Slip seating is a popular jargon in the trucking industry used to describe multiple drivers sharing a single truck to haul cargo. In other words, it’s a practice in which a driver is not permanently assigned to a particular truck. Instead, they are assigned to whichever semi is available at a certain period.
Although slip seating is not a historical norm or a generally favorable practice among truckers, it’s becoming increasingly popular among carriers due to its financial and operational benefits.
In this article, we’ll talk about the main benefits of slip seating and share the key challenges both parties (trucking companies and drivers) face. We’ll also provide a simplified guide for managing to slip seating arrangements for those looking to adopt this practice.
Benefits of Slip Seating
Slip seating offers a host of lucrative benefits for trucking companies and owner-operators, including, but not limited to the following.
Maximized Truck Utilization
The most important benefit of slip seating is that it allows carriers and fleet managers to maximize truck and equipment utilization. From an operational perspective, it allows trucking companies to enable round-the-clock operations.
The main limitation is that each truck driver is required to adhere to Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and haul cargo for a fixed number of hours after a rest period. Therefore, slip seating between multiple drivers allows carriers to overcome HOS restrictions and haul more cargo using the same number of trucks.
Smaller companies with insufficient capital to purchase multiple trucks can also adopt this strategy to level the playing field and increase their bottom line by scheduling more deliveries on the same day.
Better Tax Incentives
The second key benefit of slip seating is better tax incentives. Trucks are among the few depreciable assets that aren’t generally used around the clock in the industry.
Since they’re the most costly type of capital expenditure, truckers are actively looking for ways to reach optimal mileage to qualify for the IRS Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) and reduce their taxes.
The MACRS allows trucking companies to depreciate their trucks within an accelerated 5-year period. However, it can be further accelerated to 3 years under certain conditions. These conditions may include utilizing the vehicle for business use for more than half the time during the tax year, lifespan, and resale value among others.
While there is no specified mileage by the IRS, most trucking companies and professional accountants agree that 700,000 miles in 3 years qualify the asset for the 200% declining balance method.
In any case, we recommend consulting your tax professional as this method may be subject to changes. Unfortunately, it’s realistically impossible for a single driver to utilize a truck extensively due to regulatory compliance obligations.
Thus, slip seating allows carriers to hire multiple drivers to cover more distance and complete more shipments in a 24-hour cycle.
More Flexibility for Drivers
The benefits of slip seating are not limited to carriers and fleet managers alone. Drivers can enjoy a more flexible driving schedule to improve their work-life balance.
For instance, instead of working consecutive shifts, they can work a certain number of days and take the remaining days off while still complying with company policies and regulations.
Many trucking companies hire multiple drivers to cover a certain number of miles (usually 14,000 to 16,000 miles per month). This means that drivers who slip seat choose their timings and even opt for part-time work if they are just looking for additional income.
Increases Overall Revenue
Trucking companies that increase truck utilization would inherently increase their daily or weekly shipments. This automatically translates to more revenue since they increase the number of trips during the hauling period by hiring more drivers.
While this increases short-term costs and subjects the vehicle to heavier wear and tear, it decreases the operational idle time of the company and reduces the carriers’ overall cost per mile.
Challenges of Slip Seating
While slip seating offers several benefits to truckers and carriers, it’s not free of disadvantages. Therefore, you need to do your due diligence by understanding the key challenges associated with this strategy. Let’s explore them in more detail.
Increased Driver Dissatisfaction
Truckers accustomed to operating a designated truck are accustomed to ownership, a sense of responsibility, and privacy. Although a flexible schedule may benefit certain truck drivers, sharing a truck with other drivers can result in higher levels of dissatisfaction.
Many drivers store clothes, food, and other belongings in their cabs. So, removing them every time they complete their shift can be daunting and frustrating. It also increases the risk of theft, which results in conflicts and unnecessary management complications.
We've conducted a survey in which we asked drivers who slip seat if they preferred a flexible schedule over being assigned to their own truck. 89% of truck drivers preferred to operate their own truck, compared to sharing it with other drivers.
Furthermore, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many truckers have become vigilant about their health. Sharing a cab can increase the risk of infections. Therefore, they have to invest more in cleaning and sanitization.
Relies on Driver Schedules
Although carriers are the main beneficiary of slip seating, they’re heavily dependent on driver schedules and have to plan their loads more carefully. Due to the flexibility on offer, drivers will have varying shift timings.
Some may ask for sick or casual leave, which could result in unexpected downtime unless the company has contingencies in place, such as a large pool of available drivers.
Unable to Perform Long Haul Trips
Due to driver rotations, most carriers can’t implement a slip seating strategy for long-haul trips since the truck may be out of state once the next driver is ready to take over.
Managing long-distance trips is more challenging unless the company hires drivers in multiple cities and routes. As a result, most companies use slip seating for hauling cargo within a certain distance.
Poorer Hygiene Conditions
Drivers operating the same tractors have a greater chance of falling ill since they’ll be using the same enclosed space successively, meaning there won’t always be time to maintain proper hygiene conditions.
Managing Slip Seating Arrangements
As mentioned earlier, slip seating is becoming popular in the trucking industry. However, most truckers and trucking companies new to the concept may not have the best approach to managing these types of arrangements. Therefore, we have created a simple guide for both parties that you can read below.
As a Trucking Company
Since slip seating remains a relatively unfavorable practice for drivers in the industry, trucking companies have to provide the right set of incentives to make the experience worthwhile by considering the following:
- Offer Attractive Compensations – Trucking companies should consider providing better base salaries to persuade drivers to share a tractor with other drivers. They can also offer bonuses and other benefits like health and life insurance, 401(k) matching, and other incentives.
- Provide Better Work-Life Balance Initiatives – Since flexibility is a key benefit of slip seating for drivers, trucking companies may consider offering more paid leave, flexible hours, and manageable rotations. Focusing and capitalizing on this aspect may alleviate some drivers’ grievances.
- Schedule Regular Preventive Maintenance – Since trucks are bound to be utilized heavily, trucking companies have to be significantly more proactive regarding preventive maintenance and repairs to minimize safety risks and downtime. They should also train and prompt drivers to update other drivers and fleet managers regarding any issues that could result in disruptions.
- Leverage Technology to Manage Arrangements – Trucking companies should invest in the latest and most advanced electronic logging devices (ELDs) and transport management systems (TMSs) to optimize scheduling, maximize trips, and minimize delays. ELDs provide real-time information, such as hours of service (HOS), vehicle engine data, miles driven, GPS-based location, etc. These datasets can be leveraged to improve operational efficiency and driver management.
As a Truck Driver
Drivers have to change their driving habits, expectations, timelines, and behaviors to adapt to slip seating. Below are a few pointers that can improve the transition and overall management.
- Carefully Evaluate Company Policies – Before joining any trucking company that enforces slip seating, it’s best to always read the contract terms and compensation policies before signing. Doing so will help you better prepare for your role and accept the work arrangements.
- Regularly Sanitize Trucks – To reduce health risks for yourself and others, make sure you sanitize the truck before and after you end your shift. Ensure that your company provides you with the necessary tools and equipment to perform this task.
- Be Responsible for Your Personal Belongings – Finally, be vigilant in taking care of your belongings. You can make a simple checklist to manage and remove your belongings after every shift to minimize the risk of theft or inconvenience. Moreover, try to bring only essential items you need for your shift, such as meals, phone chargers, and clothes.
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Co-Founder & Writer
About the Author
Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 12 years of experience in the fields of logistics, trucking, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.
Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire to educate others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.