The Highest Pay Is Not Out On The Highway
I have been a commercial OTR (over the road) driver. I loved the open road and, in fact, still do. Give me a late model Volvo tractor with a big condo sleeper cab and a 53-foot dry van semi trailer, dispatch me on a three thousand mile run from coast to coast, and I am in hog heaven. Truly.
Trouble is, that is NOT the job that pays the best. Oh, I thought it was when I was doing it. At that time (2001-2002) I believed the only ways to generate a higher paycheck were to run longer hours without sleep…to switch to a flatbed trailer…to move to a state I didn’t want to live in…or to buy my own truck and become an owner operator.
I was wrong. Thankfully, I did not find out THEN that I had been mistaken. It would have been hard to take, because my wife and I needed every dollar. Besides, we as a people NEED our OTR truckers. Look at something in your home. Anything. In our case, just at random, it might be the beautiful geode I bought on vacation from a shop in West Yellowstone, Montana, in 1991.
Where The Dollars Are
No, I was not the trucker that delivered the geode to the store where I bought it, but SOME driver surely did. Our economy would crash to a halt without trucks. It is a proud profession and deserves to be.
Thanks to an inheritance from my Mom when she left this world, I got out of the truck in late 2002. My wife and I figured we had enough nest egg to buy a small house in Anaconda, Montana, and retire there. Which we did. For 4 years.
By the end of those four years, we had run out of money, moved to Colorado (long story), overdrawn our bank accounts accidentally, and desperately borrowed a fair amount of transition money to get things back temporarily in balance. At age 63, I needed to get back to work in a hurry…and it needed to be for a lot of money. My wife’s medical bills are not going to go down, and the expenses are all out of our own pockets.
One thing led to another, as things tend to do. I knew I wasn’t one of America’s dumbest truckers, but I did not know just how long it would take to find the right answer. If it were not for a tiny classified ad in a throwaway newspaper, I would not have found it at all: Becoming a water hauler.
For ten months (until getting out of trucking AGAIN to become a webmaster), I drove water tankers for a small but thriving company in the gasfield boom areas of western Colorado. The pay was nearly double what I could make going over the road AND it paid by the hour, not by the mile. If I ever have to go back to driving (and who can say what the future holds), that is EXACTLY where I will go. They have Peterbilt, International, and Kenworth daycab tractors, none of which are exactly chopped liver.
So now you know. A few final points:
1. The word “Colorado” is NOT the secret. “Drilling boom” IS the secret. It could be for gas or oil. It could be in Texas, Montana, North or South Dakota, Wyoming, or anywhere else we humans suck petroleum out of the Earth.
2. The hours are still very long. Any driver knows that: Short hours equals short pay, whether the calculations use miles or hours.
3. It can be hot, cold, dusty, filthy, dirty, hard work. When you are “on location” (where drilling rigs set up) it can be pretty sloppy underfoot. You will be required to drag heavy hoses around, climb up and down slick steel ladders, sling heavy sets of tire chains when the weather is at its worst, and other fun stuff like that.
But if you head for a boom town and simply start tracking down the water hauling companies, and you have a relatively clean CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), the money is there. My W-2 for 2007 shows I earned more than $6,000 per month, EVERY MONTH I drove for that small company…and I was NOT their highest earner.