Long Haul, Local, and Regional Driving Jobs
When you think about truck drivers, your mental image may be a lone driver in a big-rig tractor-trailer, carrying lemons from California to Vermont. Although that driver is certainly out there, there are plenty other drivers rolling down the road. Regional driving opportunities have exploded over the past few and local drivers bring goods directly to your door.
Long Haul Driving
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, long-haul driving jobs are likely to see about the same level of growth as the economy as a whole. A long-haul driver type of driver spends several weeks at a time on the road away from home, and has a very unpredictable schedule.
Here's a hypothetical example of a long-haul trucker's month: Bob works for a freight company based in Memphis, Tennessee.
His dispatcher sends him to Knoxville, TN, to pick up a load of explosives to take to a gold mine in Canada. Once he drops off his load, he goes to a steel manufacturer 300 miles away to pick up a load of girders bound for Washington, DC. After dropping off the girders, he picks up a truckload of paper products in Richmond for delivery to Arkansas. And so on throughout the month. Bob is single and his goal is to make as much money as he can, so he rarely asks for time off. He only sees his house about once every six weeks. He sleeps in the berth in the back of his truck, and the most frustrating aspect of his job is having to spend a weekend waiting to unload because he arrived at the customer's loading dock 10 minutes after closing time.
The long-haul job is a great fit for people who enjoy being alone. It can be hard on parents with young children, because you spend so much time away that you unavoidably miss several events and milestones. The irregular schedule makes it hard to sleep well, eat proper meals and exercise regularly, which can lead to health problems.
When you spend this much time on the road, it's hard to have a hobby or an activity to do in off hours, and it can put a strain on your relationships. For these reasons, many long haul drivers get some experience under their belt and start looking for regional driving jobs.
Over the past few decades, regional distribution centers have become very popular. In the previous example, Bob the long-haul driver carried goods directly from a supplier to a customer. The regional driver takes goods from a supplier to a distribution center and from the center to the customer. Shipping materials this way can save money because different items bound for different destinations can share a ride on the same truck.
Did you know:
- The term "drayage" means hauling freight from a rail terminal to a delivery destination.
- You need a special hazardous materials endorsement to haul fuel and explosives.
- Hiring firms have access to information about your safety record and your previous driving jobs.
A regional truck driver might travel 700 miles per trip, and make the same run several times per week. Regional drivers usually have more predictable schedules than long-haul drivers, and they might even get the same few days off every week and be able to be home every weekend.
Because so many drivers want the predictable hours of regional driving, freight companies don't have to lure drivers with high wages. As a result, regional drivers make a little less on average than long-haul drivers (This is not true in all cases). Regional driving will not take you to remote corners of the world: you will generally stay on interstate highways and see the same people's faces at the loading dock every day. Devoted long-haul drivers might find regional driving boring, but there is the benefit of more home time and more stability.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, regional jobs are expected to continue to grow about as fast as the economy overall.
Local Truck Driving Jobs
A local driver stays in the same city and drives the same route every day. Good examples of local trucking jobs are UPS and FedEx, but you could also work on a grocery store route, delivering bread and maintaining displays in several stores every week. Delivering gas from a distributor to area gas stations is also a local driving job.
Local drivers tend to make less on average than long-haul, but there are some exceptions. Companies that place a high value on experience and safety - like fuel distributors - pay more and prefer to hire drivers with long experience and excellent safety records.
As a local driver, you can count on being home every night and generally working the same shift. You will have many more opportunities to interact with people and get to know the customers on your route. The downside is that you are more likely to get stuck in traffic and spend time pointlessly waiting around, but as a local driver, at least you'll be getting paid by the hour.
Although many drivers spend time building experience so they can get coveted high-paying routes with the best carriers, others are focused on striking out on their own one day as owner-operators.
- On average, long-haul drivers earn more money than local drivers.
- Your safety record is critical in moving on to higher-paying jobs.
- In the future, the largest number of driving jobs are likely to be regional.