If you want to become a trucker, you probably are aware that there are a number of different types of trucking services you could perform. You might see job postings mentioning terms like “FTL” and “LTL,” and wonder what they mean.
In this post, we are going to go over trucking services descriptions so you know a bit about each of the possibilities.
No matter which of these types of trucker services you become interested in, this is an excellent time to get into the business. Demand for truckers is high, and there is a lot of work out there to be done.
How many jobs are available in trucking freight? Quite a lot.
The BLS says that jobs in trucking are growing about as fast as average, but this really does not present a full picture. Trucking is a demanding job. It can be a great adventure, but it isn’t for everyone. There is a notoriously high turnover rate, which is why drivers are always needed.
Trucker Services Defined
Less Than Truckload (LTL)
One of the most common trucking services is “less than truckload,” abbreviated LTL, and sometimes called “partial truckload.”
The name is a bit confusing, because if you are doing an LTL haul, that does not mean your truck isn’t full. It probably is full, but not with a single customer’s cargo.
Instead, you will be hauling freight for multiple businesses. Each one will only be paying for their own space, rather than the full truck. It is a great way for them to save money while still getting their goods rapidly to their destination.
So, the name “less than truckload” really should be viewed and understood from the customer’s point of view. You are hauling a full truckload, but for them, it is only a partial truckload.
Full Truckload (FTL)
As you would guess, full truckload, or FTL, is when the entirety of your truck is filled with cargo for a single customer.
While LTL hauls can be fast and efficient, FTL hauls tend to be more so. Multiple stops are needed to drop off LTL freight. But with FTL, you just drop off everything at a single destination since it is one bulk haul for one customer.
Refrigerated Trucks/Reefer Trucks
One specialized trucking service is hauling perishable goods in a refrigerated truck, also known as a “reefer truck.” Here are some examples of cargo that you might haul in a reefer truck:
- Medical products
- Pharmaceutical products
If you are looking to get into a trucking specialization that pays well, hauling refrigerated goods is an excellent choice.
Sometimes on the road you will see trucks hauling exposed flatbeds that do not have a box over them. That is flatbed trucking.
Flatbed trucking often is used to transport vehicles. But it can also be used for other types of cargo that will not be damaged by exposure to the elements.
Sometimes flatbed trailers are used to haul goods that are in shipping containers. The containers provide them with the protection they need.
Finally, one more reason a customer might opt for flatbed trucking is when the cargo they need transported has to be as easy as possible to load and unload. The open nature of a flatbed trailer is ideal for this purpose.
You can earn good money in flatbed trucking. The freight tends to be heavy, and you may also be involved with loading and unloading. So, just make sure you are ready for that.
Expedited Trucking Service/Straight Truck Delivery
Sometimes a customer may need their freight transported as quickly as possible over the road. When that is the case, they may opt for expedited trucking service, also called straight truck delivery.
You might be wondering, “Why don’t they simply opt for air transport instead?” The answer is that the nature of the cargo may demand that the goods be hauled by truck. Really heavy items are not suitable for air transport, and items that are especially fragile are also more likely to arrive at their destinations undamaged when transported across the road.
If you build a reputation for being a fast, safe and reliable expedited trucker, you can expect plenty of demand and high pay for your skills.
Another trucking service that can be quite lucrative is white glove trucking. As you might guess from the name, white glove trucking is where you are transporting goods that need special attention.
It could be because the items you are hauling are especially fragile. Or perhaps the cargo has an unusual size, shape or weight. Or it might just be that the dollar value of the cargo is very high, and the shipper is particularly concerned about its welfare.
Regardless, the customer pays extra for white glove service, which means that as the driver, you also may earn more with this type of trucking than you would doing regular hauls.
When a customer needs intermodal services, it means that they require more than one form of transportation when shipping their freight.
The most common example would be shipping cargo from one part of the country to another via rail, and then switching to a truck to get it the rest of the way to its destination. Intermodal transportation can be efficient, fast and convenient, helping the customer to get their goods to where they need to be quickly and cost-effectively. That said, it can be logistically complex, so it does have its downsides.
This is exactly what it sounds like—transporting liquid in a tanker. Liquids you can haul include beverages (i.e. a tank of orange juice) or chemicals.
Hauling liquid freight like this tends to pay well, but it can also be challenging and sometimes dangerous.
What Type of Trucking Should You Get Into?
Now that you are familiar with some of the most common trucking services, you probably are wondering what you should get into.
- Earnings potential: One of your main considerations will be how much you can earn performing a particular service. Obviously, it is good to be able to bring in more income. That said, you will need to take other factors into account besides just the money.
- Your current experience and training: If you are just starting out as a rookie driver, some types of driving are going to be more in your wheelhouse than others. You are not going to want to jump straight into hauling doubles and triples, for example. You are going to want to do something more basic like a dry van or reefer.
- Type of vehicle: Some types of vehicles may be easier and more enjoyable to drive than others. As we just mentioned, doubles and triples are particularly challenging. Liquid tankers can also be hard to manage.
- Routes and schedules: You might want to pick the trucking service you perform based on whether the routes and schedules are to your liking. For instance, if you want to be home on weekends, driving dry vans and flatbed trailers are good options.
- Hazards: Driving a liquid tanker can involve hazards that other types of freight do not. Some hazards also may not involve what you are driving or hauling, but some of the work involved. You might sometimes have to climb up on a flatbed trailer for example after all the freight is onboard.
- Demands: With some trucking services, you are not responsible for loading or unloading, only for driving. But with others, you do have to handle some loading duties. Make sure you are up for the physical demands of your job.
- What you like: Last but not least, subjective personal preference plays a role. Some trucking jobs may be challenging, but still appeal to you for reasons that go beyond the pay. Maybe you just like the sense of accomplishment you get from being able to do a tough job.
Start Your Career in Truck Driving
If you are excited to begin driving, you are in the right place. Explore our site to learn which trucking jobs pay the most and learn about training, insurance and more. Before you know it, you could be on your way to a high-paying career with plenty of growth potential.
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