When most people think of truck driving, they tend to conjure up images of powerful semi-trucks roaring down a deserted freeway in the middle of nowhere. Sure, that’s one trucking job, but honestly, one of the best and most rewarding trucking jobs is actually being a dump truck driver. Some of you die-hard OTR truckers are probably rolling your eyes, but hear us out. We can back this up.
No Road Hypnosis
When you’re driving a massive semi-truck, you fall into a state of road hypnosis, for the most part, zoning out in the comforting familiarity of the job. There’s not much traffic, you know the routine, and nothing is out of the ordinary.
With a dump truck, it’s different. You constantly have to stay alert; every day is a bit of an adventure, watching everything that happens around you, never knowing what you’re going to be hauling next or to specifically where, etc.
Unlike a semi-truck, things are happening constantly around you, effectively preventing road hypnosis and keeping you more alert.
There is a need for dump truck drivers on job sites related to mining, construction, etc. where materials are required to be transported. Because of this need, you’re going to find it surprisingly easy to find and pick up training for this type of work. So it’s well-advised that you seek out appropriate training for the job.
To drive a dump truck, it is required for you to get your Class B CDL. You can register at a local school that teaches students how to drive straight trucks. And these schools will also prepare you on how to pass the CDL tests.
The pay isn’t bad, either. BLS data doesn’t list specific numbers for dump truck drivers salary, but they fall under Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers, where the median pay in 2018 is $43,680 per year or $21.00 per hour.
One of the biggest differences between commercial truck driving across the country and local dump trucking is the employment process. An OTR driver will need to find employment with an actual trucking company if he wants a shot at the big rig. Plus, he’s still got to invest time and money into a CDL and certification to even have a hope of setting foot inside the cab.
With dump trucks, CDL training and experience is preferred, but not always required. Depending on where you go, you may find on the job training or courses geared to help prepare you for days spent behind the wheel of this enormous piece of equipment. Because of this, private contracting is a big factor in employment for dump truckers compared to semi-truck drivers.
The Stresses of Semi-Truck Driving in Comparison
Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t drive a semi as an OTR driver if that’s what you want to do. The reason dump truck driving can be preferable to the OTR lifestyle is mainly because it’s just that; a lifestyle. Driving a semi-truck across the country delivering freight, merchandise and heaven knows what else isn’t just a job, it’s a commitment. You’re on the road for anywhere from one week to eight weeks with nary a glance at home.
Semi-truckers face hazardous conditions every which way, road hypnosis, gas siphoning and familial problems every day of their lives. They go so long without seeing their families that their relationships can suffer greatly for it. The divorce rate among truckers is some of the highest of any profession in the country.
Sure, some make it work either through mutual forces of will or even by bringing their families along with them on weeks-long trips, which can be an adventure in and of itself. But these cases are rare and these solutions don’t always work.
You also have to investigate the schedule of companies that supposedly ‘guarantee’ time home every weekend, which can be subtle code for “You get home at 6 PM on Sunday and go right back to it Monday morning.” Truckers also face poor sleep and dietary patterns, as well as a lack of exercise sitting down all day long.
The weather can change in a matter of hours depending on where you are and your circadian rhythm will go completely bonkers as you glide through time zones like butter. Add the stress of deadlines, traffic, and more truckers than there are parking spots at rest stops and you’re looking at the possibility of some very trying times ahead of you.
That’s not to say it can’t be done. Some people not only do it and do it well, they positively thrive on it. Some are just built better for it than others.
Now compare all of that to the possibility of driving locally. A dump truck driver generally works an eight-hour shift with maybe the occasional overtime. He can expect to clock out at roughly the same time every day and expect the same rate of pay for his hours worked, rather than the miles he’s driven.
He’s rarely susceptible to road hypnosis because his job forces him to stay alert constantly to avoid the risk of hitting something or someone who may have popped in out of nowhere. He rarely leaves the radius of his location city and when he does, it’s never for very long or for very far at all.
A dump truck driver can always be home in time for dinner with his family with plenty of time left over for games with his kids and a little quiet time with his spouse. He has plenty of time to exercise a few times a week to make sure his mostly sedentary job isn’t adding potential weight gain. He can also cook his own meals to stay healthy, rather than relying on fast food or rest stop meals for days and days on end.
Best of all, he can come home and sleep in his own bed, rather than in the back of his truck, if he has one, or a motel every single night.
- Clocking Out
Dump truck drivers have one massive difference over OTR drivers, or Over The Road drivers. They get to clock out every night and go home, without fail. OTR drivers can often expect to be gone for days or even weeks at a time, depending on their workloads.
Dump truck drivers don’t have to worry about this. Their work finishes once they’ve hit the last hour for the day. Even better they’re paid by the hour, unlike OTR drivers who get paid by the mile.
DT drivers usually only work a set number of hours per day and they typically get weekends off, so it’s honestly a pretty good deal, particularly if you’re just starting out in the trucking business.
There are actually a lot of career branches open to you if this is something you’re dedicated to doing. Not only do you have the possibility of earning a decent income, but you also will be faced with opportunities for career growth.
If you’ve spent a few years working as a construction driver, you might find yourself on the receiving end of an opportunity from inside the company. These companies usually prefer to promote someone skilled who’s been there a while and has the knowledge and experience to take over another position with little training.
Or if you’re feeling confident enough with the knowledge you’ve accrued on the job having watched your coworkers day in and day out, you might even consider opening your own construction firm. This way, you can take on more of a management role using skills and know-how you picked up from years watching it done right in front of you. This is assuming you have enough capital set aside to afford it, of course, but it’s a worthwhile option to look into.
In addition, other entities such as construction companies, public utilities, general contractors, government agencies, and private businesses are always looking for skilled, experienced help. What better way to gather experience than to get into first hand by driving and hauling load for the guys who create it?
Now, there are a few cons to dump trucking. Firstly, there are always seasonal layoffs. Construction season tends to end when the weather begins to turn ugly and the workforce is usually cut in the wintertime. You also have to take into account the national economy, which is still more or less in the toilet.
With fewer resources with which to build, there are fewer projects happening at any given time and thus, fewer construction workers and especially drivers needed to pull the yoke. Always take these factors into account while searching for driving work.
Dump truck driving isn’t for everyone, certainly, but for the precious few who find themselves built for it, it’s the perfect way to balance their love of hauling with their rooted lives at home. It provides a great basic income and allows drivers to return home every single night for much-needed rest, which balances out to a rich and lucrative career with promising prospects.