The Best Places Find Truck Routes

Truck route signFiguring out where you need to go is Rule #1 of OTR trucking jobs. Your route will either make or break you, so planning out your directions along with alternate routes, is detrimental to your days. Enter the world of technology.

Everything from smartphone apps to truck driver GPS units are available to help drivers get to their destination via the shortest and quickest route. Here are a few top picks in this department.

Truck Driver GPS Devices

While GPS units have almost gone the way of cassette players, it’s handy to have a portable GPS unit in your rig. After all, what if your cell phone loses cellular service while you are searching for directions? Cell phone batteries are also notorious for dying at the worst possible moment. Having a separate GPS unit installed and up-to-date with maps is an ideal backup plan. If you need to replace an old school GPS unit, or you are in the market for a GPS for commercial truck drivers, here are the top brands to consider are:

  • Cobra
  • Garmin
  • Magellan
  • Rand McNally

You can find trucker GPS units at truck stops, as well as online at Amazon. For example, search for trucking GPS units on Amazon and you’ll find more than 20 different models. Prices range from $55 to $520, and you can find cheaper models that are used or refurbished. Start by looking at the reviews to see what other truckers have to say about the GPS units. Then narrow down the units according to your budget. Keep in mind you will be able to deduct the purchase as a business expense when you file your income tax return. At this point you should have a good selection of units that are realistically within your reach. The next step is to decide which features mean the most to you:

  • Display sizes range from 4 to more than 7 inches in diameter
  • GPS battery life range, which is typically 1 to 4 hours
  • Your preference between a city tour or street map
  • Additional GPS features, such as free lifetime map updates, voice command, Bluetooth capabilities, and the inclusion of real-time traffic updates

As you will discover there are a variety of trucker GPS devices on the market. For you it’s just the matter of finding that one device that best suits your trucking route needs.

Truck Driver Apps for Routing

At the same time, trucker GPS units can be pricey. Plus keeping the maps updated on GPS units is difficult as roads are constantly being constructed and renamed. That’s where a trucker route app becomes a handy tool. Some of the most successful truck driver routing apps include:

  • Trucker Tools by Overdrive
  • Truck Miles by ProMiles Software
  • Trucker Path Pro

Trucker Tools by Overdrive

Overdrive's Trucker Tools

Trucker Tools is available on Android and iOS with updates as frequently as a few months ago. The app itself is an all-around trucking app, doing everything from tracking freight to finding truck stops. However, the most impressive tool is Trucker Tools Routing and Fuel Optimizer. It gives you detailed directions, as well as fuel pricing and truck stop information along your route.

Truck Miles by ProMiles Software

This is a website that you can bookmark on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It’s a free download that lets you enter your starting point and destination along with trip profit information. Calculate your results to handle your truck routing plans.

Trucker Path Pro

Another free mobile app, Trucker Path Pro lets you visualize your route on a map along with information about weigh stations, fuel stops and trucker parking. You can click on a place and get a user review to see if it’s worth your time to stop. Another helpful feature allows truck drivers to change availability of trucker parking and weigh stations. You can mark a parking lot as full, or nearly empty, and alert truckers to which weigh stations are open.

Google Maps

If you are a truck driver with a smartphone and cellular access, and you suddenly need to route your rig or find an alternative route, you are going to go straight to Google Maps. This is a free app that is part of most smartphones. Offering the benefit of Google mapping satellite technology, you can look up actual photos of the exterior of buildings and streets. Real-time traffic, toll roads, and nearby landmarks are also included to help you choose the best routes around. Google Maps also features an audible voice that directs you from road to road, just like the sophisticated GPS units.

A Combo Deal

In reality thanks to the ever changing world of technology, you want to have a combination of routing tools on hand, such as:

  • A paper atlas, preferably spiral bound with laminated sheets for dry erase markers and to keep the paper from tearing with use
  • A mobile GPS unit made specifically for truck drivers
  • At least one truck driver app, if not several; try them out to see which ones work best for you

Covering all of your bases will help keep you out of the weeds when finding your next trucking route.

“Be Prepared to Stop” Pushes for Solutions in Trucking and Roadways

Be Prepared to Stop DocumentaryThere’s a saying that when the trucks stop, so does America. Yes, trucks are incredibly important – and so are the truckers that operate them. While many people only see trucks as transportation devices that move goods from Point A to Point B, truckers and economists know how important the industry is to moving America forward.

The trucking industry is responsible for earning about $650 billion per year and for employing millions of unionized and non-unionized employees. Individual truckers also travel close to 50,000 miles each year, helping to transport some 13 trillion pounds of goods.

As you can see, if the trucking industry were to fold – or if even a small margin of truckers were to go on strike – the national economy would be severely impacted.

Despite trucking’s importance, there are a number of challenges that the industry faces. And while some of the health and wellness challenges are well documented, a new documentary, Be Prepared to Stop, highlights another challenge that truckers and the trucking industry faces – failing infrastructure, and the lack of government action when it comes to any sort of plan. In addition to highlighting the crumbling roads and highways that truckers have to navigate on their routes, Be Prepared to Stop also highlights the importance of the trucking industry to the national economy. According to Internet Movie Database (IMDB), Be Prepared to Stop was released in April 2016.

The Importance of Trucking

As a means to stress the importance of trucking and push for solutions to the dire conditions of America’s roadways, the filmmakers behind Be Prepared to Stop include information about what it would be like over the span of five days without a truck. Here’s a look at what would occur if the trucking industry suddenly came to a halt:

  • Day 1: Within 24 hours, food shortages would begin to occur. Mail would stop, as would the all-important delivery of medicine and medical supplies. Gas stations would run out of fuel and manufacturing assembly lines would stop due to a lack of critical components.
  • Day 2: The food shortages intensify, namely when it comes to milk and bottled water. As these shortages intensify, consumers begin to panic. Pharmacies shut their doors because they have no medication to provide. And banks aren’t any good when it comes to their ATM machines – they’re all out of money.
  • Day 3: The fuel shortage escalates, impacting all types of transportation. Because of this, all of the water treatment plants are also nearing capacity.
  • Day 4: Within 96 hours of an absence of trucks on the road, almost every gas station is closed. This means that all transportation has also come to a halt. That’s right, no buses are running, no planes are flying and people are unable to drive their cars once their tanks expire.
  • Day 5: The filmmakers paint a post-apocolyptic sort of picture if all trucks stop operating for five days. They project drinking water to be completely eliminated, and for all industrial production to halt. Hospitals will lack the resources to care for patients and restaurants will also close.

As you can see, if trucking were to completely stop, the picture would look pretty bleak.

Goals of the Film

As we noted in the opening, the goal of Be Prepared to Stop is to inform the American public of the importance of the trucking industry to the American economy and raise awareness to the poor current conditions of the roads and highways that truckers travel on to transport goods and product. According to the filmmakers, these road conditions are reaching a point of crisis. Needless to say, but the quality of the roads has a direct impact on the trucking industry as we know it. Another goal of the film is to raise awareness on this trucking industry challenge in an effort to spur government action toward improving the roads and conditions to allow truckers to do their jobs. Sometimes, a documentary can have a very profound impact on things. For evidence of that, just take a look at the outrage the 2013 documentary Blackfish created. In its aftermath, SeaWorld has made efforts to create larger, more open tanks for its killer whales to calm the public outcry.

Be Prepared to Stop: The Basics Be Prepared to Stop was released in April 2016. It was directed by Marijane Miller and directed/produced by Miller and Jennifyer Clymer. The film is personal for Clymer, as her grandfather worked as a truck driver.

The film’s tagline is: “What happens when the wheels stop turning?”

Judging by the five-day prognostication that we referenced earlier in this piece, the answer to the tagline should be “catastrophe.”

Be sure to check out Be Prepared to Stop today.

* Photo Credit: Be Prepared to Stop movie’s Facebook page.

How a Trucker Can Plan for Retirement Mid-Career

Truck driver in front of a blue truckIt’s said that regardless of your profession, you should start planning for retirement as soon as you enter the workforce. Unfortunately for many professionals – both young and old – this isn’t something that’s really given thought to for a variety of reasons. Perhaps their employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan? Or maybe their employer does, but they’d rather bank more take home pay than allot a portion of their paycheck toward a 401K plan? Whatever the reason, retirement planning gets lost in the shuffle, leaving people scrambling to catch up as they reach middle age.

Yes, retirement planning is important regardless of profession, but it’s perhaps all the more important if you’re a truck driver. That’s largely because many truckers don’t retire willingly, but because they’re forced to. As you know, driving a truck for a living doesn’t have the reputation as being the healthiest profession for the individual, and this can put truck drivers in difficult positions when their body – or their doctor – won’t allow them to perform the work anymore.

Retirement Planning for Truckers

Not currently saving money? Start. In debt? Get out of it.

Those are two pieces of advice than anyone entering the workforce should abide by. But for mid-career truckers, the path to planning and saving for retirement may be a bit murkier. Here are some general guidelines for middle-aged truckers to follow based on how much they need to live off of in retirement:

  • $250 per month: Need $300,000 earning a minimum of 1 percent interest.
  • $500 per month: Need either $300,000 earning 2 percent interest or $600,000 earning 1 percent interest.
  • $1,000 per month: Need $300,000 earning 6 percent interest or $1.2 million earning 1 percent interest.
  • $2,000 per month: Need $300,000 earning 8 percent interest or $2.4 million earning 1 percent interest.

And so on.

So what can you do now if you’re not up to snuff on what your retirement should be, which traditionally should be about 80 percent of a truck driver’s salary each year of retirement? It starts with taking advantage of opportunities through your employer. Hopefully, if there’s a retirement plan offered through your employer, you’ve been utilizing it. Ideally, this plan also offers some sort of a company match. Minimally, when you begin a career, you should be allocating at least as much from your paycheck each month as your company will match to maximize the benefit. So, for instance, if your employer offers up to a 4 percent match, be sure you’re allocating at least 4 percent of your paycheck toward retirement. We recommend that any time you get any sort of a raise (cost of living, base salary increase, etc.) to raise your allocations to retirement at least one percentage point. Finally, many employers offer one-on-one meetings with financial planners for those who take advantage of their retirement savings plans. Make sure you take advantage of this resource to know where you stand and what adjustments you need to make to live comfortably in retirement.

Things get a tad more tricky if your employer doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan. If this is the case, you need to take the initiative yourself and set up either an IRA or some other qualified retirement plan with your bank or credit union. And that’s the big first step – taking the initiative yourself. After setting up this plan, you need to be disciplined. We recommend sitting down, analyzing your household income versus expenditures and selecting an amount to set aside each and every month to put toward your IRA. Once again, be sure to occasionally meet with a bank advisor to see if you’re on track to meet your projected retirement savings and adjust the amount you put in accordingly.

Retirement Plans

It’s never too late to get on board with a retirement plan. One is the OOIDA Plan, which is specifically designed for small business truck drivers. Under terms and conditions of the plan, individuals are able to save up to $12,500 tax deductible dollars per year, or $15,500 for those over 50. There’s a guaranteed interest rate, deposits can be made in as large or as small of amounts as you’d like and plans are available through age 70.

In Conclusion

Ideally, to ensure that you have ample funds in retirement, you should be looking at opening an IRA and contributing to an employer offered retirement plan. What’s more is that you should also be smart and take care of yourself on the road, so you minimize the risk of being forced into retirement at an age where you’re unprepared financially to do so.

Retirement planning isn’t exhaustive or overwhelming, it just takes initiative and some forward thinking. For this reason, it can be easy to put off. Don’t be someone who’s scrambling to catch up when the end of the road is in sight.

How to Limit Your Sugar Intake as an OTR Trucker

Healthy living chalkboardMaintaining a healthy diet is often very difficult when you’re out on over the road truck driving jobs. With a few smart substitutions and some planning ahead, though, it’s easy to find foods that help you limit your sugar intake without compromising taste or convenience. Consider these ideas the next time you head out on the road.

Protein Bars

Grabbing a protein bar serves two purposes: it satisfies your craving for sweets and it gives you a boost of lean protein. Bonuses for picking up a protein bar include getting that sensory feeling by holding something with a candy bar shape in your hand and the ability to get your protein fix without the artery-clogging fat and high caloric content of a typical burger. Be sure to be a label reader, though, to find ones that have as little sugar and calories as possible while still packing in the nutrients.

String Cheese

With its creamy taste and easy-to-palm size, string cheese is a quick snack that’s ideal when you’re on the road. While mozzarella sticks are the go-to favorite other varieties — like pepper jack, cheddar and even a twist version! — let you mix it up so your mouth never gets bored. To make your snack more filling, add in a piece of your favorite fruit with your cheese stick.

Fruit

Whether it’s freeze dried or fresh, fruit is another way to easily satisfy your sweet tooth. Another advantage of fruit is that it doesn’t melt into a gooey mess if you accidentally leave it out on your seat. While grapes, apples and bananas likely top the list of top on-the-go fruits, don’t discount summer favorites like plums, peaches and nectarines either. For a change of pace, opt for some dried fruit in lieu of heavily sugared snacks. Just limit yourself since many brands do add extra sweeteners.

Hard Boiled Eggs

This one takes some prep time — or if you find yourself short on that, pick up some eggs that are already prepared at your favorite store — but can be a hardy snack that fills you up while you’re on the road. They’re the perfect alternative to those sugary muffins or doughnuts that you might otherwise eat for breakfast. Just be mindful of the amount of salt you use as too much can be detrimental to your health.

Seeds and Nuts

If you’re the type of person who prefers to nosh on something savory with a crunch at times, you find plenty to keep you satisfied in the seeds and nuts category. From sunflower seeds seasoned with ranch, cheese or BBQ to nuts that honey roasted or salted, these tiny little morsels can also add a dollop of — healthy! — fat to your diet. Of course, you should still watch out for portion sizes as too much of a good thing can be bad for your health.

Vegetables

While celery sticks and baby carrots are fine by themselves, mix it up by throwing some small containers of peanut butter or hummus in your cooler. Not only will your mouth be happy with the change of pace, you’ll also amp up the protein factor of your snack which will make you feel fuller for longer. Other ideas for easy veggies to eat while you’re OTR include grape tomatoes, red bell pepper slices and sugar snap peas.

With the above suggestions, you shouldn’t find yourself reaching for a sugary snack every time you stop at a rest area. Instead, your mouth will be happy with the variety of different tastes and textures while your stomach will feel satisfied longer than it would if you inhaled a snack cake. What are your favorite low-sugar snacks for OTR trucking?

How to Handle the Onslaught of Summertime Traffic as a Trucker

Big rig truck stuck in trafficTruck driving during the summer months is rough enough with the sizzling sun beating down on you and the thick humidity down south. But what about all that extra traffic you have to deal with? Summertime is the season for travelers and tourists ranging from mini buses loaded down with screaming kids to motor homes hauling entire retirement communities. It’s a lot to handle as an over the road truck driver. Check out these tips to help you keep your cool when faced with summertime traffic.

Choose Your Driving Times Carefully

The best time to drive during the summer is early in the morning, late at night and on weekdays. First of all you are not going to be scorching and experiencing Trucker’s Arm when you are driving before dawn and after dusk. That’s a major benefit when trying to keep cool as a trucker. Secondly, the weekdays are less chaotic, to some degree, than the weekends. Of course you have roadtrippers and travelers on the roads every hour of summer. However, on the weekends you are also hit with local traffic as people get out and about to enjoy the area’s summertime fun. So if you can plan your route to avoid the midday hours and weekends, you are one step ahead of the chaos.

Seven a.m. to nine a.m., noon to one p.m., and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. are tough any time of the year. Add in the extra drivers from out of state and you are going to be sweating in traffic jams. Take breaks during the worst hours of the day, that being rush hour and lunch time. Choose to pull over at a truck stop and fuel up, take a trucker’s shower or work in your logs rather than beating yourself up with road ragers.

Get Defensive

Defensive driving techniques must be fully enforced during the summer months. You have to be more alert to other drivers who might be distracted, lost or overly tired. Suddenly veering in front of you? Be prepared for that possibility. Watching an overloaded car topped down with luggage have a blown out tire? You have to be ready for that, too. There are also tons more motorcyclists out on the roads, which adds a whole new element of danger to drivers. Use your defensive driving skills to be on guard for any possible incident at any time. You just never know what could happen, and with the increase of drivers on the roads, particularly from out of state, you are bound to run across a lot more trouble zones.

Prepping for Summer

In case of an accident or disaster it’s best to be prepared for anything. For summer truck driving jobs you also need to have extra supplies to keep you from getting dehydrated or sun poisoning. If you don’t already have an emergency kit on hand, grab yourself a backpack and toss in the following items:

  • 2 gallons of drinking water
  • Water purification tablets or a water bottle filtration system
  • Shelf-stable foods, such as beef jerky, crackers, dried fruit, tuna pouches, or granola bars; include enough to keep you fed for three days
  • Foil blankets to protect you from the sun
  • A small first aid kit
  • Sunblock that is not expired
  • Aloe vera gel to soothe and heal sunburns and blisters
  • Moleskin, which is an adhesive patch that you place on your heels and toes to prevent blisters, to use in case you have to walk a distance to get help due to an accident or breakdown
  • A sun hat made with SPF material
  • Moisture wicking T-shirt and shorts
  • An extra change of underwear and athletic socks
  • A pair of running shoes or tennis shoes
  • An emergency cell phone with a solar charger

In the instance that you are involved in an accident in the middle of the desert or a lonely South Dakota road, you need to be able to take care of yourself as you find help. People are far less likely to pick you up as a hitchhiker these days, so having supplies on hand to help you survive until you make it to a truck stop or set of scales is essential. In the majority of the states your greatest enemy will be hot temperatures and boiling sun, which makes an emergency kit a necessity.

As for your truck and trailer, you will want to call your dispatcher, trucking company or customer as soon as possible, if possible. If you don’t have cell phone service or a CB radio that functions, lock your rig and secure your load as best as possible. Remember that you have insurance for a reason, and this would be one of those times when your personal safety and health is more valuable than the goods you are hauling.

Headhaul Versus Backhaul Loads: What You Need to Know

Semi truck haulerTruck driver lingo, here we come. Have you ever heard the term headhaul and wondered what the other person was talking about? This isn’t as common as a backhaul, but it’s a valid trucking term used by transportation providers. Discover the difference between a headhaul and backhaul, along with pros and cons with working with each type of trucking load. Then take a look at deadheading, which is the worst possible scenario for an over the road truck driver hoping to stay in the black and on the blacktop.

Hope for Headhauls

In the scheme of things headhauls pay the most compared to backhauls. A customer that provides a headhaul is located near to the truck driving company or owner operator’s residence. The truck driver is easily able to secure truck loads without having to drive empty for a few hundred miles. This puts money in the trucking companies and the truck drivers’ pockets. Headhauls are typically arranged with long-term clients, so they feature solid contracts with good terms. A headhaul is the prized trucking job for truckers as the rates are better than a backhaul.

Backing Up with Backhauls

There is always two sides to a coin, and for the other side of headhauls you have backhauls. These are those truck driving jobs you have to take to bring you back home. While these are better than the alternative of deadheading, a backhaul load won’t pay you as much as a headhaul. For starters, when your dispatcher sends you a backhaul it’s typically in order to get you back home faster so you can take another headhaul. Backhauls are those piece-meal trucking jobs that come across the dispatcher’s desk and need to be handled. Since you need to take these orders they come with a lower rate than headhauls. Also, the customer for the backhaul is less likely to be loyal to your carrier’s company, so they can haggle for more competitive, cut-throat rates.

Dealing with Deadheads

If headhauls are the best paying trucking jobs, followed up by backhauls, where does this place deadheads? At the absolute bottom of the pay pile. If you take a headhaul and arrive to a destination where there isn’t a backhaul to be had, you may very well have to deadhead back home. Deadheading doesn’t pay if you are an owner operator, and in fact, it will cost you money on operations. If you are driving for a trucking company, such as Schneider National or Crete Carrier, you will be paid for your mileage in most instances, but not as much as you would if you were hauling freight. Bottom line: deadheading is the worst gig you can get as a truck driver.

How to Avoid Deadheading

If you are an owner operator looking for trucking jobs that will keep you rolling, the last thing you want to do is deadhead. The best move is to keep taking trucking jobs in your current region. This will ensure you are making money rather than losing it through deadheading. In order to find trucking jobs over the road:

  • Check out truck driving job boards online, such as Big Truck Driving Jobs and Careers In Gear. All you need is Wi-Fi access and a smartphone, laptop or tablet to find trucking jobs on the internet. Searching for trucking jobs online is a free service available to any truck driver looking for work.
  • Hop on your CB radio and ask if anyone has any freight in the area. You might get in touch with a dispatcher or another owner operator who has some leads to customers.
  • Go the old fashion route of looking at bulletin boards in truck stops. Look for the latest postings of local trucking jobs and check all leads.
  • Ask around at trucker lounges, in truck stop restaurants and while waiting in line at truck stop fuel counters. Be polite and respectful, and you try to strike up a conversation with other truckers who look willing and happy to chat.

The bottom line is there is little reason to deadhead in this day and age. Of course if you are an independent trucker hauling freight for a small time trucking company you are often at their mercy. If they can’t find some freight for your particular trailer type, then you might have to deadhead back to the shop. One way to avoid this is to stick close to home during the holidays. Thanks to being an independent driver you often have more flexibility with your schedule than if you were a company driver. So when Memorial Day or the Fourth of July roll around and you have a long weekend of potential deadheading, just stay home. Your sanity will appreciate the break from the rigors of the road, and you will not be so stressed out with the heavy out of town traffic.

How to Score a Beachside Load for a Short Vacation While Trucking

18 wheeler truck and beach viewWhen you are a truck driver finding time to travel and go on vacation is difficult. For the majority of truckers, the last thing they want to do when they come home is go somewhere else. Take a road trip? That’s too much like work.

All the same, truck drivers may get to see the world from through their big rig windshield. However, when you are running a route with an over the road trucking job, you can’t exactly stop and smell the roses. So while you do get to travel as a truck driver, you miss out on the actual vacation part. Here’s how you can blend the two to make the most of beach side loads this summer.

Trucking Jobs for Tourist Spots

There’s one thing that all tourist spots need. Plenty of supplies from food to toilet paper to bed linens. And just who do you think is keeping those supplies in stock? That’s right, you and your fellow truck drivers. If you are interested in driving to beach side hotspots consider Florida trucking jobs or trucking jobs in California that are geared at the hospitality industry. Working for companies that haul for hotels, restaurants and amusement parks, such as Disney World or Knott’s Berry Farm, will give you the best trucking jobs for short vacations. Just as truck driving jobs for NASCAR exist, so do trucking jobs that will take you to bikini wearing zones.

Make a Weekend of It

If you aren’t able to take trucking jobs that carry you right to the water’s edge, consider a different route. For example, let’s say you are going to California on a trucking job and will be in the southern part of the state. Why not find out if you can wait to be loaded back for a few days so you can explore the area? If you don’t take advantage of this opportunity you might luck out. Of course if you are an owner operator or independent truck driver you are going to have more control over this possibility. National trucking companies, such as Swift Transportation or Schneider National, will be less likely to give you this freedom.

If you get the chance to layover in a beach side city for a day or two, here’s what you will need to do to make it a success:

  • After you have dropped your load, and only then so you don’t have to worry about getting your load jacked, find a trucking parking lot where you can park your rig for a day or two. You will most likely have to pay for this service if you are on California trucking jobs.
  • Arrange for a car rental service to pick you up from the truck stop and use the rental car for your trip. It’s much easier to navigate a four-wheeler in comparison to a bobtail truck in a tourist area.
  • Stay overnight in your cab since that will save you money on accommodations, and it will ensure the security of your rig when you leave it for this period of time.

Saving money as a truck driver is the best feeling ever. That’s part of the benefits of being able to drive your truck to the beach areas. You save money on flying or driving your personal car as you are technically traveling to your destination for free or cheaply as long as you are getting a load out of there after your vacation is over. By sleeping in your cab you don’t have to pay for hotels or condos, which is a huge savings for yourself. Considering how steep lodging can be during the busy summer vacation season, you are seriously traveling on the cheap.

Where to Go

The most sought out states for a beach side vacation include California and Florida. However, that also means these are the busiest states to navigate. So why not think outside of the box? Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach and the many beaches of Texas each offer something special and plenty of sand to satisfy your summer urges. Best of all, you are much more likely to get Texas trucking jobs or trucking jobs on the East Coast than trucking jobs in Florida in particular.

You can also go beach side in many of the national and state parks throughout the US. Lakes with fishing opportunities, boating and water-sports can be much more peaceful for truck drivers looking to go on vacation. After all, you don’t have to deal with college kids going crazy on their parents’ dime or sharks. If water is what you are looking for lakes and rivers are much easier to get to for trucking jobs in the Midwest and central states of the US.

Trucking: Then and Now a History of Truck Driving

Fischer truck and tractor trailerEvery industry has its share of change and evolution – and the trucking industry is no exception. And just as change is always well intended, some changes have helped the industry and its drivers, while others have made it more difficult. But one consistency as it pertains to trucking from its rise in the 1930s until now – and into the future – is that it will be a necessary profession to continue moving goods from Point A to Point B. This post is intended to take a look at the trucking industry and how it has changed.

A History of Trucking

Trucking gained prominence after World War I when a rise in paved roads made the delivery of goods by something other than the railroad more feasible. It continued its rise in the 1930s as more roads were built, became regulated by the government, and then really took off in the 1940s and 1950s when the Interstate Highway System was being built.

As fuel prices increased due to shortages in the 1970s and 80s, the industry faced some significant challenges. It then faced more challenges when it was deregulated in 1980 as a result of the Motor Carrier Act. Due to this deregulation, the amount of trucking companies in business skyrocketed, leading to a de-unionization and a lower overall pay scale for truck drivers. Though this deregulation was detrimental to truck drivers, it was the opposite for American consumers, as the overall costs of goods were reduced. Today, according to TruckInfo.net, it’s estimated that presently about 15.5 million trucks are in operation in the United States, with about 2 million of these being tractor trailers. About 3.5 million truck drivers work in the U.S. and nearly 9 million total work in trucking-related jobs.

A Focus on Health, Safety

Trucking has historically been a male-dominated industry. It’s also been a historically unhealthy one. According to several national studies, nearly 70 percent of all truck drivers are obese and truckers are twice as likely as any other American profession to develop diabetes during their lifetimes. Aside from the physical health aspects, truckers are often subject to mental health issues. For instance, because they spend so much of their lives on the road, truckers are likely to be involved in at least one major accident during their career. This can cause anxiety or event post-traumatic stress disorder, especially if there’s a fatality in any of the accidents. Being that truckers are on the road and away from home, it can be difficult for them to get the counseling and treatment that they need.

But changes in the industry could be helping in this matter. For instance, many trucking companies are taking initiatives to ensure that their drivers are operating more safely behind the wheel, using video analysis to review potentially dangerous driving situations. Then there are tech firms like Otto that are attempting to develop technology for self-driving trucks, making truckers more of an “attendant” than an actual driver.

On the health side, plans are underway at various trucking companies to educate truckers on the importance of getting exercise and eating right while they’re on the road. For instance, Caitlin Welby, the 34-year-old CEO of RFX, has launched an initiative on this, and she plans to outfit each truck with tablets that include how-to information on exercise and proper diet.

Truckers have an important task in society, and treating them like they’re important and valued is increasing in importance nationwide.

Truck Driver Shortages

One other big change in the industry is the need for qualified drivers. While the deregulation in the 1980s led to some reorganization in the industry as a whole, one of the big reasons for the driver shortage is the fact that most truckers are older in age. In fact, the median age of truckers is the U.S. is 49, and the industry doesn’t have the same lure of attracting new drivers as it once did. It’s estimated that the industry was short about 50,000 drivers at the end of 2015 and if the trend continues, it could be short 175,000 drivers by the end of 2024.

While the shortage may be perceived as a negative, it’s also a sign of opportunity. There’s a need for qualified truck drivers in the U.S. so certainly there’s job opportunities in all aspects of trucking.

Although trucking has changed significantly since its rise to prominence in the 1930s, it’s still an incredibly important industry as it pertains to making the economy tick. What’s more is that many of the changes taking place in the industry today are designed to make it – and its workers – better from an overall health perspective. Yes, trucking is important and will continue to be important. It will have its challenges and will continue to evolve moving forward, but nobody can deny trucking’s role importance.