A Little about Trucking and Truckers
Trucking is the most regulated industry in the country. Not only is the length
and weight of the truck regulated, but we of course have to follow all highway
laws also with some states having different laws for trucks than for cars such
as speed limits, lane and highway usage. Trucks are required to carry special
equipment beyond what is used in the course of the trucker’s work such as fire
extinguishers and emergency triangles or flares and extra fuses.
In addition to the taxes on diesel fuel, trucks pay for every mile traveled in each
state they travel in along with special registration costs. This road use tax
can be as much as $10,000 a year for one truck and is in addition to tolls. Trucks pay special taxes on tires and other repairs that are done. The transportation industry paid $37.4 billion in federal and state highway-user taxes. Commercial trucks make up 12.5 percent of all registered vehicles, but paid 36.5 percent of total highway-user taxes in 2006. The above is just the tip of the iceberg of trucking regulations, taxes and fees.
Truck drivers too are regulated. Truckers are required to have a full physical every two years or more often if they have certain conditions. Special tests are required in the licensing process for different type of trailers pulled and if one is going to be pulling hazardous commodities. Background checks are required if one is going to be pulling hazardous commodities or going in and out of ports or trade zones. In the hiring process, a trucker has to provide their last 15 years of employment history whether it was as a trucker or not. Then there are the hours of service.
A trucker is allowed to drive 11 hours out of a 14 hour work day and may work 70 hours in 8 days. They must take a 10 hour break after the 14 hours are up. At the end of the 70 hours, they may take a 34 hour time off period to reset their 70 hours. These are the current rules at this time, 2010; they are under review and may change in the near future.
Most truckers are paid performance based pay. This means that a trucker is only paid for the time that they are driving; so many cents per mile. Most are not paid for fueling, loading or unloading time or while broken down or waiting for a load. The average solo trucker runs about 125,000 miles a year and makes on average 32 cents per mile with a take home pay of $30-40,000.00 a year. To keep ones perspective on this, the average trucker is away from home about 300 days a year and has effectively two households to support if they have a home and do not live in the truck. They not only have the usual bills of mortgage, food and utilities that you have, but also have road expenses running, depending on the driver, of $100-150.00 per week. The fallacy that truckers make a lot of money is just that, a fallacy.
There are some that think that truckers are different than other people; that may be true to some degree because it takes a special type of person to be a truck
driver due to the nature of the work and being away from home a lot of the time.
On the downside, truckers are highly independent, strong willed and have to be
tough to survive the dangers they face from living on the road. On the upside,
truckers are some of the most patriotic people around with a great love of
country, charitable to others both in fact and deed stopping to help at accidents, in supporting causes such as Special Olympics and other child assistance charities, and are hard workers with finely developed work ethics. 99% of the truckers I know would take the ditch and risk killing themselves before they would hit you.
What Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers Do
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition,
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a capacity of at least 26,001 pounds per gross vehicle weight (GVW). They deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers typically do the following:
Load and unload cargo
Drive long distances
Report to a dispatcher any incidents encountered on the road
Follow all applicable traffic laws
Inspect their trailer before and after the trip, and record any defects they find
Keep a log of their activities
Report serious mechanical problems to the appropriate personnel
Keep their truck, and associated equipment, clean and in good working order
Most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers plan their own routes. They may use satellite tracking to help them plan.
Before leaving, a driver usually is told a delivery location and time; but it is up to the driver to find a way to get the cargo there.
A driver has to know which roads allow trucks and which do not. Drivers also must plan legally required rest periods into their trip. Some have one or two routes that they drive regularly and others drivers take many different routes throughout the country. Some also drive to Mexico or Canada.
Companies sometimes use two drivers on long runs to minimize downtime. On these "sleeper" runs, one driver sleeps in a berth behind the cab while the other drives.
Some heavy truck drivers transport hazardous materials, such as chemical waste, and so have to take special precautions when driving. Also, these drivers normally carry specialized safety equipment in case of an accident. Other specialized drivers, such as those carrying liquids, oversized loads, or cars, have to follow rules that apply specifically to them.
Some long-haul truck drivers, called owner-operators, buy or lease trucks and go into business for themselves. They then have business tasks, including finding and keeping clients and doing business work such as accounting, in addition to their driving tasks.
Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers: Median annual wages, May 2010
Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
Total, All Occupations
Motor Vehicle Operators
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics
The median annual wage of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $37,770 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than the amount and half earned less. The lowest 10
percent earned less than $24,730, and the top 10 percent earned more than
Drivers of heavy trucks and tractor-trailers are usually paid by how many miles they have driven, plus bonuses. The per-mile rate varies from employer to employer and may depend on the type of cargo. Some long-distance drivers, especially owner-operators, are paid a share of the revenue from shipping.
Truck drivers often work nights, weekends, and holidays.