Newbies - Approaching
Consider Your Options
Once you have determined that you and your family are ready to explore the options in the trucking industry, you will have many choices to make before you get into a truck. When you discussed your new career, you might have considered whether you will drive for someone else or purchase your own truck. First, you will need to think about what goals are important to you in your new career. Consider how your family situation will affect those goals. Then, make your decisions based on the options that best accommodate those goals.
What are your long-range goals? Perhaps you will choose to work for a carrier which rewards longevity and your goals are to achieve accident free miles, additional pay for staying through the years, safety bonuses and driving awards. You might have to earn the right to take a rider in the truck with you. These are all goals to consider as a company driver.
Your goals might pertain to the equipment you drive. Most new employees will be issued the oldest tractors and earn their way into the newest rig. Does your carrier offer cabovers to new drivers and conventionals to those with more seniority? Maybe you will receive more technology in your truck if you remain with the carrier. These should be things that you look forward to achieving if you plan to stay with your carrier.
Another goal should be to develop a relationship with the dispatcher allowing greater flexibility in loads. Maybe you want to run in one part of the country or on certain days. Do you prefer one type of load over another, or one customer or product as opposed to the other? If you have a good rapport with your dispatcher and have proven yourself to be trustworthy and hardworking, you will gain the respect of the load coordinator and can select more profitable or less demanding loads.
There are numerous things to list in your long-range objectives as a company driver, but if you decide that the challenge of owning your own rig is something you want to experience, then your goal is to be an owner-operator. Don't think that this will be an easy transition. You will now need to view yourself as a business owner, rather than an employee.
If you are not real familiar with the trucking industry, you should find someone else to work for before you spend the money on a rig of your own. You may decide that the lifestyle doesn't work for you or your family, or that you can't physically, emotionally, or even financially tolerate being a professional driver. Test the water without the huge investment of being an owner-operator until you are comfortable in your new career.
Most owner-operators, and subsequently fleet owners, started out as a company driver at one time. They might have viewed the change from employee to business owner as a positive move in status and income, and set a goal to buy a truck even as they started that first driving job. However, there are also drivers who will never leave the security of working for someone else.
As an owner operator your checks will be larger, and your bills. You will have a little more freedom in your job, but you will also have increased obligations, which might give you less independence than you had working for someone else.
If you start out with a used truck, your goal might be to work your way up to a shiny new tractor with a walk-in sleeper and all the options you can find. You might want to add special effects, such as chrome and murals, to make your rig stand out from the others. Remember that the used truck and the brand new one will bring in the same rate of pay from your carrier. It's the pride in ownership and the thought of attracting attention from others that will prompt you to put extra dollars into your truck's appearance.
Maybe one of your desires is to build your own company into a fleet of trucks. Once you buy the first truck, you can start using your equity to add to your business. Remember, though, that the second and third rigs will also require you to hire others to operate them. Suddenly you are the boss in addition to being a business owner. This will create new challenges and increased responsibility.
When you consider your career path, you should have some knowledge of the amount of money you will need to live on as well as how much income you would like to make in the future. Although you can increase your rate of pay as a company driver, this is more difficult as an owner-operator. Discuss the expenses you have with your family and possible ways to adjust your cost of living with your expected earnings. The amount of money you earn will be affected by many variables, but you will have more control over your weekly paycheck by changing the way you run; either by spending more time on the road or choosing different loads, customers or carriers.
If you choose to make more money by driving more miles or taking longer trips, you should include your family in this decision. They might prefer to have you home every night and agree to live on less money. Think about how long you are willing to be away from your family and don't merely consider the potential level of income. Consider whether you or your family can thrive without seeing one another for extended periods of time.
There are many types of jobs within the trucking industry. Be in control of your career by determining what your options are before you accept a position. Make sure you set short and long term goals, which you can achieve with the help of your family's support. The more understanding you have regarding your career choices, the more successful you will be as a professional driver.