Contrary to what you may think, not all trucking companies are the same!
These differences between each trucking company often determine a difference in your salary as well.
The more you know about each type of trucking company - the easier it will be to choose which trucking job path you should take.
For-hire truckload carriers
Less-than truckload carriers
This classification of truckers are known for being a third party logistics company that hauls other companies' freight.
For-hire carriers account for just under 170,000 fleets in the United States.
These companies have to be FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) registered in order to have a functioning operation.
For-hire truckload carriers are companies that do not manufacture or produce any products or goods.
This type of carrier usually contracts other trucks, trailers, and drivers to other companies that request a service.
This type of trucking company is fully dependent on the freight demand from other companies as well.
If you are a for-hire carrier, in addition to the USDOT number you will also need to obtain operating authority.
Jobs within this field are usually a great starting point to get your foot in the door of the truck driving world.
These contracted jobs provide you with plenty of OTR experience, and can help you move into different truck driving companies in the future if that is a goal of yours.
Private fleets comprise almost half of the trucking industry.
Private fleets are companies that in addition to supplying the actual freight that is being hauled, they also supply their own trucks, trailers, and drivers.
These workers are usually an in-house team for a specific company that helps transport goods to warehouses, stores, or customers.
This type of company can allow their trucks to be stocked with any necessary extra equipment that their product requires since these trucks will only be hauling their freight.
This benefits the customers and drivers since the freight is prioritized within each specific truck.
This type of trucking job also allows companies to have easy branding opportunities as well since they own these trucks.
Here are a few qualifications that can be required for private fleet drivers:
Class A commercial driver's license with Doubles Endorsement required
Doubles experience preferred
Satisfactory motor vehicle record
Verifiable and stable work experience
Pass DOT physical and drug/alcohol screen
A few responsibilities of private fleet drivers include:
Safely operate transport vehicle
Ensuring that your vehicle meets all Department of Transportation (DOT) laws and company standards.
Operate forklift to unload and reload trailer with company products.
Complete all required company and DOT required documents and reports.
Maintain cleanliness of company vehicles.
Ability to validate and record inventory as directed.
Protect company assets by securing product loads before and during transport.
It may be more difficult to secure a private fleet job since more experience is usually required.
But generally, these types of drivers are paid more since they have more experience under their belts.
Less-than truckload carriers (LTL) are known for being a shipping service for relatively small loads or quantities of freight.
These truck drivers basically carry anything that is too large to be sent through the general postal service.
These carriers usually transport smaller products all over the United States, and carry a variety of products that will be shipped to several different customers.
The LTL provider combines the loads and shipping requirements of several different companies on their trucks—a process called assembly service—making it more cost-effective than hiring an entire truck for one small load.
Less-than truckload carriers usually employ two types of drivers, line-haul drivers and city drivers.
Line-haul drivers- these drivers transfer products or goods from point to point. These drivers usually get consistent miles and regularly scheduled home time.
City drivers- these drivers consist of day cabs making multiple stops throughout their city each day. City drivers get home time everyday.
Trucks vary in capacity—a 16-foot truck usually holds about 800 cubic feet, a 26-footer can hold up to 1,400 cubic feet—so truckloads do too.
Each carrier has their own rules for dimensions and limits of LTL freight.
This type of shipping can take longer than direct delivery, but the cost effectiveness is what makes this type of transportation more appealing to some businesses.
There are a wide range of things that can factor into LTL shipping rates and whether or not this shipping option is economically a good idea.
Locations. Further distance from the warehouse means higher costs for shipping.
Type. Unique handling or needing special equipment also increases shipping fees.
Dimensions. Dimensions and weight of products determine your freight class, affecting costs for shipping.
Mode of transportation. If your freight requires expedited shipping, you can also expect higher costs of shipping.
LTL shipping works on what one could consider a hub and spoke model.
In this model, local terminals would be considered the "spokes" and the larger centralized terminals would be the "hubs" a.k.a distribution centers.
If you're unsure whether or not you should ship via LTL or parcel, it comes down to weight in most cases.
To put it simply, if you're shipping freight over 150 pounds but not quite enough to warrant FTL, you should consider LTL.
LTL drivers can expect to plan a driving route and make deliveries to customers in multiple locations.
This may include making direct deliveries to customers, or transferring goods or materials from one customer to another.
The driver must receive signed documentation of the goods received or delivered at each customer site.
An LTL truck driver may work locally, regionally or nationally.
LTL truck driver salaries depend on the employer; some employers pay per mile driven, while others pay hourly.
This type of position usually allows drivers to have at-home time weekly if not daily.
Household goods movers are a unique type of truck driving position.
This position is a hybrid situation of transporting freight combined with manual labor. Household goods moving is done almost exclusively by owner-operators.
These drivers usually work with single customers at a time and help them transport their household belongings from one location to another.
Depending on the company the driver is working for, the driver might be required to pack up the customer's goods, load them into the trailer, drive the freight from point A to point B, and then offload the household items at the customers new location.
Every job looks different as a household goods driver.
For example, a driver may spend a week packing boxes, itemizing every box and piece of furniture, and loading – then another week unloading.
This type of job could also be done in one day.
It just depends on the amount of goods being packed up and the distance to have to move those goods to their new location.
Not every household goods job includes moving from house to house.
There are opportunities to haul special commodities such as museum exhibits.
The small-business skills that owner-operators pick up in household moving give them management experience.
This type of experience can help you have more opportunities with trucking jobs in the future.
Some drivers find it appealing to drive freight part of the time and then have that physical labor of unloading to look forward to.
Though the loading and unloading can be tedious, the pay can make it all worthwhile.
This type of work pays well, will keep the drivers in shape, and provide a diverse environment with each job.
Intermodal drivers are usually local drivers that haul rail containers to and from the rail yard.
Since this type of work uses combined methods of shipping (involving land, air, sea, and road), it usually involves a few steps to complete a job.
First, you need one truck and driver to take the freight to the rail yard. Then the freight is moved by rail the majority of the way.
Once the freight arrives at the final destination another truck and driver is required to pick it up to get it delivered to the final customer.
To become an intermodal truck driver, you need to meet the minimum qualifications of holding a CDL (Class A) license.
Better paid jobs are available for you if you have several months of experience driving on your CDL license.
Because this job is depot-based, you likely need to live within a specific distance from your hub.
Some employers also ask for qualifications like hazmat or tanker endorsements, but they may allow you to earn them within a few months of hiring.
Due to the responsibilities involved with working with shipping containers and the intersection of modes of transport in intermodal freight transport, you need excellent communication skills and knowledge of transport to complete your duties.
Timeliness and time management are also essential skills.
This type of job has several pros and cons.
More home time for the driver
Familiar routes to drive
Consistent schedule and more flexibility
Less physically demanding than other trucking jobs since most of this freight is drop-and-hook freight
Delays in freight
Inconsistent intermodal jobs available
Less pay compared to other trucking job types
Potential equipment damage en route to your stop, resulting in hiccups during transportation and unloading.
Since Intermodal drivers haul freight containers in and out of rail yards, they have extra equipment (chassis that carry the containers), different driving environments (lots of urban locations) and unique schedules (less rigid delivery timeframes).
This type of work requires more hands to make sure the job is completed, providing great job opportunities for drivers who want to drive locally (especially if you live near a rail hub or shipping port).
Intermodal jobs usually provide a more consistent schedule, great pay, as well as more at-home time.
At each stop the container moves to, there’s specialty equipment there to pick up the containers and place them on the trucks.
It’s usually no touch for the drivers, which means less wear and tear on your body, and more time moving down the road.
In conclusion, there are multiple trucking companies for you to choose from as you enter your trucking company career path.
Each company requires different work experiences and levels of training.
What all trucking companies have in common is that you need your commercial drivers license.
As long as you have a valid commercial drivers license, a good driving record (especially in the last 3 years), and a good work ethic, you can find a trucking job that suits your lifestyle.
If you prefer more home time, look out for jobs like Intermodal trucking jobs or less-than truckload carriers.
If you prefer a more physically demanding job, become a household goods truck driver.
If you’re looking for higher paying trucking jobs, apply for private fleets or for-hire trucking companies.