A main contributing factor to determining a truck driver’s pay is the miles. If a trucker is covering plenty of miles, their paycheck will be impressive. On the other hand, if a driver is only able to cover a couple hundred miles in a week, the pay is marginal at best.
Naturally, company drivers want to drive at least 2,000 miles a week or better. In addition to this, most truckers want to be home frequently. To balance these desirable factors, truck drivers are heavily reliant on their office teammates.
If the company has a limited amount of jobs, however, this situation can breed fierce competition between fellow drivers. This can become disheartening for rookie drivers unsure of how to get the miles they want.
Company Size Matters – Small vs Large
Within a trucking company, there are specific people in charge of distributing loads. If you want an adequate amount of miles as a beginning driver, it’s imperative to discover who these people are.
Smaller trucking companies usually require dispatchers to plan the loads. This type of setup is convenient for rookie drivers. Dispatchers frequently see the company’s drivers and get to know them over time.
As a result of personal face-to-face time with drivers, the dispatcher can accommodate each driver’s preference in the load planning process. Much like other jobs, building strong working relationships is one way to get what you want.
Unfortunately, because of their size, smaller companies may not have much flexibility with planning multiple loads.
In large trucking companies, however, designated load planners are responsible for organizing hauls. Due to this, dispatchers have no authority in planning loads. They are unable to overrule a load planner’s decision regardless of the situation.
This chain of command is important because load planners are usually responsible for maintaining deliveries in a particular region of the country. Despite the fact that dispatchers do not have the final say in load planning, truck drivers should foster good relationships and openly communicate with dispatchers. When talking to a dispatcher about the types of freight or amount of miles you want, remember to always be respectful and courteous.
Why Dispatchers Are Important
Regardless of a company’s size, the dispatchers working in the office are an integral part of the operation. Dispatchers are at the forefront of the trucking company’s activities. If a truck driver has a great work ethic, the dispatcher knows about it. If the truck driver is rude and has a negative attitude, the dispatcher knows about that too.
If a truck driver is respectful, works hard, and makes their preferences clear, the dispatcher will usually try to help that driver get what they want. Whether the driver prefers a number of miles, a type of freight, or a specific route/region, the dispatcher can help. Occasionally, a trucking company even offers dispatchers an incentive for getting drivers a certain amount of miles each week.
Because the dispatcher is in charge of assigning the loads, make sure to ask lots of questions and be clear about your demands. When a dispatcher tells an OTR driver that there’s just “one more load and we’ll get you home,” that could mean going on runs for another month. Drivers have abandoned loaded rigs on the highway for these games. You don’t want to find yourself in that scenario. Communication is essential.
What to Do If Your Work Is Reduced
Sometimes, a truck driver doesn’t get a lot of freight and their pay suffers as a result.
When this occurs, it is important to inquire with a dispatcher as to the reason. Once you address this issue, wait a few days to gauge results.
If there is still no increase in your freight after a few days, ask other drivers about their work situation. Be sure to note whether or not they have a different dispatcher.
If your co-workers work with a different dispatcher and they have not experienced a decline in freight, write down how many loads they’re getting, the routes, and any other pertinent info.
Share this data with your dispatcher. They will be able to investigate the low freight with their boss. If your situation still does not improve, politely request to speak with the dispatcher manager. Typically this works if all else fails.
Tips to Get the Miles
In large companies, there may be over 2,000 drivers hauling cargo. If there are only 1,950 loads available, chances are that a rookie driver may be overlooked for work.
To keep your truck driver pay high, make yourself stand out. Here are a few quick tips to get noticed as a good worker:
- Keep spare trailers at the facility.
- Haul loads on short notice.
- Make sure your deliveries are all on time.
In order to increase the probability that cargo reaches its destination on schedule, call ahead to the next location en route. Let the dispatcher know when you need a new trailer and assignment. The goal is to decrease your downtime in between hauls. Above all else, remember to stay positive and roll with the punches. A good attitude goes a long way.
What Are The FMCSA Hours of Service and How Do They Affect My Pay?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is a government agency that regulates the number of hours a trucker can drive. FMCSA’s regulations are in place to promote safe working conditions for truckers and civilian drivers alike. FMCSA works in a collaborative effort with the Department of Transportation, or DOT, to reduce accidents and fatalities across the nation.
FMCSA Hours of Service
Safety standards that are set in place by the FMCSA and DOT are referred to as the Hours of Service.
These rules regulate how often a trucker may work on any given day, based on either a seven or eight day work week.
During each of these weeks, a trucker is required to restrict their driving time each day to 11 hours.
Beyond the 11 hour restriction, FMCSA Hours of Service permits an additional 3 hours of on-duty work. Typically, this time period is reserved for unloading, loading, and other pertinent job responsibilities that do not involve driving.
Each 14-hour shift must be followed by 10 hours of rest according to the FMCSA Hours of Service. The off-duty timeframe provides truckers with a way to unwind, sleep, and relax a bit before heading back out. Adhering to this schedule promotes the likelihood of a fatigued driver taking a break rather than creating a safety hazard by staying out on the road.
In order to track their hours, truck drivers must enter their information into a log book (or electronic log book app) each day. Drivers must include the date, the number of hours worked, and other information such as the vehicle number and the company you are working for.
Average Weekly Schedule
During a seven-day work week, truckers are required to limit their time driving to 60 hours. This means that after five days of 11 hour driving periods, a trucker may only drive for 5 hours on the sixth or seventh day. On the eighth day, a trucker may drive an additional 10 hours.
For example, let’s say a trucker’s work schedule begins on Sunday and they drive eleven hours a day until Thursday. That Friday the trucker may only drive 5 additional hours and log zero time driving on Saturday or vice versa. Once Sunday rolls around, however, a trucker may drive for 10 hours.
After a full week of driving, the FMCSA Hours of Service regulation mandates that a driver goes off-duty for a consecutive 34 hours. This regulation promotes rest, relaxation, and safety for truckers.
Once a driver has accrued 34 hours of off-duty time, the trucker’s Hours of Service resets to zero. During this off-duty break, truckers are prohibited from hauling another load, regardless of who they are driving for.
FMCSA’s Effects on Truck Drivers Salaries
The Hours of Service regulation prohibits truckers from being able to work every day. Each workday accumulates as a rolling total that updates daily at midnight and only resets after a 34-hour rest period. As a result, many trucker drivers do not love these regulations because they limit how much money they can make.
Some drivers “cheat the book” or purposefully enter incorrect information on their log book in order to keep driving and make more money. The purpose of these regulations, though, is to promote adequate rest and ensure the safety of both the truckers and the other drivers on the road. And as a result of getting enough sleep, these rules tend to improve the driver’s morale.
Fortunately, truckers’ Hours of Service regulations do not prevent drivers from earning a handsome salary each year. Adhering to the FMCSA Hours of Service guidelines and avoiding the temptation of cheating the books will help truckers to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a safe workplace environment.