Some drivers claim they were born ready to drive as a long haul trucker…… the open road calls out to them. Long haul trucking is a passion for some.
However, long haul or OTR (over the road) driving is no doubt a life style, just not a job.
There are many reasons guys and gals choose longer trips as opposed to short haul trucking….. most of which boils down to just personal likes and dislikes.
Here’s both sides of the story, on what it’s like to be a long haul trucker, so you can decide for yourself, if it rings your bell.
The Life of the Long Haul Trucker: The Perks
Probably one of the most common reasons to get into the trucking biz, is the appeal of the independence that goes along with the nature of the job. There’s no boss hanging over your shoulder watching your every move.
A long haul trucker can set their own schedule and make many of their own scheduling decisions. Yes, there’s orders from dispatch and yes, there are hours of service rules to follow…. BUT, you still have more flexibility than anyone sitting behind a desk pushing a pencil all day long, too!
With the introduction of electronic log books, the attraction of the independence factor is waning somewhat. Some feel this system has far too much control over the trucker.
For example, if a truck driver starts out early Monday morning, drives his allowed hours, sleeps and resets, and the DOT hours of service regs says he can drive at 2 am, the company may insist that the driver start their shift at 2am in order to meet a pick-up or delivery appointment, even though the driver’s body clock says otherwise.
Video about the life on the road, narrated by an experienced long haul trucker.
One of the biggest attractions about long trips, is the appeal of the romance of the open highway, the freedom…….‘cowboys of the highway’ appeal, if you will.
Some drivers just can’t get enough of driving…. they simply love to drive a big truck. Many quiver at the thoughts of backing into a loading dock several times each week and maneuvering tight spaces with multiple city deliveries all week long, so local or short haul, has no appeal to them whatsoever. Nice long highway trips have more appeal for some truckers.
The money for long trips is still somewhat decent. The number of miles accumulated in the course of a week, can certainly add up in a hurry. Since truckers are paid on a per mileage rate for long distance driving, the pay can be decent, depending on the type of trucking and the trucking company.
Single drivers will sometimes make their truck their home, and just literally do trips back to back, take their off duty time and resets, from their truck at a truck stop.
Driver Salary – Long Haul
In the U.S. – An American company driver makes between about $35,000-$40,000/year, and more than that after acquiring a few years experience.*
In Canada – A Canadian company driver can clear about $45,000 after deductions.
Generally speaking, statistics say that long haul pays about 20% more than short haul for company drivers.
For owner operators driving long haul, the gross/net income has huge variations.
*These figures are approximate… depends on state, personal income tax deductions, the carrier, how much the driver WANTS to work, how much work is actually available.
Long haul truckers, have the privilege of seeing some pretty spectacular scenery on their journeys, that would otherwise cost lots of money on a paid vacation. Trucking can really be an adventure, and a great way to see the country.
Love of Big Trucks
Some guys get into a trucking career, for the sole reason that they love driving and being around the big equipment! Many find it quite relaxing to drive. It’s also a known fact that the loud roar of a diesel engine… that raw, unbridled horsepower, is said to raise the ‘testosterone levels in the human body’.
Something Different Each Day
Each day for the long haul trucker is different. The travel, the destinations, the challenges, the schedule….. all vary from day to day. It certainly keeps life interesting!
Lots of Trucking Jobs
Even in this stressed economy, there are still lots of long haul trucking jobs, which isn’t the case with many other professions. A commercial driver’s license not only gives a driver plenty of job opportunities, but there’s some satisfaction knowing that if you don’t like the company or people you’re working for, you can always look for another job. Chances are, they aren’t the only game in town.
More recently, many truckers seem to prefer short haul trucking jobs, as they don’t require the serious life style changes as running long. Seats are harder for trucking companies to fill for long haul work.
It doesn’t matter where you live…. small town or big city, it’s always possible to get a job. And, if you’re looking at relocating, there will be a job for you….. and there’s a lot to be said for this! You shouldn’t ever be stuck without work, especially if you enjoy long distance driving.
The Life of the Long Haul Trucker: The Downside
Due to the nature of living in a truck for extended time periods, eating restaurant food (processed and highly salted), lack of exercise and relaxation time, the lifestyle of a long haul trucker, can lead to serious health problems. Many drivers have had their commercial driver’s license revoked or suspended, due to such problems as diabetes, heart issues, sleep apnea, caused from the unhealthy life style, of living in a truck, day after day, month after month and year after year.
Long Periods Away From Home
Long trips for the trucker can be anywhere from a week up until 3 weeks, and even longer. Once the driver is on the road, some companies will keep them out, doing continuous trips. Some drivers don’t get home for months. This is very difficult for the trucker and his family. Truckers miss a lot of regular everyday life with their families… it can also mean the end of a relationship, due to the long periods of absences. Great for singles, not so much for truckers with families.
If a driver suffers from loneliness, long haul trucking may not be a great choice. The trucker will spend long periods of time alone. Since the ruling on no handheld devices has been implemented, the driver cannot talk to friends or family when driving.
Some truckers, however, don’t mind the long periods of solitude.
Costs and Expenses
Meals and personal supplies purchased on the road, can add up quickly and take a big bite out of a driver’s earnings. The short haul driver can eat many of his meals at home and load up his cooler with food from home, saving the expense of restaurant meals.
Owner operators who are long haul truckers, are really getting hit hard by rapidly rising operating expenses. The high cost of restaurant food, fuel, repairs and equipment, is making this niche far less appealing than it once was.
Running as a Team
New drivers are often required to run as a team, for OTR work, until they have sufficient experience to run solo. Most truckers DETEST running with a partner, so if you already know you don’t want to drive as a team member, best to be looking at another niche in the industry!
It Can Be Done!
It isn’t impossible to be an OTR driver with good health and a happy family life, but it is certainly is more of a challenge. With mindful planning and the right trucking company, a career in this niche of the trucking industry, can be satisfying and rewarding and still, an honorable profession.
OTR Driver Comments
By Jonathan D. Keeler Jr., Hilliard, FL — I plan to be a trucker in the future. What do you think will be the hardest thing for me to deal with?
My dad is a trucker so I know the rules and regulations. I’d really like to hear some opinions of other truckers.
***Pros and cons of being a long distance trucker. There’s no family life to speak of, no social life, no woman can handle you being gone for 2 days to 2 months at a time. The good part of being a truck driver is the peace and quiet. You can set your schedule, meet lots of people and see lots of cool places.
***Good Advice from the Veteran Drivers with over 30 yrs trucking experience. Listening to the veteran truck drivers is a very important thing. Safety is the biggest factor.
I lost my first marriage due to trucking, and got married again. My wife fully knows I will be on the road a lot and accepts that. Always remember to stand up for your rights also and avoid trucking companies that are always looking for drivers. That will tell right away that the company may be having problems to create high driver turn over.
For all you new drivers out there, do not think you know it all, if you do not learn something every day then you do not belong behind the wheel. If you don’t like what you do (driving) do not complain about it, do something about it, as you can be a real hazard on the road if you do not like the job or the company you work for.
Do not take any guff from shippers and receivers. If any of them yell at you, pull your truck and trailer out of their dock. There’s no need for abusive language or yelling from them.
***A Trucker’s Life: by Jon Elwood — I would have to say if you have a significant other, leaving them for ‘X’ amount of weeks, will be the hardest thing to deal with.
I am not really sure if it gets easier, or you just adapt to it, but it does happen with time. Second, I will say just being on the road in general, you’re going to see some messed up stuff. If you are bouncing all over… if you are the type that doesn’t like new and challenging things on a daily basis, that too could take its toll as well. There are plenty things that will be tough, but these two stick in my mind from when I started driving in 1999.
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