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Looking at the Best Truck Driving Jobs

Driving a truck is an exciting job that can make you a lot of money if you do it right. Here are the best truck driving jobs that are fun and well paying.

The truck driving industry can provide many lucrative opportunities, depending on your experience and the hauls you can take.

It’s also an industry with a substantial shortage of employees. In fact, in 2014, the American Truckers Association reported that the industry had 48,000 truck driving jobs that needed to be filled.

This is expected to hit 175,000 as truck drivers begin retiring and the demand for deliveries and shipping booms.

Not only is this an industry crying out for employees, but it’s also highly paid. Compensation has been increasing by 8% to 12% each year over the past few years. Compare that to wages for most industries which have barely moved recently.

However, some truck driving jobs are better than others, so we’ve researched some of the best.

The Truck Driving Jobs You Should Consider

While there are many truck driving jobs available, some have better pay and conditions than others. Here are the jobs to look out for:

Dry Van Haulers

This is the most common truck driving job if you’re an entry-level driver, and it will allow you to gain some experience in the industry. You’ll usually be driving a truck with a 53-foot trailer, and will handle:

  • Non-perishable food items
  • Retail goods
  • Medicine
  • Furniture
  • Flammable or hazardous materials
  • Chemicals

You may work for a huge, nationwide company, a smaller regional company, or a local business.

When working as a dry van hauler, you’ll back your truck up, wait for it to get loaded, and then drive on to your next destination. If your load isn’t ready, you’ll have to wait which can impact your schedule for the rest of the day. Often, there will be lumpers who will do the loading for you, although you may also need to help load and unload occasionally.

Driving a dry van hauler does mean that you don’t need to tarp and strap each load, which saves time and manual labor. Since the only shipments you’ll be hauling will fit within your dry van, you won’t need any special permits and can move easily from Point A to Point B.

Specialized dry van haulers go through Double/Triple trailer training so they can get an endorsement on their CDL. You’ll need to know how to assemble and hookup the units, and where the heaviest trailer should be placed. You’ll also need to be knowledgeable about stability and handling characteristics. This includes oscillatory sway, braking, sensory feedback and more.

You’ll also be tested on potential problems when it comes to traffic operations. In order to qualify for double trailer training, you’ll need to have six months of experience driving vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds.

If you want to drive triple trailers, you’ll need six months of driving a semitrailer or twin trailer before you can start training.

Tanker Hauls

Truck drivers willing to take tanker haul jobs will make more money than the average truck driver. This is because this is a more dangerous load compared to dry van hauls or flatbed loads. Liquids aren’t stable and will slosh around while you’re driving.

For this reason, you’ll need to get your CDL if you’re interested in tanker truck driving jobs. The CDL endorsement allows you to haul liquids and it’s a good investment for any truck driver.

The type of liquids you haul can vary from dairy products and water to chemicals, gas, and other hazardous materials.

If you get a hazmat endorsement, you can take hazardous materials like gas or chemical waste. Since these are more dangerous to drive with and require special skills, you can earn anywhere from $54,000 to $120,000.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out new regulations in 2014. The FMSCA was concerned about commercial drivers carrying gaseous or liquid freight without having the proper training.

The new requirements require drivers to have a tanker endorsement on their CDL. As of March 2017, all states are now enforcing this regulation. You can take the Tanker Endorsement Knowledge Test at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and there are practice tests available online.

Ice Road Trucking

You may have learned about these types of truck driving jobs on the show “Ice Road Truckers” which is on the History channel. The show is based in Alaska and gives viewers a glimpse of the lives of several tough ice road truckers.

This is a job that pays well, with plenty of downtime. The ice road trucking season is only for a few months each year, while truckers earn between 75k and $120k each year.

It’s not all fun and games, and you can expect to work north of the Arctic Circle. That means temperatures which get as low as -40ºF, extremely hazardous conditions, white outs, and frequent storms.

The trucks need to be in excellent condition, and able to withstand rough terrain. The frigid conditions speed up the wear and tear on the trucks, as the temperatures can cause steel to snap.

Fractures in the ice, accidents, and white-outs can affect how fast you can travel. While this is a great way to make a lot of money, there’s often no phone reception and you’ll have to be extremely focussed while driving.

If you’ve got what it takes, you could have a very lucrative career, with months of the year where you only have to work if you want to.

You’ll need to take a CDL test which will determine whether you can do the job. You need to get at least 80% to pass and can take a practice test online before you take the real test.

You may want to drive similar routes (only safer) with a copilot to help you get used to the terrain so you can ease into the environment as you get started.

Dump Truck Driving

Dump Truck Drivers transport garbage, building materials, and more. You’ll need a Class B Commercial Driver’s License if you’re towing trailers which are less than 10,000 lbs. If you’re driving tractor trailer dump trucks, you’ll need to get a Class A CDL which will allow you to tow trailers which weigh more than 10,000 lbs.

While many truck driving jobs in small local companies will pay well, driving in the mining industry is hugely lucrative. Driving in coal mines is only for people who are extremely patient, as loading the coal needs to be done very carefully to ensure the mine isn’t disrupted which could cause a collapse.

Another option is hauling between different locations and unloading and loading materials on construction sites

OTR Truck Driver

Over the road truck drivers take jobs that involve long-haul driving. They travel from coast to coast over the interstate and need to be at least 21 years old.

These truck driving jobs are highly paid due to:

  • The amount of travel
  • The hours
  • The different road laws in each state
  • Tighter delivery schedules

OTR truck drivers are expected to keep up to date with new laws going into effect, policy changes within the industry, and the different laws in each area.

Walmart is a popular employer for OTR truck drivers and pays approximately $71,500 before bonuses.

Owner Operator

This means that you’ll own your own business. This can sometimes be stressful as you’re responsible for all expenses, filing the businesses taxes, and dealing with clients. But being your own boss can also be hugely rewarding.

By working as an owner operator, you may eventually choose to purchase another truck or two and hire some employees to work for you. If you think that you may one day get tired of always being on the road and would like to prepare for the future, working as an owner operator is a good option.

Independent truck drivers can make up to $200,000 annually. This will depend on:

  • The number of miles you drive
  • The type of deliveries you complete
  • Your customer satisfaction ratings
  • Your ability to market your business

Instructor

This is one of the best truck driving jobs for people who like to teach. You may find that you no longer want to be away from home as often as most truck drivers usually are. In this case, working for a trucking school can allow you to use your skills while staying in one location.

You won’t have to deal with dangerous roads, long hours, or time away from home. Instead, you’ll be working with students and passing on your experience and wisdom.

While these jobs typically won’t be as high-paying as some of the others on this list, you can definitely find jobs with excellent benefits and a comfortable salary. If you get your class A CDL, you’ll have a better chance of getting a job as an instructor.

As you can see, there is a range of fun, well-paying truck driving jobs available. This is a career that will allow you to travel and see the United States while earning a great income and potentially starting your own business.

Are you thinking about driving a truck? Which truck driving jobs appeal to you the most? Leave a comment below.

Trucker Drivers Request Manufacturers : Quiet In The Cab, Please

If there is one thing that truck drivers routinely comment as something they would love to either lessen or eliminate, it’s noise, vibration and harshness in the cab. Still, manufacturers consistently say that engineering it out of their products is notoriously hard to do.

Today, truck manufacturers are putting their sights on cab noise and engine mounts. Yet where improvements are made, suddenly truck drivers can hear every other squeak and rattle from other places in the cab.

Another consideration is that not all noise and harsh vibration comes from multiple sources. From tires to suspension and the drive train, there is still more to consider than just the cab and engine mounts. Fortunately, the industry is pressing ahead with manufacturing modifications that help reduce noise, vibration and harshness.

All About Tires

Take tires, for instance. Tire manufacturers have been experimenting with more aggressive tread patterns. Lug and open-shoulder treads, for instance, are often noisier than rib-tread tires. Rib-tread tires Rib-tread patterns prevent noise from making its way into the cab by eliminating any potential physical contact with it.

Where truck drivers generally feel the most vibration is through the steering column. By ensuring tires are balanced when a complaint comes in, fleets can prevent exacerbated wear and thus unnecessary vibrations.

Another area where vibration becomes a problem is around downspeed drivelines. While engine downspeeding is a great way to improve a reliable method for improving efficiency and fuel economy, it creates a challenge where unwanted noise and vibrations are concerned.

When the engine downshifts, torsional vibrations produced by the shift are transmitted through the transmission, drive shaft and axles. All this movement can easily be felt by the truck driver as low frequency vibration.

Still, the industry is hard at work tackling these problems. Dana, a driveshaft manufacturer, is producing a driveshaft specifically designed for downspeeding. They claim it has characteristics allowing it to be balanced to one-half the industry standard, thus greatly reducing its vibrational footprint.

Suspension in Mind

Suspension also plays a huge role in reducing unwanted noise and vibration. Not only does the suspension help to minimize road inputs, but it also helps limit vibration inputs coming from the drive train.

In general, when handling noise and vibration coming from the drive train, air suspensions perform much better than leaf spring suspensions. Four air spring cushions are ideal, though this configuration is admittedly less spec’d.

Outside of spec’ing the right equipment to begin with, always make sure the equipment you are currently running with is in proper working order. If you see an obvious defect, such as a non-functioning shock absorber or a broken spring, make sure it is fixed immediately. This is a matter not only of noise and vibration, but a potential safety issue.

Transmissions, Clutch and Axles

Transmissions and clutch axles also contribute to in-cab noise. To combat this, clutch designers have come out with new schematics that provide a softer dampening rate. They also have longer travel to handle the high torque generated by a modern engine.

To cut down on transmission noise, manufacturers are focusing on the high-frequency whining sound that comes from the metal-to-metal contact when the gear interfaces with other components in the transmission.

Vehicle specifications surrounding axles also impact noise and vibration. Consider options like overdrive and single versus tandem axles. Even recent innovations in gear manufacturing are resulting in a quieter operation across the board.

With all the recent innovations in truck design, does this mean we can expect a radical change in road noise, vibration and harshness? As the marriage of trucking and technologies continues unabated, only time will tell.

Engaged Truckers To The Rescue

Everybody’s asking the same question: How do we find and retain drivers? I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about it. Heck, we’re tired of talking about it, but that won’t make it go away; fleets need to hire and retain truck drivers faster than they ever have before.

The best way to do that is to ensure that perspective truck drivers are attracted to the job. And the best way to attract them to the job is to make the job attractive! The first step in doing that is to take care that you present a workforce that is happy and engaged – but how do you do that?

What is Employee Engagement?

Truck drivers are no different from other workers. They want to be engaged with their job. They want to know the work they are doing is making a difference, and they want to have a say in how it’s carried out.

Engaged employees have buy-in; they feel connected to the success of the organization. They work harder, want to succeed more, and are less likely to jump ship. Anecdotal evidence shows that employee engagement may be even more important than pay and benefits in retaining truck drivers.

A survey done in 2012 by the Gallup polling agency revealed that companies that were high in employee engagement routinely outperformed those who weren’t, in areas such as customer ratings, profitability, and productivity.

The fact is if an employee discovers meaning in his or her work, then they are driven by an internal fire to ensure that work gets done and gets done well.

Why Doesn’t Pay Matter?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, because pay does matter. There’s a reason why so many fleets are raising pay and increasing bonuses. It does have an effect. But that doesn’t mean it is the answer to everything.

Another study found that pay is actually of limited value when it comes to retaining truck drivers. This comes mainly from the “intrinsic effect,” which assigns internal motives for producing, rather than the “extrinsic effect,” which assigns external motivations for producing.

This study analyzed data from more than 70 carriers. It found that higher-performing fleets score high in areas that denote an employee’s willingness or desire to stay with the company. The areas measured included how the company evaluates employee performance, how fair the company is, and how secure the employee feels in their future with the company.

What Really Matters

The study asked four main questions:

  1. I am proud I work for (X) company.
  2. I trust the leadership at (X) company.
  3. The leadership at (X) company supports my success.
  4. If things go the way I expect, I plan to be at (X) company a year from now.

The questions were designed to gauge an employee’s “emotional anchoring” to their job.  It helps to better identify who they are as a person and what motivates them.

Things like loyalty, pride, and tasks that require discretionary effort and willingness, can all be gleaned through the answers to these questions. Everyone is paid to do a job, but those who are highly engaged will go above and beyond the call of duty almost every time.

The Roadmap

If you are having a hard time figuring out how to keep your employees motivated and engaged, you must consider some very basic principles.

Keep these ideas in mind when you are mapping out an employee engagement strategy:

  • Gotta’ have R.E.S.P.E.C.T.: If youre employees don’t feel like you care about or respect them, the first place they will head towards is the door. Treat them like an asset and they will perform like one.
  • Recruit for Success: You need to make sure you have your employee engagement plan in place before you even hire people. Immediately engaged people tend to stay engaged.
  • Communicate Clearly: Don’t leave your truck drivers feeling alone and isolated in the cab. Keep lines of communication open and constant.

While there are surely other aspects to employee engagement, from rewards to promotion opportunities, it’s how you treat people that really matters. The best way out of the employment crunch is to focus on engaging those that directly impact your bottom line: The employees.

Impact of Commercial Truck Drivers Shortage

It’s no secret that there is a shortage of qualified truck drivers in the United States. Truck drivers are retiring, drivers are choosing local driving positions over being on the road for long periods of time, and stricter regulations are taking many truck drivers out of the running for jobs.

Economic Impact

With fewer drivers to move loads from manufacturers to stores, businesses are having to wait longer for the shipments they need. This causes frustration for the stores, the manufacturers and the customers. This frustration is expected to increase as we enter the holiday shopping season.

Another issue is that trucking companies are having to raise the rates they charge for hauling goods. The increase in shipping costs is passed on to the customers who purchase the goods. According to a report by DAT Solutions, a company that analyzes and provides data to the transportation industry, the rate per mile that companies charge to haul freight has increased about eight percent from August 2014 to August 2015. It is now at about $1.80 per mile for long-term contracts between manufacturers and shippers.

Some trucking companies are going out of business because they cannot afford to pay the drivers as much as it takes to keep them from leaving for better opportunities. Changes in the hours-of-service regulations have meant that trucking companies must hire more drivers to move the same amount of freight. Smaller companies who are unable to increase freight prices often have trouble keeping up with the costs of driver pay and benefits, forcing them to close their doors altogether.

What Trucking Companies are Doing

Although there are some causes of the truck driver shortage that are out of the hands of companies, most companies are taking steps to keep the drivers they have and attract new ones.

Pay increases are at the top of the list. Drivers know that the shortage of qualified drivers on the road makes them more valuable. They are also likely to switch companies when they see that they can get thousands of dollars in the form of a sign-on bonus.

Truck drivers are also looking for more time at home, and companies are generally obliging. More companies are offering drivers the ability to be at home several times each month. Some companies are even offering their drivers home time every week.

Partially due to the shortage of qualified drivers, the American Trucking Association is actively facilitating military veterans who are interested in becoming truck drivers in meeting their goals. In fact, the ATA committed to hiring at least 100,000 veterans between the end of 2014 and the end of 2016.

There are so many factors that affect the driver shortage in the United States that there are no easy solutions. It’s likely that drivers will keep retiring, with fewer qualified applicants to take their places. This likely means that the prices of goods will go up to compensate for the necessary increases in driver pay and benefits. The good news is that high pay is likely to attract more people who may not have previously considered truck driving as a career option, and the shortage will likely be reduced in time.

It’s Time To Focus On Truck Driver Retention

You’re thinking we’ve talked enough about the employment squeeze. In fact, we haven’t. Until now the topic has revolved around recruiting and training, but what about retention?

Truck drivers love their jobs, otherwise they’d be doing something else. Why then is truck driver turnover still stuck at 90 percent?

As fleets try to stem the losses and prevent talent from walking out the door, all eyes have turned to truck driver retention. After all, what good is your recruiting strategy if you aren’t retaining your truck drivers?

Late to the Game

It’s no secret that the trucking industry has put a greater emphasis on recruiting and maintaining a healthy pipeline of applicants than they have on keeping them. You can’t recruit fast enough if you’re losing more than are walking in the door.

As a result, more fleets are trying to figure out what it will take to keep truck drivers in the cab. A recent survey by HireRight reports that 39 percent of transportation companies are increasing pay, while another 36 percent are doubling up on various incentive programs.

Unfortunately, it’s been a constant game of catch up. The survey shows that – although truck driver pay was up 1.92 percent last year – it’s only up 3.3 percent since the recession.

The numbers are even worse for dry van drivers. The average dry van pay today comes in at 37.2 cents per mile. Compare that to 36 cents per mile in 2008. To add insult to injury, when taking inflation into account, dry van drivers are making even less than they were in 2008.

Over the last few years there’s been a healthy number of pay increases from the smaller operators, but not much from the top-tier carriers – except in the flatbed market. That soon may be about to change.

Let There Be Bonuses

One of the easiest ways to inject some loyalty, either up-front or from existing employees, is through bonuses. It’s not easy to argue with a big chunk of cold, hard, cash.

In fact, more companies are moving away from across-the-board mileage pay packages and are instead focusing on various pay types and incentive programs.

Sign-on bonuses have been a popular tactic. For a solo van driver, some bonuses run as high as $6,000. Some flatbed bonuses come in as high as $7,500.

It doesn’t stop at sign-on bonuses, either. More companies are beginning to offer performance bonuses that reward truck drivers for great performance. Employees that maintain high levels of safety and compliance are often rewarded the most.

Ditching Mileage Pay

To pay, or not to pay, by mileage? That is the question. Even the United States Senate is getting in on the action with a bill calling for truck drivers to be paid by the hour.

One Louisiana-based fleet had a 34.5 percent turnover rate before they made the decision to pay their employees by the hour instead of the mile. While moving to the hourly rate took some adjustment, it wound up becoming a great source for employee referrals. It also halved their attrition rate.

According to a recent survey, almost two-thirds of major operators are experimenting with some sort of variable pay scheme. The problem is they simply don’t know what they’re doing. Without an understanding of sound statistical philosophy, fleets are simply making things up as they go along.

What Works?

Many pay and incentive programs get it wrong on the psychological side. For instance, plans that focus on positive reinforcement are more effective than those that focus on bad behaviors.

A bad plan might start truck drivers out at a certain number of points per month and then they lose points based on violations. These types of programs send the wrong message – that the operator has nowhere to go but down.

Good pay and incentive programs give truck drivers the ability to succeed, rather than fail. These types of plans will have a good percentage of employees exceeding the minimums. Once they buy-in to the program, it’s a race to the top.

In the end, no plan is going to work without the fleet solidly behind it. Payments should be effective and timely. Provided today’s carriers can find the right balance, retention efforts may eventually keep in step with, and perhaps surpass, recruiting efforts.

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