Do truckers universally have loads the like or don’t like? Say transporting apples vs Apple iPhones or live cows over cow plush toys, with the least desirable loads paying more or going to the lowest seniority member? More generally, are certain trailers preferred- do truckers universally prefer flatbeds over reefers or vans over tankers?
Or does this depend on the individual trucker, or do truckers tend not to care a lot since they get paid no matter what they’re hauling?
I used to work at a trucking firm, and the only thing they hated more than long-haul refrigerated fruit or veggie loads werw the Christmas tree loads. I am only slightly exaggerating when I say that the release they had to sign made them responsible for whatever happened to that tree from the time it was planted to the day it was taken out to the trash sometime the next April or May. Because the trees are usually longer than the trailers they are hauled in, the doors have to be chained most of the way closed, making the load visible to one and all.
I talked to a trucker who really loved carrying live steers because the center of gravity was low and the cows acted like shock absorbers, adjusting to the road bumps with their legs so it was an uncommonly smooth and steady ride. Guess it helps that the smell is all behind you.
I knew a driver that would occasionally be pressed into service driving a milk tanker and he loathed it. The load dynamics were not the problem though. Apparently hauling bulk dairy goods required a lot of extra monitoring, log keeping and paperwork. Unexpected delays could force him to dump the entire load.
I’m not sure how big of a difference it makes, but as a buyer of (a lot) of produce, I can tell you that fruit is heavy and if you’re delivering to a place without a dock (so the forklift can drive onto the truck), it means moving all the pallets to the end of the truck so the store’s forklift can grab them from there. Add to that, the receiver is going to (or should) check all the produce to make sure it looks good. That means having to wait around.
On top of all that, if they tip a pallet, they have to explain to their dispatcher why the buyer rejected it. Granted, an Apple warehouse might reject a pallet of iPhones if it was tipped over in transit, but at least they’re not bruised and they don’t end up with thousands of iPhones rolling around the truck.
As far as the types of trucks, this is somewhat (but not entirely) speculation…reefer units can malfunction causing a load to arrive warm or frozen, but that’s generally going to be the warehouse’s problem, not the driver. Unless, of course, ( as I saw in one case) the driver breaks policy and adjusts the reefer temp on their own for some reason.
A nice thing about flatbeds is that everything is accessible. They’re not moving things around for the receiver. They’re almost always going to have their own equipment that can grab the products right off the truck (and if they don’t the driver can grab everything with a Spyder/piggy back forklift, which beats moving it around with a hand jack (or worse, lumping it by hand).
My WAG is that it’s less about the load and more about the destination. Tight parking lots and entrances that require u-turns, bad neighborhoods, moving pallets around in a sloped parking spot*, really, really bumpy roads in the area that cause the trailer to bounce around are probably more annoying than a lot of other things.
*My lot is pitched a bit. The experienced drivers use it to their advantage. They park with the end of the truck pointed down so when they lift the pallet it just rolls to the end and they’ll run it against a sidewall to keep the speed under control. Less experienced drivers will just about send the pallet right off the edge of the truck, or worse(?) have the end of the truck pointed up hill. Turning and pushing a pallet weighing multiple thousands of pounds uphill on a grooved truck bed (like this) is no easy task and the really experienced will often ask us for help moving it.
And if they don’t have a pallet jack on their truck, it means we’re breaking out the chains and no one likes that.
Having said all that, I think it depends on the driver. The vast majority of drivers I know have been doing short(ish) haul of produce their entire life. While I’m sure they’d love to delivery pallets of styofoam, none of them seem to complain about it.
Just to add to that, and I do understand the question, truck drivers drive trucks because they enjoy it. This isn’t a dead end job you just sort of end up in. You have to get your CDL, you absolutely, 100%, no question about it cannot get a DUI (the drivers I know won’t even consider driving (and we’re talking about off duty in their own vehicle) if they’ve had anything at all to drink) because they’ll lose their CDL endorsement and get fired, they’re getting drug tested and so on.
I’ve also heard that those big rolls of sheet steel are unpopular because they can be very dangerous: Get in a crash, and those things break free, roll, and crush whatever’s in their path. Which often includes the cab with the driver in it.
Heavy metal can be scary–I used to be a van courier driver and went to pick up a load that was a length of 6" diameter solid bronze, weighed about 600 lbs. The jackass driving the forklift brought the thing up just laying across the forks and tipped it right into the back of my van widthwise. Then he handed me the paperwork like I’d be just fine and alrighty with that! All I could think about was how fucked it would be if I had to slam on the brakes cuz it would probably knock my entire seat off its pedestal, or what would happen if it rolled down the length of the van, hit the back doors and sprung them and how many cars would crash in THAT scenario. I carefully explained to the dumbass material handler that he was to go get a strong pallet, some metal strap and fasteners and remove that death roll from the back of the van, pack it properly then put it back in, with the weight over the axle. How that guy had a job I simply don’t know–and the worst part is I know there were idiots who worked at the same place I did who would have accepted that load as presented to them. It’s a wonder we’re all alive with brain trusts like this on the roads.
Huh. I had read that for sanitation reasons dairy trailers had no baffles in the tank (easier to clean) and that load dynamics were an issue. Maybe the other issues you mentioned were just worse than handling the truck.
It must suck having to drive tankers that size without baffles. Worst I ever had to deal with was a box truck with several of those cube tanks with the metal cage around them and that was plenty bad enough going around corners. I like cargo that stays where you put it!
I’m sure that’s a valid concern. I see a few of those trucks go by my place each day (and the rolls are heavy enough that they can only carry one at a time (I asked)). I was always surprised they’re not loaded the other way. I assume it’s more likely to fall while turning (when sideways) than when speeding up/braking (when it’s the ‘normal’ way).
I recall a youtube video about strapping those down. On the one hand, done properly, they certainly don’t look like they’re going anywhere. OTOH, they don’t called it a suicide load for nothing.
I think this may (or may not, but same youtuber) video that I watched.
A lot of truckies I know hate mixed loads that contain dangerous goods, they have to make sure they have all the correct paperwork for each DG item and that each one is properly packaged and properly segregated and the fines if they get it wrong can be huge, I know one guy that was busted because there was a 50ml bottle of silver nitrate in his load that wasn’t on the DG paperwork, I don’t know what the penalty was but it would have been way more than he would have made on the load
Until he retired, my BIL drove these. He said he preferred milk tankers since only one end of his route was in city traffic. According to him, he spent half his time on farm roads which was more relaxing.
A load of massive paper rolls of the one ton kind can also be extremely lethal in a crash: being heavy, dense, unyielding and round they break free and roll through oncoming buses and such, killing everything in their path.
Dunno about truckers but those are called coil steel loads in railroad parlance. There are special cars for them, usually with covers, but sometimes they’re naked – I have no idea what the selection criterion is. Delivering a trainload, or even one carload for a small manufacturer, has to be cheaper that OTR so, except for the Final Mile, I have no idea why they would go by road in the first place. I don’t blame the drivers for having no enthusiasm for it.
From what I understand, bees are not a big favorite. I lived for a time in Maine, right by blueberry country, and they would ship flatbed loads of beehives in at the beginning of flowering season, then back down to North Carolina at the end. The wind would keep the bees inside their hives when they were moving but trucks could not stop for long during the trip.
From what I’ve read, the tractors had extra-large fuel tanks on them so they didn’t have to refuel and, this being before cell phones, the co-driver would radio ahead to an eatery with a to-go order, the truck would stop just long enough to pick it up, and they’d start moving again before the bees got restless.
Back in the late 70’s/early 80’s my Dad owned and operated a truck stop that was on one of the old US Highway routes (not an Interstate) along the Mississippi River corridor with lots of chemical plants, refineries, and other manufacturing facilities nearby. Most of the trucks that came through there were either short-haul or local deliveries with regular routes and I got to know quite a few of the drivers rather well. It was always interesting when an unbaffled tanker parked in the lot. Even with the air brakes set the whole truck would rock backward and forward several feet each direction as the load sloshed back and forth. And would continue to do so for a surpisingly long time.
But the loads they complained about most were PVC pipe (slick and not very sturdy so hard to strap down securely enough to prevent the load shifting without crushing everything); live cattle, especially double decked trailers (they moved around more than you would think changing the center of gravity) and “swinging beef”. The swinging beef was whole beef (or hog) carcasses hung from rows of meat hooks suspended from tracks at the top of the trailer. When rounding curves the whole load would swing to the outside of the turn, then rock back the other way when the truck straightened out. The driver had to be extra careful to account for the weight shift or the whole truck will roll over in the turn. Scary stuff!