Pros and Cons – Local vs OTR
A good choice for a driver not willing to sacrifice their family and/or social life. A lot of local outfits require at least one year minimum in regards to experience but this is not always the case. This is not going to be your typical 9-5 job. Depending on what kind of trucking company you’re applying for, your could start at any hour on a 24 hour clock and you might be scheduled for weekends as well, especially until you build up some seniority. I for one start at 3am every single morning, Monday to Friday. A typical day is usually anywhere between 10-14 hours. You will essentially wake up for work, get yourself ready, commute, work your shift, commute home, have something to eat and need to sleep shortly thereafter to prepare for the next day in the cycle. You might be in constant contact with your dispatchers throughout the day, the labour might be more intensive than an OTR position (not as many, if any, drop and hooks – I stand to be corrected on this issue), and depending on your geographical location, a good portion of your day will be spent in traffic, navigating city streets and delivering to tight locations.
Personally, I’m in and out of the cab no less than thirty times a day. I work about 65-70 hours a week, and they’re all hard hours. I’m paid hourly ($22/hr) and receive overtime after 55 hours per week. I have good benefits (medical and dental), have monthly incentive bonuses and I’m not just a number hauling some freight in a state 2000 miles away from the yard. I see my employers every day and maintain a good relationship with everyone in the office. I come home on Friday afternoon pretty exhausted but I love having the weekend off. I drove local for a year to start, went OTR for another year and now I’m going on 2-1/2 years of total experience. I’m happy where I am, but I will admit to missing the open road.
Where to begin here? Within the last ten years, OTR has become the starting point for hundreds of thousands of new drivers. Those with insufficient funds to attend a private school have flocked to CR England, Werner, etc. to get their feet in the door in the trucking industry. The quality of training and the life thereafter is highly debatable but it’s certainly a viable option for many newcomers. OTR requires an extreme amount of flexibility – be prepared to be away from home for two or more weeks at a time. You will usually spend a few weeks with a trainer, (less – if at all – if already experienced) generally in a team format. You must learn to live with another human being in a small, enclosed space, 24/7. I will not get too detailed here as there are plenty of threads regarding teaming and its pitfalls. It can be a positive or negative experience but it will depend on your situation (good or bad trainer, your skill level, compatibility, etc). Once you’re out on your own, life gets a lot easier. You will normally communicate with dispatch through your Qualcomm but you certainly get the sense that you’re sort of your own boss. No one is going to be watching over you every minute of the day and they certainly aren’t going to hold your hand. You are expected to deliver your load safely, on-time and without incident. A lot of your time is going to be spent on interstates.
There are numerous categories of trucking you can get involved with. Each one differs from the rest, and with that comes various levels of exertion, critical thinking and decision making. Again, you could be expected to run the red-eye shift to deliver a load one day and have a completely different set of driving hours the next day. Be prepared to rest well and as often as possible. Hopefully you work for a respectable company who won’t expect more than your legal best, but be prepared to answer for late or missed appointments, mechanical issues, traffic, weather and a plethora of other issues. Try to stay away from products at truck stops – almost all can be found for much cheaper at larger retail and grocery stores. Having some sort of mechanical knowledge is helpful, but not essential. Practice some common courtesy and drive safely while you’re out on the road. Don’t forget, you’re the face of your company out there – proper dress attire, a positive attitude and a willingness to make yourself stand out from others will go a long way.
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