Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sometimes predictable is a good thing...

Because I have always worked office jobs, which tend to be 40 hours a week (unless doing freelance work) I have pretty much always had a fairly predictable paycheck. So, I tend to take that sort of thing for granted.

Recently, I was talking to a friend who works as a truck driver. He drives all over the US and is what is referred to as a "company driver" meaning that the company he works for owns the truck he drives. To put it in a context that might be more familiar, it's like an apartment situation in a way. You don't own your apartment but you live there and if maintenance needs to be done you call the office and they take care of it. Some truck drivers own or lease the truck that they drive which is more like living in condominium. You "own" your condo and if something goes wrong, you are responsible for paying for whatever needs to be done.

However, there are a number of expenses company drivers pay and then submit for reimbursement. Which is fine if the company decides that whatever was paid is ok with them. And while there are guidelines, sometimes a driver pays for something he believes he will be reimbursed for and that never happens because the company decides that it doesn't meet their criteria. You are also not paid for any "down" time. So, the time you are being loaded or unloaded is all unpaid. You are also at the whim of where the dispatcher sends you. Meaning that one pay period you may have a couple hundred miles and another you may have a couple thousand miles. This means that one week you may get a check for $10.00 and another week a check for $200.00. Meanwhile, the bills that you have keep coming and the people sending those bills don't care that your income was only $10.00 this week.

The presentation when you first start driving is that you will "average" 3000 miles per week. At the mileage rate paid, that's about $700 a week. Not bad, right? Except that you have to factor in that you are only allowed by Federal Law to drive a certain number of hours in any given day and then there is another rule about how many hours you can work in a particular week and if you run over that and are stopped for a random inspection, this can lead to huge fines and/or the suspension/revocation of your license.

I am guessing that for someone who is single, has no children, no debt and maybe has a friend they can stay with so they don't have to maintain an apartment, truck driving might not be a bad deal. But if you are looking for a steady paycheck, this isn't your gig. And there is no trucking company in the world who will offer a weekly base salary + mileage because they'd argue that their expenses if they did that would be way too high. And maybe they would. It's not a business model I've explored extensively.

I can say that the conversation was an eye opener and made me grateful for my predictable paycheck.


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