As someone who is in daily contact with truck drivers who spend most days during the year on the road, through years and years of cooperation and many friendships connected through work, I always felt the need to convey to the general public how important the job of a truck driver is to our everyday life.
WHAT IS NOT IN THIS ARTICLE?
I know that texts have already been written on this topic, and this one comes from my personal perspective, and accordingly, the text in front of you will be a completely different perspective to what you have had the opportunity to read so far. I will not write here about how and in what ways to get a “CDL” Commercial Drivers License, or what are the traffic rules in the USA that differ from those in Europe, nor will I go into deeper technical details and discuss which is better, easier, simpler and more rewarding to drive.
In this text, I want to turn to the other side of the story, the human side.
WHICH INDUSTRY DO TRUCK DRIVERS EXACTLY BELONG TO?
First of all, it should be understood that truck drivers, as well as all other employees who are in some way in contact with them, belong to the transport sector. Regardless of the type of transport in question, air, water, rail or road (which is popularly called “OTR” Over The Road in the USA), it must be understood that transport is one of the essential industries that drive the world economy and without which life as we know it would not be possible. The food we eat, the shoes and clothes we wear, the building materials that make up our homes, the technology we use to entertain and communicate with others, the animals we see in zoos, the list is simply endless.
When outside it is plus 120°F and hot and when it is below 4°F and freezing. When they drive all night without stopping so that the raw material arrives on time in the production and so that the production does not stop. When we live in the time of “new normal” with masks on our faces, distant and isolated from each other. When many of us have the privilege of working from the safety of our homes. The truckers are on their way. Every God’s day they strive to keep our world as pleasant as we know it today. That our medicines reach our pharmacies so that we stay healthy, that our food reaches the shelves so that we don’t stay hungry.
HOW DIFFERENT IS IT IN USA COMPARING TO THE REST OF THE WORLD?
Driving a truck in the USA is very different from driving a truck in the rest of the world. We can say that the United States of America is currently the country with the most developed road network for commercial traffic, which is greatly contributed by the fact of unhindered movement between its member states. All these facts contributed to a very competitive free market and the rapid development of commercial transport within the borders of this country.
The shipper of the goods is looking for the best offer, both financially and according to the specific conditions of transportation of the given goods within the given time parameters, and the market must be ready to satisfy those services with its capacity.
The commercial “OTR” trucking industry in the USA alone is worth a staggering $790 billion a year and some of the companies operating within this sector have the annual turnover of some of the smaller countries in the world today.
Now that we’ve clarified what industry truck drivers operate within, let’s explain and demystify a few things about this profession.
DOES IT PAY OFF TO BE A TRUCK DRIVER?
Since we’re on the topic of money, let’s continue on that note. Truck drivers make decent money.
I’m sure you’ve heard stories of them making tens and tens of thousands of dollars a week, but I’ll just say they make decent money.
EXPENSES, WHAT EXPENSES?
There are many factors involved in a trucker’s earnings, especially if he owns his truck and trailer, regardless of whether it is rented, leased, or fully paid off. In that case, all vehicle maintenance falls directly and exclusively on him. And since it is a machine that hauls some 70 thousand pounds of weight every day, you can only assume the maintenance costs, let alone the unforeseen breakdowns of such vehicles. Just towing from the point of failure to the nearest mechanic shop ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The parts are not available to be bought at every corner and are being ordered which takes a couple of days for them to arrive before the installation can be started. If a truck slides off the road and gets stuck in the snow, getting it out usually costs as much as a premium smartphone. If a traffic accident occurs, no matter whose fault it is, chances are high that the truck driver, in addition to losing his vehicle, especially if the damage is too great to repair, will also lose the ability to perform his job for a certain period of time.
And every day when the truck is not running is a day when the truck driver not only loses his earnings, but goes into the negative, i.e., a financial loss. And even so that lease or loan installments do not flow, there is insurance as well as many others at first sight invisible costs.
So I believe that now my position is a little clearer to you when I say that truck drivers are not getting rich but are just making “decent” money.
SOCIAL PRESSURE ON THE TRUCK DRIVER AS AN INDIVIDUAL
Especially if we consider that it is an occupation that keeps you away from home for a long period of the year. If you’ve ever wondered why trucks in the USA look different than trucks you’ve encountered in Europe or the rest of the world, one of the reasons are the so-called “sleeper” or sleeping accessory to the back of the truck.
Yes, truck drivers are on the road so long that they make their truck their temporary home. It can be said that, on average, drivers for “long haul” or longer loads, when they go on the road, spend between three weeks and three months out without stopping. It can be slightly shorter or even significantly longer. It is simply a matter of economic viability. Nobody, neither the driver, nor the company he drives for, is economically profitable for the driver to leave home on Monday and return on Friday. There are those, of course, but their economic profit in this business is seriously questioned.
Many of the drivers are separated from their families and friends for weeks or months due to the nature of their work. Imagine yourself now, being alone with yourself most of the day, every day for several weeks or months in a row, and how among the only people you come into direct contact with are the people at the warehouses where you load and unload goods, the employees at the pumps and the parking lots intended for trucks, where you dine and use the services of shared bathrooms for basic human needs and hygiene. How is your most frequent contact on the phone a person whom you may never have met in person and whom you may not even know what he or she looks like, and with whom you may hear more times per day than with your girlfriend or wife or mother or child or friend, and whose name is – dispatcher.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE QUALITY CONNECTIONS BETWEEN DISPATCHERS AND TRUCK DRIVERS?
You realize now that it takes just a little bit of compassion to make a connection with the person on the other end of the wire, for whom you are the dispatcher, the only contact with the real state of the market in which he is struggling to maximize his profits, minimize all possible costs, and derive purpose their daily sacrifices.
I think that now you have a little more clarity about my position that truck drivers make only “decent” money.
HOW IS IT FOR THE COMPANY DRIVERS? IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE?
On the other hand, we also have truck drivers who drive directly for companies and who do not own their trucks or equipment. They work for a fixed agreed cents per mile, although there are also moments when they work for a percentage of the profit, and they always rush to cover a certain number of miles during the week that the law allows them, so that their separation from family and everyday life will pay off.
Generally it is a figure of about three thousand miles a week, or twelve thousand miles a month. Translated into kilometers, this is about 4,800 kilometers per week or over 19,000 kilometers per month. Which would mean that they have to travel a minimum of over 400 miles or over six hundred kilometers every day to bring home a decent income.
Those miles don’t happen in a comfortable car, on your own terms, with a great crew you’ve chosen yourself and to some special destination you’re looking forward to. Those miles happen in near total physical solitude, every day of the month, as long as you’re on the road, within the time constraints you’ve been given to complete your work assignment. And when you don’t feel your best physically, and when you’re not mentally in best shape, and when others are sitting in the comfort of their homes with their partners and children, or enjoying social events with their friends.
The life sacrifices that truck drivers make as a result of their profession is, I can safely say, far greater than the monetary compensation that follows for the same.
FLUCTUATIONS, SEASONALITY AND VOLATILITY OF THE US TRUCKING INDUSTRY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING IT AS A TRUCK DISPATCHER
As in any other industry, in transportation there are ups and downs in terms of demand and supply, as well as monetary compensation for providing a service at a given moment. Then it is even more difficult for everyone within this industry to justify the sacrifices they make for their profession because the financial compensation is often absent due to fixed costs or simply not satisfactory to justify the time away from loved ones.
The characteristic of a good dispatcher is precisely in building relationships, not only with brokers in order to be able to give their drivers the opportunity to drive the highest quality paid loads, but precisely with the drivers, in order to be there for them in times when “the roses are not blooming” and when is not easy to. Empathy is the key word here, and it is exactly what builds trust between people.
HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THE USA HAVE CHOSEN THIS JOB AS THEIR OCCUPATION?
The current estimate is that there are over one million commercial drivers on the road in the US every day, while the “ATA” American Trucking Association, states that the number of those who are periodically active in the industry is estimated to be up to 3 times higher. Without them, no one further down the supply chain would have a job. Neither the owners of facilities where goods are stored, nor their managers, nor their workers, nor brokers, dispatchers, mechanics and everyone else within a transport company. In the same way, employees in retail stores would have nothing to do, builders could not build roads or buildings… The list is too long, as you can imagine.
AFTER THE RAIN THERE ALWAYS COMES A RAINBOW – AT LEAST IN THIS INDUSTRY
Comfort is somewhere reflected in the fact that, unlike other industries that are not essential like this one, and which market fluctuations and economic crises can bring them to a zero point and stop completely, transport is only possible to reduce its volume at a given moment but never to stop.
After every crisis, when the economy recovers, essential industries are the first to feel that improvement and then the fruits of past labor will be felt and the daily sacrifices of everyone in the supply and transport chain will gain back it’s full importance.
Primarily, everyone who depends on our services is often there to show us sincere gratitude for being with them even in difficult times.
We are all human, with our strengths and weaknesses, and it really takes a little to understand the other side.
This is exactly the reason to enroll in our ONLINE COURSE FOR DISPATCHERS, because through the prism of our many years of experience, you will not only become a real professional in knowing all the regulations and technical requirements of this job, but also get a broader understanding of how the market itself works and how to be among the best.
Through our course, you will go through everything you may need in this job and gain confidence in the acquired knowledge.
Champions take on the job when it’s most difficult, and that’s exactly what makes them champions.