Team Driving: 8 Insights on Trucking with a Partner

Team Driving

Have you ever wondered what it would like to be a team driver? If you’re not employed in the trucking industry, team driving is a term for two people that take turns driving a semi-truck and managing different loads on the road. Many owner-operators that book loads on uShip happen to be husband-wife teams, but that’s not to say team drivers always are. Many drivers hauling loads for larger carriers also prefer the arrangement.

Team driving has many advantages, even if you hit the road with someone who isn’t your spouse. To state the obvious, the arrangement involves a LOT of quality time spent together. It’s important to take into consideration the advantages and disadvantages before committing to working with another person.

Consider the realities with these eight insights on driving with a partner.

1. Know How It Works

The Obvious:

You aren’t the only driver in the cab.

The Details:

Two people split up driving time between nights and days. Having an extra person in the cab means longer hours on the road and, in turn, more miles. Longer hours means fewer stops, less time for breaks and a quicker turnaround (apart from the FMCSA rules going in effect July, 1). Team drivers are in demand– so much so, that some companies will pay the cost of CDL school if you agree to drive with someone upon graduating.

2. Understand Team Incentives

The Obvious:

Team drivers make companies and owner-operator businesses more money.

The Details:

Large trucking companies like Schneider National, Inc. and Con-way offer incentives to team drivers such as sign on bonuses and a 5,000 mile-per-week guarantee, even if you don’t log that many miles. Team driver benefits may also include a higher pay-per-mile rate, a higher safety bonus rate and priority dispatch.

3. Calculate the Payout

The Obvious:

More miles covered means getting paid more.

The Details:

Team drivers make more per mile. If you exceed 5,000 miles per week, your pay-per-mile may increase. Hauling more miles means your bottom line increases for your team. Just remember, the total number of miles you run will be split with your partner. Trucking companies will boast a $70,000 per year paycheck for driving teams but the reality is that you and your partner will split that. Even so, this can still mean $200 or $300 more per driver.

4. Explore the Cons

The Obvious:

Packing two people in one truck cab makes for tight quarters.

The Details:

You are now responsible for another human life, not just your own. Respecting your driving partner means paying attention to the little things you might not notice on your own. With another person in your cab, it’s important to pay attention to  bunk cleanliness, radio station choices, the way you shift and the way you make corners. While having someone to talk to can be considered a ‘pro’, if your communication starts to break down, you could be headed on a fast track to solo driving.

5. Snag A Spouse

The Obvious:

All earnings stay within your household.

The Details:

Some of the best teams come from husband and wife pairings. If you are married, chances are you’ve been through some trying times. If you can make a marriage work, you can make a team driving situation work. Instead of one going weeks or even months without seeing the other, spousal teams allow for plenty of quality time together. Who would you trust more to drive while you sleep, your spouse or a stranger?

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6. Follow FMCSA Rules

The Obvious:

There are no exceptions for team drivers.

The Details:

The FMCSA rules are the same for team drivers as they are for solo drivers in terms of how many hours you can drive at a time and how much rest you are required to take before driving again. There are a couple of upcoming rule changes you’ll face if you are a team driver:

  1. If a team driver goes directly from 10 consecutive hours off-duty to the sleeper berth at the start of his duty period, the sleeper-berth period can be excluded from calculation of the 14-hour limit. It would be a “… combination of consecutive sleeper-berth and off-duty time amounting to at least 10 hours.”
  2. A team driver is limited to counting only 2 hours in the passenger seat as off duty. This ensures that drivers spend the other 8 hours of the required 10 off-duty hours in the sleeper berth.

7. Having Help Makes it Easier

The Obvious:

You don’t have to carry the load responsibility yourself.

The Details:

You don’t have to back up into that tight space alone! Pre-trip inspection goes by much faster with two people. It is also much less lonely than driving by yourself. Back when CB radios were the only means of communication, there was plenty of talking in the cab. Now, with restrictions against talking on a cellphone and driving, solo driving is much more isolated.

8. Don’t Have a Partner? No Problem!

The Obvious:

Companies will find a partner for you.

The Details:

If you aren’t married and don’t have a friend who also drives, it is still possible to drive on a team. Sites like truckerteammatch.com utilize personality matching as well as similar location and allow you to get to know someone before you team up with them. And — here’s just a suggestion from my own observations: dating sites for truck drivers exist, and they might be a good way for folks on the road to find a partner. Dating is hard when you’re on the road for 32 weeks a year, why not date on the road as team drivers? If you have a friend who doesn’t drive OTR, large companies often have referral programs in place and will pay for your friend to get a CDL.

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