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Looking Both Ways

Scared Straight

By John Mueller, CDS, COSS
Posted Feb 17th 2014 9:48AM



A Look Both Ways at Straight Truck Expediting

This post of Looking Both Ways will peek into the world of straight truck Expediting. Perhaps you are scared of driving semi-tractors and trailers because of their size or have difficulty backing them. Is it possible after extensive research you’ve become frightened of cargo vans? With so much uncertainty lurking within the trucking industry it is easy to become confused and frightened. Maybe you’ve decided that you are “scared straight”. Being scared straight just might be good for your career and your pocketbook.

Driving an expedited straight truck opens a world of opportunities. The opportunity to earn a decent living. An opportunity to be your own boss and the opportunity to see vast areas of North America. Many drivers view these opportunities as their definition of freedom.

Some drivers feel there are advantages to driving an expediter straight truck over the smaller cargo van or the larger semi-tractor. They find these box trucks “just right”. Call them “Expediters” because unlike the straight trucks used by local package and delivery companies, “Expediters” are equipped to be out on the road for short or long periods of time, and are equipped to handle serious freight of all kinds. Some of these vehicles are home away from home for their owners, some are the driver’s primary residence. The professionals that drive these machines consider some of the advantages of driving them to be:

· Sleeper berth accommodations similar, or greater in size and amenities, to the semi-tractor depending on your individual sleeper specifications.

· Pay per mile can equal or exceed that of semi-tractors.

· Loads seem to be more readily available when compared to vans.

The straight truck average weekly settlement is probably in the $1750 to $3250 per week range for Solo drivers and upwards of $2250 to $4000 per week range for team operations. These numbers are very realistic averages. Some drivers do more, some average less. The number will vary each week because of the nature of Expediting. Limitations that drivers place on dispatch will limit their income.

Responsibilities with straight trucks.

Think “responsibilities” as opposed to “drawbacks” with straight trucks because there just are not many negatives or disadvantages to driving a straight truck. Some of the responsibilities are:

· Subject to IFTA fuel taxes if 3 axles, or 26,001 pound or more GVWR.

· Subject to the Hours of Service Regulations because GVW is greater than 10,000 pounds.

· Require IRP License Plates if 26,001 pound or more, three axles or more and travel interstate (between states).

· Require Commercial Drivers License if Over 26,001 or more, three axles or more, or if hauling placardable quantities of Hazardous Materials.

· Required to enter scales (any over 10,000 lbs)

· Required to have New York Highway Use Tax Registration permit cab card and decal if over 18,001 pounds GVWR.

· Required to pay New Mexico Weight Distance tax if over 26,000 pounds.

· May have to pay Arizona mileage tax for IRP even if under 26,000 pounds.

· Subject to FMCSA Controlled Substance and Alcohol testing regulations if over 26,001 pounds, or3 axles or more, or if hauling placardable quantities of Hazardous Materials.

· If between 10,001 pound and 26,000 still subject to Pre-employment testing and DOT Physical. Your Carrier may elect to supersede the FMCSA regulations as a company policy. See your company driver manual for specific details with your company’s policies.

Possible Advantages of Straight Trucks over Cargo Vans:

· Better mileage pay, better deadhead pay.

· More load hauling capacity by weight and volume.

· Easier to find loads because of larger hauling capacity.

· Most are dock high so forklifts can load.

· Again, better sleeping areas and additional space allows the driver to stay out on the road longer.

· Better suited for team operations.

· Vehicles are usually always in demand at all expedite carriers

· You can convert a straight truck into an even cooler camper or recreational vehicle than an old cargo van after purchasing a replacement truck.

Potential Advantages of Straight Trucks over Semi-tractors:

· Only 6 to 8 tires to replace.

· Only requires Class B CDL, regardless of GVW.

· Easier to back.

· Easier to park.

· Less cost to wash at truck wash.

· Generally require less driving experience at most expedite carriers.

· Easier to teach your significant other to drive.

· Better fuel economy. Most straight trucks get mid 9’s to high 10’s mpg. Exceptionally professional drivers with specialized accessories and great driving skills may get as high as 14.13 mpg. These drivers actually got paid to put fuel in their truck! See Bob and Linda Chaffee’s blog and updates on their exceptional fuel mileage with their Freightliner Cascadia.

· Less fuel and mileage taxes to pay than semi-tractors due to lower GVWR and higher MPG.

· Have their own categories at most truck shows.

· Usually cost less than Semi-tractors, though many cost more.

· Can enter industry and gain eventual truck ownership through programs put together by reputable companies like Expediter Services.

Considerations When Spec’ing a Straight Truck:

· Keep 48” by 48” in mind for the box or cargo area to maximize number of pallets. If the inside of the box is at least 97” wide it will accommodate 2 pallets side by side. Having a box that has a true 24’ inside length can be an advantage over say a 22’ box because you will be able to fit 6 full size pallets in by length. A box having these inside dimensions will be able to haul 12 “full size” pallets. Measure the box yourself prior to buying vehicle.

· Many Non-CDL Straight trucks can weigh as much as CDL straights, yet have a lower (26,000) GVWR. A Non-CDL straight truck may weigh 18,000 pounds, full of fuel, equipped with accessories, and with the weight of the driver. If we review the formula for determining load carrying capacity, we learn that 26,000 less 18,000 equals 8,000 pounds load carrying capacity. The “average” 33,000 GVW two axle straight truck usually can haul up to 13,000 pounds. That is up to 5,000 pounds load capacity advantage for the CDL straight truck over a Non-CDL truck.

· When using the formula on 33,000 GVW trucks, please remember that axle laws will generally limit your load capacity to 13,000 pounds. Because of axle laws, you usually cannot legally haul 14,450 pounds in the typical 33,000 GVW straight truck, even though the formula for load carrying capacity may look like 33,000 – 18,550 = 14,450.

· Attach dolly legs to allow fork lift drivers to drive onto truck. These “jack-stands” are crank down support legs similar to those on semi-trailers.

· Consider possible advantages of “swing doors” over “roll-up” doors.

· Protection for rear door handles and closures with “ledge” above ICC bars, in addition to dock bumpers.

· Equip your straight truck with sufficient horsepower. More power can make driving more enjoyable, less maintenance and less wear and tear on vehicle. That thing got a Hemi?

· There can be longer engine life with a tandem axle straight truck. Because many tandem axle straights began life intended to be used in semi-tractor applications, they are generally higher horsepower than the typical straight truck. When used in a straight truck configuration, the engine is now required to haul maybe only 22,000 pounds as compared to 44,000 pounds if used as a semi-tractor. Again, less wear and tear should yield longer engine life and less maintenance.

· Consider tandem axle straight to increase load opportunities – load capacity could be as high as 24,000 pounds, most average around 22,000 pounds.

· Attach side boxes for additional storage.

· Can attach automatic chain devices – see Bob and Linda Chaffee’s truck.

· Can specialize with reefer and “Premium” service type equipment.

Other Tips for Success in a Straight Truck:

· Remember that truck ownership carries no guarantee of success.

· Limitations you place on your carrier limit the load opportunities they will have to offer to you.

· Be a businessman first, be a driver second. (Keep the above tip in mind when applying this philosophy).

· Fuel your truck when completing a load – be ready to roll on your next load.

· Maximize your load opportunities by possessing the extra credentials like a TWIC card, be FAST approved, Hazmat endorsement, and your truck well equipped including an IRP license plate registration displaying 48 state and Canada. Expediter_truck_2.jpg

There’s ain’t no feelin’ like 6 (or 10) wheelin’!

Thanks ARE12 – Great tag line.

Now that you’ve read this post of Look Both Ways take time to really look into being Scared Straight. Are these serious freight moving machines just as cool as the big rigs you always dreamed about driving? Is there money to be made? Can you still be a professional driver behind the wheel of a straight truck? You betcha!

Disclaimer: This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.

Till the next blog, Thank you drivers for all you do!. Please be safe!

Click here to read more of my blogs!


©John Mueller, CDS, COSS


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