Over the road (OTR) driving means taking freight on long hauls across the country, sometimes into Canada or Mexico. When you drive OTR, you get to see the US from coast to coast and North to South.
In some cases, you might have to load or unload a truck, but in many cases you’ll never have to touch your freight.
OTR drivers are usually paid by the mile, but sometimes they receive a percentage of revenue for the load. You might also get a different category of pay for time you spend waiting to load or unload.
Company drivers also have access to health and retirement planning benefits. Some companies offer bonuses for safety, efficiency and miles driven. The amount of money you make depends entirely on how much driving you do, and there are several factors that can affect your mileage. When the economy is down, there is less demand for goods in general, which decreases the freight pool for everyone. When times get tight, companies tend to give their best jobs to their favored drivers – the people who have been with the company for a long time, those with the safest driving records and the best history of on-time deliveries. If you are just starting out with a company, you might be the first one to suffer from shortened miles. Personal factors also come into play. If you get into an argument with your dispatcher, there is a possibility you could see fewer miles and worse assignments. The best thing you can do as a newbie is to be safe, on-time, flexible and professional, and work to build your reputation in the company.
The federal government regulates how many hours you may drive per day and week, but the amount of time you spend on the road is up to you and your company. A typical OTR driver might spend three weeks out on the road at a time, or more if he wants to. You could drive by yourself or as part of a team. In a team, one driver sleeps while the other is behind the wheel. In this arrangement, freight moves faster because there is always one rested driver. Teams usually make more per mile than solo drivers.
Although some people love the open road, others find it lonely. It can be difficult to maintain relationships when you are rarely in the same place for two days. It is physically difficult for many people to sit still in the driver’s seat for so many hours at a time.
Aside from the obvious health risk an OTR driver takes on by driving on often dangerous roads with less-trained car drivers, there are long-term health risks associated with long-haul drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the 2015 US fatality rate for truck drivers was about 10 times higher than that for the general population. A trucker’s sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of weight gain and the health risks that come along with overweight, like diabetes and heart disease. Being away from home for such long stretches makes it easy to live off of high-fat convenience food, which also contributes to weight gain. Back pain is also common among drivers. The driver’s irregular schedule can make it difficult to have a regular sleep pattern, which can lead to drowsiness while driving.
If you want to drive and stay healthy, it will take some commitment and creativity to find ways to exercise during your breaks. Finding healthy food options on the road is also difficult, but not impossible.