Choosing a Truck Driving Job Part VII – Tankers and Flatbeds

In part 1 of our show, picking A Truck Driving Job Part I: Factors Which Effect All Businesses, we spoke about different factors and considerations which will affect your experience at any company you go to perform for.In part 3,”Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part III: How Your Family and Lifestyle Will Affect Your Choice”, we believed your personality and lifestyle.

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Are you currently married? Do you have kids? How long would you prefer to be away from your home? These questions all figure into the process of choosing the right truck driving job.In part 4,”Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part IV: Advantages of Large Trucking Companies”, we naturally talked about the advantages of working in a big trucking firm.In part 5,”Selecting A Truck Driving Job Part V: Comparing Large Trucking Companies To Little Ones”, we contrasted working for businesses of different sizes.Now, in part , we will talk a little bit about driving to get a tanker or flatbed carrier.You might discover that there isn’t too much difference between driving for a dry van carrier versus a refrigerated carrier, however, pulling a tanker or a flatbed is a whole different thing entirely. FlatbedPulling a flatbed is a unique way to make a dwelling in trucking, and if you ask anybody that does it they will tell you there’s nothing simple about it. Well, many”flatbedders” are rather tough guys and now I think of it, they may tell you there’s nothing for this. And for them, it is probably mostly correct. It has its moments for sure, but overall most folks which make their living this way enjoy the physical work, and enjoy the special challenges that come along with it.A few of the gaps are obvious – you have to use chains or straps to hold off your load, and often times you need to tarp the load to safeguard it from the components. These tasks are often dull at best, difficult the majority of the time, and there are a range of rules and regulations that regulate the techniques used to secure your load. The DOT rules loosely define the types of equipment you must use, together with a number of the techniques you must use to ensure the load. And believe me, the DOT is watching closely! I pulled van the huge majority of my years on the street, and we were far less interesting to the DOT compared to flatbeds, for obvious reasons.The work of securing and discharging your load is very physical, and often times quite hard. The tarps, chains, and straps are rather heavy and often times you are outside in the weather obtaining the load secured or discharged on your own. The tarps, straps, and chains get wet, icy, and very difficult to take care of in poor weather, not to mention you are out there crawling about on the load trying to get everything situated. It can be very dangerous. I’ve heard many, many stories of severe injuries from guys falling from trailers.Now there are some benefits of pulling a flatbed additionally. Quite often the tractor and the load you’ve got are far shorter in height than your standard trucks, so it is much easier to fit under low bridges in the towns. Also, the reduced profile aids the crosswinds move around you somewhat better on slick roads in the wintertime. And lastly, it’s an interesting way to make a living. There’s always a new challenge, many different different types of loads to secure, and there’s a bit of a camaraderie among the flatbed motorists. It is a fascinating and challenging form of truck driving, however I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who isn’t the rugged type.Liquid TankersI pulled a food-grade tanker for a year one time and I truly enjoyed it. I wasn’t too big on the notion of being about a lot of hazardous materials or pulling HAZMAT loads frequently.Food grade tankers are interesting though. There are no baffles in the tank, so there isn’t anything to keep the liquids from sloshing around. It takes a bit of time to learn how to change the truck since the liquid sloshing will thrust or slow down the truck that the change will not execute at the speed you are going. You’ve got to”time” your shifts so as to begin rolling. It’s no big deal – but it requires some practice.You also have to be extra cautious on slick streets, in turns, and if flying. That liquid moves all around the place and you have to always be aware of what it’s going to do before you attempt maneuvering the vehicle. You don’t get a lot of second chances if you try to make overly aggressive of a transfer.Also, you need to acquire the tank washed out after virtually every load. This can take a lot of extra time, and mean a bunch of additional running between heaps. However, at times it is a relief as a two hour nap is just what the doctor ordered!Last, you do have to help unload the vehicle at times by hooking up a few hoses. Most liquid tankers also have hydraulic pumps around the trunk and at times you are going to need to run the pump to unload the tank. Again, it is not a huge deal, but it comes with the territory.The advantages of pulling a liquid tanker are that the crosswinds flow round the tank well, you do not have to fret about getting your axle weights adjusted since the liquid is self-balancing, and the majority of the tractors and tanks are fairly short in elevation, so reduced bridges are not as much of a concern.Most new drivers won’t be dealing with companies that haul bulk shipments in dry tankers, like flour, sugar, and sand, but there isn’t too much difference in the occupation and lifestyle from that of a liquid tanker. There are far more local jobs for dry bulk tankers though than you will find over the road jobs.In the last part of our series we are going to speak about a few of the best methods to discover if a business you’re considering driving for is one you may be pleased with.