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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.

truck driver at loading dock

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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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hauling livestock

If you are a truck driver looking for a new haul, think about carrying livestock. This is a specialty niche for people with a lot of patience who don’t mind the good, the bad, and the smelly of working with live animals. If you have experience on a farm or ranch and are considering trucking, hauling livestock could be a great fit. Hauling livestock has many similarities to other types of trucking, but there are also some big differences based on the type of freight. So, before you get started, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Types of Livestock Drivers Haul

When many people think of hauling livestock, there’s a good chance that they think of cows or chickens. Cattle do make up the largest part of the livestock transportation industry, but livestock haulers can carry anything that is live freight. Some common loads are pigs, goats, sheep, and even bees. Some livestock haulers train to carry high-value livestock such as show horses. Drivers are working closely with the animals. So, it’s common to see drivers with experience on a ranch or who have spent plenty of time in the livestock industry.

Animal care is a huge part of transporting livestock, and drivers take their jobs very seriously. Patience and attention to detail are huge for livestock haulers. As anyone who works with animals knows, getting frustrated with them rarely makes things go faster. It will only stress the livestock. Livestock drivers also need to be patient behind the wheel and drive defensively. Harsh stops or turns can easily injure or stress livestock. Regulations for carrying livestock vary somewhat by state. So, drivers must be detail-oriented to ensure compliance for every load. 

2. A Whole New World of “Touch Freight” and Cleanup

Hauling livestock is unlike any other type of freight for a lot of reasons. One of the big ones? Well, let’s just say that sanitation is incredibly important, and cleaning out a livestock trailer is a little different than cleaning out your trailer after a dry van or reefer load. Drivers must completely sanitize trailers after every load or they could infect the livestock in their next load. 

Dustin Nesbitt hauling livestock

Dustin, livestock hauler for Nesbitt Transportation

We talked to Dustin, a cattle hauler and co-owner of Nesbitt Transportation, and asked him if he had any advice for drivers considering hauling livestock. He shared this:

“Someone who is going into hauling cattle needs to be patient. It’s not like driving freight. You need to give yourself extra time around other vehicles because it actually takes longer to stop because it’s a live load. Also need to be patient with the animals and have your head on a swivelalways protect yourself. Cattle’s attitudes can change in a split second and go from cooperating to they want to kill you so always keep your eyes on the animals when loading and unloading.” 

Agfax adds several additional tips for transporting cattle. According to their website, a thorough pre-trip inspection is even more important for livestock haulers. Delays for maintenance or repairs can cause extra stress on the animals, especially if there are heat or chill concerns. Agfax also recommends that drivers master livestock sorting. Within any type of livestock haul, drivers should transport similar animals together. For example, large cows should be transported with other large cows, not cows that are small or weak.

3. Livestock Truck Drivers Earn More

loading livestock

While livestock haulers often have to meet specific requirements beyond a typical CDL driver, they are also well compensated for their work. Livestock haulers are typically considered specialty hauler, so pay is increased. That said, these drivers earn higher pay for good reason!

Livestock haulers must maintain additional certifications that show their understanding of the risks of hauling live animals. In addition, owner operators will need to purchase specific equipment. The type of trailer that drivers need depends on the type of animals and the distance of the haul. No matter the exact specialty, that equipment is not cheap.

In addition to the cost of equipment, livestock hauling takes time and doesn’t allow for shortcuts. For example, biosecurity is ultimately the truck driver’s responsibility, and each buyer or seller may have their own protocols. Sanitation includes disinfecting the trailer but also guarding against cross-contamination from the driver. Livestock haulers must maintain sanitary practices when moving between locations or loading and unloading livestock so they don’t transmit infection. This might seem like too much hassle for some drivers, but for livestock haulers, it’s all part of a day’s work.

cattle hauler

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