OTR vs. Local Trucking: Pros & Cons According to Truck Drivers (+Flowchart)

So, which is best—OTR or local trucking? Hear the opinions of real truck drivers in this helpful guide.

otr trucking vs local truck driving

Guide Contents

What does it mean to drive OTR vs. local? 

OTR stands for “over the road” truck driving. OTR truckers typically embark on long-haul routes that may keep them away from home for weeks with higher earning potential, as they’re usually paid by the mile. 

Local truck drivers, on the other hand, tend to deliver various types of cargo in a much smaller vicinity—allowing them to keep regular daily shifts and get paid hourly.

Which is better—OTR trucking or local driving? 

This is one of the most frequently asked questions of newer truckers who have only done one style of driving or neither. 

To cut to the chase, the main differences between OTR trucking and local driving are distance and home time. 

Depending on one’s lifestyle preferences or what role they see truck driving playing in their lives, each of these will appeal to a different subset of drivers. 

In this guide, we’ve rounded up responses to this question from actual truck drivers to get to the bottom of why a truck driver may prefer OTR trucking or local truck driving and how to find your “happy place” on the road as a truck driver. 

For a quick test of whether OTR trucking or local driving may serve you best, navigate the three-part flowchart we’ve drawn up. After tallying up the results of the three parts, you should have a better idea of what style of truck driving will suit you best. 

OTR trucking or local truck driving flow chart 

If you’re still trying to decide which lifestyle to pursue, let’s ask some truck drivers why they prefer OTR or local truck driving. 

What draws drivers to OTR truck driving?

“I like the wide open spaces.” 

Ah, the freedom of the open road. Many OTR drivers value the adventure, seeing new places, and enjoying extended "functional" home time when they do choose to park for a while. One of the most simplified answers to this question came from one trucker who said, "OTR is like a lifestyle; local is just a job."

Financially speaking, because most OTR drivers are paid by the mile, these long hours on the highway can be lucrative. As one seasoned driver with over 20 years of experience shared, "I run 2 weeks out 4 days off and still make more than ($)30 an hour for less than 10 hours a day."

OTR truck driver looking off into the snow-topped mountain view 

What makes local truck driving jobs appealing?

Local driving offers routine, familiarity, and few variables. Many local drivers appreciate the predictability and being able to see people long enough to even grow friendships. 

One driver stated, "I like the routine of having a set schedule, driving a dedicated route, and always knowing where my delivery stops are."

Other local truckers say they struggle to put a price on the comfort of their own bed, regular home-cooked meals and the ability to more regularly enjoy the roots laid down in a family’s home life.

local truck driver in the city 

What are the worst parts of OTR trucking?

Yes, while OTR offers freedom and potentially higher earnings, it's not without its challenges. From dealing with regulations that aren't always trucker-friendly to handling the solitary lifestyle, it can be a demanding career—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

What are the worst parts of local route trucking?

Despite the perks, local driving isn't free from challenges either. The repetitiveness can be a downside for some, with one driver noting it can feel more like a "normal" job. Local drivers also tend to make more frequent pickups and drop offs within crowded cities which tends to equate to more time spent in dense city traffic.

local truck driver traffic 

What factors should a new truck driver consider when deciding between OTR or local trucking?

When trying to decide between OTR truck driving or local driving, your family life should be a major consideration. 

OTR trucking often keeps drivers far away from home for long periods, which can put a strain on relationships. For this reason, single drivers or those without young children may be well suited for such a life “over the road.” 

Most truckers that contributed their input agreed that most newer drivers should at least give OTR trucking a “test drive” for a few months—if for no other reason than quickly acquiring skills and finances. Compared to local driver jobs, OTR jobs for those with limited experience tend to be a faster path to higher wages. In the worst-case scenario, these drivers may realize a life “over the road” simply isn’t for them and move to something else.

For truckers with families who they would like to see regularly (if not daily) and have the experience to qualify for higher-wage trucking jobs, local truck driving jobs may be more up their alley. 

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Assess your personal preferences, family needs, and financial goals, and choose the route that aligns best with all considerations. 

Conclusion: The best option depends on you

So, which is going to be? We’re asking you! 

Both OTR and local trucking offer unique advantages. Your decision should align with your lifestyle, personal preferences, and professional goals. 

Whether near home or over the road, find the commercial truck that fits best. 

We hope this guide has been useful in helping you decide which trucking career route to go after. No matter your choice, remember that you will always be able to find the right commercial truck for the job from your friends at My Little Salesman.

Since 1958, My Little Salesman has been connecting buyers and sellers of commercial trucks and heavy equipment. You can easily dial in precisely what truck you’re looking for in seconds using the intuitive search filters. 

Find your next new or used semi truck for sale now. 

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About Ken Lane
Ken’s affinity for the heavy equipment industry was fostered as a curious youngster—becoming happily lost on his grandfather’s tractor sales and service lot (his favorite color is still Allis-Chalmers Orange). Since then, he’s perfected the art of turning black coffee into helpful buyer resources and marketing materials for My Little Salesman.
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