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Thread: Lifestyles of the expedited driver

  1. Default Lifestyles of the expedited driver

    This is the first of five articles written to assist you in considering expediting as a career.

    If you have accessed this website to learn about the expedited trucking industry, congratulations; you have chosen well. The forums on this site are monitored by its members who are dedicated to giving you factual information regarding our profession.

    Please understand that these articles are written to expose you to the reality of expedited driving. There are many wonderful things about this career, and the articles will point a few of them out, but you should be aware of the difficulties of this career choice prior to committing yourself.

    The trucking industry in general and the expedited industry specifically, are facing a severe shortage of drivers. This article is written not to discourage you from entering the field which all of us here at Expediter World are committed, but to advise you that there is real work to be done and sacrifices you that you will face. There are no “pie in the sky” promises on this site or in this series of articles. We have no trucks to sell, no equipment you must buy, no favoritism shown to any carrier or owners to promote, no advertisers to which we bow, and I can personally assure you that you will not have the life of a “paid tourist” while participating in this specialty field of trucking.

    Before we begin you may benefit from knowing some of the terms used in the trucking and expedited industry. Recognition of these basic terms will give the reader a better insight to understanding this series of articles. Some of these terms are generic and apply to many forms of transportation, others to trucking in general and some are used exclusively by the expediting industry.

    A unit - car or pickup truck
    B unit - cargo van or Sprinter van
    C unit - Straight truck that exceeds 10,000#’s gross weight but less than 26,000#’s
    D unit - Straight truck that exceeds 26,000#’s gross weight
    E unit - Tractor Trailer
    Canadian based - a carrier, driver, or fleet owner based in Canada Carrier - a company that holds proper authority to move materials via truck
    CDL - commercial driver’s license
    CDRP - Canadian Drivers Registration Program
    Class A - permits the holder to drive a tractor trailer
    Class B – permits the holder to drive a straight truck exceeding 26,000 pounds in weight
    Class C - also known as a chauffeurs license, permits the driver to drive vehicles weighing less than 26,000 lbs.
    ComData - debit card used for pay, advances, fuel purchases, ATMs, and accepted by some retail stores like Wal-Mart
    Deadhead – the mileage you will drive to make your next pickup
    Detention - charges incurred while waiting to load or unload
    DOT - the United States Department of Transportation
    Driver - a person who does not own a truck but drives for a company or fleet owner
    Endorsements - allow the holder to carry various materials or drive specific equipment
    FAST - Free And Secure Trade
    Fingerprint - cargo that requires loading and or unloading by the driver
    Fleet Owner - a person or group of people who own several trucks leased to carriers
    Fuel surcharges - revenue added to the base rate of the shipment handled
    Hazmat - hazardous materials
    LTL - less than truck load – any size load that falls short of a full truck load
    Newbie - a driver or owner operator who is new to the industry (usually less than two years experience)
    No touch - cargo that does not require loading or unloading by the driver
    OTR - Over the Road drivers or owner operators driving for a company specializing in
    TL or LTL non- expedited freight
    Owner Operator - a person who owns a truck and is the driver as well
    PAPS - Pre Arrival Processing System (used for shipments from Canada into the US)
    PARS - Pre Arrival Review System (used for shipments from the US into Canada)
    Qualcomm - tracking and information device used for dispatching and messaging
    TL – truck load... normally considered a load large enough to fill a 48’ to 53’ trailer
    US based - a carrier, driver, or fleet owner based in the United States
    Wannabe - a person considering entering the expedited trucking field

    Many considerations and judgments will be necessary to determine if you are truly interested in entering this specific niche of the trucking industry. In my opinion the first and most important consideration is the lifestyle. Many OTR truckers prior to entering the industry think that there is no difference in OTR and expedited driving. I have heard the question many times...”Why would it be any different, it’s just driving a truck isn’t it?” The short answer to that question is “NO!” Rather than discussing the specific differences between these two driving careers at this time, let’s just take a quick look at what is expected of an expedited driver.

    Tony Celender, owner of Pitt Express Deliveries, and site administrator for Expediter World agrees that the lifestyle change is probably the most difficult adjustment a new driver will face.

    “ Lifestyle Change: This is the hardest part of becoming a driver for most, unless you and your spouse do it together as a team. Discuss an expedite or trucking career with your family, especially if this is a mid-life career change. It requires a lot of adjusting for both you and your family. Your schedule will keep you away from your family for extended periods of time. Most companies require being in the truck and on the job at least 3 weeks at a time.

    During the three weeks you are on the road, you can expect to wait for hours and sometimes days at a time for your next load. There will be times that you wake up, spend most of the day busying yourself in your interests, and just about the time you are ready to give up for the day and get some sleep, you will be notified of a load that needs to be picked up...NOW!

    Many OTR drivers are accustomed to staying out for extended periods of time, but most are not accustomed to sitting around. OTR drivers are driving long hard hours every day and some have set routes and schedules. It’s difficult work and normally pays a lot less than expedited driving, but there are those who enjoy knowing were they are going next and when they will be leaving. Many OTR drivers find the uncertainty and time spent waiting for a load to be quite unnerving.

    Tony’s advice about discussing your new career with your family is most important. They must understand that you cannot just drive home anytime a minor crisis occurs. You will be expected to remain on the road for the times agreed to prior to your acceptance of the driver’s position. If you fail to remain “in service” for the desired length of time, you can and will create friction with owners and careers alike... not a good idea if job security is important to you. Other family members must be willing to assume your responsibilities while you are away. Without that understanding, your relationships with your family will suffer. Again Tony’s words...

    “You will have to make extra effort to stay in touch and be involved in your family's life from the road. Not an easy task, and some can’t do it. You're going to miss special events in your family's life (like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and sport events) this is why a lifestyle change is in order.”

    There are many other adjustments that you need to know about. Driving solo can be a lonely existence for many. You will have interactions with other drivers in the truck stops, and brief encounters with your company’s customers, but the majority of your time will be spent alone. If you are unable to handle the solitude, you may wish to partner up with another driver or better yet, your spouse. But also be aware that this option also has other drawbacks.

    Expedited driving almost always requires the drivers to live in their truck for the period of time they are on the road. Some drivers lucky enough to live in their companies freight lanes may make it home more often. Most of the expedited trucks in service today have bunk sizes of six feet to eight feet of living space behind the drivers and passengers seats. Most again are equipped nicely with a television, a microwave and small refrigerator. Some bunk conversions allow the drivers to stand up from the driver or passenger seats and walk back to the sleeping area. Other bunk conversions require you to duck down when moving from the driver’s area to the sleeper area. Regardless of the arrangement and niceties of the conversion, you must be aware that your space is confined.

    Nancy Mcbride and her husband Joe have been driving together for about six years and currently are owner operators with Conway Now. Nancy, a moderator on Expediter World recently posted the following in our Newbie forum.

    “So you think you want to drive a truck with your spouse/significant other? Hmm well can you past the weekend/3 day test?

    I wish that I could personally take the credit for this concept but I can not. I saw a post with the basics of the following experiment listed below a long time ago...

    What you have to do:

    1. Get enough food and clothing for 3 days.
    2. Get a sleeping bag for two.
    3. Get a small television.
    4. Get a microwave.
    5. Get your cell phone.

    Take all the above items and you and your spouse/significant other go into your bathroom (preferably a half bath) and stay in there without coming out for three days. If you can do this successfully without killing one another, you may be able to team together.”

    If this sounds like overkill to you, remember that you will be spending three weeks together in a confined environment, where at times, it may not be quite as comfortable as your closet or half bath, and most of you will not have a toilet. Of course you will have many things to observe while driving which will reduce the boredom of your three day trial, but you will have a better understanding of how well you will cope with living together in a confined area.

    You will either have to carry a minimum of three weeks of clean clothing with you, or find time to do your laundry while on the road. You will have to make decisions on how many meals you will prepare in the tuck, how much and how often to eat in truck stop restaurants, fast food plazas and other eating establishments. If you are interested in eating well, and also saving as much as possible, you will find that you will prepare many of your meals in the truck. That also means that in addition to finding time to do your laundry you will have to go to the grocery often. Food storage and refrigerator space are extremely limited when compared to your house or apartment.

    Another major adjustment in this lifestyle changing career is sleep. There will be days when you have all the sleep time Rumplestiltskin could desire, and other times when you feel like you could sleep for a week. There is no schedule or pattern to expedited driving.

    Let me repeat...there is no schedule or pattern to expedited driving. Not knowing when you will be called to begin your driving, you will learn that power naps can go a long way in keeping you fresh and ready to roll. If you can only sleep at night, you should make certain that your truck is equipped with room darkening curtains, and you will have to learn to sleep with the measured light that they still allow into your bunk. Team members must adjust to sleeping at different times, as well as sleeping while the truck is moving, sometimes over rough roads and in heavy noisy traffic.

    Personal hygiene is an issue that must be thought out. Count on using the public facilities in rest stops, and truck stops across the nation. Most of the major truck stops have programs that will award you with a free shower for a certain amount of fuel purchased. But you will find yourself occasionally unable to take advantage of them because of the time constraints of your loads. Some of the larger sleepers are equipped with sinks and running water, but very few have toilets and showers. The sleepers with sinks will allow you to brush your teeth and to take measures which keep others from knowing you have arrived prior to seeing you. James and Mary King, a husband wife team approaching the completion of their third year in the business, and presently working with FedX Custom Critical, seem to have most of these issues under control. Mary recently wrote the following in the Female Drivers forum of Expediter World...

    “We have a sink so I can do just about everything except my hair, well I can wash my hair but it's a complicated process. Having oily skin, my hair is the first thing to go south. Sometimes I use a product called No Rinse, just apply and rub out with a towel, not 100% like being at home but it'll do in a pinch! We also carry every kind of wipey known to man!”

    There are many other smaller adjustments and concerns that you will have to deal with as an expedited driver. In my opinion the adjustments to your lifestyle are the most difficult. If you feel that you can handle all of the above then you may be a candidate for an expedited driving position. However one final adjustment should be considered.

    Management of your income is one of the key’s to your financial success. First of all you will more than likely be working as an independent contractor, which means you will be responsible for paying all income taxes associated with your work. You should have or make arrangements to meet with a tax filing service that knows this specific industry. The importance of this step of your business is often underestimated by those entering the industry. You must have a plan in place and then stick to your plan; otherwise you may find yourself at the end of the year with a tax bill you cannot afford to pay.

    The money management issue also should include the movement of your money. Your bills at home will not be terminated when you assume this new career. You will continue to have most of the bills you are now paying. How will you pay them from the road? What options do you have in place to make certain that you not only have enough cash to operate, but that your bills at home are being paid on time?

    If you enjoy solitude or have a great relationship with your spouse or close friend, there are many things you can do to pass the time while waiting for a load. Virtually anything which can be done in a limited environment can be enjoyed in your truck. Some drivers enjoy reading, some work crossword puzzles, watch movies or tv, play cards, and or surf the internet on a laptop, while others find they enjoy being out of the truck. Depending on the size of your vehicle, there are many activities you can enjoy while waiting for a load, as long as your carrier knows how to contact you when a load is available and its ok to park at or near the location of your interest. The options here are as varied as the people involved in the industry.

    This article is property of Expediter World™ ©2005-2006
    OOIDA Member
    I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way.

  2. #2

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    Default Re: Lifestyles of the expedited driver

    Thank you for this post- most helpful!

  3. #3

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    Default Re: Lifestyles of the expedited driver

    Thank you for this post

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