The rules suck. They are not simple, they are not fun, and they sure take a lot of the glam out of the gig. Unfortunately they are here to stay.
Since the rules have been in place, accidents have been reduced. No disputing that. Sure they may not be needed for YOU, but on average, overall, they work. Could they be better? Absolutely. Do they need to evolve? For sure. Will complaining help? No.
The DOT rules are here to stay, the best bet is to just learn to keep the wheels rolling and money flowing despite the speed bumps you come upon.
It is easy to get caught up in the Debbie downer whines of drivers complaining about the DOT rules and regulations, but this does not help. Avoid letting the negative thoughts creep in your mind or they will fester and drive you crazy out there on the open roads!
No company is perfect. You will have some frustrations out there and perhaps some conflict. The key to success is not letting these frustrations escalate to high levels and finding solutions that all parties are happy with.
Communication is key, you need to be able to express your concerns in a manner that is not crying about them, rather solution oriented. If something bothers you, just chat it out with your fleet manager or dispatcher, let them know your thoughts. Something like-
"hey Mark, I am probably being totally irrational, but it feels like I am not working to my full potential, what do you think I could do to get more miles each week?"
"I am having some concerns about getting home on time, can you confirm the dates you have in the system so I know we are on the same page?"
If you are with a decent company that cares, you should feel your concerns are heard. If you feel that your concerns are dismissed, or just not heard, take a deep breath, understand that it is not personal, and find who you can speak to that will hear your concerns. Tell them, you feel your concerns may not be getting heard. The solution may not always be what you want to hear, but hopefully a good compromise will be found.
Because it is so critical to your career to stay with your first company at least 6 months, it is nice to find the right team to be behind you in the company. No matter how big or how terrible a company is, you can generally find the right people to surround yourself with if you look hard enough.
Start talking to other drivers in the company, if you find any happy ones, jot down their fleet manager, their dispatcher, any names or info on anyone they like or find helpful.
Once you find the right people, ask them if they can help you find a solution or who they think can help you find a solution to your issues. Not to have them fix things for you, but to help you find the right solutions. No one like to hear complaining, so make sure you are not complaining, you need to keep the mindset that you are looking for a solution, and be open to ideas.
It is easy to get caught up in the depths of despair and mope about complaining about not making money, or to jump ship and try to find a new job. The easy way is not always the best way, or the way you will look back and be proud of. If you put a little effort into it, you can find the right people to help you make the best of the situation you are in.
Pre-planned loads are loads that your fleet manager or dispatcher has set up for you before you even drop your current load off. There are pluses and minuses for this kind of load planning.
It is nice to have the extra time to plan your next trip, and you don't want the wait time after you drop your load for the next mission, (that is what I call the loads, a mission, should you choose to accept!) but there are a number of reasons it is not always ideal.
Some companies will never pre-plan a load. They are the big grind em' through kind of companies. The do not pre-plan loads because they do not know for sure the drivers will be able to get the current load dropped and have enough time to safely get the next load.
A more personal company the fleet managers know each driver well enough to know that if they set it up, the driver will get it there. They will also know how the driver likes to be scheduled, maybe you like 3 days to do a 1200 mile trip, or perhaps you only need 2.5 days. The more personal companies also have the time to read the notes on the shipper or receiver to better gauge their promptness.
Sometimes it is better to wait and not be pre-planned, perhaps if you get done a little early your fleet manager can set you up with a more desired load rather than a conservative load to pre-plan it.
For instance, if you have a load that is pre-planned a little extra time is generally padded in to make sure if you get delayed at your current load you will have enough time to safely get the next load. Or perhaps you were able to drop your current load early and have 4 extra hours.
It takes some time, 6 or more months, to really build the kind of relationship and reputation with your fleet manager as to the style of your driving. Once you have that relationship built, you can work together as a team to maximize your time out there. Everyone wants the same thing, your wheels turning safely and consistently.
The really good companies are not the easy ones to get hired on with. Sometimes they will have literally hundreds of applicants a week and since they only hire what they know they will have trucks for, it may only be 10 that get hired that week.
It may be that if you applied in June when there seem to be less applications, you get in easily, but in January the same applicant may not make it through.
This does not mean you are not worthy of that company! It just means the timing was not right, luck of the draw. Instead of being discouraged, ask what the company would like to see so next time you apply you will have a competitive application that rises to the top of their criteria list.
If you work hard to make your application appealing to the hardest companies to get on with, then you will jut be opening all the doors in the trucking world for yourself.
Do not take it personally, do not let it discourage you, let it motivate you to make the best of yourself. Here at Jim Palmer we have countless drivers that did non qualify the first time they applied, but we kept in touch and helped coach these drivers on how to make their application stand out in the top and eventually they join the team.
Reefer, flatbed, dry van, these are the main divisions you will have to pick from to haul.
Like most things in life, the bigger the risk the higher the pay out. Flatbed tends to pay the highest cents per mile (CPM), but it is also the riskiest. You will have way more stopping to do to check your loads, you will have a lot of physical activities and climbing to secure your loads, and for the most part, when the economy slows down, flatbed is the first to start slowing down. This can be extra scary if you are leasing or trying to feed a family even if the economy takes a dump and your miles drop with it..
Dry van is decent pay and tends to be fairly stable. Ups and downs, but not as huge as flatbed. Sure when the economy tanks dry van takes a good hit since not as many people will be buying tv's and what not, but not as bad as flatbed. There are times of the year where miles will slump as not as many goods are bought.
Reefer is the most stable and consistent of them all. Similar in CPM to dry van. Day in and day out the one thing that even a crash in the economy can not stop is people needing to eat. Through thick and thin reefer trucks are always needed to get food around. This makes for a much more reliable year after year kind of income. This makes leasing much more comfortable as you know there will always be loads. The downside to reefer is it can at times have some crazy delivery hours, like 3am. Dry van might have this too, but probably not as often as reefer. Most drivers feel it is a small price to pay for the consistent miles you can get with reefer.
If you look historically at the companies that weather the storms of the economy it is generally the dry van and reefer companies. Most big companies build on these types of commodity to haul because of the stability and relevance even when the economy makes a run for the boarder.
One question you may want to ask a company is do they ever call a driver in during hometime. After being out for 3-4 weeks, and only being home 3-4 days, hometime is pretty precious time and should never be interrupted. For us it is not just respect, but a part of safety too. A driver needs that time to decompress and feel in control of their lives. A driver's family needs to know they can rely on the time set up for the driver to be home. It helps to create better trust and security as well as feeling respected as a driver. You will be shocked at how many companies will call a driver a day or two into their hometime and send them out on a last minute "emergency" load.
Seems pretty tricky to balance friends and family when you are an OTR driver. It is nice these days with skype and cel phones to make it easier, but you still need to adapt to a different kind of relationship with loved ones. One where you feel the love and connection of them despite being hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Most of our society sees a daily encounter with a spouse as "the norm". With an OTR driver, this has to be adapted to more like a monthly encounter with a spouse. From what I can tell, the relationship that is built around this is a pretty cool and deep relationship. One where hours and hours are spent talking, actually conversing, and building up anticipation for each visit.
I know drivers that are the best dad's or mom's you could ever imagine. On call at all times of the day to talk, providing a good income for the family, and cherishing every minute they do get to see their families. It is not easy, especially since most of society would never understand, but I see a lot of relationships that are far more intimate and positive than I could have imagined in this line of work.
The hope is that you find the right company to start with and stick with for all of your career. It is a big event to change jobs, and much easier to just start out right. To pick a good company you will be happy with for years to come you will want to think about, well, the years to come, not just the now.
Do you want to be a company driver for your whole career? Or is your dream to one day own a truck? Perhaps you are not sure, but wouldn't it be nice to have the option years from now with a company you have a relationship with?
Companies that have both company driver and lease purchase positions are ideal, then, as you develop your career, you have options and support.
Are passengers allowed? Are pets welcome? You may not have a passenger now, or a pet, but years from now you might like a little company out there. Or perhaps your brother wants a lift across the country, it is nice if that is an option.
Can the company get you loads in all 48 states? Sure they may have the main lanes from Ohio and west, but what if you want to take a few days off in FL? Can the company get you there?
Can you take your home time anywhere you please? Maybe you want to visit family in VA, CA and MI this year. Some companies will only allow you to take your hometime off in one spot.
It is just nice to know you have options with the company you start with, do your research and start with the right company and you will have a long and healthy career out there.
Seems as though this is a common and yet often avoided topic with truckers. I suppose it is not a glamorous topic, but you can not help but read this right?!
Living in a truck with no running water has many challenges, one is bathroom breaks. Drivers need to pee (and, well, you know) and sometimes it is no easy task to get to a bathroom. For the guys, it is pretty simple, pee in a container. Yes, this may sound disgusting at first, but, urine is a sterile substance and as long as it is just urine, not mixed with, uh, the other stuff, it is harmless and not considered a bio-hazard.
Although ideally a driver would pour it in the grass or flush it down the toilet, sometimes they are a bit unmotivated and leave the bottles in a parking lot. The greatest offense there is littering and it does really suck, but not everyone is a Woodsey the Owl fan- give a hoot don't pollute.
For the gals, it is a little trickier. There are devices like the she-wee that is pretty much a funnel, but man, it can be a mess if you make one little mistake! A driver gave me a pretty cool tip, one that I use when I am on the boat now, a zip lock bag. It is easy to use and to contain. I double up to be safe.
Although it may seem disgusting to some, if you think about it, the tuck is a driver's home. Wouldn't you like to be able to at least pee in your own house?
In an attempt to let people know what it is like for over the road drivers, I am heading out with Jim Palmer Trucking driver Allie Knight.