If you’re looking into a career as a truck driver, you probably want to know what a day as a trucker looks like. This is a little tricky since CDL truck drivers hold many positions in the industry that differ from each other. But if you want a career with great pay and awesome benefits, then you should consider Class A CDL truck driving!
Let’s look at a career in Class A CDL driving, or those truckers who drive the long-haul distances across the country.
Truck Driving Daily Limits
Over-the-road truckers drive 100,000 to 110,000 miles on average each year.1 Right now CDL truck drivers are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. They cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after starting their workday.2
What was that?
Basically, truck drivers have to take at least ten hours off between shifts. They also can’t drive over 11 hours in a shift. And if they’re breaking up their day, they can’t drive past the fourteenth hour since they started. (Ex. If a truck driver starts at 8am, their driving has to be finished for the day by 10pm.)
A Day in the Life of a Trucker
What time does a truck driver get up in the morning? Do they perform checks or logs or follow a ritual? Trucking job duties could (and probably do) vary widely. To give you a better idea, here are a couple of professional truck drivers talking about what they do in a given day:
For Ohio truck driver Jack Paulden, a day in the life is about getting as many miles in as you can. Jack describes his typical day in an article with the Guardian.3
Morning – “A typical day is to get up between 5 and 6am. Walk into the truck stop and do the morning rituals. Get some coffee, walk around and inspect the truck and trailer and then check messages, do the logs; perhaps check weather and any safety conditions on the Qualcomm regarding route of travel and get rolling. Drive to a shipper or receiver and either “drop and hook” or “live load” or “live unload.”
To clear things up:
- Drop and Hook: Dropping a loaded trailer off and picking up a different trailer, which takes away the need to wait around while the truck’s unloaded.
- Live Load: Waiting for the trailer while it’s being loaded before embarking.
- Live Unload: Unloading freight from the trailer before moving on.
“If it is “live” then you may be sitting for hours and not making any money as I get paid by the miles I drive. If time is on my hands, then I will use this down time to plan the trip route. Planning fuel stops and dealing with weigh stations and weather and road construction are also daily events to deal with.”
Evening – Jack goes on to say that getting meals on the go or finding the time to eat at a restaurant varies with each day. “Towards evening you keep an eye on the Department of Transportation time clock so as not to violate any rules which can be costly,” he says.
He advises to find a truck stop, an on or off ramp of an interstate, a receiver or shipper’s property, or any safe place to fit a truck without breaking any rules. “Then you shut down and shower and eat, and/or shut down and call home and hit the sack.”
Jeff is a professional driver for Long Haul Trucking with four million miles under his belt. His days begin a little earlier than Jack’s as he tries to “get ahead of the game” to make things work for him and his company. His days begin long before the sun comes up, and look a little something like this:4
4am – Jeff wakes up early and gets into his truck, clocking miles on an e-log. Once he starts his computer and the e-log clock is running, he has fourteen hours to do his driving before he maxes out.
10am – He’s already been driving for a while now and he’s ready to take a break. He can hold two hundred gallons in his truck’s tank, which will usually take him around 1200-1400 miles.
11:30am – Jeff goes wherever Long Haul Trucking sends him and travels everywhere from California to Maine. He’ll stop to see sights if time permits and stretch his legs while enjoying the local scenery. WWII relics and historical spots are his favorite.
12pm – Jeff has a refrigerator in his truck that comes in handy around lunchtime. By keeping food in his fridge he avoids eating a ton of fast food, which can add up quickly.
2pm – He stops to take a 30-minute break and complete a roadside check. He walks around the truck, inspecting it to make sure everything is secure and safe.
3pm – Nearing the end of the day, Jeff keeps an eye on his e-log since the time is ticking down. If his route passes home, he’ll stop and sleep in his own bed. He’s typically on the road 25 days a month.
4:30pm – The end of the day! Jeff parks his truck and settles in for a little relaxation. “We have satellite TVs in the truck, so I can sit back and relax. My favorite show is NCIS, and I was always a big John Wayne fan. I like the westerns,” he says.
*wage information provided by Werner Enterprises