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Which Type of Trucking Is Right for You

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Once you have decided whether you prefer to run local or over the road, you should give some thought to which kind of commodity you wish to haul. This will largely determine the type of equipment you will operate as well as the type of schedule you will be required to keep. The following is a partial list of the different areas of trucking:

  • Freight hauling. Unions still strongly influence freight hauling. Even nonunion freight companies generally have union-like pay and benefits. You will normally pull a set of doubles or triples with a non-sleeper tractor and return every day. In some cases, you will drive one full shift out, approximately 10 hours, lay over for at least eight hours in a motel, and return to your home terminal.
Advantages: Good pay; union benefits; and home often.

Disadvantages: Pulling multiple trailers; often a slip-seat operation-switch trucks frequently; no control over your schedule-usually required to take any load at any time after a minimum notification period; may have to start out part time or working on the loading dock-it can take quite a while to become full time.


  • Dry van. With a dry van, you will still be hauling general freight, but usually over a longer distance and with a single trailer. This may well be the widest segment of trucking, since you can haul anything that will fit into a van. The possibilities range from working for a manufacturer and delivering only their products to supporting several customers to running the entire country picking up loads from brokers.
Advantages: A wide variety of job possibilities; usually provided with good equipment to drive; normally drive the same truck every day; chance to work for a manufacturer which allows you to deal with the same shipper, receivers, commodity, and paperwork.

Disadvantages: You may need a hazardous endorsement (an authorization obtained by taking a separate written test) on your CDL; may be on the road for long periods of time; often pull large trailers-frequently the largest allowed by law; must deliver to some places that are very difficult to get a truck into; may have to deal with lumpers - people paid to unload or help unload; or you may have to hand stack freight onto or off of pallets.

" Refrigerated. This consists of pulling a trailer commonly known as a "reefer" to transport refrigerated or frozen commodities.

Advantages: An opportunity to drive some of the fanciest trucks in the trucking industry- long-nose conventionals with large sleepers and big motors; hauling a commodity that people will always need; and plenty of work available much of the year.

Disadvantages: You may be required to run a large number of miles in a short time- running team can make it much easier to do this legally; some of the people you have to work with- produce docks are some of the most difficult places in trucking to deal with; closer law- enforcement scrutiny-they realize that produce haulers are sometimes pushed too hard by shippers and receivers; and the same unloading problems as with a dry van, only more so.

" Flat bed and drop deck. You will normally haul such products as machinery, lumber, sheetrock, steel, and anything else that will not fit into a van.

Advantages: You are not usually scheduled quite so tightly; generally provided with a nice truck to drive; and are often loaded and unloaded by forklift.

Disadvantages: You must secure the load and make sure it stays secure during transport; tarping and untarping, especially in bad weather; sometimes have to sit and wait for a load; and some delivery sites are construction or mine areas and can be very muddy and easy to get stuck in.

" Household movers. Working for a moving-van company can either consist of actually loading and moving household goods or working in their special-products divisions hauling such things as computers, trade-show exhibits, or other specialty items.

Advantages: You can sometimes make very good money through hard work with the right company; and usually run fewer miles than in other areas of trucking.

Disadvantages: Extensive manual labor is often required; you may be on the road for long periods of time with numerous layovers; and you usually have to start out in household moving before being considered for a position hauling special commodities.

" Tankers. There are various types of tanks involved, including food grade, gas or diesel, propane, special gases, and pneumatic trailers for hauling such things as bulk flour or concrete. You will need a tank endorsement (another authorization obtained by taking a separate written test) on your license and possibly a hazardous endorsement.

Advantages: You can find jobs in both long- and short-haul trucking; and the truck usually unloads itself via gravity or pumping.

Disadvantages: Even more caution is required-the center of gravity is high and the load may slosh around; extreme caution is required on slick roads; and the truck rides rougher-tanks are stiff and do not flex like other types of trailers.

" Heavy and oversize. This is generally accomplished with some type of lowboy trailer, which may consist of moving many types of equipment, machinery, and anything else that is high, wide, long, or heavy.

Advantages: The pay usually rises with the difficulty of the load; and it can be very interesting, challenging, and rewarding work.

Disadvantages: You are forced to abide by many restrictions depending on the load, including time of day allowed to run, routes to follow, use of pilot cars, and sometimes police escorts; it may be difficult to find a place to park; and you may become even more intimately acquainted with mud holes than do flat-bedders and on rare occasions have to be towed in or out of a site by some sort of heavy equipment.

" Car haulers. Car haulers transport new, and to a lesser extent, used cars on specially made trucks. This is another area that is still strongly influenced by unions. Some nonunion carriers are entering this market, especially in the long- haul area.

Advantages: Union jobs pay very well; and trucks are usually non-sleeper-with no sleeper on the truck the driver is provided with a motel room for layovers.

Disadvantages: The equipment is usually very plain and often underpowered; and the driver must load, unload, and be responsible for any damage.

" Boat haulers. There are two basic types of boat haulers: those that are owned by and haul for a manufacturer, and those that are independent and haul for anyone who needs a boat moved.

Advantages: It is an easy and interesting commodity to haul; you generally deal with people who are reasonable to work with; and you can make good money with the right company.

Disadvantages: The equipment is often more basic than in some other areas of trucking; and you may have to load or unload in bad weather.

" Containers. This is usually a local type of job, consisting of picking up a loaded container at a ship or rail yard, taking it to the receiver where it is unloaded or swapped for an empty container, and returning to the yard. The length of the run is generally less than 500 miles.

Advantages: You are home every night or every other night.

Disadvantages: Sometimes you may encounter long waits at the container yards; some container chassis are in bad shape; and the container may be overweight.

" Grain haulers. You will generally pull hopper- bottom trailers-trailers that are tapered from top to bottom so that they will gravity unload. In some cases you may pull a trailer that is designed to convert from hauling grain to hauling some other commodity by means of a removable or folding floor. This makes it possible to back-haul a wider variety of products.

Advantages: The work is mainly short haul except during a shortage of rail cars or barges; it can be seasonal work for people who also farm, etc.; and the trailer usually unloads by gravity.

Disadvantages: You may need to keep expenses down by driving an older truck to make money at this.

" Livestock haulers. This involves transporting live animals to and from farms, auctions, and feedlots, and hauling animals to slaughter houses.

Advantages: You often run big trucks with big motors; and it is a good job for those who like it.

Disadvantages: Sometimes there are severe time constraints-animals can only be on the truck for a limited period of time; and a strong odor permeates the truck and sometimes the driver.

There are also many niche positions and specialized areas of trucking, but this should at least give you a starting point.
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