Careers in Truck Driving: Choosing the Right Job
At first glance, it might seem like every truck driving job is the same. Many people might assume you get hired, you drive, the end. But there is a lot more to truck driving than meets the eye, including different types of truck driving.
What Types of Truck Driving Jobs Are There?
There are four main categories of truck driving jobs: local truck driving, dedicated driving, regional driving, and over-the-road (OTR) truck driving. Here’s a breakdown of each type of job, what they entail, and the pros and cons of each of them.
Local Truck Driving
Local truck driving means that the company has a terminal near where their drivers live. While these types of jobs are limited in number, and drivers often must live in the hiring area for the company, they work very well for drivers with family constraints or other limitations that require them to be home on a regular basis. Local truck driving also lends itself to more extroverted drivers, as they often interact with coworkers and dispatchers regularly. Local drivers are frequently on small roads delivering goods from a factory or warehouse to stores within a 200-mile radius.
- Local jobs mean that drivers will be home almost every night.
- Drivers frequently have weekends off.
- Because the driver is spending less time behind the wheel, their health tends to be better. They take more stops, move around more, and generally are more active.
- When driving locally, drivers often have a set schedule. This helps to plan activities outside of work and they usually know when they’ll be home and when they’ll be on the road.
- The work/life balance is the number one reason to choose local driving for many.
- Pay is generally lower for local truck driving jobs. According to Ziprecruiter, local drivers in the U.S. earn, on average, $51,355 a year.
- Getting a good position as a local driver requires a lot of experience, as these jobs are extremely competitive.
- Some local jobs require their drivers to help load and unload their trucks.
- Many local drivers work long hours, often between 10 and 14 hours a day.
- Hours may start at any time: some local drivers begin their shifts at 4:00 AM.
Dedicated drivers run a specific route over and over again. They are expected to work with the same customers on a route and the schedule does not change very often. Like local drivers, this type of position often works well for those who need to have a set schedule and be able to spend more time at home.
- Consistency is often one of the most attractive elements of this job. Routes rarely change and the people in the job are often the same, too.
- While dedicated driving doesn’t guarantee local, it often does, which means dedicated rivers can be home regularly.
- Many dedicated drivers comment on the relationships they make with their customers and build rapport with those they interact with.
- While some see it as a pro, others see the consistent routes as repetitive and boring. Dedicated drivers should be prepared to drive the same roads and the same routes over and over.
- Many trucking companies only choose current drivers for their dedicated routes. So, it may take a while for a driver to work up to this position.
You can think of regional driving as an expansion of local driving. Routes will usually span the same region, which usually means within the driver’s home state and surrounding states. Often, a region encompasses a 1,000-mile radius. This isn’t long hauls or cross-country trips but might mean a day or two away from home.
- Regional drivers will get to know their routes very well as they often travel the same roads, but it’s not the same one over and over again as it is for dedicated drivers.
- Regional truck drivers are usually home on the weekends.
- Many drivers choose regional driving for its good pay (though it should be said, OTR trucking has the highest pay).
Over the Road (OTR)
Over-the-road (OTR) drivers make up the bulk of the 3.5 million truck drivers operating in the U.S. today, with about 2 million drivers working long-haul routes as of 2019. These drivers might spend three to four weeks on the road at a time, taking necessary and essential freight across the country.
- Pay is good for long-haul truck driving, and there is a shortage of these drivers currently, so many jobs are available.
- Many trucking companies have two-person OTR teams, which means drivers have a companion to help with driving.
- OTR drivers log a lot of hours, which means they gain a lot of experience very quickly.
- There is a lot of flexibility on the hours OTR drivers are on the road. They can drive at night or during daylight, as long as they follow regulations for the number of hours they drive each day.
- Because of the long routes, OTR drivers see a lot of the country.
- The nature of OTR driving requires drivers to be one for long periods of time, often making it difficult to have a family. Many OTR drivers are on the road 300 days a year.
- OTR drivers essentially live out of their trucks. Some trucks have a bed in the back, and sometimes drivers must have their meals on the road to meet deadlines.
Choose the Right Route for You
One type of driving might be right for some people and wrong for others. It’s important to look at the hours, schedule, and amount of customer face-to-face time that each position has. Every type of trucking has its benefits and can provide opportunities for trying something new.
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More Resources for FCL Carriers:
- Article: How to Improve a CSA Score in 2023
- Article: Excessive Wait Times Hurt Supply Chain Efficiencies
- Article: Limited Truck Parking is Hurting Your Supply Chain
- Article: Importance of Limiting Driver Wait Times
- Article: DOT Hours of Service Explained
- Article: A Look at 9 Kinds of Trucking Jobs
- Article: Is a Trucking Career Right for Me?
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