Most people realize that driving a truck for a long distance means that over the road truckers are gone for at least a few days at a time. However, they don’t realize just how much time a long-haul trucker actually spends in the truck. Trucking is a lifestyle that you need to get used to, but the rewards are worth it if you are someone who likes to travel. If you prefer to have alone time, the rewards are even greater.
The Trucking Lifestyle
In a nutshell, trucking is a lifestyle that you must enjoy. And that means being away from home for quite a while if the job demands it. With today’s communication technology, being away from home is easier—you don’t have to look for a payphone or wait until your next break to call home. This eases the homesick feeling that many over-the-road truckers experience the first year. Those who enjoy solitude will not have a problem with being away from home, whether it’s for a couple of days or for a few weeks.
When you are an over-the-road truck driver, you’ll get to see a lot of the country. You’ll drive through places you’ve never been. You may even be able to spend a day in a new place and get some sightseeing in if you are waiting for a backhaul.
If you are out on the road, you will probably spend a lot of time in your truck. You could stay in a motel, but you’d be wasting a bunch of money. Truck stops have showers and restaurants that you can take advantage of. Sleeping in the truck saves you a lot of money when you’re on the road. If you plan your route to hit a truck stop when it’s time to stop driving, you’ll have many of the comforts of home—or at least the same comforts you’d find in a hotel.
How Long a Trucker Spends Away from Home
This is an open-ended question, because it depends on the company you work for and where your dispatcher sends you. It also depends on whether you work for yourself or for a company. The training also takes time.
It takes 4-to-6 weeks to get your commercial driver’s license and to learn to drive a truck. Once you do that, you will have a training period with the company that hires you. This training could take several weeks, or it could be as short as a week or two. This depends on the company and how well you do in your first days. It also depends on whether your trainer has home time. If your trainer doesn’t get home time, chances are that you won’t either.
The hardest part of the job is learning to control the truck. Once you get your CDL, you’ll be able to make money right away—even as much as someone with a four-year degree—if you are hired at the right company.
The First Year
Your first year driving over the road may see longer times away from home. As with any other job, you have to work your way up in the company. Some companies allow drivers with more seniority to have their pick of loads. This means that you could spend more time away from home than you would when you get to choose the loads you want. Someone may not want a load because the destination is farther away from the terminal, which means that the driver is on the road for a longer period of time. Or another driver may not like driving in certain cities. As you gain more seniority in the company, you’ll be able to pick some loads, too.
Factors That Affect Home Time
After training, you will get your own truck. Home time may be a little more predictable. However, several factors will dictate when you get home and how long you’ll be home, including:
- If you live a good distance away from the terminal, you could get less home time since it takes you longer to get home. Some companies won’t hire you if you live too far away from one of their terminals.
- Living away from a company’s frequent lanes of operation, especially if that company only operates on certain highways. Again, because of the distance, it may be more difficult for you to get home.
- What you are hauling makes a difference. If you haul for a company that hauls only for certain retail establishments, you may have a pretty regular schedule and could be home weekly. If you haul whatever comes in, you could be out on the road for several weeks if you get enough backhauls or you haul from one terminal to another that is not your home terminal.
When you are researching jobs, it’s often a good idea to stop at a truck stop and ask the drivers who they work for and how often they are able to get home. You’ll save a lot of time applying for jobs you may not want if you have some idea of what the company does before you even apply.
After the First Year
After your first year, if you decide to stay with the same company, you may be able to pick loads. If you move to another company, you may be back at the “bottom of the barrel” again, but companies are more apt to hire you once you get that first year under your belt. You’ll have a reputation and experience that follows you. If you are a good driver, you may be able to get some home time every couple of weeks. If the company you work for doesn’t get you home for a month, you may be able to find a company that will work your schedule, so you are home every couple of weeks.
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