Monday, February 4, 2013

I Was Gonna Buy One Of Those

Just about every driver I meet has the same observation about the truck I drive. The first question is: "How much does your truck weigh?" followed by "I bet you can't haul much weight", and then "Can I see inside your sleeper?". Then the kicker statement is "I was going to buy a truck like that". I love the drivers who look at the truck out of curiosity and then a little envy only to then say that they are going to build one in the next week. I am fairly certain that they are not going to build a truck at any time in the future, but are dreaming about it.

The truck and trailer can scale as much as 47,000 lbs. of freight on the deck of the flatbed trailer that we pull, but we have a full line of supplies to go with the trailer that includes straps, chains, binders, tarps, coil racks, snow chains, and wooden dunnage which adds to the overall weight and this drops our capacity down to 46,000 lbs. during the summer and 45,000 lbs. in the winter. Since most drivers pull van trailers they don't believe that a truck the size of ours can carry so much weight. A van trailer is heavier than a flatbed and most can only carry 42,000 lbs. of freight with a standard size truck.

I want to believe that the drivers are going to buy a new big sleeper truck in the next week or so, but even the sales person who sold me this truck said that he gets numerous inquiries from people who dream of a truck like ours only to never return his calls or come around again. The fact is that most people are afraid and for good reason. Unless you are cash heavy and can buy one of these in one payment, you need to be concerned about the economy, the freight availability, and the future. Perhaps your loads will require a lighter truck? Perhaps you will need to go to Canada as you cannot with the extended wheelbase that this truck has. Perhaps you will have to hook to a longer trailer and this will make your overall length too long to get in and out of a customer's facility?

It has taken me over 15 years to get to where I am in this business and Salena has been there for over half of those. As a team we are able to manage less work for more money. A solo can do well but only with specialized equipment and steady loads. Otherwise most freight will let you maintain a modest income. Teams do better on average but there is a point of diminishing returns when you work too hard. The point is that when a person considers to buy a truck, they must take many things into consideration and a large sleeper truck is seemingly more restrictive and requires a little more certainty.

The other comment I hear is from other teams who say "We should be driving a truck like that". I don't pay too much attention anymore. After driving this truck for over 4 years now, I am used to the standard questions. They are always the same and I don't mind selling the truck. The company who built the sleeper has exceeded our expectations from sales to service so I don't mind doing a little show and tell to curious colleagues while showing off the amenities, but I don't always have time. Many times we are on a tight time schedule so I have to cut the conversation short. Many of the drivers who have this same type of sleeper that I have met will just ignore the people who ask questions.

I figure that they have been driving a large sleeper truck for many more years than I have and they have given up on answering the same questions over and over again at every fuel stop and at every loading dock. I will just keep on answering the questions and I like to talk to people who are interested however with today’s technology just about everything is available online. Otherwise these large sleeper trucks are the subject of scrutiny by the DOT and the FMCSA and there have been efforts to make them obsolete. All of this makes the prospect of owning one of these large sleeper trucks a far off goal for most drivers.

I will say that it isn't as hard to drive as you might think. In fact the turning radius is actually better than a standard truck and the ride is better because of the longer frame length. The weight isn't really an issue as most loads are not that heavy on average. The truck is only a few feet longer than most trucks and that has not restricted us from going to NYC or San Francisco. We can get around anywhere that a standard truck can. So maybe instead of dreaming, if you are considering a larger truck, you can go ahead and take the plunge!



Scott said...

I'd imagine the comfort level makes you able to sit and wait for better freight. Otherwise, you'd need to wait it out in the TV room of the Flying J.

It might be more money up front, but the marginal cost of running a bigger sleeper may not be a big deal if it doesn't affect your fuel mileage or load capacity.

ELH said...

ED, some of the "you tube" yappers are claiming to be making tween 70-75 k a year as company drivers, dont know if thats really true or not?? But if it is???, thsts a pretty nice income without having all the responsibilities of being an own/op.. not everyone can handle that, nor wants to. And if they really are msking that, I can understand.. you and Salena are very driven, organized and determined folks, not everyone, dare I say only a minority of folks, have those skills.. so a potential own/op may say to themselves how much more could I really make and is it worth all the risks and heafaches for not much more income of your past posts was very informative about this topic and people should pull that ud and read in that you discussed the ups and downs of own/op..great post,

Ed said...

Scott you are right. I like to shoot the breeze with my fellow truckers and there is usually some good information to be heard in the truckstop as well as a new friend or two. Since we have everything we need, we don't have to find a parking spot at a truckstop or watch what someone else is watching on TV. We don't have to eat what the only restaurant is cooking. We don't have to wait in line for a shower. We can haul the same weight or more than some other trucks and we can get in and out of the same places.

The higher cost is the main issue, but there are some really good deals on used big sleeper trucks and even if the truck has high miles on it, these trucks can get more than 3 million miles on the frame. If I were going to do this all over again as a team, the big sleeper is the only way to go. The basic needs are all met.

The biggest feature is the shower/toilet. I don't have to stop on two people's schedule to use a public toilet anymore and I am not using a porta potti or a bucket as many drivers do. Plus the shower can be used anywhere so when I have finished strapping and chaining a load at 2 PM when it is 100 degrees outside and I am sweating like a pig, I can jump in the shower and go on with my day.

I think that all team operations should have these big sleeper trucks even at big trucking companies. The truck manufacturers should be thinking about 96 inch sleepers instead of 70 to 86 inches. That extra foot to foot and a half will accommodate a small kitchen, shower, and a toilet. And the truck can still go to Canada.

At the end of the day it is the drivers who set the tone so they don't have it because they don't fight for it. Simple as that.

Ed said...


There are a few jobs that pay 75K a year, but for the most part those drivers are subject to the whims of their carrier. They have an accident or get too many tickets and they are down for the count. As a self employed driver, you do what you want so long as you can get customers.

Also the turnover rate is over 100% so those high paying jobs are being sought by all the other drivers and if you slip up, they will pounce on the opportunity. In addition, those jobs require you to be away from home most of the year and you don't get to take time off whenever you need or want to.

There are high paying trucking jobs, but they usually have many restrictions. I know of a run that would pay a team 500,000 NET a year, but we tried it and it beat to hell, kept us up too many hours driving, and generally was a miserable experience and THAT is trucking. The higher the pay the more BS is involved. Be leary of any trucking job that pays 75K a year until you read the fine print.

Also that 500K a year job will NEVER be available to a company operator. NEVER. I might buy a truck and hire someone to haul that freight for say 2K a week and the drivers would be happy have it, but being an owner opens up a whole line of opportunities that a company driver will never have.

ELH said...

Thanks Ed, I knew you'd have some insights on that..the 75K company driver clain sounded a little to good to be true,as most company drivers claim just the opposite..
not enough income for hours away, yet i personally still don't get why carriers won't increase the compensation to their safe reliable drivers so as to cut down on the huge turnover rate..
if the economy ever starts to heat up and drivers start leaving the industry in droves, what the heck are these carriers gonna do, and how will that look to their clients??

Scott said...

Yeah, I bet having your own bathroom on the road is worth the cost of the sleeper. Maybe small sleepers will go the way of the cabover.

Ed said...

There is another thing I left out in my reply: It is easy to go from owner operator to company driver, but it is hard to do the opposite. Truck drivers who just hold a steering wheel and get from point A to point B don't need much training and will work for cheap. It is hard to compete with some of them because many of the people that do that job are used to making peanuts working an entry level hourly job. That is what is wrong with the industry as a whole.

The powers that be would rather eliminate all competition by mandating EOBR's and adding surveillance gadget after gadget so they can basically micro manage the driver and cut their wages than have actual real informative training that allows the driver to be able to react to dangerous situations. Paying the driver more money is last on their list.

I hate to say it, but there are some drivers who don't bathe, don't take care of themselves, and have little to no regard for their health or the general safety of those around them. This is who the average trucking company recruits and this is why we are dealing with all these new regulations. All you can do when coming into trucking, is be educated about the industry and choose the path which will allow you the brightest future.

Salena tells me that every industry is the same, but I know trucking and I don't know about every other industry. The real problem in trucking is lack of training and a general beating down of individuals who seek to start their own companies. The companies only pay drivers the minimum amount that they can get away with because every day they are getting a new batch of students who don't know any better and will get the trailer from A to B for cheap. It is unsafe, unethical, and unprofessional, but it is legal so it continues and every year the CEO of one of these companies writes out a nice fat check to themselves for at least a million and a half. Meanwhile the drivers are bending over backwards to make 50K a year. In some cases it is like the work camps in The Grapes Of Wrath. For those who want to learn a better way, there are voices out there guiding them. And then there are the thousands who choose not listen. Sadly, they are the problem. And I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Shaun Stille said...

That is a really nice truck! I understand why it elicits such reactions from such people. I agree, too, that having your own bathroom in the truck is one of the best features of a vehicle.

Shaun Stille