You may have often encountered a small car with flashing lights driving ahead of a huge truck carrying an exceptionally wide load. This small car is called a pilot car and its main role is to alert the traffic that a heavy truck is heading that way and to make room for it to pass. The drivers of these cars are professional pilot car drivers and they need to be skilled at driving and navigation.
What do you need to become a pilot car driver?
No degrees or diplomas are required for the job of a pilot car driver. All you need is a driving license and some states may also require you to have additional documentation as proof that you are familiar with the rules of the profession. The main requisite is that you should be absolutely comfortable driving the pilot car and be able to manoeuvre and control it with effective ease.
However, all said and done, the job of pilot car drivers is quite different from that of regular drivers as they need to know how to direct and control traffic. Therefore you would need some training before getting into the field. The best way to go about training is to work under an experienced pilot car driver for a month or two, ride along with him and get to know the nuances of the job. You will then figure out that wider loads are more difficult to navigate and need a higher level of skill and expertise in order to ensure safety.
What is the kind of equipment required?
The most basic of among all that you need to carry is a map and a GPS to help you chalk out well in advance, the path you are going to take. The car that you are driving should be in good condition so that it remains trouble free even on long driving stretches. The other equipment that you need to include is a fire extinguisher, flags and signs and a CB. You would also need to check with the regulations of the particular state you would be driving in as the equipment requirements are state specific.
How well paying is the job of a pilot car driver?
Pilot car drivers are usually self employed and have their own companies. They work on a contractual basis with the truck companies and charge according to distance travelled. The current rates are approximately $200 for the initial 100-150 miles and then $1.50 for every subsequent mile. On an average, a pilot car driver would earn $ 30000-35000/year.
You could also double up as a truck driver in the phases when pilot car contracts coming your way are fewer than usual. This would enable you to have a steadier source of income.
What you should be prepared for
Like any other profession, this one also has its flip side. It is better to know what to expect and make an informed career choice rather than being caught unawares later. The following are some points you need to weigh and decide if they suit your temperament.
- Driving long hours: The lifestyle of a pilot car driver is quite similar to that of a truck driver and entails long hours of driving for days on end. As your earnings are directly proportional to the distance driven, you need to be able to cover several miles per day.
- Additional Expenses incurred: Pilot car drivers would need to halt for the night in a motel or sleep in the car but this might not be a comfortable option. The daily motel stays would surely eat into your overall earnings and hence reduce your profit margins.
- Hazardous profession: It is certainly not an easy task to navigate and make way for a huge extra wide truck. There would be times when you need to display aggression to be able to direct the traffic to do as you bid. You would need high levels of alertness and control when you need to change lanes or reposition the truck and even a momentary lase of concentration could prove dangerous.
Now that you know how to become a pilot car driver and what it takes to become one, you can make an informed career choice. A love for driving and an inclination to live an unconventional lifestyle are the decisive traits that would prompt you to take on this challenging career.