Flatbed driving is considerably one of the most difficult types of truck driving, due to the heavy and unique shaped loads that drivers must secure and haul. However, many of the things you hear about flatbed hauling aren’t true, or they have a flipside you may not have considered. Flatbed trucking can be rewarding, and the skills it requires are in constant demand. Here are the top 7 myths about flatbed trucking and the truth behind them.
Myth 1: It doesn’t pay well.
Truth: Flatbed trucking companies consistently pay drivers more per mile when compared to many other types of trucking. This is because the challenging nature of the work allows flatbed carriers to charge more for their services. Over the course of a year, the extra pay for additional work, such as tarping, can add up to a significant income difference compared to dry van and temperature controlled driving positions.
Myth 2: Time spent loading, unloading, and checking loads eats into pay.
Truth: Flatbed trailers are typically loaded and unloaded fewer times in a given period compared to dry vans, and the loading/unloading is usually faster. Most of the time, drivers don’t have to back to a dock since trailers are most often unloaded from the side. Additionally, some carriers pay their drivers for time they are detained at shippers or receivers.
Myth 3: Drivers need a lot of training.
Truth: When compared to many other professions, it doesn’t take nearly as long to become a professional. The key is finding a company that provides robust, quality training so that you can learn to do it correctly and safely.
While it helps to have driving experience, many drivers begin their career pulling a flatbed trailer. You must learn how to safely secure loads and how to handle the equipment. The weight and unique load shapes require a more conscientious driver. You will also be trained on all appropriate regulations pertaining to flatbed driving. The specialized skills you develop through training and experience are in high demand and will give you a competitive advantage in your career.
Myth 4: Load securement is difficult.
Truth: As a flatbed driver, properly securing loads is one of your primary responsibilities – and it’s a heavy one. If you don’t do it right, you put yourself and the motoring public at risk. If you are trained properly and you follow the appropriate protocol and use the tools and equipment provided, you can be successful and it will become very routine over time.
Myth 5: The physical and mental labor involved in properly securing loads and tarps is always a con.
Truth: Many flatbed drivers say they chose this line of trucking precisely because of these challenges. Some say the physical labor is a welcome compliment to driving. Given the well-known health hazards of trucking’s sedentary nature, the opportunity to move and exercise as part of the work offers more benefits than just the chance to break the monotony. Others enjoy the science involved in safely hauling a flatbed load.
“I really like the challenge of figuring out the math of how many chains and binders will successfully keep 42,000 pounds of steel from sliding forward into the back of the cab when I have to slam on the brakes,” writes a moderator in one of Trucking Truth’s forums. “It’s not just more labor; it’s also being cognizant of the physics involved and the understanding of the working load limits of the equipment you are dealing with.”
Many drivers feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment when they look in their mirrors and see a stable load or the tarp tight, with no loose ends flapping. Flatbed drivers say they take pride in their work and how it’s on display for all to see.
Myth 6: The job is too tough for women.
Truth: Flatbed trucking is a physically demanding job that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but as with other types of trucking, women are moving into the driver’s seat at a frequent pace. Women can – and do – haul flatbed, and many have done it solo for years.
Myth 7: It’s always dangerous.
Truth: Statistically, flatbed hauling is a more dangerous type of trucking, but it doesn’t have to be that way for any particular individual. The driver has a great deal of control over how dangerous the job is for him or her by utilizing their training and using caution and common sense while securing loads and tarping. Additionally, with proper rest and concentration the driver can be more alert and aware of load and road conditions. It is important to work with a company that provides you with the proper tools and training, and that believes in the importance of you being well-rested and alert.