 after.
- 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.
- 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 the routes aren’t always straight. Your salary can increase if you become a trainer, are willing to haul oversized freight or hazardous materials, or if an employer pays you a percentage of each load you run.
- Some drivers are paid hourly, but in most cases compensation is calculated by mile. A delivery driver doesn’t get paid when he or she is not delivering.
- 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.
- There are plenty of 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 most likely get to drive modern trucks with comfortable, ergonomically designed seats to help you stay alert and focused. This is just as well because more of your working days are spent in an 8’ x 8’ space, but that shouldn’t confine your imagination or ambition.
Truck drivers are the backbone of this economy. There’s an enduring cultural attraction to the knights of the road and there’s even a national appreciation week. Just be forewarned that even if you’re young, single and keen to be free, it’s not easy to be a truck driver. Talk through the ramifications of this lifestyle to find out if this is the right career for you.