Without trucks delivering goods, this country would come to a standstill. If you have a CDL, you always have a job. Driving a truck, whether locally, regionally, or over the road can be very lucrative, secure, satisfying and enjoyable. It can have many advantages over the nine to five rat race.
There are many facets to the truck driving industry. Many times the truck driver gets taken advantage of and gets the short end of the stick in pay, benefits, and overall job satisfaction. Long term good business relationships do not seem to be the norm in this industry. Why? Because of greed.
Driving an 80,000 pound truck down a highway at 70 mph, through major metropolitan areas, or through steep mountain grades is a highly skilled job with an awesome amount of responsibility. The demographics of truck drivers continues to change.
Still, most have no higher education, or skills in the business aspects of the trucking industry. Trucking companies take advantage of that.
To most trucking companies, the trucking industry is a numbers game. Most companies rely on gimmicks to lure drivers in to drive for them. They have new drivers coming in every week, and hopefully they can get three to six months work out of a driver, and one or two may stay long term. Go to a local truck stop and you will see many trucking employment magazines just loaded with ads promising you the world to come and join their team. Because of most company's high turnover rates, they have to keep pumping out sugar coated ads like these.
There are good solid companies to work for out there. There are union and non union. Most are non union. How does one sort through all the hype to find a decent company to work for that pays well, has good benefits, and truly respects you the truck driver? Just stick to the basics.
For company drivers, research and compare the pay scales for your experience and benefit packages. Most company pay scales are about the same. Local truck driving jobs usually pay hourly. Make sure you are looking at a base pay scale and not a cumulative one which averages in bonuses you may or may not get. What benefits offered really make a difference. Some of the big companies with good benefits, safety requirements, and solid freight may be the way to go. Some of the smaller companies may have a little more easy going work environment, and a little higher pay, but may or may not have good benefits.
If you have up to two years experience you can expect to make .28 to .32 per mile for general dry and refrigerated freight. From there on up to about ten years experience the max is about .42 per mile. There are companies now that advertise .50 per mile, but that may be a cumulative figure including bonuses, or they may not run you very many miles weekly.
Sign on, safety, or other bonuses are nice additions, but your objective is to make good money driving a truck. Look at the whole picture of your employment with a company and two, five, ten years down the road. Also, many of those sign on bonuses have to be repaid if you do not stay with that company for a certain amount of time. Safety bonuses can be tricky. Small logging errors could cost you that safety bonus.
Flat bed hauling, oversized, or other specialized freight pays more. Some large companies will train new drivers to haul flat bed and start them out right away doing so, as long as you can pass certain physical and training requirements. Shop and compare, it all depends on your experience.
If you wish to own your own truck, remember that you'll be owning your own business. If you do not have at least $5,000 cash reserves in the bank or do not have good credit, it is probably wiser to wait until you do. Scrutinize carefully lease purchasing a truck when contracting with a company. You could easily become in debt with this company for major repairs that arise, or if you quit before the lease contract is up, all your payments would be for nothing. Compare the income being made, the age and condition of the truck, your expenditures, your financial stability, and the terms of the lease. Do the same if purchasing a truck through a dealer.
Fuel prices are now very vulnerable and unpredictable for the future. As an owner operator-independent contractor, you can expect fuel consumption to be anywhere from 35% to 45% of your gross income on average. This depends on fuel incentives offered by the company you contract with, or negotiating fuel increases into your pay if you have your own DOT authority, and how well you maintain your truck and run it efficiently. Generators are a big savings and worthwhile investment.
Add in .06 per mile for maintenance and repairs, 10% for taxes if you take your per diem right away, and many other expenditures, taxes, or fees, depending on if you have your own authority or not, and what the company you contract with pays, i.e.; fuel tax, base plates, heavy vehicle use tax, insurance etc. You are running your own business.
Can you make good money driving a truck? Absolutely! It is hard to categorize annual salaries because of variations in how many miles are run each week, benefits, other incentives, local or OTR driver, and experience. A company driver's weekly pay after taxes can range from $500 to $1200 per week, depending on experience. An owner-operator should be able to double that, but with high fuel, maintenance, and repair costs that is not on average nowadays.
Some large companies offer the opportunity to be a trainer, training a student in your truck. This can be profitable, if you have the nerves and patience of dealing with new students.
Be a good business person. What are your income goals? What benefits are you looking for? How often do you want home time? Calculate your projected income with benefits with expenditures and hours you will work. Look at the big picture of what type of trucking work you wish to do, where the company will be running you, and how you want your career and income to grow in two, five, ten, twenty years. Will this company help you to achieve that?
Truck driving has many positive and unique qualities about it. You are a professional driver of a sophisticated, high powered machine, your work environment is far from the ordinary, and if you drive over the road, you get to travel to a lot of places that you may not of seen before.
The best thing that you can do to have a profitable driving career is to maintain a good driving record.