I haven’t felt this way since 1997. My emotions are all over the map more than the 18-wheeler I drive. Joy… Fear… Doubt… Anticipation… and perhaps most of all… Uncertainty.
What’s so significant about both 1997 and February 2019? Both are major shifts in my work history. 1997 was when The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) and I started driving a truck for a living. Not only was this a profound shift in the type of job I was doing, but it was also a major lifestyle change for us. And now I‘m facing that again as I’m getting ready to change truck driving jobs.
But wait; how is switching from one truck driving job to another trucking driving job such a big deal? For all I know, maybe it won’t be. That’s part of the uncertainty I was talking about.
Changing truck driving jobs is not a new thing for me.
While I’m not a job-hopper by any means, I’m also no stranger to switching trucking companies. I’ve worked for six different carriers over my 21-year career. Yes, I realize that’s not a lot, especially compared to how often truck drivers job-hop nowadays.
So what makes this current job change so different?
As I’ve mentioned before, The Evil Overlord and I were a team operation for nine years of my career. The entire time we pulled dry vans for large carriers. Now one might think that going from a team operation to a solo driver was a huge change, but I had no anxiety about that whatsoever.
First, an Over-The-Road (OTR) dry van driver job is an OTR dry van driver job. There are subtle differences, but not much.
Even more important was the fact that I knew my marriage to the evil wench was strong enough to survive being apart 3–4 weeks at a time. And proof of that is that I can call her an evil wench and not only am I still married, but I haven’t been murdered in my sleep yet… yet.
I also knew that the only thing that was really going to change about my job was that I would be sleeping a lot better in a truck that wasn’t bouncing down I-95.
Well that, and I wouldn’t have to listen to her nagging me to slow to a crawl on perfectly fine snow-covered roads. Even today if I’m on the phone with her and mention that it’s snowing, she tells me to slow down. She think she knows me so well. ? Hammer down!
The differences between my current job and the new one.
- More home time
- Less money (initially)
- Type of runs
- Kind of truck
- Food situation
- Sleeping situation
- Working for a union
I’ll explain more about each of these as I run through the list of emotions I’ve been going through. Everyone grab your mood rings and let’s get moving.
Jumping for joy
When I first saw this job advertised, I jumped for joy. It looked like it was the shining gold trophy job I’ve been waiting on for what seemed like an eternity. The job that would finally get me away from having to be away from home for two to four weeks at a time and even more importantly, do so without such a massive pay cut that I’d have to buy my clothes at rummage sales for the rest of my life.
Ultimately, my goal is to be home every night and this new company provides a transition to that eventually. But for now, this is a nice stop-gap. You see, I’ll still be out on the road all week, but I’ll be home every weekend. And this isn’t one of those “trucker weekends” that really means you’ll get home for 34 hours on a Tuesday.
Nope, this is home every Friday night or Saturday morning and I’ll leave back out again Sunday night or Monday morning. Naturally, there will be times when the weekend will be shorter, but for the most part I’ll get a full 48 hours or more off each weekend. Hallelujah!
For years, I’ve seen plenty of other jobs blip onto my radar screen, but none of them could even come close to matching this home time or the money I’m making as an OTR driver. Most of the more local jobs I’ve seen would’ve had me taking a 30-50% pay cut. Literally.
As I’ve mentioned here many times before, you almost always have to take a pay cut when you are home more often. I get that. And that’s why I waited patiently until an opportunity like this arose.￼
Then came the anticipation…
Like I said, I was very patient waiting for this job. From the time I called about it the first time to the time I was hired was probably about a year. I thought this was the right job, but jumping on it right away would destroy all our plans.
If you’re a regular Trucker Dump listener, you’ll know that The Evil Overlord is in school right now. Our plan has been for me to stay out here on the road long enough to get her through school… no matter how long it takes. Once she has a better paying job, then I’ll be able to quit driving OTR and take the inevitable pay cut to work local.
Well, this job is a slight pay cut the first year, so I waited. I called the guy who would be my local terminal manager every few months just to keep in touch. I asked a different set of questions each time and we chatted about the job and the job market in general. When would be the best time to apply? When is your busy time of the year? How does this “home every weekend” thing work in real life?
Every time the job came up in my email, I’d text The Evil Overlord; “The job is up again.” We’d talk about it, but each time we decided to stick with the original plan.
Finally, after months of talking to the terminal manager and learning more about the pay package from both him and some of their drivers, the job popped up again I sent the text message. This time she texted, “Go ahead and apply. If I have to, I’ll get a part-time job while I’m in school to make ends meet.”
The main reason we decided to make the jump earlier than expected is because this new company quoted a higher annual pay than I expected. It’s still a pay cut, but only a slight one for the first year.
According to them, in the second year I’ll get a mileage pay bump so I’ll be making the same money I am now. Even better, by year three I’ll be making more than I am now (not CPM, but overall)!
So you can see my joy had me jumping up and down like an Oprah audience member after she’s won a lifetime subscription to Oprah Magazine.
I filled out an online application on a Friday and got a text message on Monday requesting a phone interview. I set one for the following day.
Then the fear set in…
I think my fear set in the day I was officially offered the job. Up until then it had only been a dream and a hope that things would work out. But as soon as I was told the job was mine if I wanted it, my first thought was, “Oh, crap. What have I done?”
The Evil Overlord and I had made this plan and now we’re deviating from it. I know how much money I make at my current job. I only know what I’m told at this new company. Is my eagerness to spend more time at home getting the best of me?
Here’s where the doubt kicked in…
What if the pay wasn’t as much as they claimed? They wouldn’t be the first trucking company in history to exaggerate their pay package, now would they? Could The Evil Overlord and I cinch up our money belts and make it work if the pay wasn’t as much as advertised?
Believe me, I’ve done my due diligence. I better have, since as @Mark in the Trucker Dump Slack Group said, “you actually wrote the book” on the subject (How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job). I’ve talked to the terminal manager for a total of 2.5-3 hours over the course of three or four phone calls. I’ve talked to eight of their drivers at length. And I spoke with a recruiter for another 45 minutes during the job interview and the road tester for another 30 minutes.
They all backed up the advertised pay amount. I would expect that from the terminal manager and the recruiter, but the drivers backed it up too. Every driver I spoke with said I could actually make more than the stated amount in my first year if I was any kind of decent driver. And I like to think I am or else they wouldn’t have hired me, right?
Even better, every driver I talked to said it was the best job they’d ever had! They’d made more money and had more home time than any other driving job in their past! Sweet!
Now naturally, I was waiting for every one of them to give me their name so I would list them as a referral, but not one did. I suppose that could be because they might not get referral bonus pay? I don’t know. Either way, they weren’t blowing diesel smoke up my caboose just to earn some extra cash; so that was comforting.
Now I can hear some of you saying, “Hey, you just said you wrote the book on How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job. You even brag about your full list of questions offered in the book. How could you not know if they paid for driver referrals after speaking with them so much?!”
As I’ve said all along about the Trucking Company Questionnaire (which you’ll find in How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job or here separately); you don’t have to ask every question on the list; you only have to ask about the things you care about. I’ve never recruited a driver before so whether they have driver referral pay or not is inconsequential to me. So there, smarty pants.
The fact is, everyone knows when you go through a job change that things can get tight financially as you get comfortable with the new job. The first week usually pays less while you’re going through orientation and training. Then your first week out by yourself you’re often about efficient as a snowplow on a Smart car.
So my biggest fear comes from the financial side of it. Unsurprising, since you all know I’m always in the running for the National Cheapskate of the Month Award. Hard to believe I haven’t won yet. Oh well, just being nominated is an honor.
So back to my doubt…
If I did the research on sites like PayScale.com and talked to multiple drivers, a recruiter, and a manager, then why the doubt? Because I’m leaving a known quantity for an unknown one.
As you’ve heard/read throughout the years here on the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, I know my current company inside and out. I know the things I hate. I know the things I love. I know how their freight runs and where I might be able to find that nearly extinct species known as an empty trailer.
I know every detail of their pay package and how much I’m going to make each year. I understand how the safety department will react to a log infraction. Basically, I know how the system works and I know how to use it to my advantage. I know the world of an OTR dry van trucker.
It’s like I had everything written down on a huge, black chalkboard and then this new job walked up with a big eraser and left nothing behind except smears of chalk dust. Wow. I really dated myself with that metaphor.
What’s so different about this Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) job? Why all the doubt and fear?
The biggest difference I’m facing is that I’ve always driven over the road and my new job is LTL. This means that the freight lanes will be different since I’ll be running primarily between their terminals. But how do they manage to get their drivers home every weekend without shorting us on miles?
Every time I’ve headed home in the last 21 years, I’ve always known I was going to have a bad paycheck coming out from the house. This LTL company has been operating like this for years, so I’m sure they know what they’re doing. But I don’t! And that causes doubt.
I also know I’ll be making significantly less money per mile, but supposedly I’ll only make slightly less money overall the first year because I’ll also be paid hourly for all On-Duty time. Other than detention pay after one hour at a shipper/receiver, I’ve never dealt with hourly pay within the trucking industry.
How does it work? How do they track the time? What counts as On-Duty time? How do we track it to keep them honest? Again, I’m sure they know what they’re doing and I’ll know soon enough. But until then, I’m clueless. And being clueless causes lots of fear and doubt in this dude. Especially after working in a job for so long where you are totally comfortable and totally in-the-know. Totally.
Another big unknown is working for a union.
The only other time I’ve had a union job was in my late 20’s when I loaded trucks part-time for UPS. Talk about a difficult job! Kudos to everyone who does it. It’s super-fast paced and there’s no room for error, (which they will purposely test you for quality assurance purposes). Hey! It’s only one digit off in the zip code! It’ll get there eventually!
Back then, I didn’t much like the union. I had to pay a union fee every week for no visual benefit. It didn’t help that my paychecks were so small already, which made the union dues a healthy percentage of my gross pay. Grrrr.
But now it’s different. I still have to pay union dues, but now I can see the benefits in the form of company-paid health insurance. Yes, you heard that right. Also, I can see that the union negotiated to get us paid for On-Duty work. How many other carriers are doing that?
All-in-all, this health insurance is one of the reasons why I can afford to make this jump earlier than expected, because the union dues I’ll be paying are about $100 less per week than what I’m currently paying for health insurance. That makes up over $5000 in pay differential right there!
Yet still, I’m leery. Can the union be all it’s cracked up to be? Am I comfortable letting a group of people I’ll probably never meet make career decisions for me? What’s up with this process of bidding for jobs? What if they call for a strike? That’s some real fear stuff right there, folks.
Another fear I have is the equipment.
One of the questions I asked every driver I talked to was, “What is the worst thing about this job?” Without hesitation, every last one replied, “Crappy equipment.” Great. Unanimously crappy equipment.
This is another major fear. My current company prides itself on it’s fleet. Most of the trucks are less than 3 years old and both tractors and trailers are well-maintained. Y’all have heard me belly ache, whine, and moan when I have to sit in an inspection bay line for two hours or take the truck in for a lube job every 2-3 weeks and an oil change every month or so. It’s a pain in my arse and a “waste” of my working hours.
But it’s also the reason I’m rarely broken down on the shoulder of an interstate or limping to the tire shop with a flat tire. It’s also why the weigh stations don’t look twice at me, unless of course a DOT officer needs an easy inspection at the end of their shift (yes, this has happened to me twice).
So now I’m going to be driving older equipment that is clearly not as well-maintained as I’m accustomed. Their drivers all say it’s not as bad as it sounds because they get paid a good hourly On-Duty wage, which starts the second they call in the breakdown.
But in the realm of doubt, I’d like to note that two (count ‘em – TWO) of the eight drivers I’ve spoken to were broken down at the time. To be fair, neither of them seemed even remotely pissed or stressed by their situation. So maybe there is something to that hourly breakdown pay? Heck, at my current company I don’t get breakdown pay unless I’m shut down for 24 hours. 22 hours down? Sorry, that doesn’t qualify. Ugh.
Another thing about the equipment is it’s a day cab (a truck without a bunk area behind the driver’s seat), and I may be driving multiple trucks. From what I’ve gathered, they’ll try to leave you in the same truck, but if it breaks down or someone else needs it while you’re at home, that sucker will vanish like Siegfried & Roy threw a shiny red curtain over it. Seriously, the driver who gave me my road test told me to always clean everything out of the truck on the weekends. He stressed the word always. So that’s going to suck.
That might also mean that I’m having to drive trucks that smell like cigarette smoke. Now in the past, I’ve always fought hard and long to get a smoke-free truck. I didn’t stop badgering them until I got one. I know I’ve talked about that on the podcast before.
While I’m still going to pursue the cleanest, smoke-free truck I can get, I’m not going to get all anal about it this time. My big argument has always been that I don’t want to live in a smoky environment, which is what I’m doing in a sleeper cab. You’re huffing those third-hand smoke cancer fumes 24/7 for weeks at a time. Not so in a day cab. Yes, I’ll still be driving it for 11 hours per day, but I won’t have to sleep in it throughout the week.
And that leads me to another doubt… I’ll be sleeping in hotel rooms every night.
First, let me just say that I don’t understand the economics behind this decision. Yes, these day cabs are stripped down like Will Ferrell in every movie he’s ever made, but are they saving so much money not buying sleeper cabs that they can afford to pay for thousands of drivers to stay in hotels every night? Granted, we’re not staying at the Marriott or anything, but still… But I digress.
The hotel room does have me freaked out though. At first I though it sounded awesome. I’ll get a shower every day and I’ll never have to worry about finding truck parking again. Those are two BIG positives.
But then I realized that I’ve never really slept all that great in hotels. Will I get accustomed to it? Honestly, I’m going to miss the bunk in my sleeper. Heck, I spend more nights in it than I do in my King-sized pillow top at home. Not to mention that lots of milestones in my life have happened in the sleeper of my trucks; mainly both of my books and this podcast.
But the day cab causes other issues too. First, I’m used to having everything I’ll ever need with me. My beloved freezer will have to stay at home because I refuse to leave a $600 fridge inside the truck every night, nor are day cabs designed to accommodate that.
And because I’m lazy and the thing weighs a ton, I’m not going to lug it inside every day either. Nor will I have my microwave oven. Maybe the hotel will have one; maybe not. Again, I’m uncertain so I’m fearful.
Right now I’ve got extra winter supplies, two pair of shoes and a pair of boots, all my audio gear, my drone, extra clothes and bedding, and my own pillows. Everything has it’s place.
No more. I’ll be going the minimalist route from now on. My goal is to fit everything into one bag; food, clothes, and electronics. We’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned.
Basically, as I’m spending my last few days inside this big truck, every time I stand up and walk into the bunk, I now think to myself, “Enjoy it while you can, bucko. Before too long you won’t even be able to stand up inside your truck, let alone take a few steps and fall into bed.”
So basically, this all this comes down fear, doubt, and uncertainty caused by the unknown; mixed in with anticipation of learning something new and having the joy of being home every weekend.
Who knows? Maybe everything will be exactly as it was presented to me. Maybe it won’t live up to hype. Even then, maybe it’ll still be a great job for me. Worst case scenario, my current bosses say they’ll be glad to rehire me if things don’t work out. You know, It’s always good to have a safety net when you’re taking a leap, so there is that to be thankful for.
In the end, I just have to trust that I’ve done everything I can to make a wise decision and then rear back and make that jump into the unknown. Christopher Columbus wasn’t afraid to jump and I shouldn’t be either. After all, we do have that first name in common. Well, that and we both look sexy in tights.
One thing’s for certain, I better put on my big boy tights and get ready to jump quick because my last day with this company is Friday and I’ll be starting the new job on March 4. So I guess there’s just one word left to say…
Podcast show notes:
Man, we’ve got a colossal show today, headlined by me sharing the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on lately as I prepare to change truck driving jobs.
But before that, we’ve got interesting stuff like Dustin’s Trucker Grub segment on some good BBQ and some long lost listener feedback from Keith, who talks about hourly pay and has a military analogy to truck training, Scot has comments on the podcast and a question about driver suicide, and Mark sent in a audio clip about why there’s so much confrontation between drivers.
But of course, we’ll start out with a bajillion news stories regarding such things as truck idling regulations, concealed carry in a truck, speed limit changes, updates on the truck parking situation, and what changes our benevolent regulators would like to focus on within the trucking industry.
And speaking of things that don’t work, we’ll also be discussing electric truck technologies, truck tolls, autonomous trucks, 1099 drivers, and trucker protests.
And to round out the news and bring it all back around to emotions, we have two stories, one of lost love and money and the other on found satisfaction in mentoring others. And of course, I’ll be announcing the winner of the Trucker Dump tee shirt for filling out the Listener Survey.
Please fill out the Trucker Dump Podcast listener survey!
Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.
This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:
- VolvoTrucks – Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features
Links mentioned in the podcast:
Trucking Law: Can you refuse to drive in poor weather? from OverdriveOnline.com
Volvo Group invests in wireless battery charging from OverdriveOnline.com
Report finds trust in autonomous technologies falling from FleetOwner.com
Test drive: Freightliner’s autonomous-capable 2020 Cascade from Commercial Carrier Journal
Collision avoidance systems, sleep apnea testing among NTSB’s Most Wanted safety improvements from OverdriveOnline.com
Eight-state truck parking information initiative nears full launch from OverdriveOnline.com
Pilot Flying J looks to add new locations, enhance existing stores in 2019 from OverdriveOnline.com
ATRI updates list of idling regulations from OverdriveOnline.com
Compendium of Idling Regulations from ATRI
Virginia legislators back off of I-81 tolls – for now from OverdriveOnline.com
Senate bill would expand concealed carry reciprocity from OverdriveOnline.com
Eight states consider raising speed limits, eliminating speed differentials from LandLineMag.com
Minnesota raises speed limits to 60 on over 5,000 miles of highways from OverdriveOnline.com
Truckers gear up for another ‘slow roll’ protest this week from CDLLife.com
Exec Ordered To Pay Truckers Millions For Misclassifying Them As Contractors from TheTruckersReport.com
Here Are The Top 10 Worst Traffic Bottlenecks For Trucks In The Country from TheTruckersReport.com
Account of ‘catfishes’ trucker a grave reminder to be leery of online romance scams from OverdriveOnline.com
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