Team driving is when two truck drivers ride together and share the driving time in the same truck.
Driving with a team partner is not a new concept. It’s been around since the beginnings of trucking!
Some prefer team driving, but many do not.
While many professional truck drivers can choose to drive on a team, some truck driver training schools require that you pair up with a trainer in order to complete your CDL training.
Whatever the situation, there are definitely going to be ‘ups and downs’ of running team in a big rig.
SO JUST HOW DOES TEAM DRIVING WORK?
It’s pretty straightforward and exactly how it sounds.
There are two drivers who share driving time.
Each driver will have on-duty and off-duty shifts.
By allowing one driver to sleep while the other driver is keeping the truck moving, the amount of downtime a truck has is significantly reduced.
The drivers are paid for their combined mileage which averages at a higher amount than a solo driver.
Trucking companies like truck driving teams because it makes they increase the efficiency of their operation.
WHAT ARE THE PROS & CONS OF TEAM DRIVING?
Some aspects of team truck driving fall into a grey area.
Something that is viewed as an advantage to some could be a disadvantage to others.
One of the most crucial aspects of a successful driving team is the partnership between the co-drivers.
Things like scheduling, division of pay, personal habits, sharing control, and trust all come into play when you are working closely with another person – liking that person just makes everything easier.
Regardless, if you’re considering team driving, it’s a good idea to weigh both the pros and cons of team truck driving to get the best idea of whether it is something you want to get involved in.
Pros of Team Truck Driving
1. More Trucking Jobs
Due to the Hours of Service, trucking companies love teams.
It maximizes their profit margin by keeping their trucks moving round the clock.
You may have a better chance of getting a driving job, especially if you are a newly licensed or inexperienced driver.
Trucking companies and their customers love the fact that the deliveries are faster than if transported by a solo driver.
Driving teams have always been in demand.
Some drivers find it’s a good way to get their foot in the door to a company they want to work for.
2. Higher Pay and More Available Jobs
Because there are more available team driving jobs, the trucker’s income should be more consistent.
Drivers are typically not as worried about getting enough work.
For most teams, the $$ at the end of the day is about the same as solo drivers, maybe a bit more, but not substantially more.
Some teams run much harder than others, but most can’t keep up the pace for long, before burn out sets in.
3. Husband and Wife Teams
Husband and wife drivers enjoy the ability to spend time together while getting work done.
Driving as a team with your driving partner also being your life partner can be enough of a benefit in itself.
Cons of Truck Driving Teams
1. Not so profitable
Yes, teams get more miles, but remember, the pay is split down the middle with a co-driver.
2. Quality of Sleep
The quality of sleep for team drivers is a factor.
EVEN for those truck drivers who are able to sleep when the vehicle is moving, the sleep isn’t decent quality sleep.
The human body just doesn’t function that way. Our bodies are designed to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it’s light and not bouncing around in the bunk of a moving truck.
Trying to trick your body and mind into the fact that it’s time to sleep is very unhealthy, even though the hours of service rules dictate it’s legal. Because of the unnatural, sporadic sleep pattern these drivers endure, sleep is really messed up and the trucker is often tired.
Anyone who hasn’t had a decent sleep on ANY night, knows what it’s like the day after a restless sleep. It’s hell.
Try to imagine feeling rugged the day after a restless, sleepless night, behind the wheel of a semi.
3. Too Much Noise to Sleep
There’s the general noise of from a co-driver, the CB radio, the noise and vibration of the truck and highway noise, while the other trucker is trying to get some rest.
It can take time to get accustomed to at first.
Many NEVER adjust.
4. Stopping For Breaks
When one of the drivers needs a break, it doesn’t necessarily happen when he needs it.
It’s not often possible to stop where a driver would LIKE to stop.
Drivers with team driving jobs are under pretty strict schedules and at the mercy of their co-driver, as well as delivery schedules.
Imagine feeling unwell and bouncing around in a big truck, and not being able to stop. Not fun at all.
5. Sharing Control
Not surprisingly, some drivers have trouble sharing control.
Scheduling who gets to drive when or how the route should run can result in some arguments. Arguing with your driving partner doesn’t mean you can take a breather. You’re sitting next to that person for days or even weeks at a time.
You need to maintain a balance and respect between you and your co-driver which can be more challenging than you’d think.
6. You May Not Like Your Driving Partner
Sharing space can be an issue.
You need to be able to tolerate the habits and quirks of your team driving partner.
Even a mildly irritating habit can be amplified when you are under high stress and close quarters. Combine that with constantly moving with very few stop breaks and poor-quality sleep and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
You must trust in your partner’s driving abilities (especially a driver you don’t know at all… you are trusting them with your life after all).
If you don’t like your driving partner, you’re going to be miserable and worried all of the time.
7. Long Time Away From Home
It’s not unusual for teams to work 2-3 weeks, and up to 6+ week stretches at a time.
The truck can literally go non-stop, as long as the team drivers want to, essentially.
Does this make for a solid family life? Not at all.
TEAM DRIVING – “THE GREY AREAS“
These issues can kind of go either way.
It’s really up to your personality, driving partner and preferences.
We outline both perspectives for you to decide.
Trusting Your Co-Driver
A giant leap of faith is needed here.
While either sleeping or in the passenger’s seat, team drivers rely on one another to do the right thing at the right time.
If either makes a mistake while at the wheel, it can be fatal. Not trucking your co-driver, can add a lot of unneeded stress to your day.
If you do trust them, then you can kick back and relax.
Co-Driver is Sick Or Both Drivers Are Sick
If both drivers are cooped up in a very small space for long periods of time and one is sick, it won’t be long until the OTHER driver is sick.
The truck is in the middle of Wyoming in a snowstorm, both are feeling too sick to drive any further. Then what?
If one has a great immune system, this can work in your favor.
It may allow you to keep on track while the other is resting but then again, how great will the rest be in the bunk?
Getting Along With the Co-Driver
Who gets the day shift or the night shift?
Are the drivers compatible?
They’d better be, cause they’re now cozy room-mates!
A trucker’s job as a solo driver is very stressful. Team driving increases the stress, (if that’s possible!)
It’s hard on the mind and body running team. Long, hard driving time, restless sleep, tiny living space, and fast food. If you’re a very social person then the company may help keep you sane.
For most, the added aspect of coordinating an already stressful job with another person often results in more worry than satisfaction.
TEAM TRUCK DRIVING PAY
We want to clarify a big point when considering joining a driving team – the average pay-per-mile for team truck drivers is typically less.
It varies drastically between .40 per mile up to .75 per mile +.
This may have a nice ring to it at first but REMEMBER, this is DIVIDED BY 2! Some companies pay a ‘lead driver’ a little more.
Teams run more miles than singles which helps make up for the difference.
But at the end of the day, depending on the motivation and circumstances of the team, team truck drivers make roughly the same as solo drivers.
HUSBAND & WIFE TRUCK DRIVING TEAMS
Teams made up of husband and wife or life partners, seem to work reasonably well.
They can comfortably share and enjoy each other’s company. The money earned from a team often goes into the same bank account, so it can be a profitable venture.
Even a great relationship, such as one between a husband and wife, could feel strained without finding a balance.
The same rules apply as they would for a professional relationship. You have to have respect and trust to make a husband and wife driving team work.
DRIVING TEAM WITH A TRAINER AT CDL TRAINING SCHOOL
If you are preparing to attend a paid CDL training program with a trucking company, you should be aware that most training programs at some point, will pair you up with a driver trainer. You will be running in the truck as a driving team.
Be aware there are some uncomfortable situations you can find yourself in with a driver trainer during your CDL training.
5 Situations You May Encounter With Your Driver Trainer at CDL School
- Dangerous Driving at Night – Running team overnight can be dangerous due to sleep deprivation. Many drivers, especially new drivers are not accustomed to driving through the night and at odd hours. Inexperience combined with stress can result in some dangerous driving situations.
- Absent Driver Trainer – Sometimes the trainer will sleep while the trainee is at the wheel. This means there is no direct supervision of the unqualified driver trainee. Review potential questions with your trainer before they go off-shift but keep in mind that it is not your responsibility to anticipate every possible situation. It is their job to prep you as best as they can.
- Sexual Harassment – There have been documented cases of sexual harassment for female driver trainees. If this happens to you, report it and demand a new trainer immediately. No one needs to tolerate this unacceptable behaviour.
- Inexperienced Driver Trainers – Sometimes trainers don’t have much driving experience. It is common for trainers to have as little as 6 months experience with a CDL. Trainers should have several years driving experience, 10 years+ is optimum. 5 years experience is acceptable. But honestly less than 5 years? Then he’s just a rookie driver. You could be training with someone who doesn’t have much more driving experience than you.
- Long Trips – Often the trips with the driver trainer are very long. If your trainer is inexperienced and you are uncomfortable with the situation, you can request the training trips be local rather than long.
TEAM TRUCK DRIVING: IS IT WORTH IT?
Team truck driver jobs can be pretty attractive, especially to a newly licensed trucker who is hungry to turn lots of miles and make the big bucks.
However, many drivers find out early in the game, that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It can be rough going for most.
The hours are long, lack of rest can be a major issue, cabin fever can set in, and the pay check in the end for the extra stress is not often much heftier than that of a solo driver.
Think about it carefully before taking on a job driving team. It certainly isn’t for everyone.
Team Driving Stories
If you’re considering becoming a truck driver or considering accepting a driving job with a partner, these 3 real life stories by truckers who have driven team, will give you an idea of the types of issues you many face.
It’s a given you’ll be paired up with a driving partner if you attend a paid CDL truck driver training school.
So remember to go in with your eyes open so there’s no surprises.
3 Real Life Team Driving Stories
Can You Trust Your Driving Partner?
I have had my Class 1 for 15 years now. My first driving job was for Michawn Transport out of Aldergrove BC.
At this company, drivers were to train, by driving with different drivers, to get your time behind the wheel. What a joke! Most of the drivers in that company were like me, “NEW DRIVERS” teaching each other!
There were some drivers who had been driving for many years there and I am sure there were some good truck drivers in the bunch.
The pay for a “new driver” was horrible…. $50.00 bucks for a Canadian run and $100.00 bucks for a US run. It was really just enough money for on the road expenses, but anyway, I accepted it.
I hated every second of team driving.
Often, my driving partner,would make crude comments and make ‘rude suggestions’. I always prayed that they knew what they were doing behind the wheel!
I remember one girl I drove with thought she was a pretty good driver.
One day, we picked up a load of tomato plants out of Ladner, BC and were taking them to Oxnard CA. When she was driving and I was in the sleeper berth, I heard drivers yacking on the CB radio, about how someone had no respect for the hill!
I decided to climb out of the bunk, and to my surprise, they were talking about her!!!
Our truck was flying down the hill! Because we were going so fast,I thought we were in some kind of trouble! I asked if we had lost our brakes or what the heck was going on!
She replied, “We are really light and making good time!”
I really freaked out at this point! How dare she take my life and others into her hands! We were professional drivers and this was not very professional!!! I never saw her again after that run.
Don’t get me wrong… I am sure there are a lot of great teams out there, but all the time I drove team , I only had one good driving partner in that company and he taught me most of what I now now.
He took his job seriously and every second behind that wheel, he knew something could go wrong. He was alert and always on his toes. I always felt safe with him behind the wheel.
I grew up in a trucking family. Both grandfathers, my father and most of my uncles are drivers. I am the only female driver in our family. My father is one of the best drivers I know. He has taken early retirement and people still call and beg him to drive their trucks for them. He took pride in his trucking job….not one ticket EVER or one accident EVER in almost 50 years of driving!!! He was a great role model to me and his younger brothers!
Team driving is great for couples, and for people who know their partners well. I don’t think team driving should be allowed when the drivers don’t know each other, OR when they are both just learning to drive a big truck.
I look back now and wanting my foot in the door so badly and wanting the experience I needed to land a better job in the trucking world, I risked my own life along with theirs.
I was green then, and shouldn’t have been with other new truck drivers and when I look back, I wonder what I was thinking.
(Okotoks, Alberta, Canada)
Finding the Right Driving Partner is the Secret to Team Driving
Years ago, I drove with a partner, as a team driver. We owned the truck and reefer trailer, and hauled produce out of California.
The truck was a very nice 2006 Peterbilt with a new Great Dane trailer, Thermo King Reef unit.
I knew my co-driver pretty well and his driving abilities, which raised my level of confidence in the team driving thing! I couldn’t imagine partnering with a co-driver that I didn’t know.
We hauled a variety of products to the Southwestern U.S. from our Ontario base. The company we worked for out of Parry Sound, Ontario was owned
by an ex-truck driver so the schedule was always fair and reasonable and never hectic… mostly full loads delivering into L.A. The outbound trips were easy and casual.
Our return trips involved loading produce, and delivering into the Ontario Food Terminal. .The product rotated seasonally from the Yuma, AZ area to Salinas, CA. On the return trips, we had to stay with the program pretty steadily. The buyers ‘loved’, teams because of the fast delivery schedule, but there was no time for messing around.
We would load up our product, scale, balance out and his the road, for the long trip home.
Team driving issues? Yep, there were a few minor ones. We had difficulty agreeing on where to stop. We had very different food preferences so we’d compromise and alternate on choosing a truck stop.
Seat Settings. I had very specific settings for the driver’s seat, which we had originally customized when we bought the truck. My partner developed some minor back issues, so later on, he wanted the seat changed. We had more than a few heated arguments about that issue!
Who pulps the product? When we travelled through areas in bad weather, we’d flip a coin to decide who’d get out to pulp the temperature of the load every few hours. It wasn’t a big deal, but none the less, it sometimes was, if the weather was really lousy and cold!
Smooth driving. My co-driver complained off and on that my shifting was a bit ‘rough’ and woke him up sometimes when he was in the sleeper berth. What could I say?
Overall, our partnership as team drivers, was better than most on the road. There were always small matters that we encountered, but no big stuff.
We never put the truck in the weeds, had any claims or froze any produce!
Our success was partly because the trucking company we worked for didn’t push us for ridiculous schedules.
Successful driving teams require skilled drivers with level heads, calm nerves and the ability to compromise!
I’d recommend team driving if you don’t have a family, are young and are partnered with a skilled driver that you know.
But it certainly isn’t for everyone.
Driving With a Team Partner is Risky
Team driving has its ups and downs.
I enjoy team driving because I do it with my fiancé. But, the risks we endure are many.
We are considered a ‘full team’ where we drive, but we don’t want to run as they would like us to.
We enjoy being in the truck together, but there are times we don’t get to enjoy being together, such as when one of us is sleeping, while the other drives.
Yes, we can move a lot of freight a lot farther, but it depends on the overnight weather in the areas where we travel.
A solo trucker runs most of his time during the warmer part of the day in winter months, so the roads are clearer and easier to follow.
As a team, the night time driver has to endure the sub-degree temperatures and blinding fogs and is more likely to hit animals and must deal with drunk drivers.
Yes, there are always risks in any OTR driving position, but I feel they need to regulate the hours of service for teams.
They should allow the truck to stop a full 8 hours, before it rolls again. That way, both drivers can get a lot more rest and a decent rest, when the truck isn’t moving.
The 8 hour break would also allow the drivers to have a break away from their co-driver for personal time, especially if you aren’t driving as a team with your spouse.