Answering the age-old question: Who has the best coffee? And more from Atlas Van Line’s annual driver survey

 ( Photo: Truckstockimages.com )

(Photo: Truckstockimages.com)

A creature from the Black Lagoon, George Washington’s desk, and a 10-foot gold-plated harp are just a few of the odd things hauled by truck drivers, according to the 2018 King of the Road survey from Atlas Van Lines.

Atlas annually surveys van operators on a series of questions, from what is the best part of being a van operator to the strangest things they’ve ever hauled. The survey is a gauge of what life is like on the road and off.

Four hundred and fifty-seven drivers responded to the survey, although not all answered every question. The most interesting question is “what is the most interesting or most unique thing you’ve ever loaded onto your truck?” In addition to the aforementioned desk and harp, respondents have also hauled a dinosaur exhibit, various classic automobiles, a 1,000-pound drum made from a tree, a 12-foot Coca-Cola Christmas Elf, a biplane, hot air balloons, buggies, Jimmy Hoffa’s prison cell door from Quantico, and a German phone booth.

While the answers to the question are certainly fun to read, it is but one of many questions on the survey which give a more detailed look at life on the road. For instance, the van operator’s life requires a lot of time away from home, with 31% saying they spend more than 40 weeks on the road. Only 23% spend fewer than 20 weeks away from home. Most though, drive fewer than 99,999 miles, with 23% accumulating fewer than 50,000 and another 41% driving between 50,000 and 74,999.

“Our drivers are very informed about life on the road because they log millions of miles each year for Atlas and its customers,” said Jack Griffin, chairman and CEO of Atlas World Group. “Our King of the Road survey provides these valued individuals the chance to share their expertise and opinions, so our company and industry have an accurate assessment of what life on the road is like today.”

Despite all this time away from home, 85% said they are either reasonably satisfied or extremely satisfied with their job. Interestingly, biodiesel seems to be a favorite fuel choice with 16% of respondents saying they use the fuel to be more eco-friendly. Limiting idling (53%), using reusable drink containers (32%), and using an APU (24%) were other choices.

When they are not working, most drivers are choosing what would be considered relaxing endeavors such as hanging out with friends/family (74%), going on vacation (29%), hunting or fishing (26%) or going to a sporting event (23%).

The survey also dipped into equipment choices. Respondents prefer Kenworth tractors (44%) to Peterbilt (34%) (NASDAQ: PCAR) models, Michelin (ML.PA) tires (47%) over Bridgestone (OTC: BRDCY) (39%), and Shell (NYSE: RDS-A)oil (42%) to Mobil Delvac (NYSE: XOM) (40%). For communications, 91% of drivers have a smartphone with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) just edging Android devices 54% to 53%. Seventy-one percent have a GPS, 57% utilize a tablet and 46% have WiFi. Only 31% still utilize a CB radio for communications.

For cell/wireless service, drivers seem to trust Verizon (NYSE: VZ), with 52% saying they use that provider versus just 27% who utilize AT&T (NYSE: T), 13% that use Sprint (NYSE: S) and 8% using T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS).

Turning to food choices, 40% of drivers chose Chick-fil-A as their favorite fast-food restaurant, followed by Subway (37%), Wendy’s (NASDAQ: WEN) (30%) and Arby’s (24%). For sit down meals, drivers chose Texas Roadhouse as their favorite, with Iron Skillet finishing second.

On the road for so much of the time, drivers do find time (and money) to spend some nights in hotels. When they have the luxury of sleeping in a hotel bed (and 9% said they do on a daily basis and another 18% said they do 2-3 times a week), it was a close race between Super 8, Days Inn, Best Western and Comfort Inn, with Super 8 edging the competition with 33% of the vote and the others tied at 31%. Totals exceeded 100% as drivers were allowed to answer multiple times.

For hotel operators, the survey also provided some insight. If you want to tap into the driver population as customers, available truck parking (83%) and price (52%) were the top considerations.

Florida (26%) has the best rest stops, drivers said, and Flying J (48%) was the preferred chain. For the best coffee, there is no need to spend big bucks at Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) (34%), as Dunkin’ Donuts (NASDAQ: DNKN) (41%) was voted the best. The good news on the health front is Atlas drivers appear to be trying to live a healthier lifestyle, with 55% saying their favorite snack on the road is fresh fruit with 44% saying they like peanuts/mixed nuts. Still, 57% report that eating right is the most difficult part of life on the road, followed by hours-of-service regulations (43%) and traffics (42%).