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Deciding Between Working For a Large Company Vs A Smaller Company

by Audrey Beim - Published: 4/17/2017
3.1 2 votes

Now that you have your commercial driver’s license, it’s time to get on the road. It is an exciting step to take as you join over 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S.

There are several decisions to make when you decide to enter the world of truck driving for a living. One of the most important is your decision of which type of “trucking family” you want to join. There are several options to choose from:

Large Corporations with national locations and interstate routes

Small Companies that transport goods across state lines

Local Businesses that are privately held and that often operates in a smaller, local radius

Owner-Operator where you become your own boss, though generally many work a company of that is either large, small, or local to help them find freight.

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Ultimately, the divide in companies comes down to a fairly black and white distinction – large companies versus small companies.

It’s estimated that that there may be up to 500,000 trucking companies in total in the United States. Unsurprisingly, California and Texas top the list with the largest number of trucking companies compared to other states. Of those 1.2 million trucking companies, it is estimated that 80% operate fleets with six or fewer trucks.

However, there are some very large trucking companies in North America. The largest of these entities supports over 1,400 trucks with an excess of 3,800 employees.

Decisions, Decisions

Your assessment of the best match for a trucking company will likely be influenced by a variety of factors:

Your family situation:

You will have to decide how long you are willing to be away from home.If you have a family and prefer to stay close to them, you may enjoy local routes where you can often be home every night. For many, home time is one of the most important considerations, so being on the road for days or weeks at a time would put unwanted stress in their lives. For drivers without spouses or children, a OTR truck driving job may be a fine option.

Your lifestyle:

If you are searching for adventure and have the desire to travel across the country, then you’ll want to join a company that regularly runs across state lines. These long hauls may offer destinations that you would never otherwise visit. Many drivers enjoy spending layover time exploring the places they visit on the road. However, you’ll have to possess the type of personality that is comfortable with long periods solitude. Embracing a world of being alone on the road is often the majority of a truck driver’s life. If you crave intense social interaction or need constant attention, trucking with long routes may not be a driver’s most optimal choice.

Your desire for variety of freight:

As is the case with many larger trucking fleets, many nationwide companies will offer a wider base of customers and therefore have a large selection of cargo available for drivers. You may enjoy specializing in a particular type of equipment such as dry van, reefer (refrigerator truck), tanker, liquid or flatbed. More often than not, specialized freight can lead to some negotiation of bonus pay or an increased rate for hauling these items.

Other drivers prefer the predictability of driving a truck for the same customer and having a regular route.The smaller trucking businesses can usually be a good source for this type of reliability and routine in the work provided. 

Super-Sized

Some experts in the industry believe there are advantages to working in a large company, especially at the beginning of a driver’s career. Larger corporations may offer a great deal of benefits including:

1. A Sturdy Foundation

There is basic knowledge that is necessary for creating a solid understanding of the trade when driving a truck. A big company frequently invests in their employees with both on-the-job experiences and professional development courses. They may provide training courses to teach the highest standards and have opportunities for continuing education. This supports a commitment to safety on the roads and a high level of aptitude towards new road practices and latest regulations.

2. Structure

Larger companies tend to have a firmly established structure for everyday operations along with clearly defined job functions. There may be a clear path to growth within a large fleet, allowing for increased responsibility and salary-related opportunities.

However, large companies are comprised of many different divisions that all must work together, but too often the bureaucracy of a big business can become frustrating or even discouraging. In a giant organization, you may feel like you are simply a number, not a name and one can be easily replaced. It's tough to stand out, so if you like a more personal touch to the culture you work in, this may not be the best place for your career.

3. Consistent Pay

Big trucking companies have a large pool of equipment to use that often make the job more lucrative for the driver. With the extra trailers, you get to do a lot of “drop and hooks” where you pull into the customer, drop your trailer, grab a different trailer, and leave. You don't have to wait around to be loaded or unloaded.

Since many trucker job opportunities, the time you spend waiting to load or unload is often unpaid, so you want to keep driving as much as possible. In this way, a bigger company can help you make a more money. Large corporations also tend to have contracts with businesses that guarantee work. A system og pre-negotiated pay for different situations can lead to stability in your career.

4. Customers and Variety

It is common sense that large companies will have more contacts in the industry and therefore, a wider pool of customers nationwide. Rather than running with the same pool of local businesses or mom and pop stores, drivers may get to work alongside several different industries and producers.

Additionally, large companies will often give drivers the opportunity to find the type of hauling they prefer. For example, a large company can offer semi, liquid tanker, and flatbed services giving drivers the chance to drive different types of freight to find what suits them best. Drivers in states with extreme weather such as Florida may also find that they get experience in driving in wildly different weather conditions, gaining both experience in driving through inclement weather as well as knowledge in what routes they may or may not wish to take.

Most new drivers start out hauling a dry van or refrigerated freight because they are common and they require the least amount of specialized training. These particular trucking jobs are less stressful and require only a basic level of knowledge, perfect for the rookie driver. As a driver gains experience in a large corporate environment, they can graduate to more sophisticated machinery and a wider variety of freight.

5. Perks

Big companies often have the resources to offer better benefit packages including pay rate, various types of insurance, 401K programs, recognition for performance, and even paid time off. Some companies have repair networks that can make maintenance simple and quick so you can get back on the road. As a high-volume employer, they can offer amenities to their drivers that help make life on and off the road a little easier.

Little Company, Big Advantages?

There are situations where a smaller organization can offer advantages to one’s employment situation. Not everyone is comfortable in a large, corporate environment.Some individuals thrive in the more intimate type of business.

Some of the benefits of working for a smaller company include:

1. Familiar Atmosphere

Working for a big company often means working for a nameless, faceless entity and being more of just a number than a name. It's tough to stand out when there are hundreds of drivers.

With a local company, it is easier to create a strong working relationship with the company owner and other employees. This often leads to better communication and a more casual culture. Many drivers in Midwest areas such as Missouri appreciate this down-home, non-pretentious setup. However, keeping co-workers as close friends is not always an easy thing to manage, especially if there is any type of competition between employees when it comes to pay, equipment, or freight.

2. More Competitive Compensation Packages

Since small companies usually allocate part of their work to owner-operators, they tend to have less overhead, fewer equipment expenses, and fewer benefit expenses. This may allow them to pay both company drivers and owner-operators more. Furthermore, local companies generally employ far fewer people in a smaller variety of positions, which further reduces overhead expenses and potentially puts more money in drivers’ pockets.

Since there are fewer drivers in the fleet, a smaller company will rely on you, the driver, much more so than a big company does. The increased responsibility of individual employees is a trait that is necessary to the success of a small business and not everyone is comfortable in this role.

3. More Latitude with Special Circumstances

Small companies create a more personalized environment. For example, if you suddenly need to change your schedule, take on different hauls, or take time off to meet family obligations, a smaller company may offer more flexibility, especially if you have performed well in the past.The relationships you build at a small company may provide greater understanding. This is in juxtaposition to large corporations have specific guidelines and rules that must be adhered to, regardless of the need for time away from the road.

Common Ground

Just like in every business category, there is no such thing as the "perfect company" in trucking. Big or small, choosing a reputable trucking company that provides acceptable compensation, benefits and overall satisfaction can make all the difference in a trucker’s career.


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