Mark, a 20-year flatbed driver for TMC transportation, shares why flatbed truck driving is a good career choice.
Why I became a flatbed driver?
Nearly 20 years ago I walked into a truck driving school not 100% sure what I was doing, and also wondering if I was making a good choice. This was a big career change for me. And, I was what most people consider “middle aged”. As the days went by, I discovered that I had a lot of choices about the direction I wanted to go within trucking. I could drive vans, or flatbeds, or tankers, or reefers. Over a million safe miles later, I am SO glad I chose to be a flatbed truck driver. Why, you ask? Allow me to share my experience.
First, I wanted to stay in shape physically. I wasn’t getting any younger. Now, I didn’t want to work physically all day long, but an hour or two a day hit the sweet spot for me. I thought to myself, “There are people who pay big money for gym memberships to get in shape and stay in shape. As a flatbed truck driver, I get to stay in shape AND get paid for it!” To me, that’s a pretty good deal. Now, to be honest, there are those moments – like that really windy day – that I thought “Why did I become a flatbedder?” but I pushed through, and at the end of the day I felt the satisfaction of embracing and overcoming that challenge.
Second, although I genuinely like driving, I didn’t want my life to consist of simply sitting in that driver’s seat for endless hours. Flatbedding gave my days variability. Most days I would unload at a consignee, and then reload at a shipper. I was outside. I was interacting with people. I was interacting with different loads. I wasn’t just staring out the windshield for endless hours. Flatbedding gave my day the variability that I greatly desired.
Third was something that I hadn’t even thought of until I became a flatbedder. And it was a great benefit. The time to load and unload is quite different being a flatbedder compared to, let’s say, a van driver. What gets loaded on a flatbed, in general, are large things. And large things generally equate to a relatively few number of units. What does that matter, you ask? Well, if time is money, you want to get loaded and unloaded in as little time as possible. For example, let’s say I am hauling a single steel coil today. Do you know how long it takes to unload a single steel coil? Basically, one second. As soon as it is lifted by the crane, I’m empty! I discovered that the less units I am hauling, the less time it generally takes to get loaded and unloaded. And I really didn’t want those times of sitting for hours backed into a dock getting loaded and unloaded piece by piece.
Fourth, I liked the rhythm of flatbed truck driving. It fit my natural lifestyle. In many sectors of trucking they have 24/7 terminals, 24/7 distribution centers, 24/7 drop yards, etc. Flatbedding, in general, is not 24/7. In the world of flatbedding, our shippers and consignees are generally open about 7am and they ship/receive until the late afternoon. As a flatbedder, my day generally started in the morning and ended in the evening. I could stay in my body’s natural rhythm. I didn’t have to roll through the wee hours of the night and fight my body’s desire for sleep. And then the icing on the cake for me was in the world of flatbedding, very little shipping or receiving happens on weekends. My life as a flatbedder gave me regular weekend home time with my family. I liked that flatbedding fit my natural lifestyle.
And I could go on and on about the benefits of flatbedding, but let me add one last thing. After having become proficient at tarping loads of lumber and steel and shingles, I got to be a really good wrapper of Christmas presents!
Let me just finish by saying, after looking back at over a million-mile career of flatbedding, if I could do it over again would I do it differently? Not a chance! Flatbed truck driving is a good career and I’m glad I chose flatbedding. There are so many benefits. And I will proudly always be a flatbedder.