Team driving is when two truckers share the driving time for the same truck. There are both pros and cons to driving with a team partner. Some prefer it, many do not. While many people can choose to drive on a team, some training schools require that you pair up with a trainer in order to complete your CDL training. Whatever your situation, there are definitely going to be ‘ups and downs’ of running team in a big rig.
HOW DOES TEAM TRUCK DRIVING WORK?
It’s pretty straightforward and exactly how it sounds. You have two drivers who trade drive time. Each driver will have on-duty and off-duty shifts. By allowing one driver to sleep while the other driver is keeping the rig going, 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. Companies like truck driving teams because it maximizes their delivery times.
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 all of it easier.
Regardless, you should 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
- 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 have a better chance of getting a driving job, especially if the truck drivers are newly licensed or inexperienced. 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 find it’s a good way to get their foot in the door to a company they want to work for.
- Higher pay and more available jobs
Because there are more available team driving jobs, the trucker’s income should be more consistent. The trucker is 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.
- 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. Then again…distance makes the heart grow fonder!
Cons of Truck Driving Teams
- Not so profitable
Yes, teams get more miles, but remember, the pay is split down the middle with a co-driver.
- Quality of sleep
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.
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. I will take time to get accustomed to at first. Many NEVER adjust.
- Stopping for breaks
When one of the driver’s 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Related >How To Handle Truck Driver BurnOut
TEAM DRIVING 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
Both truckers are cooped up in a very small space for long periods of time and one is sick. It’s not long until the OTHER driver is sick. The truck is in the middle of Wyoming in a snow storm, both are feeling too sick to drive any further. Then what? If one of you 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 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 between .32 per mile up to .50 per mile +.
This may have a nice ring to it at first but 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. 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
These teams 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. Some have had their CDL for as little as 6 months to 2 years. Trainers should have several years driving experience, 10 years+ is best. Less than 10 years? Then he’s just a seasoned 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 cheque 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.
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