Truck drivers, specifically long-haul truckers, know that their paycheck depends on the miles they run. Many people choose to stay on the road to increase their truck driving pay as much as possible. Others prefer to balance their long-haul driving with longer stretches of home time.
Company drivers typically want to drive at least 2,000 miles a week or better. Driving a few hundred miles a week isn’t going to pay the bills.
Get the Miles You Want
Company Size Matters – Small vs Large
To get the right mix of miles and home time, truck drivers must rely on their co-workers. In each trucking company, there are specific people in charge of distributing loads. Especially as a rookie driver, you need to find out who these people are if you’re going to get the miles you want.
Smaller trucking companies usually require dispatchers to plan the loads. Dispatchers frequently see the company’s drivers and get to know them over time, which is great for new drivers.
As a result of personal face-to-face time with drivers, good dispatchers will learn each driver’s preference and try to help them out during the load-planning process.
Much like other jobs, building strong working relationships is often the best way to get what you want.
Unfortunately, because of their size, smaller companies may not have much flexibility with the types of freight and number of routes they can offer.
In large trucking companies, the situation is much less personal. Designated load planners are responsible for planning loads. Dispatchers – the people with day-to-day interaction with truck drivers – can’t override the load planners.
Despite the chain of command, drivers should still form good relationships with their dispatchers. Communicate the types of freight or amount of miles you want and 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 important 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.
Whether the driver prefers a number of miles, a type of freight, or a specific route/region, the dispatcher can help. Good relationships equal good jobs.
Dispatchers sometimes get a bonus for assigning a certain amount of miles each week. So if you want a lot of miles and you do a good job, it’s in your dispatcher’s best interest to give them to you.
About Home Time
Be very clear about your demands for home time. Communication with your dispatcher is key.
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.
What to Do If Your Work Is Reduced
Experienced drivers know that “Every paycheck will be different.” Sometimes, a truck driver doesn’t get enough freight and their pay suffers as a result. If this happens, bring it up immediately with your dispatcher.
If you wait a few days and you still aren’t getting the loads you want, ask other drivers in your company if they’re in the same situation. Be sure to note whether or not they have a different dispatcher.
If other drivers 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 important info.
Share your notes with your dispatcher. Ask them to bring up the low freight with their boss.
If your situation still doesn’t improve, politely request to speak with the dispatcher manager. This should work 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.
- Decrease your downtime in between hauls.
- Always keep a good attitude.
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.
Because the FMCSA limits how often you can drive, their rules have a huge impact on your truck driving pay!
FMCSA Hours of Service
Safety standards that are set in place by the FMCSA and DOT are referred to as the Hours of Service or HOS.
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. Drivers use this time for unloading, loading, and other job duties that don’t involve driving.
Each 14-hour shift must be followed by 10 hours of rest according to the HOS.
The off-duty time should be used to unwind, relax, and get some sleep. A fatigued driver is a dangerous driver.
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 again 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 taken 34 hours of off-duty time, the HOS resets to zero. During this off-duty break, the rules prohibit truck drivers from hauling another load, regardless of who they are driving for.
FMCSA’s Effects on Truck Driver Salaries
The Hours of Service regulation prohibits truckers from being able to work every day. For drivers who only want to drive and earn money, this can be a bit of a pain. These regulations limit how much money drivers can make.
Some drivers “cheat the book” or purposefully enter incorrect information in their log book in order to keep driving and make more money. This is getting more difficult with electronic logbooks and cameras installed in trucks.
Keep in mind the purpose of the HOS – to keep the roads safe for you and other drivers. You can still make plenty of money by following the Hours of Service, and you stand a better chance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle with enough sleep.