Insight from the ‘Kings of the Road’

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Every year, Atlas Van Lines – a division of Atlas World Group – conducts a unique survey of its top drivers: folks known in moving industry parlance as “Super Van Operators” (and what truck driver, I ask you, would NOT want to be known by such an esteemed moniker?)

Now in its eighth year, the King of the Road is ostensibly used by Atlas to glean important data about these one-of-kind drivers, such as their average length of employment (28% have been with Atlas for between 10 and 16 years, with some 27% over 16 years), how many weeks per year they’re on the road (29% say 21 to 40 weeks, with a whopping 32% spending over 40 weeks away from home) and how many miles they log annually (36% say 50,000 to 75,000, with 29% driving 75,000 to 100,000).

Yet the 167 super van operators that filed responses to the company’s 2012 survey also get to share some other fun tidbits from a working life spent criss-crossing the country’s many miles of asphalt, such as their favorite brand of coffee, hotel chain, type of fast food, etc.

“Given that the majority of our professional truck drivers spend more than 30 weeks out of the year on the road, this survey is a great way to let such seasoned ‘road warriors’ share their knowledge and preferences with the rest of us,” noted Glen Dunkerson, chairman and CEO of Atlas World Group, in a statement.

So here’s some of that “seasoned” insight to chew on:

  • For the sixth consecutive year, Subway remains the favorite fast food chain (37%), followed by Wendy’s (23%) and Taco Bell (20%). Interestingly, 9% of those Atlas drivers in the survey said they avoid fast food altogether.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee again ranks number one among these drivers (35%), with Starbucks a distant third (18%). Surprisingly, 23% of Atlas’ drivers surveyed prefer the coffee blends served up by truck stops (methinks Pilot’s effort in that direction might have something to do with that).
  • The Super 8 motel chain is tops among Atlas’ drivers (45%), with Days Inn a close second (41%) and Best Western (31%) ranked third. No shock here: adequate truck parking is the most important factor in hotel selection while on the road (87%) while price is a distant second (55%), followed by quality (48%) and location (41%). By the way, while 31% of Atlas’ super van operators only stay in hotels 12 times or less per year, 22% stay in them 2 to 3 times per month, with 20% using them 2 to 3 times per week.
  • More than ever, truck drivers are electronically connected to the world. Some 68% of those in Atlas’ survey use “smart phones” –  a statistic that’s shot up from a mere 14% three short years ago. Computer usage has nearly doubled over the same period to 65%, with 57% using a laptop while on the road and 75% scrolling the Internet and 77% checking e-mail daily. Verizon Wireless is the preferred wireless network amongst Atlas’ at 44% (versus AT&T’s 34% and Sprint’s 16%) with the iPhone the top mobile device at 51%, with the Blackberry used by a miniscule 7%.

There’s an awful lot more in this survey to check out (favorite make of highway tractor, favorite tire brand, favorite truckstop, etc.) so the King of the Road survey is well worth a look. 

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