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The Top 5 Issues for Drivers in 2019: Part 1

While conditions for drivers are constantly improving, there is still a variety of nuisances that have yet to be worked out. While it can be profitable and fulfilling, being a commercial truck driver is still a demanding and difficult job with its own set of hurdles. Many of the intricacies of the ever-changing transportation industry affect the lives of drivers, in both positive and negative ways. We listened to the concerns of seasoned industry professionals and curated a list of the top 10 issues plaguing drivers in the year 2019. 

#1: Driver Compensation

With the growing driver shortage, many carrier companies are offering great financial incentives for drivers, but even still, compensation is a huge point of conflict for many drivers. While driving for a commercial carrier can be fulfilling, stable and profitable, there may be some room for improvement. Annual salaries in this industry usually hover around the national average household annual income, which is $56,516, but this obviously depends on the area you’re based out of. While this might seem low for the demands of this career, there are many ways to boost your chances of receiving a higher salary. 

As a commercial truck driver, your salary is often dependent on the length of your routes, the frequency of them, and the area where you are based out of. Additionally, your experience and driving record factor into how much you are offered in terms of compensation. As you gain more years in the industry under your belt, you will be eligible for higher pay rates than you found at the beginning of your career. Additionally, keeping your driving record clean will also boost offers. In terms of what can be accomplished in the shorter term, assuming more responsibility leads to higher pay. Try seeking out longer or more frequent routes for a pay upgrade. 

Fortunately, there have been strides in a positive direction. In a recent trial, the court favored a verdict claiming that drivers should be paid for their time in the sleeper berth, and there has been a recent push to include this “off-duty” time into worker pay. 

#2: Invasive Break Policies

Working hours have often been a major concern for drivers. Despite the media portrayals of drivers powering through sleepiness on the road all night, this is far from the reality of the situation. There are many laws to ensure rest and meal breaks, some of these regulations going to excessive lengths. While exact regulations vary by state, usually an average of 8 hours is required for drivers to spend in the sleeper berth portion of the truck in addition to two consecutive hours otherwise off-duty, but many areas are attempting to go a step further. Some areas are trying to enforce 30-minute meal breaks throughout the day, which can disrupt efficiency and compromise driver well-being. Many drivers find these strict laws about breaks to be disruptive to their efficiency and are fighting back. Being forced to take too many breaks throughout their workday can interrupt their “flow” and even tire them out more than if they just got their driving knocked out in longer blocks. Many of them also find this law invasive, claiming that they don’t like to be told when to be taking their breaks. Thankfully, recent legislation such as the REST act seeks to eliminate frivolous 30-minute break requirements. Finding this balance is an important part of the industry as it vastly impacts the driver’s quality of life.  

#3: Truck Parking 

The availability of parking for semi-trucks is also a concern for American drivers. Drivers can’t simply pull into any gas station or roadside rest stop, they have to look for places with special accommodations in specific areas for semi-trucks. While the industry is investing in building more facilities for this purpose, they are still sometimes too scarce in certain areas. The lack of available truck parking spaces can be detrimental to a driver’s quality of life, as it often forces them to drive further to find these spots. Driving further can push past the required hours of service that were previously mentioned and betray public regulations that are set in place to protect the driver and the carrier alike. 

#4: Autonomous Truck Technology 

While autonomous trucking technology wouldn’t eliminate the role of the long haul-trucker, as autonomous trucks would still need to be manned by an actual person, it would drastically change the job description. Truckers who deeply cherish their daily routine are slowly having to come to terms with the evolving nature of the industry. Drivers will soon have to switch from driving to monitoring, and while many assert that this will make routes safer and more efficient, it will take much of the interest out of the days’ work as well as possibly being threatening to individual careers. 

Currently, there is still a massive national driver shortage that drivers can take full advantage of and get additional incentives from their current position along with increased hours and therefore increased pay. 

#5: The ELD Mandate

The Electronic Logging Device Mandate often referred to simply as the ELD Mandate, is a new regulation that requires trucks to be equipped with additional technology that aims to improve safety and efficiency on the road. It was originally implemented in 2017, but it is just now becoming a nuisance for many drivers. The deadline for vehicles that were grandfathered in is quickly approaching, becoming final in December 2019. While it had certain safety benefits, many drivers found it invasive and inconvenient. This inconvenience is exaggerated when drivers own their own trucks and have to personally pay for the installation of these logging devices. 

While there is no legal avoidance of this mandate, it’s important to consider its intentions. The money and effort that goes into this installation might save you thousands of collision damages later by helping you avoid them in the first place. 

These issues may be annoying right now, but many are a result of the blossoming industry that will lead to driver prosperity. These growing pains have incredible potential to be indicative of a brighter future for truckers, and in the short term, many can be aided with creative problem-solving skills and an optimistic mindset. Hopefully, this information has informed a more holistic view of trucker culture as a whole, and next month, you can check out part two of this article right here on our blog

Keeping Semi-Truck Operating Costs Low

Trucking can be an expensive ordeal. This is especially true when you own or lease your own semi instead of driving a company-owned truck. Not only is the upfront cost expensive (hovering around $150,000), but the maintenance and annual expenses also pile up, usually costing around $180,000 to keep a commercial truck in a fleet every year. While many of these costs are unavoidable, there are several things you can be doing to minimize your operating costs to be as low as possible. Here are a few of our suggestions.

Slashing Fuel Costs

Fuel is one of the most expensive parts of semi-truck ownership, making up to 39% of operating costs. Depending on the area of operation, diesel can easily add up to over $70,000 a year alone. If you’re new to the industry, you might be unaware of the extent of this usage. To put it in perspective, the average car uses 500 gallons of fuel per year. In contrast, the average semi-truck uses 20,500 gallons annually, a staggering difference.

To help keep this lofty cost to a minimum, one thing you can do is to maximize your fuel efficiency. Every truck has a “sweet spot” where you’re going fast enough to make all of your appointments on time, but slow enough that you’re not burning unnecessary, excess fuel. To find your sweet spot, try monitoring your current fuel efficiency, and adjust your average speed accordingly.

Another way to cut down on fuel costs is to shop smarter when filling up the tank. As it does with normal automobile gas, diesel prices fluctuate drastically depending on the area. The U.S. national average cost per gallon of diesel hovers around $3.17. This changes by a few cents depending on the exact station and area, but there are a few ways to avoid overpaying. In general, diesel is more expensive on the West Coast. This is mostly due to the famously overpriced California. If you can, try to plan out your route so that you can avoid filling up in this expensive area. Additionally, if you have the resources to do so, alternatives to diesel fuel could potentially help you save on this massive expense.

Getting Affordable Insurance

Insurance is another sizable cost of operating a semi-truck, as there are over 9 different policies to buy and consider. The costs of these policies are usually around 4% of overall operating expenses, which may seem like a small fraction but is really thousands of dollars. While you don’t have a choice in whether or not you purchase these insurance policies, there are a few things that you can do to lower your rates and get the cheapest possible insurance deals.

One of the most important things you can do to lower your insurance rates is to keep your driving record as clean as possible. Drivers without any major infractions are considered less of a financial liability for insurance providers, and this trust translates into lower rates. While adhering to safe and orderly driving practices is important for the wellbeing of the public, it’s also essential for the wellbeing of your pockets.

Avoiding Unnecessary Repairs

Truck repairs can really add up, adding thousands to your annual bill. While it may sound counterintuitive, one of the best things you can do to minimize these costs is to pay more upfront. Being diligent about regular maintenance can actually lower your overall costs by preventing emergency repairs or paying for an accident resulting from faulty equipment. Waiting until equipment malfunctions or breaks down results in having to replace it all together rather than just taking proper care of it to preserve it.

Breakdowns due to poor maintenance can also lead to bigger issues affecting other tuck parts, or they can even leave you vulnerable to accidents that endanger you, the public, and your entire rig. Schedule regular maintenance to keep your semi in pristine working condition.

Schedule Your Routes Carefully

Since most truck drivers are paid by the mile, one of the best ways to optimize your pay per hour is to reduce idling time or time spent sitting in traffic. Any time where the truck isn’t moving is money right out of your pocket. While the conditions might not always be in your control, you can always make your best effort to avoid it.

Try to plan out your routes to avoid heavily congested areas during busy times such as the morning or evening rush. If you have the freedom to do so, take less popular roads during these times to try to skirt around traffic jams. While you might take a slightly longer route mile-wise, it will improve efficiency by allowing you to complete routes faster. Additionally, this can result in safer traveling due to clearer conditions, as traffic jams are often risky in terms of fender benders.

Maximizing Profit

When it comes down to it, driving a semi-truck is your career, and we all want to make a living wage. Keeping operating costs low is the best way to squeeze the most out of your salary. There are several invisible strains on your operation that you might not even realize. For example, truck stops sell more coffee than convenience stores, and the majority of these sales are to big rig drivers. Something as simple as streamlining daily purchases can make a difference in your daily profit margin. While you won’t necessarily be saving thousands by skipping that second cup of joe, making small changes can add up into healthy financial habits that save you big money later on.

For more information about how to get the most out of the trucking industry, check out Mission Financial!

Myths About the Trucking Industry: Debunked

There is a wide variety of stereotypes surrounding truckers and their community. These generalizations are largely negative, without any proper basis. Not only are these myths insulting to truckers, but they can encourage misinformation about the entire industry. This type of negative association impacts the reputation of transport companies as well as insults the integrity of drivers themselves. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are some of the most prevalent myths about the trucking industry and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Average Salaries are Low

People often assume that truck drivers make a fairly low salary, or that trucking is not a dependable career choice. In fact, there is a hefty plethora of people who spend the entirety of their working years as a big rig driver. The U.S. national average annual salary for truck drivers was $52,420 as of October 2019. This hovers right around the overall national salary average. Also, salaries are usually dependent on how experienced and efficient someone is as a driver. Things like years of experience and a clean driving record will bump up salary offers over time.

Myth #2: No Time for Family

Many people assume that the nature of long haul trucking doesn’t foster a proper work/life balance because it takes too much time away from home. While driving a big rig does require a decent amount of time on the road, it’s not as much as you might think. While certain commercial drivers are away for a few weeks at a time, regional drivers are usually home every weekend. Most established carrier companies have policies about time on versus time off. For example, many companies follow a general schedule of 7 days on, 7 days off. Schedules such as these allow for ample time to unwind and connect with your loved ones.

Myth #3: Drivers are Over-Worked

There is a public assumption that truck drivers are constantly tired and overworked. This is rarely the case. There are strict laws in place to protect drivers, which include frequent rest and meal breaks. Recently, drivers even pushed back to decrease the severity of these types of laws, as they preferred to not take as many breaks. However you feel about these laws, one thing is for certain, drivers are guaranteed meal and rest breaks every single day.

Myth #4: Truckers are Unsanitary

Truckers are sometimes assumed to be unhygienic because of their on-the-road lifestyle, but this isn’t the case. Even though driving isn’t a traditional desk job, their cab is still their office. Drivers often take immense pride in presenting as professional and polished. Showers are readily available at virtually all truck stops for drivers to wash up at the end of the day, and cabs are usually kept in tidy condition since it will be their home for a few days.

Myth #5: Only Men can be Truck Drivers

This is one of the most toxic myths out there, and it’s important to note its falsehood. While this field has been male-dominated since its creation, that’s all changing now in this modern era. Trucking is no longer a man’s game, and it’s increasing in diversity by the day. As more and more women are hired in the transportation industry, the workforce grows and these stigmas dwindle. Women are helping aid in the current driver shortage and easing the stress of a shrinking workforce by doubling the potential pool of drivers.

Myth #6: Truck Drivers Create Unsafe Conditions on the Road

You might not think that truck drivers care much about safety. It’s often rumored that they tend to speed to increase efficiency, which might sound correct in theory, but this concept falls apart in practice. Speeding drastically increases the risk of a collision, and collisions are far more expensive and time-consuming than slowing down a bit. Drivers are heavily trained and informed of proper safety measures before they are even issued a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and are usually put through additional safety training after they are hired by a shipping company.

Myth #7: Autonomous Semi-Trucks Will Replace Drivers

With the recent innovations in the autonomous vehicle field, many are wondering if truck drivers will soon be replaced with self-driving semi-trucks. While the name “autonomous” indicates an independent self-driving vehicle, this is far from the reality of the situation. Even trucks that claim to be autonomous need a human in the cab to account for error of other drivers and unexpected factors. While it won’t be exactly the same job, truckers won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Become a Commercial Truck Driver Today

While the nature of the transportation industry is always changing and evolving, it certainly isn’t dwindling anytime soon. In fact, it’s growing at an astonishing rate. The recent rise of shipping demands and the increasing shortage of drivers makes now a better time than ever to get involved in the field. Many companies are offering incentives to start a career with them in order to meet their growing demands. If you think you might be interested in getting into this industry now that we’ve debunked those pesky negative myths, check out Mission Financial and get help with your financing today.

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