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Are you considering a career in Logistics? This truck driver shares everything about his experience, from how to enter this field, to how much it pays, and the best and worst parts of the job. He also explains the integral part that he plays in a logistics plan.

I'm a driver for a contract trucking company, meaning that companies with full loads to ship but with no shipping function of their own contact my company and contract for a certain number of trips each year to a certain number of locations, for a prescribed range of traveled miles and within the requirements of specific associated, non-driving duties. For this arrangement, my company charges contracting companies some fee and my company pays me as an employee. That means that my company owns the truck that I drive, my company pays all expenses, and my company pays my payroll taxes. My company pays me as an employee, using a W-2 to report to the IRS my income, withholding, FICA and other pay, tax and pension totals for the year. This is my twentieth year of working as a long distance truck driver. Though I never thought that would be the case, I have been very happy that it has been.

Trucking has changed a lot from the driver’s perspective over the past couple of decades. In the past, we sat and we drove. There were manifests listing the contents of the loads we hauled, and we had to get off of the road to sit through weigh stations from time to time. Truckers driving alone had to be able to demonstrate that they had taken a minimum of eight hours for rest, and had not driven more than eight hours in any 24-hour period. We also had extensive libraries of map books for the larger cities we went to with any regularity.

Much of that is the same today, but technology has touched truck driving as it has virtually everything else. Today, there are many weigh stations where we do not have to stop, because there is an electronic record made when we pass individual weigh stations equipped with the technology. We do still have to stop somewhere to create the baseline measure, but we do not have to stop at every one along the way. This reduces the pressure to reach a specific milestone by a specific time, regardless of traffic or construction conditions we encounter en route. Global positioning system (GPS) technology also provides the home office with an accurate record of where trucks are and whether they are moving. It was easy to “fudge” the manual records in the past, and to drive more than the eight hours allowed by law. That is not the case today.

One misunderstanding of truck drivers is that we are drug-seeking, uneducated dolts who don’t’ have the ability to do much of anything else. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. It is true that some truckers in decades past would use plain caffeine pills or even amphetamines to stay awake to drive longer and further in a single day, but today’s automated systems make that extremely difficult, if not totally impossible. Most truck drivers also don’t want to be driving for any company that will condone that type of behavior. Our insurance rates are high enough, even with safe driving records. The very fact that we may drive 100,000 miles or more during a single year increases the likelihood of any of us being involved in an accident at any time. Our insurance is costly even without the rogues; and we understand that the rogues only increase costs for the rest of us.

I backed into driving as a profession, mostly by chance. I was the son of a small-town doctor. He really wanted me to take over his practice when he decided to retire, but medicine never was for me. Instead, I was drawn to business and accounting. I was a junior in college and majoring in accounting when I took an intern job with a trucking company years ago. I was cutting weekly checks for truckers that were much larger than I was making in an entire month, and I was not all that enthralled with accounting, either. I decided I would learn to drive a truck instead, in order to have the income that would fund what I truly loved, which was horses, good cigars and fine wine. Truck driving has provided me with those things, but then I’ve never been married, either. I suppose the income would not extend to Cuban cigars and good wine with a wife and children, but I also don’t know that it would not.

I do enjoy my job, though. I am a long distance driver and I ride with a partner. This means that I leave my home in North Carolina very early Monday morning, and I return by Friday afternoon. Drivers are required to operate no more than eight hours in a 24-hour day, but the truck can go for twice that time. Driving with a partner negates the loneliness of prior years and also provides an added measure of safety in those areas where extra protection is a good idea. Both my partner and I take pride in our jobs. With so much of America’s manufacturing base moving out of the country, there is no good substitute for truck transport of goods. As is the case with health care, trucking necessarily must be done at the point where it is needed. It is not a job that can be outsourced to another country.

Sometimes I miss not being able to be in town during the week, but I always have weekends and can plan anything I choose for those times. They are fixed and unchanging, so even though I cannot be at home during the week, I know I always can plan on having the entire weekend away from work and without demands on my free time. One very good aspect of truck driving is that it is relatively low-stress. When I am home, then I absolutely am at home without even the smallest need to think about work.

Ten years ago, I probably would not have said that I want to be driving a truck in five years. Now that it has been twenty years, however, I really have no desire to do anything else. It fits my life and my personality, and it allows me to visit places that I probably would not see on my own. I learned the hard way that traveling with a partner is much easier than driving alone, though initially I was less than pleased about having to spend most of a week with someone else in such close quarters. That took some adjustment for both of us.

Technology changes have been dramatic. Like many men, I enjoy “gadgets” and electronic capabilities, so the changes in technology have been fascinating for me. I did learn early on not to rely too heavily on my GPS, though, when it took me nearly 100 miles out of my way to a wrong destination.

I have a college degree, but most truck drivers do not. High school is about the minimum accepted, and of course every driver must have a commercial license. We also have to have ongoing safety training classes, but that takes us off of the road for a while without affecting vacation time. I’ve been with my company for a long time and so get four weeks’ vacation each year. My gross salary ranges between $60,000 and $80,000 each year, so I'm able to live well and take enjoyable vacations.

Even though I did not grow up dreaming of driving a big truck back and forth across the country, I have enjoyed the work for most of these twenty years. There are times that I wonder how life would be if I could be home every night, but those times are infrequent. Truck driving has been good for me. With more than one million accident-free miles, I like to think that I have been good for trucking, too.