8 facts about the truck driver way of life

Truck driver way of life

Thinking about a career as a truck driver? Here's what you need to know.

When considering new career paths, it’s always a good idea to do some research and talk through the pros and cons with your family and loved ones. That’s doubly true if the new career you’re looking at is truck driving.

In many ways, being an OTR (over-the-road) or CDL driver is more like a lifestyle than a job. It can be demanding – on you and your family – in ways that most other occupations simply aren’t.

But if you value flexibility, 20 hours of solitude each day, and following a different routine from the rest of society, then this career is definitely worth exploring. To get started, here are eight noteworthy facts about truck drivers in the U.S.

1. Days can begin really early. Many drivers like to move with the light; others prefer to drive through the night. OTR truck drivers don't have set starting hours, unless they're calling in to dispatch after returning from "time off."

2. You may be expected to work up to 70 hours over an eight-day period. After you've worked for 70 hours, you can’t drive again until you take a full 34 hours off duty. The 70-hour limit could be reached by working 14-hour days, but you can’t drive for more than 11 hours in a day. You must conclude your "hours of service" with a 10-hour break.

3. How far you drive determines how much you earn. Some drivers are paid hourly, but in most cases compensation is calculated by mile. That means your pay isn’t effected by how fast or how slow you make the trek.

4. All miles aren’t treated equally. Employers who pay "practical miles" pay based on every mile driven while on the job. On the other hand, "paid miles" are more like drawing a straight line on a map from Point A to Point B, even though routes aren't always straight.

5. There are ways to increase your pay. Often, you won't know what you'll be paid until the end of a year. According to CareerBuilder Insights, the national median salary is $41,500, with some salaries going as high as $45,000 to $55,000 thereafter. Your salary can increase if you become a trainer, are willing to haul oversize freight or hazardous materials, or if an employer pays you a percentage of each load you run.

6. It’s not all solitary. You will either do "drop and hooks" or live loading and unloading, which can take two to three hours each. An OTR driver will almost never have to unload any freight, but you are reliant on various shipping and receiving departments observing your strict schedule.

7. You’ll be covering huge distances. Most drivers are expected to cover 125,000 miles a year. That breaks down to around 2,500 miles a week, which equates to 500 miles a day. That’s like driving from Buffalo, New York to Chicago, Kansas City to Dallas, Denver to Salt Lake City, or San Diego to San Francisco every day.

8. There are some interesting perks. As a truck driver, you’ll get a unique view of the country, as well as camaraderie among your peers. You'll mostly get to drive modern trucks with comfortable, ergonomically designed seats to help you stay alert and focused.

Does truck driving sound like a good fit? Learn what skills to highlight on your resume.