Monday, March 19, 2018

Eye on Trucking: Looking at pros and cons of short haul vs. long haul

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We asked Randy Cornell, vice president of safety and recruiting for Con-way Truckload, for some help.
We asked Randy Cornell, vice president of safety and recruiting for Con-way Truckload, for some help.

Indications are that trucking is beginning to feel an upswing in business.

You know, more freight than capacity.

Putting some mothballed tractors back on the road.

Help wanted signs reappearing in the recruiting offices.

Driver turnover rates going back up as truckers seek other options.

So if you’re thinking about changing carriers or if you’re a new driving school grad, we thought we’d take a look at whether long-haul or short-haul is best for you.

We’ll even include a derivative of short-haul — local.

We asked Randy Cornell, vice president of safety and recruiting for Con-way Truckload, for some help.

“Obviously, they are two substantially different types of positions,” Cornell told us. “But the pros to long haul are (1) you’ll typically make more money in long haul than short haul and (2) you’re not going to be loading and unloading as much which most drivers prefer, [and have] a longer run because they like to drive. They don’t like to do all the other stuff. They like to drive.”

In a typical a long-haul operation, you’ll be loading and unloading every couple of days where typically in a short-haul operation you’re going to be loading and unloading every day, sometimes two or three times a day, Cornell reminded us.

But there are cons to long haul — time away from home, for one.

More and more with younger drivers, time at home is factor No. 1 when choosing a carrier.

“Typically, it’s going to be a couple of weeks out each stint that you’re out there on the road,” Cornell said. “Probably the biggest drawback to long-haul trucking is adjusting to being gone. Even if you’ve been a driver in a short-haul operation you could easily transition to an over-the-road driver, but it’s not the transitioning to over-the-road driving that’s the difficult part, it’s the transitioning to the over-the-road lifestyle, meaning you’re gone all the time. You’re not going to be back in the house every couple of days; you’re going to be gone a couple of weeks at a time.”

At Con-way, long-haul drivers must stay on the road for 10 days before requesting a trip home.

“Once you’re out 10 days, you can request to go home and they will start working you back toward the house,” Cornell told us. “But you could stay out longer. We have some drivers here who literally stay out for months at a time.”

Of course, whereas the biggest long-haul con for many truckers is time away from home, it’s just the opposite for short-haul drivers who are home most nights. 

Then, there is the pay.

Short haul doesn’t pay as well and typically, Cornell said, the equipment is not as good as in long haul.

How much difference?

Cornell said he couldn’t necessarily put a percentage on the difference, but cited one case in point.

“I have a friend who is my counterpart at a 400-500 truck operation up in Ohio and our long-haul drivers make 25 to 30 percent more than those drivers do,” he said. “The reason you make more money in a long-haul operation is that you are gone all the time. So there’s a greater demand on the employee or contractor to be gone like that versus being home every night. So the difference in pay can be significant.”

There can be a flip side when it comes to finances, however.

“The other side of the coin is if you’re doing a short-haul operation and you’re home every night, you can take your lunch, too,” Cornell said. “You don’t have to buy it one the road.”

But Cornell was quick to point out that with today’s over-the-road trucks, the sleeper compartments are big enough that drivers have refrigerators and they have coolers.

But regardless, it’s going to be cold cuts (long haul) vs. home-cooked fried chicken (short haul), he pointed out.

Con-way actually has two types of short-haul jobs, regional and local.

The regional drivers might go out 200 miles and back the same day and are paid by the mile.

Local drivers would move freight from one location in town to another and are paid by the hour.

Cornell said recruiters are seeing more and more truckers who prefer the short haul.

“We’re seeing more drivers wanting to be home more often so they can have a home life,” he said. “Twenty years ago when you went to drive a truck, you just knew you were going to be gone. This is the way it was and that’s what you did. Times are changing. With the generation of drivers coming in versus the generation of drivers going out, that home time is more important to them than it seemed to be many years ago. I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing by any means. I think it’s a great thing. We’re seeing a generation who want to drive a truck but they want to have a balance of work and life, too.”

Cornell closed our conversation with the story of one couple whose home and work life revolved around their truck:

“We have one couple from New Zealand. They don’t have a home in the U.S.  They said, ‘we came here to work. Why do we need to pay for a house when you’ve given us a house to live in; we just put our money in our pocket or the bank.’ They went home once last year.”

Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at

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