The trucking industry has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the United States. There are close to 3 million commercial truck drivers in the United States, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor counts, and the figure continues to rise. If you are considering a career change and want to know more about truck driving, here are some things to consider.
Without the trucking industry, the U.S. economy would nearly come to a grinding halt. Trucks transport everything that we consume and use on a daily basis, from manufactured goods to food. Trucks transport our mail all over the country. Trucks bring the fuel we put into our cars. Trucks support the way of life that we have become accustomed to in the United States.
There are many types of trucks used in the transportation industry, including box trucks, straight trucks, flat-bed trucks, reefers (refrigerated units), tankers and carriers. However, there are basically only two types of truck drivers: owner/operators and company drivers. Owner/operators own or lease their own truck, and sometimes one or more trailers. Company drivers are employees of a trucking company, and do not own or maintain the equipment.
Although truck driving is a dangerous and difficult profession, it offers some benefits that you'll be hard-pressed to find in any other industry. These include:
-Freedom from a 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. job
-Front-row views of some of the nation's most beautiful territories
-For owner/operators, independence and the ability to control your own success
Recruiters often use misleading sales pitches to lure new, inexperienced drivers. Since they are salespeople, recruiters often inflate the benefits of working for their companies. Benefits such as lots of sightseeing, lots of family time and above-average compensation will be high on their list of selling points. While you do get to see lots of places, the one place you probably won't see much is your home, unless you drive local routes.
Also, companies may promise to ensure that their drivers are always driving legally, within the federal regulations for driving-time limits and allowable load weights. The reality, however, is that unscrupulous companies often set up loads and time limits that cannot be humanly accomplished unless a driver does drive illegally. Furthermore, if you are that unfortunate driver and you get caught, these companies will take no responsibility for making you break the law. In most instances, you can be stuck with huge fines to pay out of your own pocket.
The truck-driving industry holds the highest rate of roadway fatalities of any profession. Several driver-related factors contribute to the level of danger, including inexperience, road rage, distractions (radios, cell phones, computers), fatigue and poor health (obesity, age, complications from abuse of stimulants ranging from caffeine to cocaine).
While a number of accidents involving trucks and automobiles are caused by the truck driver, the operators of passenger vehicles can also contribute to the dangers on the roadway. However, as a truck driver responsible for carrying thousands of pounds of weight in a load, you must be proactive. You must constantly anticipate automobile drivers' errors in order to keep your load safe, your equipment free from damage and most importantly to save lives, including your own!
In addition to the dangers of truck driving, this career can also have detrimental effects on your emotional well-being. The lonely lifestyle of a truck driver can cause emotional fatigue and depression. The divorce rate among truck drivers is substantially higher than in any other industry, due to long periods of separation and pressure on the spouse who remains behind to manage the family in the driver's absence. It's crucial to consider the long-term effects that truck driving can have on you and your family.
A career in the truck-driving industry holds a high degree of potential for many who enter this challenging and difficult line of work. With a lot of personal sacrifice, it can be a lucrative career, especially for those who have the determination and business sense to enter into the realm of owner/operator driving. Even without owning your own truck, there are many transportation companies that offer above-average pay, incentives and benefits for drivers with several years of driving experience, stellar safety and driving records and the dedication to meet and exceed customer and company expectations.
- Photo Credit DS Waltenburg 2005
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