If you want to save (and make) some serious cash, do some traveling, and spend time with your spouse? Become a truck driver.
I married Devin on October 15th of 2016, and we promptly jumped in a semi on October 24th. From October of 2016 to November of 2017, we were in that truck full time, only taking 5-day ‘weekends’ once a month. Even then, we often slept in the semi anyway, or in a hotel with the semi parked just outside.
That was the absolute best introduction to marriage, and I’m forever thankful for that period of our lives, for many reasons.
First, I’ll explain how it’s good for your wallet, and then how it’s good for your relationship.
Trucking is the Perfect Way to Save Money
The average apartment in Indianapolis is $819 a month.
The average apartment in New York City is $2,956 a month.
The average apartment in Los Angelos is $2,251 a month.
The average apartment in Nashville is $1,277 a month.
The average apartment in Dallas is $1,156 a month.
The average apartment in Seattle is $2,022 a month.
The average apartment in Fargo is $729 a month.
Regardless of where you live though, as a truck driver you can live in your truck permanently, which comes out to $0 per month. Don’t worry, when your vehicle needs maintenance, you can either switch into a new truck (if you drive for a company), get a hotel (regardless of if you own your own truck or drive for a company), or hang out in the waiting room.
That savings can be anywhere from $0 (if you lived at home) to $2,956 every single month!
If you wanted to *really* up your savings game, you could rent out your house or sublease your apartment too! You don’t even have to put your furniture in storage- instead, charge a premium for a fully furnished home.
Vehicles / Gas
If you’re an owner-operator (you own your truck), you pay for your fuel, BUT you get paid a lot more per mile to cover your fuel, insurance, and time.
If you’re a company driver (you drive the company’s truck) you don’t pay for fuel or truck insurance.
On your days off, you can ride your bike or walk. Some companies are good to let you drive the trucks recreationally when they’re unhooked from a trailer, and you’re off duty. You can also rent a car or pickup (life hack: rental cars are $30-40 a day in some places, but U-Haul pickup trucks are a consistent $20). You can also take Uber or Lyft, though we never did that.
If you choose to go without a personal vehicle- you’re not only saving on the price of a car (or making some money after selling your car), but you’re also saving on fuel, insurance, tags, and maintenance.
We never got rid of our vehicles, but we did avoid paying for gas, maintenance, and insurance (on two of our personal vehicles) for a year.
Lily, at The Frugal Gene, estimates that going entirely sans car saves about $500 a month.
If you have a home, you’re paying bare minimum utilities, and if you don’t, you’re avoiding those bills altogether. No electric, no water, no propane, no septic/sewer, no trash, no HOA, and no cable or internet.
Now, you’ll probably want to up your phone plan for more data (Verizon’s unlimited plan is excellent for this), but other than that, your utility bills will be super low or non-existent.
I didn’t buy clothes the entire year I was out on the road. As a matter of fact, I narrowed my wardrobe down to 16 items, and that was all I needed. It’s difficult to get into the parking lots of clothing stores, plus, where would you store extra pieces anyway?
Food Costs Can Increase If You’re Not Careful
If you cook in your semi every day, your money spent probably won’t increase much (if at all, especially if you plan your shopping trips wisely).
If you get lazy though, or you really want that truck stop fast food, you’re going to spend a lot more. Think at least $3-10 per person, per meal.
We liked to cook as much as possible and eat out only when we weren’t feeling well, or there was a restaurant we just really wanted to try, or had a craving for.
Reward Cards are Worth It
When we used our rewards card, it really saved us quite a bit.
If you’re a truck driver and you’re stuck between Love’s and Pilot/Flying J rewards programs, check out this post.
Showers are anywhere from $8-18 each (though you can sometimes find a kind “Mom & Pop” shop with $5 showers), but rewards cards make those free.
They also make ALL of your fountain drinks, coffee, and water (if you provide the containers) free.
On top of all that, fuel points add up quickly. We would get $20-35 worth of points every month, which is what we used to buy our dog food, so Blair ate totally free.
And now onto the fun stuff… 🙂
Trucking is Perfect for Newlyweds
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see much 18-wheeler life, check out this post I did that shows a lot, including the truck interior, truck stop showers, how we cook and clean, and our daily routine.
In case you didn’t know, semis have very little space, especially for two people. The beds are twin size, and the entire area is about 70 square feet (about the size of a full-size bathroom). Most semis just have one bed, but for teams, you can get bunk beds, which is what we had.
Being in such close proximity made us get along because we didn’t have any other choice.
Nowhere to Hide
If something was ticking us off, we voiced it, talked about it, and fixed it. There was no running back to our parents’ houses, calling up a friend to gripe, hiding in the other room, or even stepping outside for a breath. It was us, in a small box, doing 70 mph down the interstate. The only breaks we had from one another were when we used the truck stop restrooms (no, most semis don’t have toilets or even running water).
Different Challenges Most People Don’t Have
We also had some challenges too, such as cooking, and our water situation.
To cook, we had to set our slow cooker on the floor by our bed (and sit on the floor to stir it), or set our electric griddle on our nightstand (and sit on the bed to cut, stir, whisk, or flip our food). Water was also an issue.
Since our truck doesn’t have running water, we had to purchase it in gallon jugs or water bottles (we chose gallon jugs for the lower price). Devin always insisted on keeping at least 6 gallons with us, which seemed like a LOT because it took up so much space.
I’ll never forget the time we were in Washington in mid-December when we got snowed in.
We were supposed to be picking up onions to haul to New York, and we arrived about 6 hours before the farm was closing for the day. We waited, and waited, but they were so slow getting those before us loaded. With an hour before closing, they informed us they didn’t have enough workers to load everyone, but starting at 8am the next day, they’d begin again. No big deal, we could wait a night, we had food and water stocked up.
During the night, we heard a lot of ice and sleet fall. The next morning, we looked outside, and there was at least a foot of snow on the ground, and no workers to be seen. Between the freezing temperatures, the ice, the snow, and the steep hill leading up to the farm, there was no way people could come in, or that we could really leave (not to mention, drive back up when they were ready for us).
Here’s that hill leading up to the farm:
It was just myself, my husband, our dog, Blair, and my houseplants, overlooking the flat landscape of Prosser, Washington. I was so thankful for those six gallons of water! With it, we drank, we cooked, we watered our dog, washed our dishes (sparingly), and let our plants wither because we weren’t sure how long this would last. On the fifth morning, workers showed up, and we were so thankful, we were down to just a quarter of a gallon.
After that, I never questioned Devin for wanting to keep so much water with us.
Two People, One Twin Bed
At first, we slept in separate beds, but after maybe a month of that we stayed in the same bunk. Yes, this was a *twin* bed, and we are adults (and not small ones at that). It was such a tight fit we had to roll over at the same time, but we loved it.
It’s good for couples to be close too.
Now that we’re out of the semi and in our house (which feels massive), we bought a king size bed, and surprise- we still sleep just as close as ever. Some habits never die.
In Sickness, and in Health
During this year, we ate some seriously questionable food and paid dearly for it. Hey, when your only two options are cooking in a tiny kitchen or getting overpriced, sketchy food from truck stops, you sometimes buy that overpriced, sketchy food.
I had food poisoning three times, once from a roller grill item, once from Chester’s chicken, and once from a trendy hipster burger joint in Los Angelos. Devin had food poisoning once, thanks to Wendy’s.
Let me tell you now, that being within 3 feet of someone who is chronically vomiting into a travel mug changes your relationship. And I can’t believe I’m telling you this (WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS?!), but after eating at that burger joint in LA, we had to park in a remote location (because there was no parking available anywhere.. thank you tiny cars for parking in semi parking!!), far away from any bathrooms or running water. Diarrhea hit. Things got super messy. I spent a good portion of my night getting sick behind the wheels of the semi-trailer, crying hysterically over my unfortunate situation. My husband, who deserves the biggest mansion that heaven has to offer, helped me clean up after “the incident” using the paper towels and baby wipes we had on hand.
After you go through some literal shit like that, you get really close, you love your person more than you thought possible, and you realize that you can survive anything together.
“I Could Never Do That“
Aside from my mom, I’ve never told anyone that story about getting sick in California. Even so, with that horrible story out of sight, so people always say “I could never do that” when talking about living that close together.
At first, I used to say “oh yeah, we’re weird, this isn’t for everyone.” But I’m done with that nonsense.
Maybe you are with the wrong person.
Or maybe the reason why so many marriages fail is that people are just unwilling to be uncomfortable together.
Or maybe you use sex wrong, and you’re not communicating properly.
Maybe you haven’t challenged yourself yet, and you’re afraid to get out of your comfort zone to become a stronger, happier couple.
So Much Traveling
Up until now, you’ve only heard the uncomfortable parts of trucking, so let me share all the good that FAR outweighs the uncomfortable.
Devin and I’ve seen the 48 continental states together, in less than a year. We met some awesome people. We’ve seen some insane views. We’ve hiked, biked, and kayaked (yep, we hooked bikes + kayaks up to the back of our cab) in places we otherwise would have never tried. We saw places we otherwise would have never seen.
We saw 333 major cities, which is basically every major city in the continental US, minus Miami, FL and San Francisco, CA.
Here’s a list of a lot of the major cities I’ve been to in the past 2 years. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve been to almost every major city in the Continental 48 sans Miami & San Francisco.
If someone ever says truckers can only make small repetitive laps, show them this. pic.twitter.com/9SVbd7t7bd
— Sarah (@DiamondsNDenim_) January 9, 2018
We have so many stories to share.
There was that time when Devin got locked in a bathroom in rural Arkansas because the handle fell off, and I had to break him out of there, making a big commotion in front of skeptical old men in overalls, playing cards and drinking whiskey at 9am.
Or the time that I got attacked by a raven for a french fry in Wyoming.
There’s the story of the man we met who stopped us in Colorado, and asked which way Lousiana was. When we pointed southeast, he took off running in that direction as hard as he could, leaping over fences and screaming through fields in the pouring rain.
Or the time traffic stopped in Portland because a rancher’s cattle got loose. We had a front row seat to the funniest, the most unskilled rodeo of our lives.
Then there’s the time when I almost got kidnapped in Amarillo by a truck driver who pretended to need help.
My first time seeing the ocean up close in California.
There’s the story of the little person wearing a bikini in Cleveland, riding an old-timey bike that was so tall, she could look inside our semi window.
That Mexican Bar we visited a quarter mile from the Mexican border in Southern Arizona.
The weekend we spent in the deserts of Nevada when it was 120 degrees, and our shoes literally melted to the pavement.
That awful night in Wyoming when the temperature hit negative 45 degrees (it was even colder with the wind chill), and we lost our dog Blair and didn’t find him until 45 minutes later. He was stiff and barely breathing, but he pulled through, and he’s still with us today.
We spent so much time together that we’ve shared every single memory we have with one another.
We have a much better understanding of our country and the people who live here.
We know where the most scenic parts of our country hide.
We trust one another so much more.
And we grew and loved, and learned all this together.
The Right Trucking Company Makes All the Difference
When you first start out driving, you’ll probably want to begin with a company, rather than as an owner-operator.
Devin has been an owner-operator in the past, and though the pay is much higher, it does add to your stress and responsibility.
Here are a few things you want to ensure your future company does well:
#1 The Pay.
Do NOT get sucked into “team” operations, ESPECIALLY with a stranger. That fantastic $0.53/mi they’re offering is split between you and the other driver (I’ll explain more in a moment), and your truck with always be moving, there will be few resets or breaks, and you definitely won’t have a refreshing 10-13 hours a night of stillness, let alone a 36-hour DOT mandated reset on the weekends. You have to sleep while the other person drives. Let me tell you what, I’ve been through western Lousiana in a semi, and those potholes are so bad they will throw you out of your bed if you’re not buckled in very tightly.
When there are vacations, the driver with more seniority (aka, probably the other guy you newbie) will often be choosing where to break, not always, but definitely the majority of the time. If he lives in Texas, but you live in Iowa, well, you’re going to be sitting in an empty truck in Texas for 5 days while he has his vacation. He’ll probably also get to choose where you guys go on holidays. Sitting on your butt doing absolutely nothing hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from home for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter isn’t fun.
Going back to the pay though…
As a solo driver, you drive for 11 hours a day, and you get paid by the mile. If you’re not stuck in a major city or the east coast (the entire east coast is a major city, even if the locals say it’s “the country”), you should be able to drive 600 miles a day. Getting paid $0.45 per mile means $270 a day before taxes.
As a team, you drive 24 hours a day, at “$0.53” per mile. That’s roughly 1000 miles (because you still have to stop for fuel and showers) a day. Your team together (or “the truck” as they like to say) will make $530 per day. But wait! You have to split that! Now you’re down to $265, and you still have to pay taxes. If you’re with a stranger, you won’t mind the taxes. If you’re with your spouse, however, you will care, because each of halves is taxed, not just the lump sum, so you’ll also pay slightly more in taxes.
Beware of companies (solo or team) that heavily advertise that means they have a ‘revolving door,’ aka, lots of people coming and going, which is a bad sign.
Ask the company where you’ll be driving, and how many miles per week the average driver gets. If you’re dedicated in the east coast or city driving, they are full of it when they say you’ll be driving 500 or more miles a day.
#2 The Company Facilities + Attitude
There are good companies, and there are bad companies.
A Bad Company:
One of Devin’s first companies put him in a beat up truck with literal bulletholes, no refrigerator, and no AC. The truck had problems, but the company dragged its feet getting things fixed.
The showers didn’t have doors, neither did the bathrooms, and the entire terminal smelled horrible. The terminal had a coin laundromat, but the machines were old and didn’t work very well. There were bugs on the floors, and most of the drivers hanging out in the lounges were in dirty pajama pants, flip-flops, and stained tee-shirts.
If you were a new driver and needed to go through school to get your CDL A, they made you sign a contract to drive with them for so many years, or pay thousands of dollars to break your contract.
A Good Company:
The company we were with for our year was entirely different. The truck was brand new. It had cable TV, heating, AC, a generator (so you didn’t have to run the truck to have heat and A/C), and a fridge. It was Sirius XM- enabled. The Qual-comm had a built-in GPS. If you mentioned any trouble with your truck, they urged you to immediately take it in for servicing. Also, there were pay bonuses for getting better fuel mileage (performance-based bonuses are an excellent sign). The terminal was gorgeous. It smelled nice, it had complimentary coffee in the lounge, a fully loaded gym (complete with stationary bikes, free weights, a weight machine, treadmills, and more). The laundry was free, and the machines were brand new. The showers were next-level. They were private, with locking doors, a toilet, a sink, towels, and a full glass shower. Very few drivers sat in the lounge (a good sign, that meant they were out driving), but those who did were in clean shirts, blue jeans, and workboots.
If you were a new driver at this company needing your CDL, they paid for your schooling and politely asked that you stay with them for at least 6 months after getting your license. There were no contracts or fees to pay.
#3 The Home Time
Ask directly about home time. “You’ll be home every weekend” means nothing, especially if that’s all they have to say. Often, they’ll have you home every weekend, but only for your 10-hour DOT mandated break or 36-hour DOT-mandated weekly restart. That’s actually no weekend at all, that’s just you stopping because the DOT requires it.
If your company says something along the lines of “for every one week you’re out, you get 1.5 days off” that’s something entirely different. Not only will you get a 10-hour break every day and a 36-hour restart on the weekends, but you’ll also have days you can save up to take off. For our company, that was basically 5 days off every month.
#4 The Routes
Local means that you’ll be home in your bed every night, not sleeping in the semi.
Regional means that you’ll be home every weekend or every other weekend. You won’t leave a 600-mile radius of your house.
Over-the-road (what we did) means you can go anywhere in the continental US, plus Canada, Mexico, and even ferry-rides to smaller countries or regions.
Dedicated means that you’ll run the same route every day. That route may be between two factories in one city, or it could be hauling equipment between John Deere in Iowa and the Port of Tacoma in Washington.
If you want to see the country, you have to go over-the-road, not dedicated. Also, be prepared to be away from your home for weeks or even a couple of months at a time.
Other Perks of Becoming a Truck Driver (or Riding with One)
During this time, I really got to know my husband, better know my country, learn about the trucking industry, AND I had time to work on myself.
I wrote my first book during my time as a passenger.
I put a lot into this blog.
I did a lot of reading and took some online classes (not for credit, just for the sake of learning).
I also started my freelance business in the truck (this month I started charging a dime per word for my writing, which means I now make $50/hr on writing assignments!!!).
If you become a driver, you’re always guaranteed work! You have a CDL A, B, and C. You can drive a semi, a bus, or even a forklift. There’s always a demand for those jobs, no matter where you live.
- Would you ever consider becoming a truck driver to save money, see the country, or to spend time with your spouse?
- If you’re a driver, what are some ways that truck driving may save or cost you more money?
- What are the warning signs of a bad company, and some secret signs of a good company?
- Now I’m not naming names, but the good company we drove for can be found by clicking this link (don’t worry, I’m not getting compensated for this plug). The bad company can be located here (I’m DEFINITELY not getting paid for this link!!).
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3 thoughts on “Wanna Save a Ton of Money, Become a Paid Tourist, and Strengthen Your Marriage? Drive a Semi.”
That’s really interesting and something I had never considered. But I know another newly married couple who does this, although not full time together. There are definitely some upsides.
Unconventional isn’t always easy but sometimes it’s better to be ‘better’ than ‘easy’. <3
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