Unemployment woes lure the unemployed to the trucking industry.

Trucking has long been the job of last resort to many. I am included in those lured to the greener pastures of trucking. When I came out of the Army, there was very little employment for a 21 year old with no job experience other than what I received in the Army. The Army’s advertising slogan, “9 out of 10 employers” prefer veterans just wasn’t true. I couldn’t find 1 in 100 that would hire this Veteran. Who hadn’t dreamed of being a trucker as a kid? I followed that old dream and headed off to trucking school.

At trucking school, I found many people that had been laid off or out of work. Nobody there was previously gainfully employed at anything that resembled a good living wage. This was 1990. While not horrible times, there were plenty of people that just couldn’t find good paying work. Most were non-skilled and trucking was the first time they were required to get skilled for decent pay.

So here we are in the worst employment situation that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m unemployed again. This time by a highly skilled technology sector. 6 months ago, I left trucking and returned to technology, only to be laid off again. I’m resisting any urges to go trucking simply to keep employment. It doesn’t fit my family lifestyle and then there’s that little secret that nobody thinking of trucking thinks about, the trucks aren’t moving enough to make trucking pay.

If you are thinking of a trucking “career” path. Here a some things to think about before you do.

  1. The word career is a pretty loose term to describe trucking. One major accident and you will have no career. I’m not talking just a negligent accident, ANY major accident red flags you. Think hard before you apply your last resources to a risk like trucking.
  2. You are going to be recruited by many big trucking firms with big promises. These promises are lies and/or exagerations. They will pay for your trucking school if you survive a year. It’s a big if. As you close in on the payoff date, they will do anything they can to get you to quit.
  3. If your relationship at home is bad already, trucking will finish it off. Don’t lose your family over trucking. Trucking requires long periods away from home to make a good wage.
  4. So you know a trucker who made it good, why can’t you? There are many different types of people and trucking does suit some well. Some do well simply because they are miserable at home anyhow. Some simply love the road so much that nothing else matters. Really evaluate yourself well before you think you are a born trucker like these guys.
  5. In bad times, freight still moves, but slowly. Trucking companies gather as many low payed inexperienced drivers as they can during this period. Their good runs are filled by drivers that have survived everything thrown at them at the company is using them as their spokesmen.
    1. Newest drivers are shown some good runs so they don’t leave immediately, then they slowly start giving the lower paying runs.
    2. The lowest paying loads to the drivers are many times the best paying loads to the company. Short runs with long dock times often turn large profits to the company. They’ll give you a low hourly pay, while the truck earns big pay to sit idle. This is why they want you to make sure and report down times to them.
  6. Never lease a truck. Never. In my 19 years of being around trucks, I have never known anyone that did this successfully and I know many that have failed. I don’t care what they tell you, this is a bad deal. Ask to see a contract for your lawyer’s review before you sign and it will not be provided. You will be ran through a session that is well-versed by the leasing company and you will sign while you are excited about their hyped claims of success.
  7. If trucking is truly your last resort, by all means do it. You just might get by and make a few bucks. Don’t expect much and don’t complain once you’re out there. Use technology to work on training for an alternative job the entire time you’re out there.

The biggest advantage today’s truckers have is information technology, so use it! I would never plan on trucking being there for you from one day to the next. An accident, serious violation, illness, or circumstance is a career ending incident. High blood pressure on a physical, you’re out of a job on the second positve check. Diabetes? You’re out of the game. Time behind the wheel is a recipe for health problems. Sooner or later, all truckers fall victim to it and are left with little to no benefits. Insurance companies even have an entirely different set of contracts just for truckers where the rates are much higher and benefits much lower.

Before you head out, make sure you have the ability to connect to the Internet. A laptop with a connection is an absolute necessity to maintain communications with loved ones, to stay entertained, and to educate yourself.

2 comments to Unemployment woes lure the unemployed to the trucking industry.

  • Anonymous

    This article is completely accurate about the trucking industry.  The dispatchers couldn’t care less about drivers in any respect, and take joy in ruining peoples lives just to pass time.  There’s a joke that goes: a driver wins the lottery and gets millions, so the press asks, what are you going to do now?  He replies keep driving until the money runs out.  The morale, you won’t be able to make a living driving a truck.  The stories of grandpa or your uncle making a good living is from an era long past.


  • Anonymous

    I Started in the 1990’s too.   Fresh out of college with a degree in business, i could not find work.  So I too turned my nose to the wind and dreamed of chicken lights and Road Knights.   I was not the only girl who had turned out for the party, but I was still odd enough that not all truck stops had Women’s Showers.   In the old days they were Free but located in the Men’s Bathroom.  

    I have to admit, I was one of those freaks who was instantly Hooked by the life.   I have dealt with the ever increasing stupidity and the never ending lies.   I have worked this game and found some success, for a while.   I married a truck driver and we had children.   We home-schooled on the road and hid the children because it was the only way to be together.   Every weigh station, Dot check, Dock and Warehouse, we gambled that our children would behave.   They did and they had Wonderful memories of Season Passes to Disney and picking oranges in Florida.  They were not abused or neglected, and detest staying home to this very day.  But, the day did come when it was time to give them Real friends and real school experiences.

    Let me first say that truly there is little success in trucking.  Yes, you can make more than you would at a Regular Job.    However, Dirty little secret number One, If utilised elsewhere would yield More income.  An average employee works 36 to 40 hours per week.   Truck drivers are "tongue in cheek" allowed to work 70.   That is almost double what the stay at home worker works.   But, of course it gets better.  What do you hear truck drivers complain about the most? 

    They are "Out of Hours!"    They are not saying that They have been working 26 hour days and that the universe is waiting to catch up.    They are Saying that IF I don’t find a way to work More hours than what I have been allowed, I will not be able to make my house payment this month.   Now Many Many Laws have come down the tubes, making managing a log book similar in frustration to filing Taxes.   Everyone is blathering on about How These Drivers must maintain accurate log books.  The trucking companies are smiling and nodding and telling anyone who will listen that They Never work their drivers more than they can legally log.  

    Do you know the joke about…. "If a truck driver goes from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles to Florida and logs it legal…..Where does he end up?"    The non-trucking person thinks for a minute sees no trick and says "Florida"  The trucker says……"Logs it LEGAL….huh…he ends up Fired!"    

    Of course the Joke of it IS…….That is not a joke.

    Now think about that.   If you worked 70 hours at Walmart at minimum wage,  You would bring home about 500 bucks a week.   Or, lets say you make 50K per year salary….now double that because you now get to work twice as much.   So all joking aside At Walmart you would make 50K and have health insurance maybe even dental.  At a salary job you would be way over that.    

    How much do you really think a truck driver makes.    30k-75k  

    Owner Operators make more on the 1099, but there are a few secrets there too.  

    Ok so we now have people who are working how many hours?    It gets so much better.  

    Free Labor.  That is what a truck driver is.  Ask any shipper who has made some poor guy sit in the parking lot, many refusing to allow them the use of a bathroom, for 14 or 16 hours with no pay.   They are not allowed to leave, or eat unless they cook it on the truck.   They are told, if they go to sleep and miss the call on the cb that they will be passed over.   So there they are sitting and waiting while everyone TELLS them they must Log what they do.   So he sits, and must try to sleep between the CB calling 80 other trucks every 15-20 minutes.  Finally it’s his turn.   So he goes in and must Load or Unload to the Customers exact instructions.  This can take another 8 or 10 hours much of the time.   Now our driver has been up for more than 24 hours imagining that he got to the dock early enough to get some sleep prior to checking in.   When was the last time you worked 24 hours in a row and don’t have Dr. in front of your name?    

    So now its time for good boy Trucker to Leave.  First he must weigh the load, because if it’s over weight…that’s his fault.    Then he must Find a truck stop that has a Free parking spot because if he parks somewhere such as the side of the highway – (because he’s been to four truck stops and they are full) and he gets a ticket – that’s his fault.   So he calls in trying to explain how long loading has taken and that He needs to get some rest- The dispatcher goes through the roof and calls him names and threatens to fire him if he doesn’t get his – self – in the truck and get that load to where it belongs – see if it’s late….guess who’s fault….that’s right the drivers.  

    Now.  If he rests, he will get fired because the Dispatcher showed the load on his truck and moving WHEN he ARRIVED.  That’s called backing up the dispatch and yes They ALL do it…..even the ones who lie really well….that way if anything should happen such as a fatal accident due to the driver being exhausted…..they can run him into the ground as a Driver who couldn’t  "Manage" his time and the company can put all the blame on poor little nobody driver – and cover their assets.   So even though He has been Told he must Log it Legal………Nobody would ever expect him to log it Like he did it………….Manage you Logbook – means in Industry terms.  "Lie for us but Don’t get Caught lying for us or we will blame it all on YOU!"   Some companies have the gal to FINE truckers 5-10 dollars for every mistake and log violation they can find. (slap on the hand for one…..it becomes something else when they find 70 or 200)   That way they can show how they have cracked down on these terrible illegal running drivers.   (but could we mention that that money still shows up as Income on the 1099 – In house Company Fines equal Free money someone else has to pay the taxes on to the company)

    Now I have been told often that if I lie and get Caught….I made the choice.   That is true.  But what WERE the choices.    If you logged more than 15 minutes for loading, unloading, fueling, pretrip inspection, Dot checks and on an on…..there would be no time FOR the revenue producing activity of Driving.   If you choose to run legal, you don’t run for very long.    And yes there are a few company’s out there that have a base group of legal showboats and new drivers…..the rest are covering the Real freight.   Most drivers get to actually sleep between 4 and 6 hours every day.    That stress compounds into a wave of health issues including morbid-obesity.net Owner Operators are one of those loop hole health insurance entities who even though they WORK for someone and can’t Work for anyone else during this time – no benefits of any kind have to be provided.   (Oh that’s right – they are making so much money they can afford to purchase their own)

    I would love to discuss the fake 1099’s I have seen.    Here is what they do.  They make up numbers.  So instead of the maybe 50 K you actually made during a year, they report you for 170K.   They didn’t pay YOU that and you know it.    Guess what – Nobody Cares.    Not even the IRS.   When Driver dude Now can’t figure out how to Lie to the IRS and make up EXPENSES to offset all this excess income he never laid eyes on……….The IRS doesn’t Go after the Company…….just poor little drivers……House, bank accounts or anything else he or his spouse own…..The IRS isn’t smart enough to figure out what the Trucking companies are Doing to keep from paying taxes…..and anyway……If That guy who is only working 110 hours a week for around 3$ an hour can’t PROVE they didn’t pay him every dime they said they did – - that’s his own fault.   (And if it’s not his fault….well his wife must be to blame too)   

    Do I love trucking.  Yes. 

    Do I plan to stay in it.  No.

    I could still make a profit so long as The companies paid me Most of the time.  In the last two years, I have yet to make one clear dollar.   If I was not terribly good with finance we would have been in bankruptcy for the privilege of working with a company who has a great  reputation and pays better than most…..until they just stopped paying.  

    We went from Rock Star to migrant farm worker in a three year period.   What i mean by that is, we did very special moves for very picky clients who paid well.   We continued to do the work – but the pay went down until Suddenly we were in the Hole every single month.   We discovered that the Company was being paid Well still – but they were breaching the contract by simply lie after lie after lie telling us much lower numbers than the actual ones and they would agree to pay for some service and If you demanded it.  They gave excuses, Promises, but Never did we see our money.  I have paychecks in which They Charged Me  because the customer used a credit card to pay them.  I have pay stubs in which They forced me to put an item on my truck and haul it then turned around and Charged me back expenses more than the Revenue of the entire load.   This is not just a one time thing.  Every week they bothered to pretend to pay me, you will find it.    I am not alone.  Once I explained this trickery to fellow drivers – we soon discovered that they had been doing this to everyone.   When I confronted the President – he informed me that I couldn’t manage my expenses.   When i proved that His freight was my biggest expense—I was shown the door as a disgruntled Employee and a newsletter was issued trying to blow smoke for damage control to everyone else.    Funny…..suddenly I was an Employee……………….so for like a second I was eligible for Health benefits…Right?

    Nobody cares that this industry is broken yet.   Nobody cared that  people were taking out loans for 120% the value of their house.    Someday……maybe they will figure out what a mess they are making by letting all these little independent guys go under.   But….tax revenue on fuel is way more important and home loan Ceo’s need bonuses more than some stupid truck drivers child needs to go to medical school. 

    So they will keep blaming all the wrongs on the Drivers and New ones will be stepped right up as fast as they can turn them out.   They have to RECRUIT……because they Use up the good ones they have.  

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