Some truck drivers yearn for the open road. Some truck drivers yearn for the living room couch. There is no shame in being a homebody. Think about it: you work at a job to provide a nice home, but if your job is as an over-the-road (OTR) driver, you seldom see that nice home you provide for your family. Three trucking jobs, though, allow you to both drive and be home daily. You can be in the cab and be on the couch every day.
Trucking companies have major terminals throughout the United States where cargo is transferred, trailers are switched out, and trailers are loaded. Over-the-road (OTR) drivers normally do no more than back a trailer up to a loading dock; they do not switch trailers around the terminal yard. This job falls to the yard jockey, also known as a truck switcher, yard dog, yard driver, or yard hostler.
Yard jockeys usually must have CDL-A licenses just like the OTR operators. They do not, however, see very many highway miles, since they spend their shifts driving yard mules, or stripped-down tractors. Yard jockeys do it all:
- Move trailers
- Select and stage the right trailers at the right loading platforms
- Monitor refrigerated units to ensure operation while the trailers are in the yard
- Inspect and clean out empty trailers
The work is predictable and straightforward and seldom involves a change from the normal work shift. This means a yard jockey can put in eight to twelve hours and be home every night. The most important skill is backing a 53’ trailer accurately and quickly, in all conditions (day, night, rain, snow, with trailers on both sides of the empty slot).
An important quality for a yard jockey is the ability to think independently, solving problems on the go, needing little supervision to do the job. Another important attribute is physical agility, since the job entails an entire shift of climbing in and out of the cab, hooking, and unhooking trailers, bending, and lifting.
Shuttle drivers work the same route every shift. A truck shuttle means:
- Delivering trailers (empty or full) between two known locations, such as a manufacturer and a warehouse or a terminal yard and a factory
- Returning empty trailers (dead-heading) back to the same location every shift
- Running a predictable circuit every shift, with possible pickups and drop-offs
A shuttle driver needs to be licensed CDL-Class A and have all the skills of a long-distance OTR operator. Shuttle drivers often do not have to back trailers to loading docks, and they get home at the end of every shift. Shuttle drivers may operate dry vans, ore carriers, tank trucks, or flatbed trailers. Common shuttle loads include the familiar 28′ tandem trailers for overnight delivery services.
P&D – Pickup & Delivery
Pickup and Delivery drivers always operate locally, generally using straight trucks (not articulated with a separate tractor), automobile carriers, or short vans, including beverage delivery trucks. Everything from the familiar brown van of a package delivery service up to the 65-foot automobile carrier can be considered P&D.
With a P&D route, you are home every day at the end of your shift. Your tractor will be a day cab, with no option to sleep in it overnight. You may have to make many stops to (brace yourself!) pick up goods and deliver them. You may operate a truck with a lift gate and be responsible for loading and unloading freight yourself.
Local Truck Driver Pay
OTR truck drivers earn good livings but work very long hours, up to 10 hours a day driving on the nation’s highways. P&D, yard jockeys, and shuttle drivers may work 10 or 12-hour shifts, but can drive home at the end of every shift. Their pay is competitive with OTR drivers, too, considering the benefits of the predictable schedule.
- OTR drivers’ median annual wage: $39,520
- Light truck or delivery service drivers’ median annual wage: $29,570
The pay differential of just under $10,000 comes down to your personal preference: is the time you can spend with your family, because you can be home for school plays, baby’s first steps, and the big soccer game, worth a bit less than $1,000 a month? Most people would say home and family time is worthwhile, and by being better rested and on a predictable schedule, you may find opportunities for a part-time position to supplement your income.
Train to Be a Local Truck Driver
Get the experience and skills you need to be a local truck driver by attending ATI’s Tractor Trailer Driving Certification program. In eight weeks you learn all you need to pass your CDL test. Then you can be on your way to driving locally and being home every day. Your couch calls to you, so make the call to ATI today!
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