What do truckers do besides drive? Well, a major part of their job is trip planning which includes routemapping and a good bit of math. For example, let’s say you start out Monday morning with your full, government allowed 70 hours to work that week. You can drive up to 11 hours in each 24 hour period and work up to 14 hours total including your drive time. Keep in mind that you have to take your 30 minute break before 8 hours is up each day which comes out of your 14. Your sleeper time is minimum 10 hours between the 14 hour workdays. There is a way you can split that as 8 and 2, but I still don’t understand how that works. Okay, so you get a load sent to you early Monday morning that delivers Thursday at 2am. You can pick up at noon Monday and it’s a drop and hook. We like drop and hooks. The shipper is 50 miles from where you’re parked so you figure you need to leave by 11am. Then you consider that you’re in a big city so you figure you’ll leave at 10am and hope you can pick it up early if you have time. This means you’ll be starting your 14 hour clock at 10am so you’ll have to be shut down by midnight. Your dispatch says the load delivers live and it will be 1400 paid miles. Cool, that’s good miles. You look at your map and GPS to figure out your route and how many real miles it is. Usually, companies pay by household goods miles which is zip code to zip code and is less than the actual miles most of the time. That deficit is miles driven but not paid to the driver. Go figure. So, once you figure it up, you find it to be 1550 actual miles from shipper to receiver. This is where it gets tricky. If you shut down at midnight Monday night, you can expect to cover about 550 miles that day, give or take. If you work for a company, you’re likely going to have a governor on your truck that keeps you from going over 65 miles an hour. To plan for traffic, weather, construction, speed limit variances and other unpredictable delays, it’s best to figure your travel time at 50 miles an hour. You can begin your 14 hours on Tuesday at 10am and do another 550 before midnight. Wednesday you have only 400 miles left to go, but you have to shut down early enough to not start your clock too early Thursday so you can deliver at 2am. So, you could start your 14 at 10am again and drive about 8 hours to cover the 400 milesyou have left. But, before you do this, you check out where you’re going to park that night. The first two days of this example, I assumed there was parking at your 14 hour mark. That’s not usually the case. Depending on where you are in the country, parking may be scarce after a certain time of the day or it may be a rare case where you’ll be in an area where there’s plenty of parking all the time. You need to consider whether the lot you’re looking to park in is safe, also. Preferably, it will have bathrooms and a store, but that’s not always the case. So, let’s say you can’t park at the receiver and the nearest place you can park is a tiny truck stop a half hour away from them. If you park there for your 10 hour break, you’ll have to be shut down by 3:30 pm so you can leave by 1:30am to get to your delivery on time. The problem is, you may need to drive until as late as 6pm to cover your 400 miles. That’s a pretty significant gap. Once you do the math, you decide to inform the dispatcher that you don’t have enough hours to do this run safely and legally.
Every time a driver gets a dispatch, they have to figure all this out. Unless, of course, they are among the crazy and dangerous group that considers themselves above the law. Along the way, the driver keeps an eye on how he’s progressing as he considers stops for fuel, bathroom and food breaks. He also has to work in times for personal things like showers and laundry. Some people need less sleep than others, so part of the 10 hour break can be used for things like that if necessary. However, it’s obviously important for drivers to get enough sleep so they can do their job safely.
The unpredictability of shippers and receivers can sometimes present problems as well. Live loads and unloads are rarely exactly on time in spite of the fact that they expect the driver to keep the appointment exactly. Some places can leave a driver waiting for 4 hours or more to get loaded/unloaded.
With all these things to consider, it can be difficult for a driver to make a decent living when most of them get paid by the mile. For many, if they aren’t rolling they aren’t making anything. Some companies provide downtime pay for drivers while their truck is in the shop or if they have to wait more than a day for their next load. Most offer detention pay after a certain amount of time waiting to be loaded or unloaded. Some of the bigger companies-like the one my husband currently works for-are looking for ways to cut costs anywhere they can, which unfortunately often falls to the drivers. Detention after 4 hours, no pay when your truck is in the shop in your hometown, no layover pay if it takes days to get your next load, not getting you home within 24 hours of your approved home time. The competition among companies to get drivers to work for them sometimes means vague promises that turn out to be much different than how they were presented to get the driver to work for them sometimes means vague promises that turn out to be much different than how they were presented to get the driver to work for them. Smaller companies can be a bit scary sometimes, too. If there’s a problem with them it usually has to do with expecting the driver to break the law by speeding or changing their logs in order to deliver a load that is impossible to do on time legally. Currently, my husband has an offer from a fairly small company that’s been in business for 40 years. We both did some research and are hoping and praying it’s a company that he can make a good living with while maintaining his integrity and driving safely.
Here’s to all the drivers out there who work this stuff out every day so they can deliver stuff to the stores where we shop so we can get the stuff we want when we want it. And, here’s to the companies who respect the drivers and work to help them drive safely and earn a living while doing so.
Until next time readers, drive safely out there