Why Go to School Kids? Drive a Big Rig Instead

Walmart is giving their truck drivers a nice raise. On average Walmart truckers can earn around $87,900k a year now, those with seniority and higher mile routes can clear upwards of $90,000k a year. Not bad for not having a four year degree right?

So, kids, do you want to go to college, incur debt right out of the box and then spend years climbing the ladder and paying your dues? Or drive around the country in a big ass truck to bring home some sweet bacon?

Interesting choices now that some wage increases are making blue collar jobs more attractive.


It’s all about what you want to do with life, I think. Keep in mind that if being able to go to college, and especially being able to get an advanced degree that includes research is restricted to those who can afford it, our ideological world view based on research done by those with advanced degrees (across fields of knowledge) will continue to be dominated by those who are from the elite classes. I’d argue that working class people need to be involved in producing scholarship for that reason. I do like to remind my students, that a college education isn’t just about job training.

And I’ll note that the truck that nearly killed Tracy Morgan (and did kill his friend) was a Walmart driver, who was overworked and tired. But I think that’s a general trucking industry issue, not just a walmart issue.


Indeed it is. Driving a truck 365 looks like hard work and as you mentioned possibly dangerous but, it might provide a nice life for those who thought twice about going to college. Higher wages in the blue collar world will mean less stigma associated for those who don’t go the academic route in life. I can’t imagine that anybody who signs up for driving trucks for Walmart is in any kind of denial to what the trucker lifestyle is all about. $90k would make a nice nest egg for those who made the choice.


I’m in agreement. I’m just pointing out my arguments for college education being cheaper and more readily available. I agree about the stigma too, though for some people, those of us with an advanced degree aren’t always guaranteed a solid job at this point, either (at least if the plan is to go into academia… which most of us are). And there is most certainly an anti-intellectual bias in American life, too. I’d guess that the historical forces that contributed to blue collar jobs stagnating hit at least some jobs that go along with advanced degrees.

And of course, people can do both - get a college degree and be a truck driver. Or even better, self-educate!


My highly educated wife is looking for work presently and I just mentioned to her that she might look into driving a big rig … she flipped me the bird!

Surely some truckers take advantage of the road time for “books on tape”. You know, titles like: “How to Repair Robot Trucks” or “Tesla Semi Truck Programming; The Basics”… :wink:

ETA: “Congress is also considering lowering the interstate truck driving age to 18 from 21.” College age kids will have many choices.


I remember seeing commercials for trucking school around 20 years ago which pointed out that the average truck driver can bring home more money than a college professor. As a college professor myself I can’t argue against that statistic.

In my view higher education is increasingly less about increasing one’s earning potential (especially when you factor in student loans) and more about cultivating career opportunities that one finds personally rewarding.


I could see a situation where an 18 yr old might jump into trucking for Walmart with the goal of making enough money for college and having a marketable skill to fall back onto if needed.

3 or 4 years of trucking across country would go by pretty quick. Not as fun as say being a ski bum but, more profitable.

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Driving is a low-status job. My parents were such education snobs - when my grades were sub-par, I was threatened with “Do you want to grow up to be a ditch digger?” (Does anybody earn their living digging ditches any more?)

My son will probably become a cook when he gets off his ass. Low status, but nothing makes him happier.

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That is quite a bit better than a lot of entry level tech jobs that want a college degree. Twice that depending on where you work.

ETA seriously. I got a call for an mid level job and they wanted to pay me 52k/year.


But, that’s what is changing. Higher salary means a young trucker can buy a car, a home, raise a family or as mentioned save cash for school. End up with a degree to do better things in life. Not so low life to me at least.

BTW My parents said the same things to me. Nobody wants to dig ditches it seems. /s


I think that depends - is that a line cook at a chain restaurant (meaning not a fast food joint, but like an applebees) or do you mean a chef at a higher end place? I don’t think a chef is a low status job, generally speaking…


I’m generally skeptical of big promises attached to jobs with low barriers to entry. Especially in industries that are desperate to automate. Lucrative offers and promises evaporate once they have their desired effect.


Sure, but most of the heavy digging is done by excavator machines and backhoes instead of some guy with a spade.

Though thinking back through the jobs I’ve had in my life I was definitely in better shape when I spent hours on end doing manual labor like spreading mulch and patching asphalt and digging graves (that last task was just a “sometimes” thing).


That’s true, too. And Walmart doesn’t have the best track record on labor, either.

I will say that I used to have friends who would go to Alaska every year and work on the fishing boats for a few months - they got well paid, but it was hard and dangerous work (which everyone knew).


Saw this one big rig parked on company property awhile back. A slightly older couple (perhaps married?) were just climbing out of the cab. Charmingly, they were dressed alike (matching western wear, with cowboy hats). The wife was carrying two toy poodles. I wish I could have taken a look inside their sleeper cab; it was pretty big. The rig was beautifully painted and immaculately detailed. I don’t stop and stare at big rigs. For this one, I did. My strong impression was that the rig belonged to them and that they lived in it. Perhaps a case where one’s nest egg gets invested into a big rig?



Looks like it might be a little competitive, only 31 openings nationwide.


Stephen King published a short story about a teacher who would work on highway maintenance crews during his summer breaks. Oh, I see they made a movie out of it.


You just know he will try and take credit for the wage increase.


It would be interesting to see the similarities of that time period compared to the problems that Walmart is having today. Transportation costs, pressure to deliver goods to compete with others, outsourcing, unions, or available drivers. Because like you I remember many of these ads back then.

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