Pros and Cons - Local vs OTR

Discussion in 'Experienced Truckers' Advice' started by EverywhereMan, Aug 24, 2014.

  1. EverywhereMan

    EverywhereMan Light Load Member

    May 28, 2013
    Toronto, Canada
    This thread will serve to list the positives and negatives based on my experience doing both options. Regional drivers and others are welcome to chime in and add their relatable two cents. Hopefully this will serve newcomers and drivers wanting to make a switch some insight and perspective to what life might be like on the other side of the fence.


    A good choice for a driver not willing to sacrifice their family and/or social life. A lot of local outfits require at least one year minimum in regards to experience but this is not always the case. This is not going to be your typical 9-5 job. Depending on what kind of trucking company you're applying for, your could start at any hour on a 24 hour clock and you might be scheduled for weekends as well, especially until you build up some seniority. I for one start at 3am every single morning, Monday to Friday. A typical day is usually anywhere between 10-14 hours. You will essentially wake up for work, get yourself ready, commute, work your shift, commute home, have something to eat and need to sleep shortly thereafter to prepare for the next day in the cycle. You might be in constant contact with your dispatchers throughout the day, the labour might be more intensive than an OTR position (not as many, if any, drop and hooks - I stand to be corrected on this issue), and depending on your geographical location, a good portion of your day will be spent in traffic, navigating city streets and delivering to tight locations.

    Personally, I'm in and out of the cab no less than thirty times a day. I work about 65-70 hours a week, and they're all hard hours. I'm paid hourly ($22/hr) and receive overtime after 55 hours per week. I have good benefits (medical and dental), have monthly incentive bonuses and I'm not just a number hauling some freight in a state 2000 miles away from the yard. I see my employers every day and maintain a good relationship with everyone in the office. I come home on Friday afternoon pretty exhausted but I love having the weekend off. I drove local for a year to start, went OTR for another year and now I'm going on 2-1/2 years of total experience. I'm happy where I am, but I will admit to missing the open road.


    Where to begin here? Within the last ten years, OTR has become the starting point for hundreds of thousands of new drivers. Those with insufficient funds to attend a private school have flocked to CR England, Werner, etc. to get their feet in the door in the trucking industry. The quality of training and the life thereafter is highly debatable but it's certainly a viable option for many newcomers. OTR requires an extreme amount of flexibility - be prepared to be away from home for two or more weeks at a time. You will usually spend a few weeks with a trainer, (less - if at all - if already experienced) generally in a team format. You must learn to live with another human being in a small, enclosed space, 24/7. I will not get too detailed here as there are plenty of threads regarding teaming and its pitfalls. It can be a positive or negative experience but it will depend on your situation (good or bad trainer, your skill level, compatibility, etc). Once you're out on your own, life gets a lot easier. You will normally communicate with dispatch through your Qualcomm but you certainly get the sense that you're sort of your own boss. No one is going to be watching over you every minute of the day and they certainly aren't going to hold your hand. You are expected to deliver your load safely, on-time and without incident. A lot of your time is going to be spent on interstates.

    There are numerous categories of trucking you can get involved with. Each one differs from the rest, and with that comes various levels of exertion, critical thinking and decision making. Again, you could be expected to run the red-eye shift to deliver a load one day and have a completely different set of driving hours the next day. Be prepared to rest well and as often as possible. Hopefully you work for a respectable company who won't expect more than your legal best, but be prepared to answer for late or missed appointments, mechanical issues, traffic, weather and a plethora of other issues. Try to stay away from products at truck stops - almost all can be found for much cheaper at larger retail and grocery stores. Having some sort of mechanical knowledge is helpful, but not essential. Practice some common courtesy and drive safely while you're out on the road. Don't forget, you're the face of your company out there - proper dress attire, a positive attitude and a willingness to make yourself stand out from others will go a long way.

    Word of advice:

    Whichever option you decide to move forward with, just know that it's going to be hard at some point - we've all experienced bumps in the road. Whether it's long hours, home sickness, task intimidation, etc. we have all been there. Don't just give up. You're not giving yourself the opportunity to learn and become a better driver by quitting. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Do your research before hiring on with a company - check out some of their FMCSA statistics, speak with their drivers, see what kind of equipment they use. It doesn't have to be the prettiest, but don't settle for unsafe conditions. If you play with fire, eventually you will get burned and have to pay the piper. Your license is your livelihood. Protect it as best you can, even on your own time away from work. Put in the time and effort to become a safe and reliable driver. Eventually the door of opportunity will open up because while drivers are in demand, I'd argue there's an even greater demand for a high quality driver and a solid company will recognize this and pay/treat you accordingly.

    Don't be afraid to ask questions, enjoy yourself as best you can but don't forget to maintain your professional attitude. It will carry you a long way.
    Honch, jac714, tnscavenger and 4 others Thank this.
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  3. freightwipper

    freightwipper Road Train Member

    Mar 24, 2014
    LTL is the way to go
    Honch Thanks this.
  4. pattyj

    pattyj Road Train Member

    Jul 19, 2008
    Sioux City,ia
    Only good thing about local is you get home everynight and for some companies no weekends.But once you're done for the day company will find a load out of their hat to make sure all you take is your 10 hr brk not a minute more.Im local with a company that hauls asphalt so my job is different then the everyday van and reefer companies.But I also worked locally with reefer too.
  5. Brandonpdx

    Brandonpdx Road Train Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    Elkhart, IN
    I have recent regional/OTR and local experience and can say they're both their own types of rat races.

    On a good day OTR/regional is easy work, basically just driving down the interstate in an nice, late model truck with all the creature comforts and typically drop/hook work or no-touch at worst. Not bad as far as the work itself is concerned, although the days are long. You'll frequently bump up against your 11 or 14 if you're out there trying to make money. Main pitfalls are (for most guys) not being home every day with families of course, and dealing with the inevitable games the dispatchers and driver management will try to play with you. You're pretty much just a truck number and faceless name on some desk driver's computer screen if you're working for a company of any decent size with 100+ trucks. They know you're out there on the road and pretty much at their mercy and a lot of companies will box you into a corner and make do stuff you shouldn't be doing, HOS-wise, not respecting your 10 hour break, etc. Lots of room in OTR work for politics and questionable practices emanating from the dispatch office that can put you as the driver in compromising situations, professionally speaking.

    Local work is generally harder work. The driving scenarios are often in congested city environments which stresses you out quicker. Then there's usually going to be some element of manual labor involved once you stop somewhere, which could involve anything from finger printing or pallet jacking freight in the back of hot trailers to hooking up hoses with tank work. You'll get hot and dirty at many local gigs. Driving the truck is often only one of the duties you'll be required to do and half the battle. I've had local jobs that IMO didn't pay enough to deal with the stress and working environment they put you into, and some that were fair. Lots of variation there, but you do get home everyday without having to beg, cajole or threaten anybody and dealing with the office staff is generally a non-issue because of that. If you work M-F then HOS probably wont be anything you have to pay much attention to unless you're working 14 hours every day, which most local drivers don't. You don't even have to keep a logbook if you work within a 100 air mile radius of your terminal and stay under 12 hrs on duty or have to observe the 8 hr break rule.
    hal380 Thanks this.
  6. tnscavenger

    tnscavenger Light Load Member

    Jul 21, 2011
    Maynardville, TN
    Very good Advice, I have done both local and OTR, as said both have positive and negitive things to consiter. I now do OTR, and would not have it any other way. When I first went OTR, the home sickness was very rough on us all, for I have a wife and young son at home. But, after 3 months we bacame use to it. One thing that changed was in my mind where my home was, I mean, now the company truck issued to me is my home, I go to my house to visit twice a month. I sort of feel like a guest, especially if I choose to stay out for 3 or 4 weeks.
    hal380 Thanks this.
  7. sherlock510

    sherlock510 Road Train Member

    Jul 26, 2011
    Definitely some solid advice in here. Most people want local even before getting to enjoy what OTR has to offer.

    Coming up on two years and I've been thinking about finding a local job for a couple months now.
    I don't have any real reason to be home everyday, besides sleeping in a real bed, riding my motorcycle and a consistent love life LOL.

    Even though I would definitely get a pay increase and better benefits I don't think I'm ready to give up OTR, just yet..
    hal380 Thanks this.
  8. Brandonpdx

    Brandonpdx Road Train Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    Elkhart, IN
    Not necessarily. I was lucky to take home $700-750/wk working for ODFL and ABF assuming a straight 5 day work week. Not stellar money by any means and the work could really kick your ##s some days. The high paying LTL jobs are the 500-600 mile per night line haul runs where you're taking home $1200-1300/wk but those are usually locked up by the senior guys who've put their time in peddling around town for $20/hr.

    "Home stuff" that you mentioned is seductive but the road is seductive too if you've got an ounce of ramblin' man in you. Driving locally can get boring and the hours are long and wearisome. By the time I got home, ate, and sat in front of the TV for an hour it was time to head to bed so I could get up and do it all again. Riding your bike or chasing mama around the couch would probably be reserved for weekend free time anyway. If you wanna have an actual life during the week you're probably in the wrong profession.
  9. Glp

    Glp Medium Load Member

    Dec 23, 2012
    Oakland, CA
    Having done both, i say local all the way, ltl is what i do
    Cody1984 Thanks this.
  10. Honch

    Honch Light Load Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Your backing skills will certainly not atrophy in the LTL game.

    Also, everytime I think about the open road and the OTR thing... I'll back in next to a sleeper (guy looking miserably bored and probably having been there for several hours), be put in a higher priority over his loading and then I leave 20 mins later as he still does the 1000yrd Stare through his windshield.
    hal380 and Cody1984 Thank this.
  11. Voyager1968

    Voyager1968 Road Train Member

    Sep 11, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Sounds like my life and job to a "T"...

    I'm local now, but I've done OTR and regional as well. I really have no more life being home daily as I did when I was regional. Basically I get about 1-2 hours of "free time" per day. In that time I get a shower, eat, spend a few minutes on the computer, a few minutes with the wife, and then off to bed. Add to that going to bed at 7:00pm (my wife gets home from work at 6:00pm) and getting up at 1:00am and you see what I mean. I may not have been home, but I had more "free time" time to de-stress when I was on the road than I do at home.
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