After driving locally in Chicago for a few months I had gotten a raise to $275/wk salary but I just wanted more. I wanted to see the country and be on the road. You know, like that guy with the monkey. I started getting the Sunday Hammond Times and the Chicago Tribune. I found this place called Regal Transportation in the want ads and they were located in far north Hammond, Indiana near the skyway. The was a flatbed OTR company that mainly concentrated on loads east of the Mississippi river. I did get a longer load from them but I will get to that later. I applied and was accepted. I sadly departed my local job at Economy Transport and moved out of my room at the rooming house. I was now going to be a "real" trucker!
Starting at Regal if you had no flatbed experience like me you had to do a week of local work with an experienced driver. This consisted of taking loads to the steel mills in Chicago, getting unloaded and then reloading loads that were heading out and dropping them in the yard in Hammond for OTR drivers. The local trucks were GMC Astros. Like driving a fishbowl around. Still, it was trucking with a sleeper. A couple of days we stayed in Chicago loading and strapping and chaining and tarping. It was actually good experience for what was to come. That Friday I got assigned a KW T600 with a 36 inch sit-in sleeper and a load to Chattanooga for Monday. It was in the yard and it was a load that I had brought down. The local week was unlogged. That would not happen today. I think I made $400 that week locally. I could not believe how much money I was making! The road paid 23% if I remember back that far. Empty miles paid 23% of 0. I left Sunday to Tennessee with a Radio Shack 23 channel CB, a paper motor carriers road atlas and a desire to see the country.
Delivery went smooth, no problems. Steel plates went down there and you almost always got a load at US Pipe coming back to Chicago. Pipes were not tarped so that was also nice. Regal had the chains welded to the rub rails so no one could steal them. This also was annoying as you could not use them in the places you might need and could not use the amount of them you might want to use.
The KW T600 had recently come out and was very futuristic looking at the time. They had max speed set at 61 which was very annoying and would be annoying today also. No APU yet, it was 1988. The truck would idle all night no problem. These were 9-speed trucks with maybe 350hp. NO jakes! Monteagle was very fun my first few times as I had no experience and no training on hills at all.
During my time at Regal I got to travel through most of the eastern states, unfortunately. One day I called in and they had a special load for me, if I wanted it. It would take me to the edge of the world and I will have more on that in another installment.
See you on the road!
It is getting better
As you know, I get tens of thousands of emails a week and the tone is changing. OK, maybe not that many but people like you regularly write and what used to be totally bad news is now beginning to get better. Drivers are reporting increasing miles. Not from 1000 to 3500 a week but miles are on the upswing. Some of the hardest hit segments are still hurting but those that are rolling are seeing a mileage increase. This translates to a pay increase. That is good news. States, like my state of Indiana, are releasing their unconstitutionally imprisoned citizens to begin commerce. As they butter themselves up to fit out their doors and reacquaint themselves with daylight they will be purchasing items and more drivers will be needed. This won't happen overnight but it will happen. Trucking is still and always will be a good career well into the future. If you are thinking about truck school, now is the time to get started and get that license going. As the economy picks up there will be spots open from drivers not returning to the industry. Go to a local truck school even if you have to take loans for it. Let's get this country moving again!
See you on the road!
My Start in Trucking
I get asked all the time how I got started in Trucking. Well, it is not a dramatic story or anything like that but here goes.
In the spring of 1988 I was just a kid, 20 years old, and the night manager of an Arby's. The Arby's at Torrence and I-94 in Lansing, IL if anyone is in the area. I was making $4.35/hr which was a dollar over minimum for being the manager. So, that is not great money even then and I was always broke. I had a second part time job at Sears in River Oaks Mall to help with the cash flow but it seemed I was always working. I would come home and see these commercials on TV advertising truck school. How much money you could make and see the country. I like to drive and this seemed like it would be a good fit. I went over to Professional Truck Driver Training School to see what it was all about. It turns out you could get your license in just 3 weeks! I borrowed $500 from my Grandfather as the down payment and they financed the other $1095. This was the middle of June 1988. I had not even turned 21 yet but would before the school ended. In three weeks I had my Illinois Class D license (no CDL yet) and off I went. We tested on Thursday of week three so if you failed you could retest on Friday. I passed as most did. On Monday I started my new job in Chicago as a local driver at a small place called Economy Transport. 2 semis and 2 straight trucks. The semi I usually drove was a GMC Brigadier single axle with a 5+2 transmission. It had an electronically controlled 2 speed rear end. If the loads got too heavy there was also a Ford 9000 daycab tandem axle. It had a front brake limiting valve which I will get into in another blog. No training, right to work first day making stops in Chicago. That job paid $250/wk salary and I worked about 40-45 hours a week. I eventually moved to Chicago where I rented a room for $45/wk from a nice old lady who told me not to look at anyone sitting on their porches because there were gangs and they might kill me. Nice. I did this for some months until the urge to hit the road got the better of me. This is why I am not sure about all the training people are pushing. I had no training at all as many "older" drivers and although it was scary, I had no accidents. Coming soon I will go into my time on the road.
See you on the road!
Mayday Protests and a Fair Rate
Today a number of trucks are lined up the DC to protest the low rates currently seen on the spot market, increasing insurance costs, over regulation and vehicle automation. They are apparently honking SOS in morse code on their horns to the 32 HAM radio operators and a few in the general public that still understand morse code. OK, wonderful. I fully support under the first amendment the right to protest by peaceable assembly. I just think they are wrong. Under that same amendment, I am going to tell you why. Rates are what they are because GOVERNORS have put citizens on house arrest without charges. GOVERNORS. So, when people can't work they don't buy things. Less freight moves but there are the same number of trucks in the market. Rates fall. The drivers are asking for fair rates on loads. Who determines that? Would they like the government to set a fair rate of say $1.30/mi? Is that fair? This is the problem, isn't it? In America, things sometimes aren't fair. You want higher rates, tell the GOVERNORS to open up the states for business. Ironically, there is no national shut down, it is state by state. They are protesting in the wrong place.
Increasing insurance costs are the same. Free market. The costs go up as the risk goes up. It is the same as car insurance. Each company sets its rates on what it believes the risk is. Are insurance costs up? Yes they are. What should the government do about it? NOTHING.
Over-regulation is brought up every time there is a regulation. While the industry is highly regulated, it is to be expected. We, for years, got away with running 20 hours a day and now we are paying for it. I constantly see drivers speeding and following to closely. Stop it! Seriously, we dug this hole ourselves.
Vehicle automation is coming, no denying that. You can't stop progress nor should you want to do so. Why doesn't anyone protest the loss of jobs at car makers or farmers who use automation and robots? No one says a word. I am writing this on a computer. Nearly everything can be done on it. Like looking up a phone number. Why are we not protesting the loss of jobs of operators? It will be many years before automated trucks take jobs in any large quantity. That day is coming, though. I see spotters being taken as they are working on that now. A closed system. Also, long distance runs across the south will go. Interstate drop yards will pop up and local drivers will be on each end to start and deliver the load. The long part will be done without a driver. Yes, it is coming. Living in a truck takes away a person's humanity as the head of TuSimple said. I say 10 years to spotters, 10-20 years before really widespread use on southern highways and we see jobs being taken away, 15-30 years for nationwide adoption of driverless trucks and 30-40 years before the truck goes dock to dock. In fact, the dock to dock part may be so cost prohibitive that it is never done and some local jobs always remain. I believe that someone starting today can still have an entire lifetime career in trucking. Be tech savvy, though as the trucks get more advanced. Keep up with the times and you will keep your job longer. There will likely never be a day when there are not drivers. Specialized loads and some other loads will always need a driver.
The bottom line is this: If a load does not pay enough, do not take it. Simple. If someone offered me $11/hr to drive, I wouldn't take that job. I would not take the job and then complain about it. The loads pay so little because someone, somewhere is taking the load. A driver sent me a screen shot of a load from NJ to CA at 78 cents TO THE TRUCK. That is crazy? Who takes that? Apparently, someone. Right now there are just too many trucks for the freight available. When this changes, rates rise.
See you on the road!
Hi! Welcome. I'm Mark and I've been a professional truck driver for over 33 years, the last 19 years at the same company. It is time that drivers got paid for every minute that we work and we are treated like the licensed professionals we are.