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!