The biggest challenge for truckers and their family at home is balancing financial responsibilities and home time. We all agree that family is the most important thing. So it is very important that we take the time to talk about this, plan and get it right. Each family has different needs so it pays to work together with those at home as a family team to come up with a plan that works. The job of a trucker’s spouse is harder than our job. Truckers know that there are two things Momma needs: a good paycheck and you. The dilemma is that you have to be away from home, not at home, to run miles. But the bills don’t care. They just keep coming. So what is the answer?
Let’s look at things from the trucker’s spouse’s perspective. In most trucker households, the spouse at home pays the bills. The bills are the same each week. But the trucker’s pay is different each week because he or she is paid by the miles and the miles are different each week. Because of this, financial planning and home time planning are critical to your family’s success.
Every trucker can relate to that tense conversation with the spouse on Friday. It is tense because that is payday and the day bills are paid. If the settlement is low, while the bills stay the same, this is stressful for all. Due to the nature of a trucker family’s life and the way truckers are paid, it is critical that the family work together as a team to plan their finances. It is always better to manage your money than to let your money manage you. Do you think a person can go broke making $200,000 per year? Do you think a person can save money making $40,000 per year? What is the difference? The difference lies in managing expenses. This is an area that you do have control over. Therefore, working together as a team to come up with a family budget is mission critical. If you find that your average pay is not enough to meet your expenses, the only logical thing to do is cut the expenses. You should plan your expenses to be no more than 80% of your average pay check. This allows for extra money from good weeks to get you through the weeks when miles are low.
This budget should take into account the fact that miles are different each week. All trucking companies are subject to the ups and downs of break downs, annual reviews, preventive maintenance, things that go wrong and freight fluctuations at different times of the week, month and year. All trucking companies are subject to the same economy. When it is slow, we always see some drivers quit and go to another company. The driver will say, “I have to do something.” The driver has to do something but it is much smarter to do something that works instead of something that doesn’t work. If it is slow here, I assure you it is slow everywhere. No trucking company has a corner on the economy. So the driver quits, perhaps hurts his or her DAC, goes to another company he or she knows nothing about, and wastes a week in orientation. The driver then learns it is slow there too, and the cycle of poor decisions repeats. If you work as a team with your partner on a plan so you control your finances and budget, you are prepared for slow freight times. You can make more here than other places because our pay is top drawer and you have learned the system and know how to make the most of it.
What is the problem from the home time side? We can all agree that over the road truckers don’t get as much home time as they should. Is home time important? You bet. We work to support our family, not the other way around. Since truckers are gone from home most of the time it is critical that we get them home and that they make the most of this time. If that Friday conversation about money is a happy one, then the quality of home time will be better, because the financial stress is removed. If a trucker family is financially solid, it is so much easier to go home. But if a trucker family is financially stressed, the trucker stays out longer to get out of the hole. But this causes family stress. Smart families know the freight flows. They work as a team to have the trucker out more during good freight times and home more during slow freight times. They not only plan home time, but they are flexible too. If they get behind in a budget, then either change the budget or do some catching up on the road. The smart families know that proper money management is the key to adequate and quality home time.
If there is anything we can do to help your family, let us know. We value family. We know home time is mission critical. We care about the ACT family and we care about yours. Let’s all be smart about it. It is what we are all working for.