Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Being A Truck Driver And Being A Truck Driver

There are many kinds of truckers out here, just as there are many kinds of people.

Truckers are from all walks of life.  Today you can watch YouTube videos depicting the lives of all kinds of drivers.  Of course, Salena started blogging over 7 years ago, and she's always supplied a steady stream of her take of life on the road.  She started her blog to keep in touch with family and friends, and now she gives people all over the planet, a different perspective on the trucking world.  She doesn't have a negative defeatist attitude that is so easily found on most of the other trucker sites you may come across.

The reason I'm bringing Salena into this is because I wouldn't even be doing this blog if it weren't for her.  And I am going to point out that she's one of the many personalities found on the road.  She's not a "trucker" as you would think of one, the way the media portrays them in movies and on TV, as big-bellied, foul-mouthed braggarts, or loners, or serial killers, or a tough son-of-a-gun.  I guess that's what sells movies and TV shows, but the reality is a little different.

Hopefully when you're looking into truckers, you'll keep an open mind.  As I've already said, there are all kinds.  In former posts, I've detailed several different reasons why people drive trucks.  Here, I'm going into what kinds of actual truckers are out here.

1. New student truckers that're learning the ropes.

2. Company drivers who've completed their student obligation and have their first year under their belt.

3. Seasoned drivers who have years of driving.

4. Trainers who are training students behind the wheel.

5. Owner-operators who have their own authority and sometimes own several trucks.

6. Owner-operators who are leased to a carrier (me).

7. Owner-operators who have some how obtained a CDL by passing up all of the regulations, bribing a carrier into verifying their false experience, and then getting insurance without paying IFTA taxes and doing all sorts of other illegal practices. (not me....yet. LOL)

This last trucker is the outlaw, if you haven't figured that one out yet.  They tend to be the ones who steal your fuel in the truckstops, wreck their trucks, steal loads, damage equipment, leave urine bottles in the parking lot, and in general give us all a bad name.  In short they are the fun ones! Ha! 

In these different positions are many different kinds of people.  For instance, the student can be a former trucker or perhaps a heavy equipment operator who is skilled and knowledgable about all things truck related, or they could be completely clueless and a road hazard. 

Company drivers who go through school are given a truck and told many things, but none of those things are ever usually maintenance related.  Maintenance is for the mechanics in the shop according to the carrier.  I have met both owner-operators and company drivers who not only won't change a headlight, they CAN'T!  And forget about explaining the turbo or the EGR/DPF system to them, they don't care and probably never will.  These people either haven't decided whether they are going to stick around trucking, or they know they won't and don't ever plan to do anything but pocket their weekly check, see a few mountains and landmarks, and go back to whatever they were doing before they started driving, or they never intend to be an owner-operator and plan on a long career at a carrier.

Unfortunately, the turnover rate at most major carriers is over 100%.  That means, if you go to a major carrier, you probably won't contribute to a retirement plan, a health plan, or build any seniority.  If you consider there's a driver shortage, you'll probably ask yourself why carriers have a 100% turnover rate when they seem to need drivers so badly.  It's the money!  Major carriers don't want drivers with seniority because the rate they have to pay them per mile goes up, the health insurance liability is greater, a retirement plan is usually needed, etc. 

Most major carriers just want people who will get their loads delivered, don't cost a lot of money, and won't ask questions.  That's the reason there's a high turnover rate - having newbies on the payroll works out well for the carriers.  And once the newbies learn, they leave.  Hence, the turnover.  There are some carriers who will take a driver just out of training, who's been on the road for six months or less, and make them a trainer.  This is why we have so many regulations in trucking.  Where there is a will to deceive, be cheap, and make money, there is a way. 

Just like any other profession,  there are experts who care about the others in the industry.  We know that the better the industry, the better life will be in their chosen career path.  If you want to be a successful trucker, you need to be this person.  You need to be the person who doesn't instigate problems on the road, who tries to see issues and stop them before they occur, and work to have the safest truck out there.  Regardless of whether you become a company driver or an owner-operator, you owe it to yourself to learn about every component on the truck and what it does.  Driving for a major carrier can give you all of the opportunities you need to do this.  You can even hang around the shop, asking questions, and talking to others that drive, to find out more about the mechanics or what their experiences have been with the truck.

The biggest difference between the professional owner-operator and the professional company driver, is the attention to maintenance.  I am not talking about company drivers who know the value of maintaining their truck as there are many, but the company driver doesn't have to pay for repairs.  Owners pay for everything, so the lower their costs are, the more money in their pocket.  And if your truck is in the shop, they simply miss out on freight.  There is a different responsibility that comes along with owning a truck.  Not better or worse, just different.  Many trucking companies have figured out that if they give a fuel bonus, they can keep the speed of their trucks down and save a lot of money while giving the driver a bonus.  Everyone wins.  Then again, there are plenty of owner-operators who run like a bat out of hell, and I can only assume they either don't know what they're doing, have to get home because their wife is pregnant and delivering that night, have a hot date somewhere, or are making so much money on the load, that maintenance and fuel mileage goes by the wayside to the rate they are getting paid.

Regardless of whether or not the driver is a company driver or an owner-operator, there are significant differences between the quality of the driver.  The reasons for these differences are many.  There are "steering wheel holders" and there are "truck drivers".  There's nothing wrong with either, as long as they do a good job.  There is something wrong if they don't.  A "steering wheel holder" typically refers to a company driver who doesn't load, unload, or do any maintenance.  And mostly it's said as a joke.

So if you're called a steering wheel holder, just smile and keep on doing a good job.  That's the most important part of being a good driver.


ELH said...

Wow Ed, you really nailed that one...great post..I've often wondered why the "mega" carrieres don't put much value on experience, I would think the customers would prefer that?? Turnover and c,heap costs are one thing,but no value on the person who wants to dedicate themselves to a "skill" and conduct themselves as A true pro....doesn't that mmean anything anymore??

Terry Paul said...

Truck driving is a very meticulous task ... not everyone is able to do that... Truck drivers are very hard working too... Thank you for your post dedicated to them...
Trucking Experience

Anonymous said...

I agree to this wonderful post! Being a truck driver is very difficult, especially when you're moving heavy equipment with a long and big trailer. You have to be a professional first before you can move heavy objects.

All About Heavy Hauling

Therese Metzler said...

thanks d for posting this

One of my friend is interested in learning truck

I will definitely recommend your name.

James Hookham said...

You nailed it when you said that every truck driver is different. They're people, after all, and people are unique in their own special ways. Still, whatever personality they have, they owe it to the companies they work for and the customers they serve to do the best they can to perform their jobs, such as carrying goods from one point to another, as in the case of freight truck drivers. This is why it's important, especially for logistic companies, to comply to the industry requirements and conduct proper training to their drivers.

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Robert Jacko said...

Thank you for sharing the information.

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