moving violations
Moving violations are the gift that keeps on giving. Of course, safe driving practices are the best solution, but violations happen. If you have violations on your motor vehicle record (MVR) or Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP), there are steps you should take before your next job interview. Don’t get caught by surprise by a violation you didn’t know was on your record. Here’s what you need to know to keep your record in top shape. 

What is a Moving Violation?

A moving violation is quite simply a violation that occurs while the vehicle is in use. This most often means when the vehicle is actually in motion, but there are some moving violations that can occur with a stopped vehicle as well. 

MVR vs. PSP

When you are preparing for a CDL job change, it’s a good idea to check both your MVR and your PSP. They are not the same thing, and employers are likely to check both before moving forward with an in-person or virtual interview. Here are the basic differences:

Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP)
Includes violation from a specific state Comes from a federal database and includes FMCSA violations
Only includes violation convictions. Length of history displayed varies by state Has ALL safety violations cited to a driver with 5 years of crash history and 3 years of roadside inspection history
Citations, warnings, and unsettled tickets will NOT appear Citations may appear even if there was no ticket given
Only contains data from the driver’s CDL issued in that particular state Includes data from any CDL numbers a driver has held in the past 5 years, regardless of the state

There are some violations, such as a speeding ticket, that can appear on both an MVR and a PSP. In that situation, the violation is only counted once. Drivers are not double penalized. Both MVRs and PSPs use a point system to indicate a driver’s safety levels. Every violation is assigned a point value and may be weighted by how recently the violation occurred. Then, the point total gives an overall indicator of a driver’s safety record. For an MVR, the specific point values vary by state. PSPs are federally regulated. The bottom line? Low scores are better.

What Counts as a Violation

personal vehicle stopped by police

There is a wide range of things that can be safety violations. Everything from speeding tickets to CSA violations can show up on your record. Some offenses (like speeding 5 mph over the limit) will typically result in only a few points, while others (like an expired inspection sticker) can add quite a few points to your record. There are a few moving violations that can land you an automatic license suspension from the FMCSA. Excessive speeding, leaving the scene of an accident, Drunk Driving and Driving While Impaired (DWI), and criminal conduct are all serious violations that may disqualify you as a professional driver. 

One of the most important things to realize is that your MVR is not only impacted by your time operating a commercial vehicle. Any violations that you get while driving your personal vehicle will also show up on your professional record. 

If you see an incorrect citation on your MVR or PSP, you are able to contest it. For an MVR, a good place to start is with your employer. If you believe there is a mistake, they may be able to help correct your record. For a PSP change, use the FMCSA’s website to request a review of a specific citation. You can also ask your employer to advocate on your behalf. They also want their drivers to have clean records to keep CSA scores and insurance costs low.

Who Will See My Driving Record?

hiring manager review applicantsFuture employers are the most likely people to check your driving record. Any time you apply for a new job, you can put money on the fact that they’re checking your MVR and PSP. If you have too many violations on file, a company with a high CSA score might consider you too risky to bring on because they can’t afford more incidents. At the same time, a company with really low CSA scores might also say no because they want to keep their scores as strong as possible. 

As a driver, YOU can also check your MVR and PSP. And you should. Don’t get blindsided by an unexpected citation when you thought you had a clean record. It’s usually quick and cheap to get an MVR from your local DMV. You can get a copy of your PSP for $10 online. Looking at a copy of your MVR and PSP is the only way to be completely confident in what your future employer will see. It’s well worth your time.

If you do have violations on your MVR and PSP, don’t assume you are out of the running for a new job. Drive My Way Account Executive and former Hiring Manager, Kilie Erickson shared her perspective:

Kilie Erickson“If you have, for example, one preventable accident, it’s really about the driver’s response when being asked about it. Drivers that tend to have an excuse for everything are the ones that are really going to have a harder time getting in. It’s about taking responsibility for something that happened and demonstrating corrective action.”

If you made a mistake, take responsibility. The best drivers also share how they have changed their driving habits to make sure it doesn’t happen again. A good driver isn’t perfect, but they are safety-minded and focused on improvement.

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best truck stopsTruck Stops. Love them, hate them. Everyone has their favorites. This is your time to set the record straight. We chose seven can’t-miss truck stops around the US. Help us declare the best truck stops to visit by casting your vote. There’s no truck stop that will ever beat the feeling of being home, but there are some truck stops that every trucker should see at least once. Which is your favorite?

 

What is the best truck stop in the US?

I-80 – Walcott, IA

Jubitz Travel Center – Portland, OR

Little America – Flagstaff, AZ

Trail’s Travel Center – Albert Lea, MN

Whiskey Pete’s – Primm, NV

Florida 595 – Davie, FL

Johnson’s Corner – Johnstown, CO

Created with Quiz Maker

 

1. I-80 (Walcott, IA)

I-80 Truck Stop

Beatrice Murch, Sourced from Wikipedia

As the world’s largest truck stop, I-80 is also one of the most famous truck stops in the United States. With 900 parking spots and 5,000 customers served every day, I-80 is basically a small town! Just about every trucker who passes through that area has their own stories of I-80. This truck stop goes far beyond a typical highway stop. Need a haircut? A chiropractor? Custom engraving? I-80 has it all. You can even see a dentist for that pesky toothache that won’t go away. Drivers love that I-80 is a one-stop-shop. Many drivers come through I-80 time and again. 

2. Jubitz Travel Center (Portland, OR)

Jubitz truck stop

Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian/OregonLive

If you find yourself running north near Portland, Oregon, you don’t want to miss Jubitz Travel Center. While not as large as I-80, drivers who find themselves at Jubitz Travel Center will be talking about it for days. They have 15 acres of parking, a dog wash, and showers AND jacuzzis (plus oversized towels). If you have a little time to spend, this is the place to kick back and relax for a little while. Check out their drivers’ lounge and grab a bite to eat at one of their delis or grills. You won’t be sorry!

3. Little America (Flagstaff, AZ)

Little America Truck Stop

Sourced from Pinterest

Flagstaff’s Little America is a sure crowd pleaser for drivers passing through the southwest. For drivers who want a well-deserved night of sleep in a nice hotel, Little America has it covered. They have a delicious hot grill and deli, and you can get anything else you need at their 24-hour convenience store. Plus, the Little America Grill has 75-cent soft serve ice cream. What’s not to love! If your truck needs maintenance and service, they’ve got a truck center that can handle it. From routine maintenance to a full engine overhaul, Rocky Mountain Truck Center has you covered. 

4. Trail’s Travel Center (Albert Lea, MN)

trails travel center

Sourced from Trail’s Travel Center

When you’re driving through Minnesota, you can’t miss a stop at Trail’s Travel Center. They’ve got all the basics covered and then some. Good food, modern showers, truck wash, and a strong, hot cup of coffee. Trail’s will also look after your tractortire services, suspension repair, heavy-duty truck parts in stock. They’ll get you back on the road. Before you leave though, make a visit to Skol Woodfire Grill and Tavern. You’ll eat a mouth-watering feast of wood-fired meat at this Viking-themed tavern that you’ll still be dreaming about three days later. 

5. Whiskey Pete’s (Primm, NV)

Sourced from Town & Tourist

For drivers who want a little Vegas in their lives without a full-blown trip to the strip, Whiskey Pete’s is your answer. Located just on the NV side of the California-Nevada border, this truck stop is your last chance to fuel up for a while on either side, but drivers stop for other reasons too. What other truck stops have access to dozens of slot machines and give Vegas vibes without the hassle of being in the city? If you have extra time, take a walk or drive into Primm for a meal and a bit of old western flair. 

6. Florida 595 (Davie, FL)

Sourced from Florida 595 Truck Stop

Home is the best place to stop for the night, but if you’re down south and can’t make it home, the Florida 595 truck stop is a pretty good option. Florida 595 has just about anything you need to get yourself or your truck in order. Laundry and a truck wash to keep everything clean. Fuel and a diner and bar & grill to fill you and your truck up. Alignments and DOT Physicals to make sure things are working like they should. Florida 595 will get you rested and back on the road in top shape in no time.

7. Johnson’s Corner Truck Stop (Johnstown, CO)

Sourced from The Coloradoan

Have you ever driven across the country for a cinnamon roll? If not, it’s probably because you’ve never been to Johnson’s Corner Truck Stop. This Colorado favorite is full of all the typical amenities, and they also offer onsite physicals and a live video stream of CO road conditions. That’s not why drivers stop at Johnson’s Corner though. The Johnson’s Corner Deli is the home of their World Famous Cinnamon Rolls. You can go classic and order The Original or branch out and try their Flavor of the Month. Either way, your life will never be the same. You’re welcome.

So, it’s time to settle the score. What do you think are the best truck stops in the US? Vote for your favorite and help us declare a winner!

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commercial truck driving
Are you considering making the career switch to commercial truck driving? A CDL job is not just about the work for drivers who take pride in their profession. Driving is a lifestyle. It’s a commitment. It’s about feeling you belong and you’re valued. You decide if commercial truck driving is right for you. We’ll help you find the job that fits your skills, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

1. What Is It?

Commercial truck driving is any job where you are driving a commercial truck. While most people think of the 53’ semi-trucks that you see on the highway, commercial driving also includes school buses, garbage trucks, straight trucks, and more. Typically, commercial driving means hauling goods or people (in the case of passenger vehicles) from Point A to Point B. There are tons of different commercial driving jobs, and your day-to-day depends on your specialty and run type. 

2. Types of Jobs

Type of Run

The first distinction in trucking jobs is the type of run. Your type of run determines how far you typically drive from home and how many nights you spend on the road. Local drivers are usually home daily and stay in a relatively close geographic range. These drivers tend to spend more time on surface streets and do regular deliveries to customers. Over the Road or OTR drivers are the other end of the scale. These drivers are often on the road for several weeks at a time and may run loads from coast to coast and anywhere in between.

Regional drivers fall in between local and OTR drivers. They are usually home several times a week but also spend some nights on the road. Their geographic range might include several states in close proximity to their company’s home terminal. Last but not least, are dedicated trucking jobs. Dedicated drivers have a set route and deliver to the same customers on a consistent schedule. 

Type of Haul

cattle haulerThe second classification of commercial drivers is in type of haul. Depending on the type of goods you haul, you need a different type of truck. Many rookie drivers start with dry van or refrigerated (reefer) trucks because they are a good way to get experience without too many extra details to worry about. These are the 53’ box-shaped semi-trucks that are so common. Dry vans haul non-perishable goods, and reefer trucks carry loads that are temperature sensitive.

Tanker trucks haul liquid or dry bulk goods such as milk, sugar, or sand. Drivers need a Tanker endorsement to drive this type of truck, and there is an additional endorsement if you want to haul hazardous materials like chemicals or gasoline. Flatbed trucks haul a wide range of loads on trailers that are completely flat. Flatbed drivers often have to secure their loads with tarps and require some physical labor. There are also several types of specialty freight such as auto hauling, intermodal trucking, and livestock transport, but many of these jobs require a few years of experience. 

Type of Driver

two men in a truckThe final big decision to make is what kind of driver you want to be. As you can probably guess from the name, company drivers work exclusively for one company. Company drivers can work solo or in a team of two people. Starting as a company driver can be a good way to learn the ropes of a job without also having to run a business. It is also a good way to build your reputation as a good driver. 

Some drivers work as company drivers for their entire careers. Others choose to work for themselves. If you want to make your own decisions about when you are home, where you run, and what you haul, become an owner operator. These drivers run under their own authority, and they own their own equipment and negotiate for loads. Owner operators must be confident running a business as well as meeting all regulatory requirements.

Lease purchase drivers work with a company and put money down to start paying for their own truck. Lease purchase drivers work for one company, and at the end of the lease, these drivers will own their trucks. Programs that offer lease purchase are a good way for some drivers to work toward becoming an owner operator. 

3. Job Outlook

The job outlook for commercial truck driving is quite strong. There is a high demand for quality drivers, and there is a shortage of drivers available. Many companies are willing to hire new drivers, and drivers with a few years of experience and a clean record will be able to choose from top jobs that are a good fit for their skills and lifestyle.

One of the most important questions when you change jobs is the pay. Commercial driving can be quite well-paid. It all depends on your type of job. Typically OTR positions pull a higher wage than regional or local jobs, and NTI, the National Transportation Institute, anticipates that wages for all three will rise over the next 36 months. 

NTI anticipates that wages will rise for OTR, regional, and local jobs over the next 36 months.

Drivers can be paid in a variety of ways, so it’s important to look at total compensation when you compare job offers. To start, there are many types of truck driver pay. Some companies pay drivers by the mile, others by the hour, some by the load, and still others will pay with a salary. In addition to your base pay, company drivers frequently earn bonuses and have benefits included. These can add a significant amount of money to your bank account! Even beyond pay, consider things like home time as part of your compensation. If two companies pay the same wages but one gets you home more often, that might be a better fit for you, even though the money is the same. The bottom line is, look for a company that meets your needs and fits your lifestyle preferences.

4. How to Get Started

Once you decide that commercial truck driving is the career for you, the first step is to get your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). To be a professional truck driver, you need to be at least 18 years old. To drive interstate or hazmat routes, you must be at least 21. You will need a CDL A or CDL B. A CDL A license is the most universal because it also allows you to drive most CDL B and CDL C jobs. That said, it takes less time and money to earn a CDL B. Learn more about each license type and decide what is best for you. You will also need to consider whether to get any CDL endorsements for specialized loads such as hazmat or tanker. Once you have figured out what type of program you need, find a certified driving school where you can get started.

After you have your CDL, you are nearly ready to hit the road with your first job! As part of your CDL training, you will have completed your DOT physical fitness test.  Before you can officially hit the road, you will need to register with the FMCSA Clearinghouse. This database tracks positive drug and alcohol tests to identify unqualified drivers. As of January 2020, all drivers must be registered with the Clearinghouse for future employment. After that, the only thing left is to find your first job!

While the job search can be overwhelming, we’re here to help. Drive My Way partners with companies that are ready to hire new drivers and experienced pros alike! We’ll help you find a job that matches your skills and lifestyle preferences.

truck driver at loading dock

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trucking company closesThe past few years have been hard for many in the trucking industry, and several companies have closed with virtually no warning. Celadon Group, New England Motor Freight, and Falcon Transport made big headlines (along with several others), but countless smaller companies have also shut their doors without warning. There are countless reasons for the shutdown, but as a driver, if your trucking company closes suddenly, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Here’s what you need to know to navigate your next steps.

1. The Warning Signs

Warning signs don’t help if your company has already closed its doors, but sometimes you might be able to spot a few warning signs before a shutdown. When a trucking company closes, it’s usually because of financial strain. So, unsurprisingly, the warning signs are also usually about money. If you start noticing inconsistent freight or that vendors aren’t getting paid on time, start watching for other red flags. 

As a driver, you probably won’t be the first person to be notified of major business changes or shutdowns. Management may hear about pending shutdowns or other changes more quickly, so keep an eye on staffing changes. If you notice that your bosses start interviewing elsewhere, it might be time to ask why. Similarly, if your company starts eliminating job perks, it could be a sign that money is tight. Often companies try to save money by scrimping on the “extras.” 

truck at gas stationThe biggest red flags are also the most obvious. If your paycheck bounces, that’s a big sign that something isn’t right with your company. Along the same lines, if you’re fueling up and have a fuel card declined, that is a huge red flag, especially if your company can’t easily clear up the situation. Another sign of trouble on the horizon is filing for bankruptcy. While some companies do make a comeback after filing for bankruptcy, that’s often not the case. If your employer is making news headlines for filing for bankruptcy, that might mean your job has a limited lifespan. It’s a good time to start looking for other opportunities.

2. Immediate Steps to Take

Hindsight is 20/20, so sometimes the warning signs are only clear after your trucking company closes. If you are on the road and get blindsided with news about a company closure, there are a few important steps you can take. 

safe truck stopFirst and most importantly, stay level-headed. This is a stressful situation, and you probably have a lot of questions. As soon as you realize what has happened, find a safe place to stop. Then, read any communication from your employer carefully. Follow any final instructions they send you. These directions may indicate whether to finish your current delivery and where to leave your truck. You may still get paid for finishing your current route. If there are no final instructions from your employer, consider what is best for you in that situation and how you can move forward.

Once you have handled any immediate concerns, start planning your way home. Some companies, especially large ones, will help fund your way home. If you get stranded far from home and your company is unable to help, there are some support resources available to help. The St. Christopher’s Truckers Fund is one example. The Truckers Fund is a non-profit that helps truckers with financial assistance. Drivers can apply for aid, and they may be able to help support you and your family in difficult times. 

3. Planning Longer Term

displaced driver resourcesIf your trucking company closes, there is a lot to think about, and it can be overwhelming. Once you are safely home and have taken a moment to clear your head, start looking forward. In the short term, there are a few things to take care of. Drive My Way’s Displaced Driver Resources can walk you through the process of filing for unemployment if you choose. We also have details on how to make sure that your health care continues and disability insurance does not end.

If you have a rainy day fund, consider using some of it during this time. Times like job transitions are exactly what you’ve been saving for. 

Once you have resolved any immediate concerns, it’s time to start job searching. Especially after going through a company closing, you might have lingering frustration, hurt, or resentment toward trucking. That’s completely reasonable. When your trucking company closes, it can be quite a roller coaster. Prioritize mental and emotional health for your whole family. When you do start talking to recruiters for other jobs, it’s ok to explain your situation and ask tactful questions about company stability. Any recruiter worth their salt won’t see the past company closure as a poor reflection on your skills as a driver. When you’re looking for your next job, Drive My Way can help you find a company that fits your skills and lifestyle preferences. You’ll be back on the road in no time.

truck driver at loading dock

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Dump truck jobsDump truck jobs are great positions for drivers who want to stay close to home and are happy to be out rain or shine. Dump truck work includes a big range in type of load. Some drivers haul garbage, but others haul paving materials and construction supplies like dirt, gravel, sand, or coal. If you’re new to the dump truck world or are thinking about switching to become a dump truck driver, we have everything you need to find your first job.

1. How To Get Started With A Dump Truck

License and Certifications

As with most types of truck driving, one of the first steps for starting with a dump truck is licensing. Professional dump truck drivers need either a CDL A or CDL B license to get started. A CDL B license will take less time and has a lower cost, but a CDL A allows drivers to accept a greater range of jobs. Before signing up for a CDL licensing program, do a little research to decide which type of license is better for you. 

In addition to a CDL license, there are a few certifications that can be helpful for dump truck drivers. The Dump Truck Operations and Dump Truck Tailgate Removal and Installation CBT Certifications can make drivers more competitive as job candidates. Hazmat, Passenger, and Air Brakes endorsements can also benefit dump truck drivers. Each of these additional certifications opens up job possibilities and makes you a more competitive driver candidate. 

Types of Trucks

As you get started in dump truck driving, take some time to get to know the types of dump trucks. There are a lot of options here. The most common type of truck, a standard dump truck, is a truck chassis with a dump truck body on the frame. The back of the bed is hinged. Also, there is a hydraulic ram under the body that raises the bed to dump loads. We won’t get into all the details here, but there are many other types of trucks that drivers use for specific types of loads or in specific geographies. To see them all, check out this list

Job Details

While the work for dump truck jobs isn’t a light load, there are many benefits to hauling dump truck loads. Typically, dump truck work is local, so most drivers are home daily. For drivers with a family or who are tired of long nights on the road, this is a huge advantage of driving dump trucks. That said, drivers should be prepared to work rain or shine! Depending on where you live, there can be a wide range of weather conditions. As a dump truck driver, you’ll work in all of them. For drivers who are more social, dump truck jobs can be a great fit. Many drivers work with a lot of the same people consistently, so there is a sense of camaraderie on the job. 

2. Company Driver or Owner Operator? 

Company Driver

Dump truck driver Travis

Travis, Dump Truck Driver

A big decision to make if you are getting started in dump trucking is whether you want to be a company driver or an owner operator. If you’re new to the dump truck world, starting out as a company driver can help you get experience while having a steady job. We asked Travis, a dump truck driver from a small company in Southern Oregon, if he had any tips for new drivers.

“Just be confident in yourself as a driver. Take every bit of criticism and knowledge people want to pass down. Research and watch some videos on YouTube just to get some basic knowledge. Try and find a smaller company that will be more apt to help and give drivers a chance,” shared Travis.

Owner Operator

On the other hand, if you are ready to jump in as an owner operator, you will have more flexibility. You can decide what jobs fit your schedule and meet your financial needs. Before you start, make sure you are financially ready. The biggest costs for new dump truck owner operators are in equipment. You will need to decide what type of truck is best for you and will help you get the jobs you need. While a truck is typically the biggest upfront cost, make sure you also budget time and money for licensing and smaller costs like fuel and any technology you want in your truck. 

We spoke with Greg, an experienced owner operator for his company Greg Melendez Trucking, about how to find dump truck work.

“I started in ’99 and the one thing I learned was to NEVER turn down the first job and NEVER cancel due to a second job that might be better. Take the first job and work it and the person your working for will appreciate it, not like the guy that cancels thinking the second job offer is better cause most [of] the time it’s worse. Honesty goes a long way in this type of work. The more honest you are the more respect you’ll get in return,” shared Greg.

Becoming a dump truck owner operator is not cheap, but for some drivers, the payoffs in money and time are well worth it.

3. How to Find Work

Dump truck work

Photo from Dump Truck Driver, Travis

If you take the big step to become a dump truck driver, being able to find jobs is a lifeline! To start your search, use sites that partner with multiple employers. Drive My Way can save you endless hours of job searching by matching you with a company that fits your qualifications and personal preferences. 

If you start your job search in person, it’s all about connecting with the right people. Networking is the key to success. For local work, start with a drive! Keep an eye out for construction companies in your area that might need dump truck workers. Look for developments in your town and nearby and find out what company is paying for the work. Then, reach out to that company and see if they need extra trucks. If you want more information on a company before you reach out, go to safer.fmcsa.dot.gov and look at company snapshots. Enter the name or US DOT number to look at the fleet size and the driver number. If there are more trucks than drivers, that may mean they are looking for people to fill those jobs!

To expand your job search beyond what you find on a drive around town, start looking for construction zones. Then, find out which companies won those construction bids. For local work, contact your local government and find out what companies have contracts. Then, get in touch and ask if any of those companies are looking for sub-contractors. Dump truck owner operators can also bid on state construction contracts. However, these bids are often harder to win because many construction companies are looking for companies with multiple trucks. Start your search close to home, then make your circle bigger if needed.

truck driver at loading dock

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hot shot trucker

Picture from Hot Shot Trucker, Tyler

Hot shot trucking is a little different from a typical CDL tractor-trailer job. For a start, hot shot drivers use very different equipment and make specialized runs on a short time frame. Usually hot shot loads are smaller, and they take time-sensitive loads to delivery locations. Hot shot drivers can take loads anywhere from across town to across the country. For most drivers though, local and regional routes are the most common. The startup costs for hot shot trucking are a little lower than for owner operators, so it can be a good way to be your own boss in the trucking industry.

What Is Hot Shot Trucking?

As the name suggests, hot shot trucking is all about speed. Hot shot drivers take loads of materials that must be delivered to a specific location as soon as possible. These types of loads first became common making runs between oil part manufacturers and the oilfields. Now, there’s a wide range of materials that hot shot drivers haul. Just a few of the more common types of loads are construction equipment, agricultural equipment, industrial machinery, and other heavy loads.

You might be wondering what the difference is between hot shot trucking and expedited freight. Both are about speed, right? While both jobs are all about getting loads quickly to where they need to go, there are some differences. Hot shot truckers drive smaller loads in smaller trucks to deliver heavy equipment. Usually, hot shot drivers find their loads on load boards. On the other hand, expedited shipping means delivering loads faster than they’re usually sent. The equipment varies, and expedited shipping vehicles are always on standby for a specific company. Speed is the common ground hot shot trucking and expedited freight, but otherwise, the two jobs are pretty different.

Hot Shot Equipment

Unlike most CDL jobs, hot shot trucking does not require driving a tractor trailer. Most hot shot drivers use a heavy-duty pickup truck. Class 3Class 5 trucks are the go-to picks. Then, drivers usually pull some type of flatbed trailer. That could include a bumper pull, gooseneck, lowboy, or deckover trailer. Each trailer type has pros and cons, so it’s important to read up on the differences and decide what’s best for you. 

hot shot trucker Earl

Earl, Hot Shot Trucker

One advantage of hot shot trucking is that the initial costs of equipment are usually lower than becoming a tractor trailer owner operator. But, as drivers will be quick to tell you, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap or immediate. We talked to Earl, a hot shot trucker with his company, JEPPS Enterprises, and asked if he had any advice for drivers considering starting in hot shot trucking.

“Cost is high to get started. And once you get all your paperwork to start taking loads. They make you wait 90 days b4 most brokers will let you take a load for them,” shared Earl.

There are several big costs that you should plan for. The pickup truck and flatbed trailer will probably be your biggest starting expenses. There will also be other miscellaneous equipment like chains and binders that you’ll want to have on hand. Finally, make sure you leave room in the budget for the paperwork. Registration, insurance, and legal fees (if you decide to become an LLC) should all be part of your budget plan.

Pay and Home Time

If you are a hot shot trucker, you are running under your own authority. That means that you have some say in where you run and how often. Most hot shot jobs are local or regional routes, so drivers get frequent home time. Running under your own authority also means that bringing home a paycheck is largely based on your hustle. Typically, hot shot drivers earn pay by the mile. Rates change from haul to haul, so hot shot drivers are regularly negotiating their pay. Typical rates can range from $1-$2 a mile depending on the load, location, and haul. 

How Do I Get Started?

If you’re ready to get started as a hot shot driver, grab a computer to start the paperwork. Hot shot trucking doesn’t require a CDL for loads under 10,000lbs, but you will need a Motor Carrier Authority Number and FMCSA approval. To get approval, drivers will need to meet the FMCSA fitness regulations, so make sure you check their website. Because Hot shot drivers run on their own authority, organization is key. That means you will also keep all your own records, so it’s important to be very detailed. 

hot shot trucker Tyler

Tyler, Hot Shot Trucker

Once you have proper licensing, registration, and equipment, you’re ready to look for work. Many people get their hauls from load boards

However hot shot driver Tyler from his company, Dark Horse Hotshot LLC, shares this advice, “Probably my biggest tip I can offer people is to go out and get their own customers. Do not rely on the load boards and brokers. Grow your customer base and grow your business.”

Like any job, hot shot trucking is about building relationships. Load boards are a great place to get started, but as you grow in the business, you’ll build a reputation. With a little experience under your belt, you can be proactive in reaching out to customers to get the loads you want.

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Ice Road Trucker Jesse

Picture from Ice Road Trucker, Jesse.

If you’ve heard of Ice Road Trucking, chances are you (like us!) got hooked on the History Channel’s series, Ice Road Truckers. What a ride. The show built up a lot of interest in this niche trucking field with many facts and a dash of Hollywood magic on the way. 

As a little background, ice roads are exactly what they sound like. They are roads that are naturally or artificially built on frozen rivers, lakes, or layers of ice in the northernmost regions of the world. Not all roads that ice road truckers drive on are built on frozen water, but many of them are. In North America, ice road truckers work primarily in Alaska and northern Canada. The ice road season is short, and the roads are always heavily maintained during the season. Ice road drivers use these roads to deliver loads to places that only trucks can reach. 

Pros of Ice Road Trucking

Pay

One of the top reasons that ice road truckers get into the job is for the pay. The season is only a few months long, but the pay can be very good from a reputable company. Drivers report earning anywhere from $20,000 to $80,00 during the season.

Ice Road Trucking in AK, by Jesse

Picture from Ice Road Trucker, Jesse.

Home Time 

Home time is another big draw for drivers considering taking a job on the ice roads. Because the season is so heavily dependent on the weather, most jobs run from about mid-January to mid-March. After those two months, drivers can decide how to spend the rest of their year. For some, that might mean time to look for other driving jobs in the off-season. Others might simply want more time at home to balance the time away during the season. 

Regulations to Protect Drivers

No one will deny that ice road trucking is a dangerous job. That said, there are many safety measures and regulations in place to protect drivers. Ice road trucking companies perform strict maintenance on the ice roads, regularly inspect the equipment, and carefully train drivers. The stakes are high when incidents occur, but employers are extremely attentive to driver safety. 

Cons of Ice Road Trucking

Job Risk

One of the biggest cons of ice road trucking is also one of the most obvious. The job comes with high levels of risk. All truck drivers have moderate levels of risk based on the amount of time they spend behind the wheel, but the bar is especially high for ice road drivers. Weather runs the show, and whiteouts, avalanches, and frigid temperatures can cause issues that range from moderately problematic to fatal

Ice Road Trucker Jesse

Jesse, Ice Road Truck Driver

We asked Jesse, an Ice Road Trucker for Northern Energy Services in Deadhorse, Alaska, what the biggest mistake new ice road drivers make is. He said: 

“Being cocky. Thinking they know how to drive [a] truck cause they went to a school for it. Mostly wanting to prove themselves ya know. We haul 1.8 million pound loads on ice! You can’t be messing around with thinking you know what you’re doing.”

Safety has to be a top concern for ice road drivers. Experienced drivers must be confident in their skills without underestimating the power of nature.

Dangerous Breakdowns

Because temperatures are so cold where ice road truckers run, breakdowns can be much more than a minor inconvenience. It can be very dangerous to be in the exposed weather conditions for any amount of time, and the stopped time can wreak havoc on your truck. A golden rule of ice road trucking? Do NOT turn off your engine. The cold can quickly compound any problems with your rig. Also, keep emergency and other supplies in your truck.  Now, many companies send trucks out in teams to keep drivers safe. 

Limited Communication

Unsurprisingly, cell service is very limited in the vast snowy north where ice road truckers haul. That means the drivers have little to no social communication or company contact while on the road. Drivers must be self-sufficient, independent, and confident in their ability to make repairs on the road.

Is Ice Road Trucking Worth It?

Ice road trucking isn’t an easy job, and it’s not uncommon for drivers to quit after their first run. On the other hand, for drivers who fall in love with ice road trucking, it’s an experience unlike any other. For Jesse, there’s nothing better.

“Knowing only a handful of people can do what we do is awesome! Seeing the northern lights dancing in the sky and working in -100 degree wind chill makes you feel like a tough guy. Best part is I get a lot of time off with my family. And my son calls me ‘Ice Road Trucker Daddy’.”

Ice road trucking isn’t for everyone, but for some drivers, it’s a perfect fit.

How To Get An Ice Road Trucking Job

The turnover in new drivers makes drivers with experience are particularly valuable to employers. Employers are looking for drivers who have a clean road record as well as experience driving in blizzard conditions. If that sounds like you, make sure you do your research, find a reputable company, and ask lots of questions before you sign a contract before you head north. 

There aren’t nearly as many ice road trucking companies as there are for other trucking specialties. As a result, the employers and drivers who work these jobs tend to know each other. If you do get an ice road trucking job, you’ll earn a place in part of a tight-knit network of elite drivers.

truck driver at loading dock

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dot drug test

DOT Drug tests aren’t going to win a contest for the best part about trucking any time soon, but all drivers have to take them. DOT Drug tests are required for all “safety-sensitive” employees, and that includes all CDL holders. Normally, the drug tests are pretty routine, but the possibility of failing a drug test can be pretty nerve-wracking. Hopefully, you will pass every DOT Drug test, but if not, here’s what you need to know to get back on your feet.

What is the DOT Drug Test?

The DOT Drug test started with the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act. Essentially, in 1991, the Department of Transportation saw a need for federally regulated drug testing to keep traveling public workers safe. Since then, CDL drivers and other designated employees have to regularly take DOT Drug tests.

Everywhere in the United States, the drug tests are non-invasive and test for a standard list of substances. The drug test looks for evidence of Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates (any opium and codeine substances), Amphetamines and Methamphetamines, and Phencyclidine (PCP). Each of these substances has a cutoff concentration, and drivers must be below that limit. Drug tests are typically done with a hair or urine test, and saliva or breath tests are used for alcohol. 

When Do Drivers Take the Drug Test?

There are a few times where you can count on getting a DOT Drug test. The first is for a new job. Any time you are starting a new position as a CDL driver, you can count on a DOT drug test. Employers can also test when they have reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In this case, their concerns must be based on legitimate observations. That could include appearance, smell, behavior, or similar tip-offs. Finally, employers give random drug tests on a quarterly basis. This doesn’t mean that you will get tested every quarter, but it means that someone will. 

According to DOT regulations, when on duty, drivers are prohibited from specific behaviors including:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol
  • Drug use (including residual amounts in your body)
  • Refusing a DOT Drug test.

What If I Don’t Pass?

If you fail or refuse a DOT drug test, there will be several consequences. You will likely be removed from your job immediately. Employers aren’t required to wait for the final results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO), so you will typically be asked to step away from your job right away. In some cases, you could lose your license or driving endorsements. At the end of the day, the consequences will be a little different depending on your company and your employment agreement. If you believe it was a false positive because of medications or another factor, reach out immediately! You will not be able to give a second sample, but you can ask that the sample is retested. You will need a follow-up appointment and proof of your prescription to validate your claim.

How Do I Get Back To Work?

If you fail or refuse a drug test, there is a separate process for moving forward. While you will likely be asked to immediately step away from your job, that doesn’t mean you will never be able to return to driving. Typically, after drivers fail a drug test, they work closely with a qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) for several months as part of a Return to Duty process. The SAP plans a program that may include some type of rehab and/or education. At this stage, it’s no longer in the hands of your employer. Ultimately, the decisions of the SAP are final. Once the SAP confirms that the driver is healthy and has completed the rehabilitation program, drivers may be eligible to return to work with their previous or a new employer.

Will This Stay on My Record?

Failed DOT Drug tests are recorded in the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Refusals to take a drug test are also documented in the Clearinghouse. The SAP will also stay in touch with drivers who fail or refuse a drug test. Typically, the SAP will follow up with the driver six times in the 12 months after the failed test. Drivers may also be required to take additional drug tests up to five years after the initial failed test.

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safety bonus

A good safety bonus is always a welcome addition to a paycheck. Not all companies have the same criteria for what they expect from drivers. However, there are several best practices that will help keep you safe no matter what you haul or who you drive for. Our list includes some of the most common expectations we’ve seen from companies.

1. Every Company Is Different

Safety bonuses are a nice boost to a paycheck, but the bottom line is, it’s a bonus. Companies don’t have to give drivers that money. There’s also a lot of different philosophies between companies. Some offer large bonuses that make up a good chunk of change. Others give smaller bonuses that are more like a pat on the back. The frequency of payment also depends entirely on the company. Some might give bonuses quarterly, while others might stick to an annual bonus.

2. Safety With Your Truck

Truck maintenance and repairs are an important part of truck safety, and they can help keep you on track for a safety bonus. Make sure to take your truck in for regular preventative maintenance. Those little problems that can probably wait until later might eventually become big problems. Also, always perform and document pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Make sure your boss knows that you are diligent in caring for your vehicle. Keeping your tractor in good condition goes a long way toward safety on the road.

3. Safety On The Ground

As any experienced driver knows, truck safety starts before you reach your tractor. It’s important to have a plan for your next route. Find the balance between timely deliveries and cautious driving. Make sure to allow time for unexpected incidents, especially in poor weather or when you know there are construction zones on your route. If something comes up that will delay your delivery, get in touch as soon as possible.

Find the balance between timely deliveries and cautious driving.

Some companies may look at other parts of your driving record when deciding on a safety bonus, For example, drivers should not have any hours of service violations. If you find yourself in a forced dispatch situation that would violate HOS rules, refuse the load. It’s illegal to force dispatch that violates HOS rules. A safety bonus could also look at drug tests or days absent from work. 

4. Safety On The Road

Safety on the road is all about accident prevention. All of the basics you learned early on are the same things that will help you get that safety bonus. Use turn signals. Maintain a safe following distance. Keep scanning every 8-10 seconds. Don’t get pulled over for a speeding ticket (or anything else), and make sure your record is clear from preventable accidents. All of these are fundamental safety tips that are tried and true for a reason. 

Earn a driver safety bonus

Whenever possible, make sure to eliminate or at least reduce distractions while driving. Whether it’s a phone, the radio, or another piece of technology, use it safely when you’re behind the wheel. Driving distraction-free is especially important when you’re maneuvering in tight spaces. Whether it’s backing into a loading dock or navigating tight city streets, these are areas of increased work accidents. Loading and unloading zones may have vehicles, people, and all kinds of other obstacles or distractions in your path. Stay alert to your surroundings, and don’t hesitate to ask for other vehicles or people to move if there’s not enough space. Safety bonuses are most important to you as a driver, so put yourself in a position to be successful.

5. Benefits of a Clean Driving Record

A clean driving record will leave you in a better position for almost any job. To start, good driving can give you an extra pay bump from a safety bonus at your current company. It will also give you better hiring prospects for almost any job in the future. In addition, there are some trucking jobs where safety is even more important such as tanker hazmat loads. A clean driving record will open doors for these types of jobs if you decide to apply for them in the future.

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forced dispatch

If you’ve been around trucking long enough, you’ve definitely heard the words “forced dispatch” even if they weren’t directed at you. Drivers often have a strong reaction to forced dispatch (for good reason), and we want to make sure you have all the details to protect yourself AND keep a good relationship with your dispatcher

1. What Is Forced Dispatch?

Forced dispatch, in simple terms, means that a company says that a driver MUST take a load. If a truck driver is unable to take a load or has legitimate reasons that they do not want to take the load, companies that force dispatch say, “Take it anyway.” 

In the early to mid-1900s, the Teamsters union worked hard to eliminate forced dispatch. In the early days of trucking, forced dispatch was more common. The Teamsters made a lot of progress and it became much less common. Unfortunately, as the Teamsters have become less powerful, there is a rise in companies forcing dispatch again, and it is making a comeback.

2. The Bottom Line

We’re jumping ahead a little bit here, but this is important. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this part. Forced dispatch and driver coercion are illegal. Unfortunately, that does not mean it doesn’t happen. With forced dispatch, there can be a lot of pressure from dispatchers to take a load even when it’s not safe for you. Protect yourself as a professional driver.

Forced dispatch and driver coercion are illegal. Protect yourself. If you cannot safely take a load, turn it down.

Once you’re behind the wheel, safety is your responsibility. So, if you cannot safely take a load, turn it down. If there is backlash from the company, document the incident with the FMCSA. Forced dispatch is illegal and you have to keep yourself safe. That said, be careful about turning down loads. Have legitimate reasons and always be polite and professional.

3. When Should You Refuse A Load?

As a driver, the most important thing to do is protect yourself. So, when is it reasonable to refuse a load? There are several completely legitimate reasons to refuse a load. The first is mechanical issues. If your truck is not in safe condition to drive, don’t take the load. Similarly, if YOU are not in a safe condition to drive because of illness or exhaustion, don’t take the load. If taking the load will put you in violation of HOS rules, that’s another good reason to refuse the load. Remember, ultimately, once you take the load, it’s the driver’s responsibility to deliver the load safely. So, if you know before you leave that you won’t be able to deliver the load safely, don’t take it. 

There may be times that you don’t want to take a load, but because you don’t feel like it is not a legitimate reason on its own. If your dispatcher feels like you turn down a lot of loads or that your reasons aren’t legitimate, making you happy with good loads might not be a priority for them. So, make sure your reasons are good when you refuse loads.

4. The FMCSA Has Your Back

forced dispatch complaintWith the decline of the Teamsters, there was a rise in forced dispatch again. Luckily, a few years ago, the FMCSA issued a ruling that penalizes companies who unsafely force dispatch on drivers. Companies can face up to a $16,000 fine if they are in violation of this ruling. If you have a coercion or forced dispatch complaint, file your complaint in writing to your Division Office or online through the National Consumer Complaint Database. Be prepared to share ELOGS and a clear message about why you are refusing the load. If the FMCSA decides the complaint is valid, they will follow up with action against the company.

5. Is Forced Dispatch A Big Deal?

Ultimately, whether or not forced dispatch is a problem in your company will depend on the driver and the company. Some drivers say that it isn’t a problem in their company. Others hate it. Your reaction will probably depend a bit on your driving philosophy. If you are very particular about your loads, you may feel dispatchers are forcing you into loads you don’t want. On the other hand, if the company is not abusing forced dispatch, drivers who are open-minded about their loads may never run into a bad dispatch situation. It really comes down to whether the company is taking advantage of drivers by unsafely using forced dispatch. Make sure you find a company that is a good fit for you.

The FMCSA made unsafe forced dispatch and driver coercion illegal. Protect yourself as a driver. Make safe decisions about when you are able to safely deliver a load and when you are not. If you have a complaint, send it to the FMCSA to deal with any company that violates their rule.

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