Imagine you’ve been driving since 6 a.m. It’s after 4 and the sun is slowly drifting to the horizon…the radio d.j. is rambling on in a deep, soothing voice…the monotone hum of your tires on the highway begins to lull you…closing your eyes would feel so good…just for a second…
For truckers, getting enough sleep isn’t just a health issue, it’s a safety issue. According to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Analysis, 7% of all crashes and 16.5% of all fatal crashes involve drowsy driving. Driving after 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of a DUI as if you had a blood-alcohol count of 0.08% which is the legal limit. Falling asleep behind the wheel is a real danger for truckers and the solution for fatigue isn’t as simple as drinking some coffee. Sure, a bit of caffeine might wake you up but the effects are short-lived. When you have caffeine and are in need of sleep, you may actually experience “microsleeps” which is when you actually fall asleep for 3 or 4 seconds. If you think nodding off for a few seconds isn’t a big deal, the next time you’re driving on the highway, take note of the great distance your vehicle travels in 4 seconds when traveling at 55MPH. It’s easily enough time to cause a serious accident.
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) sets driving limits for truckers in order to avoid accidents due to fatigue. The limits are on hours you can drive after the required number of off duty hours and how many hours you can drive per week. They can be found at the FMCSA’s website here.
Even following the guidelines, it’s easy to become drowsy while driving. There’s much talk about driverless trucks and their potential to take over the trucking industry but the technologies they’ve brought about can be used today to make driving a truck safer for current drivers. Things like blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warnings are technologies that could solve or lessen the problem of driver inattention.
Without those, protecting yourself against drowsiness is the first line of defense. Getting a good night’s sleep is the best place to start. For many drivers, sleeping on the road can be difficult. Everything is different than the comforts of your own bed and things like lights, sounds, smells, or movement and vibrations that are foreign to you can keep you awake. Eating unhealthy foods on the road can also inhibit sleep.
Here are some tips on getting a good night’s sleep on the road:
Sunshades, curtains, or blankets can be used to block any light that might interfere with sleep.
Reading a book before bed or listening to calming music can help relax you but you should avoid screen time.
Earplugs are a great way to block out the noises of a busy truck stop.
If you have to get up in the middle of the night, it’s helpful to keep things as dark as possible.
Parking away from other vehicles when you plan on sleeping can help reduce noise.
If you turn down the volume on any electronic devices you may have, you won’t be awakened by alarms or notifications during the night.
A white noise machine is helpful in blocking out background sounds by emitting a consistent sound.
Fresh air is great for sleeping and by using window screens, you can let the fresh air in and keep the bugs out.
Smells can wake you up too so you should try to avoid parking next to dumpsters, portable toilets, or anything smelly.
Sleeping when it’s dark helps your body’s internal clock working properly.
Sleep apnea can keep you from getting a restful sleep. If you suffer from it, you should see your doctor for help.
Natural sleep aids are a preferable choice to pharmaceutical ones.
If you park where you shouldn’t, someone could wake you in the middle of the night to ask you to move.
If you’re drowsy during the day, try a 15-minute power nap might be enough to re-energize you.
Exercise is beneficial to sleep but if your workout is close to bedtime, it’s important to leave a little time to cool down and relax.
Resting your body is an important part of your job as a trucker. Driving for hours can take a physical and mental toll on your body but by keeping in shape and giving your mind and body the rest that it needs, you’ll be better equipped to do your job safely.
You’re a newbie to driving a truck. You got your CDL and you’ve found a company willing to take a chance on you and give you a shot. It’s their hope that they’re making a good investment and they’ve found a new, dedicated driver who’s going to build a long and fruitful career with their company.
For many drivers, that first company is merely a stepping stone to bigger and better things. The companies that pay the most money have the ability to hire the most experienced drivers and you, fresh out of truck driving school, are not one of those. So your plan is to gain some experience with the first trucking company to hire you and then hit the road (get it?).
Those trucking companies that hire entry-level drivers tend to have a high expectation of failure. In fact, many of them lose 90% of new drivers in the first year. But you’re not one of those either. You do your job well and understand that there will be bumps in the road (get it?) but you’re gaining experience that will only further your career.
In a sea of quitters, you made it, you prevailed. Now, a year after you began, you’re considering moving on but should you? If you leave after a year, you become a newbie all over again at a new company. Does it make sense to leave a company where you’ve proven yourself only to be back on the bottom rung needing to prove yourself all over again?
When you started middle school, you were the little guy who didn’t know where anything was or what to do but eventually, you proved yourself and made to 8th grade. King of the hill. Life was good. Then what happened? You went to a new school with different rules and you didn’t know where anything was. You were a lowly Freshman. At the bottom again.
That’s what it’s like to go to a new company after a year. You become a Freshman and have to prove yourself all over again. Of course, this isn’t to say that not moving to a new company is always the right decision. After all, what would’ve happened if you stayed in 8th grade? You would’ve been stunted. And it would’ve been weird for the other kids.
At your first company, you exceeded expectations so why not see where it goes? Companies that hire entry-level drivers aren’t inherently bad companies to work for. They may very well value those who make it through their rookie year and reward them with some great opportunities. If you can do the job safely and efficiently, you’ll begin to gain respect. After a year with your first company, they will look at you differently. They’ll realize that you’re less of a risk and are dependable. They’ll know they can depend on you to do the job efficiently with minimum issues which means you’re maximizing their profitability. After a year, you’ve worked out all of the kinks, learned all of the procedures and tricks and you can give your employers smooth, on-time deliveries.
Once you’ve proven yourself with a year of dedicated service, you should receive a decent increase in pay as well as the opportunity to earn some hefty bonuses. Working your way up the ladder and earning a reputation as a good producer can open you up for better jobs whether they are specific jobs within the company or simply be trusted with better routes.
Ultimately, only you can make the decision to stay or go. Because many people move on after they’ve gained some experience, you may think it’s what you’re supposed to do. Don’t make that assumption. Weigh all your options but remember you may already be in a position where you are highly valued and can make a successful and profitable career.
For many, the open road is a calling. For others, it’s a way to earn a good living working for a company, driving their trucks. But some see it as the potential to own a business and be the boss by buying their very own big rig.
What You Should Know
There are many advantages to owning your own truck. You’re the boss. You choose when you work and which jobs you take. You negotiate the price, and without a trucking company paying you, when you are the trucking company, more of that money goes to you. You make all of the decisions, are responsible for all the work, you’re the Big Kahuna.
The disadvantages to being an owner/operator? You make all of the decisions, are responsible for all the work, you’re the Big Kahuna. Any problems that arise such as your truck breaking down or deliveries not being made on time, fall on you. You’re the one that has to rectify and pay for it all. You can’t put it on someone else’s plate.
If you decide that you do want to be the Big Kahuna, you need to be prepared. You’ll need lots of money to start. Few people have the money to buy a rig outright so most will have to finance it. Having a large down-payment will make the monthly payments more manageable, which you’ll need because you’ll most likely face a few customers who are slow to pay for your services. On the other hand, some people recommend little money down because you won’t lose a big down-payment if you can’t keep up with the payments. This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, however, if you have big payments that are difficult to keep up with.
You’ll also need lots of cash on hand to start―working capital―to pay for oil changes and other maintenance, insurance, unexpected repairs, and fuel. It’s also wise to employ the services of legal and business advisers and an accountant before you begin your journey to owner/operatorship. It’s better to not only know what you’re getting into ahead of time but to also do things the right way from the start. Ignorance may be bliss but it can cost you a lot of money in the long run. Professional advice may cost you money on the front end but it’ll save you money on the other side.
Another consideration to make before you take the ownership plunge is the effect it will have on your family. Being an owner means may mean that you can set your own hours and choose the jobs you take but that doesn’t mean you won’t be away as much or even that you’ll have the financial freedom to be picky about the jobs you take. You’ve got to pay the bills. Many truck owners like the security of working for larger carriers but that means working on the carrier’s schedule. When your truck and your livelihood are on the line, you may be away more often than if you worked for someone else. Being away from your family can be difficult and even destructive.
Being the boss may not be for you. You could be a fantastic truck driver but being an owner/operator involves much more than just driving a truck and being your own boss. If you’re not prepared for all of the other work involved with running your business like paperwork and tracking down payments, you won’t succeed. Before taking the plunge, talk to other people who have purchased their own truck. Grill them. Ask for details on the best parts of the job and the worst. Ask if they have regrets. Is there anything they would’ve done differently?
New or Used?
That is another question. With a new rig, you have the huge expense but you know where it’s been. Nowhere. Everything is fresh, new working order. Used trucks can provide a great value. If you can find a well-maintained used rig, it might be more affordable for you. But before you buy, make sure you:
See maintenance records, including oil changes.
Note the mileage. Engines should go close to a million miles before they need to be rebuilt. If that’s soon, it’ll be a huge added cost but will add to the life of the truck.
Check the tires. Does it need new ones? What is the tread depth?
If you’re thinking of buying a used truck, find a used truck dealer with a good reputation. You should get a bit of a warranty to take care of immediate problems and to ensure you’re not buying an 18-wheeled lemon. They may offer a good extended warranty to be sure to ask about it. It can be expensive but if it covers major parts of the vehicle, it may be worth it.
Do Your Homework
Whether you’re buying a used truck or a new one, do the research. Find out about the individual truck’s history as well as the history of the model of truck. Look for any problems that people may have experienced with it. Research the dealership as well.
Also, do your homework on becoming an owner/operator. Know all of the work involved and exactly how much it will cost you up front and along the way. Becoming an owner of your own big rig, your own business, can be a lucrative and rewarding endeavor. Go into it prepared with knowledge, and you’ll increase your chances of success.
Trucker Search helps owner/operators find companies to work for to help your business grow. Post your resume with your truck details or let carriers all over the country find you. Everything you need is just a click away at TruckerSearch.com.
Nobody likes looking for a job. After hours of compiling or updating your résumé, you turn to the internet. You Google “trucker jobs”. Google returns an infinite sea of job sites. Okay, you take a deep breath and pick one of the more popular jobs search sites. You input your criteria and after a few seconds, you get a list of jobs. As you peruse them, you realize that many of them require licenses you don’t have or you’re overqualified for many of them or that many of them aren’t even for truck driving jobs. Frustrated, you pick up the help wanted section of your newspaper. Nothing. You make a list of major trucking companies that you know and begin viewing each of the websites, finding their careers section, and uploading your résumé to each one. Within a half hour, you get up and walk away from your computer, resisting the urge to throw it out the window, as you go outside to contemplate your life choices.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Trucking Companies are Desperate
Today, trucking companies are in a scramble to find truckers to fill openings. According to a 2017 truck driver shortage analysis by the ATA, in 2016, there was a shortage of 36,500 truck drivers, and if that rate continues, that number is expected to swell to 174,000 by 2026.
It’s not just Amazon that is driving the demand for drivers. Online shopping has always been a boon for small retail companies by allowing them to compete on a level playing field without the expense of brick and mortar stores, but now big retailers like Target and Walmart are finding success with huge increases in their online sales. This shortage is causing shipping costs to skyrocket, and consumers are beginning to incur those costs in the form of higher prices for goods. While this is bad news for consumers, it is good news for truckers. Many companies are desperate for driver and will offer higher pay and better benefits to their drivers.
Life on the road isn’t always an easy one and long hauls can be physically and mentally demanding and keep you away from your family for long periods of time. This is one of the biggest reasons that potential truckers are turned off. Fortunately, the shortage is making trucking companies rethink the way they do things, and many are now offering shorter runs so their truckers can be home with their families more. Retailers are opening more warehouse “hubs” so hauls are broken up into shorter legs.
The high demand has also caused salaries for drivers to skyrocket too. The U. S. Labor Department says the median salary for truck drivers is around $44,000, but many companies today are hiring at $80,000+ to fill trucking positions. When salaries in most industries have remained stagnant over the last several years, trucker salaries have been going up 8% to 12% yearly. Along with sign-on bonuses, 401Ks, and other benefits, the time is ripe to make a great living as a truck driver. If you’re not a licensed driver yet, some companies are even offering to pay for potential employees to take the course that is required for a CDL license which can cost as much as $8,000.
A Better Way to Search
There are many ways to look for a trucking job. You can search print ads, bulletin boards at truck stops, help wanted ads in trade publications, social media, and driver application events. You can search online job sites but they don’t do a very effective job filtering out jobs you wouldn’t be interested in and you may find yourself sifting through a lot of jobs that don’t meet your qualifications. All of these ways take up a lot of time and lead to a lot of dead ends. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way that you could post your résumé and have interested companies contact you? Or what if you could search a database of only trucking jobs available in a region you choose?
TruckerSearch.com allows you to search for trucking jobs and have trucking companies search for you. Only trucking jobs and only what you’re looking for. Fill out an application with your relevant information, and TruckerSearch will match you with companies looking for you. It couldn’t be faster or simpler.
If you’re tired of spinning your wheels and want to get back out on the road, go to TruckerSearch.com and find your dream driving job!