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What is the Difference Between Regional, Local, and OTR Trucking?

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders are eligible to hold several kinds of trucking jobs. From regional and local to over-the-road (OTR) trucking, the options make it easy to find a trucking job that suits your talents and your goals. There is a type of truck driving opportunity to fit every need, preference, and lifestyle. There are three types of trucking runs: local, regional, and OTR. Each position comes with benefits and drawbacks. We explore each of the three types of runs and give you the lowdown on the important details before you decide which one is right for you.

What is a Local Truck Driving?

Local truck driving is the option those who wish to stay closer to home should choose for their trucking career. Local truck drivers haul freight with a destination that is no further than a day’s drive from their home location. They are tasked with jobs that are typically more urban in nature that involve a robust client base. Local truck drivers must learn how to navigate their rigs in and around cities, which is one of the more challenging parts of the job.

What are the Pros and Cons of Local Trucking?

In addition to returning to the comfort and security of your own home each night, local truck driving has some other perks. They include:

  • A solid work-life balance. Sacrificing a home or social life is not necessary when you are a local truck driver. You can leave for work each day knowing you will be home that night. Family and friends will not have to go days or weeks without seeing you. Local truck drivers also have plenty of free time to engage in preferred activities and hobbies.
  • A set routine. Local truck drivers are not afraid to make advance plans with friends or family because they have an established routine. They also have set days and hours they know they can count on, so they do not have to worry about where or when they will have their next haul.
  • Relationship building. Local truck drivers work with the same clientele regularly, so they can get to know them very well. They also are more likely to interact with their driver leader or dispatcher every day, so they will have the chance to form a solid working relationship with their coworkers.

One of the only downsides to local trucking is competitiveness. More drivers are becoming interested in the benefits of local truck driving. Trucking companies and shippers are choosier about who they hire since the pool of potential candidates tends to be larger with local trucking than with regional trucking or OTR trucking. Local truck drivers earn roughly $51,355 annually, while OTR truck drivers can make as much as $94,500 a year.

What is Regional Trucking?

Regional truck driving combines the convenience of working close to home while still allowing the freedom of driving on the open road. Regional truck drivers can work for businesses that have freight to move within a set regional location. Regional trucking usually encompasses areas of 1,000 miles or less. Regional truck routes are ideal for solo truck drivers who prefer to work alone rather than as part of a truck driving team. Teams are more prevalent with OTR trucking due to the nature of the longer hauls. Regional trucking routes can sometimes overlap with local trucking routes depending on the clientele. This means regional truck drivers will need to be comfortable driving in and around towns and big cities with their rigs.

What are the Pros and Cons of Regional Trucking?

The perks of being a regional truck driver are similar to those of a local truck driver. One of the biggest pros is the ability to stay close to home. While regional truckers can travel up to 800 miles further than most local drivers on their runs, the extra distance does not mean they are away from home for long. Even if regional truck drivers are not home every night, they are home some nights and on the weekends. Drivers who have families – especially those with young children – will appreciate the ability to be home several nights a week.

Other advantages of regional truck driving include:

  • A consistent schedule. For most regional truck drivers, their schedule is predictable. They serve the same clients who tend to require loads on the same days and times each week. Knowing their schedule in advance makes it easier to make plans with family and friends. There is no reason to miss out on making memories with your loved ones when you are a regional truck driver.
  • Less labor-intensive. Local truck drivers often deliver partial loads that require frequent stops. Some local drivers also must load and unload their cargo. The constant activity can be tiring. Regional truck drivers are not under the same constraints. They rarely are tasked with loading or unloading their cargo and are not making such frequent stops.
  • Higher paychecks. Regional truck drivers earn a slightly higher annual salary than their local truck driving counterparts. ZipRecruiter estimates the nationwide regional truck driving salary at $60,969. Some higher-end salaries for regional truck drivers hover around $83,000, while the lowest salaries for this kind of truck driver are around $33,500.

Like local truck driving, there are some downsides to regional trucking. One of the biggest cons is that regional truck drivers have shorter breaks between runs. Quicker turnaround times are what makes regional trucking attractive to drivers who wish to spend more time at home. It also is the reason why they get less of a break in between loads. This can be an issue for people who feel the need to stretch their legs frequently.

What is OTR in Trucking?

OTR in trucking is short for over-the-road. It is just another way to say that a driver works in long-haul trucking. When you are an OTR truck driver, you are required to travel throughout all the 48 lower states. Some OTR drivers even make delivery runs into Canada. It all depends on the carrier or shipper they are working with at the time. This means you may end up on a route that goes from the east coast to the west coast, or from the south up to a northern state. OTR truck driving means that drivers and their OTR trucks can be on the road for as little as seven days or for weeks or months at a time.

What are the Pros and Cons of OTR Trucking?

OTR truck driving is a different beast than regional truck driving or local truck driving. While OTR trucking comes with the most perks, it also has some stark disadvantages that can make it unpopular with some individuals interested in pursuing a career in truck driving. First, we will address the benefits of choosing to be an OTR truck driver.

Without a doubt, the biggest pro of OTR trucking is the pay. As we previously mentioned, OTR truck drivers can earn as much as $94,500 per year. Other advantages include:

  • Traveling while earning a paycheck. Very few jobs allow you to see the country (and even parts of Canada or Mexico) while on the clock. OTR trucking is one of them. If you have always wanted to travel and do not mind spending some time behind the wheel to get around, OTR trucking is a good choice.
  • Job security. OTR truck drivers are a hot commodity. With more businesses getting in on the direct-to-your-door delivery game, OTR truckers are needed to transport those goods. OTR trucking is responsible for most of the overland freight movement in the U.S. The most recent figures indicate there are 947,000 truckers in the U.S., which is less than the trucking industry requires. This means job security for those willing to make the longer hauls.
  • Company benefits. Drivers who work for trucking companies and carriers may receive some awesome benefits in addition to their annual salaries. This can include paid time off.

OTR trucking comes with its fair share of cons. One of the biggest disadvantages is the amount of time you are away from home. For truck drivers with families, this can be especially difficult. OTR truck drivers must get proficient at making their trucking career mesh with their other obligations in life. In addition to the long periods away from friends and family, OTR trucking comes with a schedule that is less predictable than those of local or regional drivers. If you end up completing a run at the end of a mandatory rest period, it can alter your schedule for the following week. The last downside to OTR trucking is drivers have little time to spend outside their trucks. So, while they are seeing the country, it is more of a drive-by viewing. They are not afforded much time to explore areas during their runs.

Must-have Truck Driver Skills

It seems a bit obvious to mention that local, regional, and OTR truck drivers must be skilled at driving a rig if they hope to be competitive in their field. Here are the top four skills (besides driving) truckers need to be successful.

1. They Must Be Good Communicators.

Local truck drivers will have more opportunities to engage with people regularly as part of the local routes. That does not mean that regional drivers and OTR truck drivers will never have to connect with people while on the road. Changes in delivery terms or weather and traffic issues can cause a regional or OTR driver to communicate with dispatchers, clients, and others to finish their run.

2. They Must Be Organized.

When you are a truck driver, the organization is the name of the game. From logging your miles to monitoring the Hours of Service (HOS) requirements, you must be on the ball if you wish to remain in compliance with all the local, state, and federal regulations.

3. They Must Be Responsible.

Drivers who wish to maintain their safety and that of the people around them are responsible. They know and understand all the regulations and mandates that apply to the operation of their rig and are committed to following them.

4. They Must Be Strong Navigators.

This is especially true for OTR truck drivers. Advanced technology like GPS has made finding your way a lot easier. Truck drivers still need a strong sense of direction and the ability to read a map. They also must understand road signs and how to read a compass.

How to Obtain a CDL for Regional, Local, and OTR Trucking

Earning your CDL is not difficult or time-consuming. Most states permit drivers who are at least 18 years old to qualify for a CDL. The first step is to obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). Some truck driving schools require a CLP before enrolling with them, while others will help you obtain one as part of their program. A background check and physical are required to obtain a CLP. CDL students must complete a truck driving school program, then pass a knowledge exam and skills test.