What It Means to be a Short Haul Truck Driver

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Short haul trucking. You may have heard of it before, but do you really know what it means? In this article, we explain what short haul trucking is. In addition, we will outline some of its benefits including driving familiar routes, spending more time with family, having a predictable schedule, and overall experiencing a superior quality of life compared to other truckers.

We will also go over the downsides to short haul trucking including low pay, unpredictable work, and difficult driving situations. Lastly, we will go over the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s short haul exemption.

What is Short Haul Trucking?

Trucking jobs are often described as either short haul or long haul. Generally, short haul trucking involves driving within a 150-mile area. Long haul drivers, on the other hand, cover a distance of over 250 miles or more.

Additionally, short haul truckers tend to operate smaller vehicles than long haul truckers. Small vehicles are easier to drive on city roads, where most short haul trucking takes place. Short haul truckers may use straight trucks, vans, or even box trucks.

These types of vehicles typically have a lower price than big rigs meant for long haul trips, making short haul trucking more accessible to drivers who wish to own their own vehicle. Having a smaller vehicle also means short haul truckers pay less for equipment, insurance, and fuel.

Short haul trucking involves working multiple short trips and constantly doing pick-ups and drop-offs. These drivers have to navigate tight turns and challenging loading docks. They are experts in maneuvering their vehicles in and out of tight places.

Benefits of Short Haul Trucking

Drive in a Familiar Area

Short haul truckers operate in a relatively small area. Drivers quickly become familiar with the roads they travel and become more comfortable driving them. Constantly driving in a new area can be intimidating and stressful for drivers. Short haul drivers are lucky to work every day driving on roads they know.

Drivers Get More Time at Home

Drivers who specialize in short haul trucking are generally home more often when compared to long haul drivers. Driving short trips means routes can be completed in a day. Most local truck drivers are home almost every night. This never happens when long haul trucking. Being home more often is a great perk for truck drivers who want to see their family on a regular basis.

Dedicated Routes

Often when short haul trucking, drivers can work on a dedicated run, or work develops into a dedicated run. This gives drivers a predictable schedule, which is very rare for driving jobs. Having a dedicated route and predictable schedule can be a huge perk for drivers.

In addition, a dedicated route lets drivers get into a comfortable rhythm in their routine—something coveted by older drivers and drivers with families.

Superior Quality of Life

All of the perks and benefits mentioned so far add up to a superior quality of life for short haul truckers (when compared to long haul truckers). Short haul drivers get more time at home, sleep under their own roof more often, have access to better meals, and are less stressed on the road.

Downsides to Short Haul Trucking

Low Pay

Numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that short haul truck drivers earn an average of just $38,640 per year. Long haul truckers are paid a per-mile rate along with bonuses instead of an hourly rate and can earn more over the course of a year.

Short haul truckers also tend to earn less pay per job. Generally, short haul truckers get paid by the mile. They travel shorter trips which means fewer miles and usually less money per job. Drivers would need to do numerous short runs to equal one long haul trip. However, if you’re working alongside a large business as a part of a fleet you are likely to get lots of consistent work. Not having enough work is a bigger problem for owner-operators.

Unpredictable Work

Short haul trucking work can be inconsistent. The jobs come in ebbs and flows and are often seasonal. Drivers sometimes have non-stop back-to-back jobs one week and find themselves taking every other day off the next week. The work can be unpredictable. Sometimes short haul truck drivers find themselves neglecting sleep or breaks in order to capitalize on periods when there is lots of work.

Skilled Driving Required

Short haul trips usually require a driver to back up more frequently than long ones. Short haul trucking involves more pickups and deliveries. This can require backing up into loading docks multiple times a day. Backing up is many drivers’ weakest skill. Short haul trucking puts a driver in more risky situations than long haul trucking.

FMCSA Short-Haul Exemption 

The United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate in 2017. It requires drivers to record duty status and hours compliance using an electronic logging device. The mandate stipulates that an inspection officer can check or review a driver’s Record of Duty Status at any time, including at roadside checkpoints.

However, there is an ELD short haul exemption. According to the FMCSA, there is an exemption to the ELD mandate for “drivers who operate a vehicle that requires a CDL within a 100-air mile radius (150-air mile radius for vehicles not requiring CDL) and work no longer than 12 hours each day.” This definition fits short haul trucking. Short haul truckers do not need to deal with onerous ELD machines as long haul truckers do.

To learn more about short haul trucking and how to optimize a fleet of any size, check out all that Azuga has to offer. Whether you’re looking to boost productivity, save money, or improve driver safety, Azuga has a smart solution for your fleet.

We also went over the disadvantages to long haul trucking including low pay, unpredictable work, and difficult driving situations. Finally, we explained the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s short haul exemption that allows short haul drivers to operate without ELDs.