CAN YOU STILL MAKE MONEY DRIV­ING TRUCKS?

It’s not easy with many new fac­tors

Big Rigs - - FRONT PAGE - Bruce Honey­will

THERE is no doubt in my mind that there is a good in­come to be had as a truck driver.

I have watched many mates and ac­quain­tances build their lives over the bon­net of a truck, raise a fam­ily, pay the house off by the time they are 50, give the kids a good ed­u­ca­tion, have two late-model cars parked in the fam­ily garage and so forth.

For a fair chunk of my life, when rear­ing my kids, I did it at the wheel of a truck.

Yes, no doubt in my mind that a good liv­ing can be earned at driv­ing a truck.

BUT, and it is a big ‘but’, the very na­ture of our largely de-reg­u­lated em­ploy­ment sys­tem in the road trans­port in­dus­try means there is a tail at the bot­tom end of the spec­trum of take home pay for truck driv­ers.

There are driv­ers bring­ing home an av­er­age pay packet – spread over time – of not a whole lot more than what their teenage kids bring home from Macca’s.

These driv­ers and their fam­i­lies are do­ing it hard. Some of these driv­ers could be ca­sual work­ing through labour hire com­pa­nies.

The labour hire com­pa­nies use the truck driv­ers to take up the slack in big­ger truck com­pa­nies and the ca­sual work can be spo­radic and ir­reg­u­lar lead­ing to low av­er­age in­come.

And like all in­dus­tries there is a mi­nor­ity of em­ploy­ers with lit­tle re­gard for their driv­ers and pay them min­i­mum wages, flout in­dus­trial law.

There is a broad spec­trum of re­turns from a ca­reer as a truck driver, from ‘do­ing nicely thank you’ to those for whom mak­ing mort­gage or rent pay­ments is a con­tin­ual bat­tle.

With such a wide spec­trum, it is dif­fi­cult to cre­ate pro­files of driv­ers who ben­e­fit – or do not – in a ca­reer as a truck driver, but that won’t stop us from try­ing.

The high-in­come driver

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, do­ing well in a truck driv­ing ca­reer boils down to one thing, be­ing pre­pared to work big hours (or kilo­me­tres), a rea­son­able EBA and a stable sup­port sys­tem.

This driver may live in a large provin­cial city or town, be driv­ing long-haul, be pre­pared to be away from home for sev­eral days and nights at a time.

The pil­lars of long-term truck driv­ing ca­reer suc­cess seem to be work­ing for a rea­son­able boss, a rea­son­able EBA and a good sup­port sys­tem at home.

The em­ployer, whether a boss or a com­pany, will show re­spect for you as a driver as you have for him or her – even though, as in all jobs, you may well feel cranky with the bosses from time to time.

The EBA will be nowhere near gold-plated or benev­o­lent, but will of­fer the ba­sics in­clud­ing an ac­cept­able pay rate, Su­per, sick and hol­i­day leave.

As part of the EBA, there will be a rea­son­able per-kilo­me­tre rate. In spite of the crit­i­cism it at­tracts, long-haul driv­ers do well on trip money if they are ‘mile makers’.

The suc­cess­ful long-term high earn­ers I have ob­served of­ten have a home environment that is sup­port­ive with a part­ner and fam­ily who ac­cept the long hours of the driver (male or fe­male) and has an un­der­stand­ing of fa­tigue pressure

Ex­pected in­come for this driver at the wheel of a long-haul mul­ti­ple com­bi­na­tion truck can be around the $100,000pa mark.

To achieve this type of in­come, the driver will be av­er­ag­ing the equiv­a­lent of at least four ‘shifts’ a week un­der Ba­sic Fa­tigue Man­age­ment (BFM).

That’s big miles, up­wards of 4500km per week. To main­tain this in­come you need an em­ployer with good gear and sup­port at home, but it is not un­usual.

2018 Truck Driver sta­tus

But many driv­ers fall short of the $100k per year mark of course.

There are govern­ment web­sites analysing in­come of truck driv­ers from ad­ver­tise­ments and the rec­om­mended rates of pay from the Fair Work Om­buds­man.

In 2019, truck driv­ing is seen as a growth in­dus­try, ex­pected to ex­pand sig­nif­i­cantly over the next five years.

In 2017 there were 184,200 truck driv­ers em­ployed in Aus­tralia, a fig­ure pro­jected to grow to 200,400 by 2022.

Ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Govern­ment, full-time truck driv­ers’ av­er­age earn­ings are marginally above the na­tional weekly av­er­age of $1586 for all oc­cu­pa­tions (2018).

Ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment anal­y­sis, 91 per cent of truck driv­ers are in full-time work, much higher than the all-jobs av­er­age of 68 per­cent.

Full-time truck driv­ers av­er­age around 48 hours of work per week com­pared to 40 hours for the all-jobs av­er­age.

The av­er­age age of truck driv­ers is now 47 years old com­pared to the na­tional worker av­er­age age of 40 years.

And in spite of valiant ef­forts in re­cent years to in­crease the num­ber of women en­ter­ing the in­dus­try, it is still male dom­i­nated with only 3.6 per cent of work­ers be­ing fe­male.

In an anal­y­sis of truck driver ad­ver­tise­ments, a full-time B-dou­ble driver (MC) based in NSW could ex­pect to gross be­tween $80,000 and $119,000 per year.

A Heavy Rigid (HR) driver based in Can­berra could ex­pect to gross be­tween $70,000 and $90,000pa.

A driver spend­ing his or her time in a Medium Rigid (MR) based in Syd­ney will re­ceive pay be­tween $40,000 and $60,000 per year.

The Fair Work Om­buds­man has pub­lished the 2018 Pay Guide for long dis­tance op­er­a­tions.

For a full-time driver at the bot­tom end of the eight grades (en­try level) will pull around $800 per week while a Mul­ti­ple Com­bi­na­tion (MC), Grade 7 or 8, will at­tract about $100 per week more.

An MC driver work­ing on the Pay Guide rec­om­men­da­tions will be paid around 46 cents per kilo­me­tre which trans­lates to around $2000 gross per week over four BFM shifts.

These rates also at­tract ben­e­fits which a ca­sual driver will not get.

How­ever a ca­sual driver may re­ceive 53 cents a kilo­me­tre to cover the ab­sence of those ben­e­fits, but there is no guar­an­tee of hours.

Truck driv­ing has the abil­ity to at­tract in­comes that make it a vi­able ca­reer and the de­mand for driv­ers is grow­ing.

This de­mand is un­likely to dwin­dle any­time soon as age­ing driv­ers step down from the cab.

There is a ca­reer path from light trucks, through the grades to the long dis­tance mul­ti­ple com­bi­na­tions where sub­stan­tial in­come be de­rived, although this way of life will not appeal to all driv­ers.

So yes, there is a quid in truck driv­ing but it is not a gold mine on the per-hour ba­sis, and it’s hard work.

There is good money for those will­ing to put in the kilo­me­tres.

Edi­tor’s note: The dis­cus­sion here comes from the writer’s own payslips, in­dus­try anal­y­sis and rec­om­mended pay rates. How does this match your ex­pe­ri­ence? Let us know at edi­tor@bi­grigs.com.au so we can dig deeper.

PHO­TOS: CONTRIBUTED

ROLLER­COASTER RIDE: There is still good money to be made be­hind the wheel for those will­ing to put in the kilo­me­tres.

Driv­ing is seen as a growth in­dus­try, ex­pected to ex­pand sig­nif­i­cantly over the next five years.

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