What You Need to Know About Short Haul Trucking Jobs

2003 Peterbilt 379 Rig and Trailer

Short haul trucking jobs have big appeal for some truckers and not so much for others.

It all depends what a driver expects from a driving job and a matter of individual preference.

Short haul work can be generally classified as regional or local. Regional can be within about 150-500 miles or so of the home terminal.

Local work is usually up to about 100 miles of the home terminal.

The current trend seems to be that more and more drivers, don’t want to do long haul trucking because of the stress on their families and the toll it takes on their own personal health.

Good short haul trucking jobs as a result, MAY be hard to come by, depending upon where you live.

Yellow 389 Peterbilt Big Rig Truck

What Are the Advantages of Short Haul Trucking Jobs For the Truck Driver?

There are several perks of short haul trucking for the CDL driver.

  1. More Home Time.

Drivers are usually home more often. Regional drivers may be away for a night or two at the most, while local truck drivers are fortunate to be home most every night.Shorter trips are of course the biggest draw for this type of driving job. Ideally, the driver gets more home time.

This is a great perk for the trucker who wants to see his family more regularly. Long haul truckers are away from home base often for several weeks or more at a time.

  1. Familiar Territory.

The trucker is more familiar with the roads and highways which are closer to home. Running in a smaller area, the driver becomes more familiar with the roads, and it is generally less intimidating and stressful, than always traveling in a new area.

  1. Dedicated Runs .

Sometimes the work can be a dedicated run, or can develop into to a dedicated run. This is a real perk for some drivers, as not only do they stay close to home, the job may also have a predictable schedule, which is rare for a driving job.

The driver can get into a nice routine and rhythm, which can be great for a driver with a family or an older driver.  Everybody wins with a dedicated run. It’s good for the driver, the carrier and the customer, who gets predictable, reliable personalized service.

  1. Predictability.

Short haul trucking jobs usually don’t require so many lifestyle adjustments for the trucker as does long haul driving.

  1. No Log Books .

For the very short distance driver, there is no record keeping (log book) of the trips required, and they are also exempt from the mandatory 30 minute rest break in the revised Hours of Service rules.

  1. Availability.

Larger trucking companies often find it more cost effective to have multiple depots and keep their drivers within a set radius of the area. So, usually there are a good number of short haul driving jobs available in most urban areas.

  1. Better Quality of Life.

As a general rule, truckers who run ‘short’, have a better quality of life than the long haul trucker. They have more home time, sleep in their own bed more often, access to healthier meals, which makes life just a little easier for the driver.

Related > The Best Trucking Companies to Work For U.S.

Is There a Downside To Short Haul Trucking Jobs For the Truck Driver?

Although short haul trucking may sound appealing at first,  there are downsides.

  1. Inconsistent Work. 

 Short haul can be seasonal in nature, for example, hauling gravel or salt, or equipment for a road construction project.

  1. Long Days. 

Work days can start early and end late. Just the nature of the beast.Less Pay. The VERY reason drivers go for short haul trucking work, can turn around and bite them in the butt. Even though drivers CAN be home more often, many don’t take advantage of the home time, and make themselves available for more work.

Some do this because the pay is less, and the mindset is ‘just one more trip’ will get me caught up on my bills.

Sound familiar?  For the company driver, the pay can be less, as overall, the driver runs fewer miles.However, some trucking companies increase the mileage rate for trips under a certain number of miles, especially where there are border crossing involved.

International border crossings can really slow down the driver and eat away at the driver’s earnings, unless the company compensates them by the hour for the time spent messing around with customs.

Overall, the pay usually turns out to be less because the driver doesn’t cover as many miles as the long haul trucker, even when the mileage rate is better, and waiting time is paid.Statistics say that short haul trucking jobs pay about 20% on the average, less than long haul work. However, this can vary from company to company.

  1. More Demanding .

Shorter trips for the truck driver can be more demanding. It’s been our experience that customers and dispatchers who have never driven a truck, take a look at a map and see the destination is only 2″ away on the map and decide that it isn’t far away!

What they think should take 5 hours when they travel there in their car, should take a big truck the same amount of time! Salesmen for the trucking companies too, often mislead customers to get the deal, and promise unrealistic travel times. This is especially a problem for short haul work.

  1. More Work. More Unpaid Work .

The same old, same old in the trucking industry. Extra work for little or no extra pay. This can be an issue with some shorter runs, especially if there’s LTL involved.The driver can spend more time messing around with drops and pick ups which are very time consuming.

If the driver is being paid a mileage rate, with a flat amount for each pick and drop, at the end of the day, he may not make great money, if his deliveries don’t go smoothly.If there’s a lot of LTL involved for a short haul job you’re considering, you may not make much money on a pick and drop and mileage rate. A driving job on an hourly rate may be a better choice.

Some companies mess around a lot with paying for waiting time. A driver often has to fight for waiting time pay.  Border crossings can be a time waster in this type of work. International border crossings should pay a flat fee as well as an hourly detention rate too.

If not, you guessed it, more free work expected from the trucker! Long haul jobs don’t involve so much messing around at the border.

  1. More Backing Up & Maneuvering Required. 

There’s usually more backing up required for shorter runs. There are more pick ups and deliveries due to the nature of the work. This can mean more backing up into loading docks. The skill of backing up is the weakest skill of most truck drivers. If you’ll doing being short trips, brush up on your backing up, so you aren’t causing unnecessary damage and ruining your driving record.

There’s lots more maneuvering in tight spaces, deliveries, and schedules to keep, doing short haul trucking work.

  1. Trip Efficiency and Turn Around Time Can Suffer.

Short haul truckers don’t seem to get in as many miles in a week as an OTR driver, even though who  they may still work the same number of hours.

Poor planning by the carrier for the return trip, a trailer switch,  or a receiver dilly dallying with unloading, can cause delays which cut into the number of miles the driver can travel in a day.

If there are too many disruptions in the course of the week, the driver’s pay will suffer, unless he is well compensated for his time delays. Not yet a common practice in the trucking industry.

  1. Drivers Pushed Harder.

The demands of short haul trucking can be just as stressful as it is for drivers with a destination 2200 miles.

Trucking companies can sometimes take advantage of the electronic logging systems and tend to push their drivers a little harder.

When the driver’s ELD says he’s legal to hit the road, the carrier can expect him to do so, no matter what time of the day or night.

High speed dispatchers and company owners without driving experience, just don’t get it when it comes to the delays incurred by the truck driver.

From personal experience, they sometimes think shorter distances can be covered more quickly!I distinctly remember a time  when I was held up by weather on a run from Chicago, IL to Mississauga, ON.

The weather was lousy and I called in to dispatch to report the delay, and asked to have the delivery appointment rescheduled.

It was a ‘hot’ load and the dispatcher, knowing the run was relatively short, was clearly agitated about the call, for fear of having his butt kicked by the boss for a late delivery.  He told me to just keep up the pace and I’d still make the delivery in time.

After informing him I needed a fuel stop, he hastily replied ,‘Oh HELL, don’t do that, you can’t STOP for fuel, you’ll be late!’

And THAT is the gospel truth.

It doesn’t take much for a driver to get off stride and be late for a scheduled appointment, and it’s often impossible to make up for the lost time.

Well, Is Short Haul Trucking Lucrative For the Owner Operator?

Short haul trucking can be a good deal for the owner operator, whether brokered to a carrier or as an independent operator.

There are some nice short runs that can be quite profitable for the owner operator, without the stress of being far away from home. It can be especially attractive to the experienced driver, who just wants to coast for the rest of his truck driving career.

  1. Lower Operating Costs .

It is has been our experience, that short haul can pay better than long haul, when all things are considered. Nowadays with the astronomical costs of fuel, maintenance and equipment, and restaurant meals, the costs incurred by long haul truckers can be outrageous.

It can be easier on short trips to get control of fuel spending as the trucker can plan to buy fuel where it’s a better deal. He also knows the good restaurants and truck stops where good food can be had for a decent price.

Since the trucker is home more often, he’s eating at home(saving $$) and can stock his truck fridge too, rather than eating on the road.

Running in a smaller area, allows the trucker to become familiar with the facilities available, to cut costs wherever possible. This is often a challenge for the long haul driver.

Repair costs are usually lower if the operator is smart. Planning for regular maintenance and getting repairs at a local shop can save the owner operator some money. The long haul owner operator is subject to getting his truck repaired when broken down at the closest dealership which isn’t always the best option.

Insurance rates are lower when the truck’s traveling radius is under 500 miles. Rates are based largely on the distance the equipment travels from the main terminal.

  1. Lower Equipment Costs.

It’s possible to get away with using a cheaper truck for short haul trucking. A decent used truck will work just fine for short runs close to home. No need for the big buck large cars with all the bells and whistles….. AND big payments!

Shorter trips are usually easier on the truck too and maintenance costs are normally less, depending on the spec’s of the truck and the weight of the loads.

Truck Driver Standing Beside Blue Peterbilt

When all is said and done, it boils down to what the driver wants from the job….better money with all the sacrifices that come with long haul, or a driving job that keeps him close to home with a ‘different set of stressors’, and perhaps a lower pay cheque, but a better quality of life.

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