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Life as an Over-the-Road Truck Driver

What it's like to be a Driver Over-the-Road

Updated June 2022

Most truckers start their careers as over-the-road (OTR) drivers, meaning they drive longer distances and are often on the road for days or weeks at a time. OTR ends up being more of a lifestyle for drivers rather than just a paycheck. Let’s take a look into the life of an OTR driver:

About 300 Days On the Road Per Year

While some drivers spend more days than others on the road each year, the average days spent on the road is about 300. Some drivers will learn it takes about 2 years working in an OTR position before moving on to a regional or local truck driving jobs. This is often due to a companies desire for a drivers level of experience.

You’ll Log Several Driving Hours

Many OTR truck drivers will end up logging 70+ hours of driving over an average 8-day period. After that period, the law requires drivers to take a full 34-hour period of time off before resuming their driving. Drivers can consider cramming more hours into fewer days (i.e., 14-hour days over 8-days) but you will only be allowed to drive 11 hours per day which will be followed by a mandatory 10-hour rest period following every period of driving you complete.

You Have Some Flexibility in What Hours You Work

Some drivers prefer daylight driving while others prefer to drive at night. Either way, unless you are coming back from time off, then you have to report to your dispatcher at a particular time. Otherwise, you can drive which hours work best for you long as you follow the hours mentioned above.  Set a schedule that helps you feel the most alert and stick with it.

You Get To Go Home Every Three Weeks

When working on an OTR schedule, you will get to go home once every 3 weeks or so. That kind of work schedule can be rough on relationships or lifelong partnerships. Having a serious talk with your partner to see if that lifestyle can work while you. Considered the time you will miss from home before you take a job that requires national driving.

Pay and Benefits Depend on the Company

Some companies will pay drivers by the hour, while most will pay by the miles driven. The median pay for drivers in 2021 was $48,300 according to the BLS. Once some experience is gained, drivers can expect to make between $55,000 and $80,000 as an OTR driver every year after that. Recently, many carriers have increased their starting pay to OTR drivers and given larger sign-on bonuses.

Another bonus to consider with OTR driving is the variety of benefits drivers can receive from their employers. Many trucking companies offer their employees dental, health, disability, and life insurance, as well as retirement plans and paid time off. These salaries and benefits vary based on where you’re located and the company you work for. Keep this in mind as you’re job searching, and find a position that works for you!

The Miles Add Up Fast

The average OTR driver will average about 125,000 miles per year or about 2,500 miles per week. Those miles add up to a lot of driving and a lot of time in solitude behind the wheel. Prospective drivers should decide if that appeals to them before taking on such a job.

You Essentially Live Out of a Truck

While you are on the road, you will essentially live out of your truck. Many trucks have a bed in the back where the driver sleeps, and many meals get eaten on the road. If this isn’t a lifestyle that sounds like something you would enjoy, then you might consider other careers than truck driving for a longer-term job.

OTR Driving turns out to be more of a lifestyle than just a job. OTR driving can change your life, and it can be something that many drivers come to enjoy and wish to do longer-term. Driving over the road will allow you to see many different parts of the continental US and the natural beauty it has to offer. However, deciding if it is for you is key before committing to a position.

For further information on becoming an OTR driver and to see if it’s the right fit for you, contact us today! CDS Tractor Trailer Training is ready to enroll you in your CDL training and get you one step closer to becoming an OTR driver.