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Homeless Truckers:
On Preparing for Life Without a Residence


Twice in our lives, we have been homeless but for the truck (commercial motor vehicle) being driven: once when we teamed and again when Vicki rode with Mike when he drove regionally. During those times, we had no physical residence (a 911 address) to come home to.

The first time was for about 2.5 years starting in 1993, not long after we first started our trucking careers when we drove for Swift Transportation as a husband and wife professional driving team.

We came off the road in 1995, obtaining housing.

Mike did some local driving and then went to work for a regional trucking company. Vicki rode with Mike from Spring 2000 to Fall 2001, but at that point, we came home to a residence every weekend.

Fast forward. Although it was not on our horizon at the time, Vicki rode with Mike about every other week during the summer of 2009 to reacquaint herself with once again living in the truck. We were led of the Lord to give up our residence and be on the road together full-time. That stint lasted about a year.

Mike and Vicki Simons, owners of Truck-Drivers-Money-Saving-Tips.com.




Some things have changed since the early nineties. We're sharing the information on this page so that, in the event you are thinking about going residence-free -- or as one person put it, being "gypsy truckers" -- you will know what is involved and what arrangements you need to make in advance of living out on the road.

We're not the only folks who have ever experienced this. A January 2013 article highlighted the situation of a 63-year-old trucker who doesn't have a home and lives in his truck.

Before we delve into specifics, you should know that Mike's most recent regional trucking company used to have a policy of getting drivers "home weekends" or "home every weekend." There were times when Mike did not get home at any time over a weekend, particularly when the economy plummeted and he chose to stay out for 2 weeks in a row. (This benefited the trucking company more than him.)

In one case, he was assigned a load with over 1,000 miles (which is rare) going north on a Wednesday. He wished the load could have been assigned to him earlier in the week but it wasn't. The miles were too good to give up and, after consulting with Vicki and getting her blessing, he took the load instead of going home.

In another case, he was told that there were no loads available to get him home. Because load boards list loads that are available, we think that his company simply didn't want to book any of the available loads.

When Vicki rode with him full-time, he didn't have to worry about getting home every weekend. But there were other matters to consider.



Getting Mail and Packages

Residential customers most often have their mail delivered to them (unless they choose to have a postal box). They can receive packages at their doors from courier services such as FedEx, UPS, etc. If you go homeless, you need to make other arrangements. Obtaining a box at a branch of the U.S. Postal Service does not allow anyone to receive packages from courier services.

Postal boxes at a UPS Store, similar to one that we use now that we're homeless.

For that reason, we rented a box at our local UPS Store (which used to be a franchise of Mail Boxes, Etc.).

This location has three sizes of boxes available and the rental periods range from 1 month through 2 years.

We rented a medium-sized box [the small size is shown at left] which allows us to obtain personal and business mail for 1 year (which was a reasonable price break for us).

We note that if a package arrives for us that is too large to fit in our box, and if we don't pick it up in a timely manner, we could be charged for storage. And even though we have 24-hour access to our box, we do not have 24-hour access to the office where oversized packages are stored; to obtain those, we must show up during their open hours.

When one is preparing to transition to being on the road full-time, all of one's bills, accounts, subscriptions, etc. must be updated.

Every entity with which you have a service must be advised of your new address.

Some services (such as electricity, water, phone, Internet access, lawn care, etc.) will need to be canceled and the final bill sent to your new mailing address.

Suggested contact info that must be updated.

In some cases, you may be able to call the entity to get the "final bill" amount. In other cases, you may be able to access your account online and pay it from there. Mike was successful in paying our final electricity bill online but our home phone account (having been canceled) could not be taken care of by Internet; that required a call to customer service.





When you move, you will need to fill out a change of address form (movers guide), either online or in hard copy form available from the post office. (Only first-class mail is forwarded.)

If you do a change of address online, the post office will charge you for it even though the fee is extremely modest. We did not want to submit a credit card number to the post office, so Vicki requested a hard copy form, which she filled out and turned in (in person).

When she commented about the charge for filling out the form online, the postal clerk told her that that was to "verify" that the person requesting the change of address really was the person whose mail was being forwarded. However, it must be noted that when Vicki turned in the hard copy form, she was not asked for identification to make sure that she was the person whose address was being changed. This situation may vary based on location.



Even well after the forwarding service was supposed to kick in (about 10 days after turning in the form), mail kept being deposited in our mail box. Vicki inquired about this at our then-local post office. Soon after, we received no more mail of any kind coming to us at the residence. If you move out and provide a change of address, you may wish to do so early enough to handle any lag in mail forwarding.




Moving from a residence into a semi tractor trailer full time.





Internet Access

One of our biggest concerns about giving up a home (in our case, moving from a home into a semi tractor trailer), was how we were going to have Internet access. Vicki bought and read the book "Over-the-Road Wireless For Dummies" which was published in 2006. She looked around at truck stops and even retail stores to see if there were components like what the author described; even if she had found them, she admits she isn't technologically savvy enough to put them together to make them work. Plus, she realized that technology had changed a lot since the book was published.

Having had great success (despite the two-year contract) with our cell phone carrier, Vicki wrote down as many questions as she could think of (based, in part, on her reading of the book), and asked a consultant at the store about their mobile broadband services. There were two plans available at that time. Vicki consulted with Mike and we settled on the plan that allows 5 GB (gigabytes) of data for the same price per month that we were spending on DSL service at home (which had unlimited data transfer).

Since 2009, the provider of mobile broadband service we chose has introduced a 10 GB plan. In 2011, we desired to bump our plan from 5 GB to 10 GB data transfer per month. However, we learned that we could not do this without also upgrading our modem; we did not want to upgrade our modem because it would lock us into another two-year contract!

One interesting item that came from Vicki's discussion with the mobile broadband consultant was having a USB extension cord (to help prevent potential damage to the broadband USB device when connected to a laptop computer). The carrier did not sell those, but we were able to buy one at our local Radio Shack.



Power

Of course, in order to use our laptop computer, we had to have a power source. We have already covered in great detail the inverter set-up we had in our truck.




Bill Payment and Record Keeping

Stack of bills needing to be paid. Just because you live in your truck full-time doesn't mean the bills stop. If you have Internet access on the road and have arranged in advance for online bill payment, you can easily stay on top of paying your bills.

You may need to invest in some financial software or make a mental note about when to visit certain websites to make payments periodically on such things as:

  • Credit cards,
  • Mobile communications, and
  • Insurance policies.

We have never heard of a professional driver who has been the victim of identity theft, but the possibility exists. It can be hard to fight this, so you will need to take precautions to protect your identity even from the road.

Moving our belongings into either storage or the truck, Vicki ran out of time to go through some old receipts. When she inspected them, she noticed that some of them had account numbers (like credit card numbers) and signatures on them. She realizes that the best way to handle them is by running them through a cross-cut shredder. We did't have our home shredder with us in the truck, so we had to wait until we got to our home area to do that job.


When it comes to legal documents, you will need to update them too, especially your last will and testament (link). If you rented and did not own your home, the need might not be so urgent, but we still strongly advise you to do so. You will also need to notify the executor or executrix of your estate regarding your change in status. A thorough review of all of your other legal documents may also be needed. Having a legal services plan can greaty assist you with this.



Storage

We cover the subject of self storage and moving separately on our site.



Personal Motor Vehicles

While some storage facilities offer storage for personal vehicles, the prices can be stiff. A driver who does not want to give up his or her personal automobile when giving up a residence must make arrangements on where to park it before going on the road. You do not want to park in a place where your vehicle can get towed off (especially at your own expense). Among the questions that you will want to get answers to are:

  • Will the place where you plan to store your car be secure?
  • How will the insurance or taxes be affected?
  • Will you have to sign a waiver of liability or provide a key to the property owners?


Driver's Licenses

If you live in South Carolina or a state that has similar regulations, you cannot list a postal mailbox as your residence on your CDL. You must give them a 911 address for your driver's license. When we first went residence-less in 1993, the address we gave DMV was the hotel we "came home to" when we checked mail. The second time around, our "residence" became where we parked the car, with friends. (We received our friends' permission to use their 911 address as our own even though we got no mail there.)

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to update your driver's license information to reflect not only a new 911 address but also your mailing address. In South Carolina, a professional truck driver must get his/her CDL renewed every 5 years. However, a valid DOT physical medical card must be presented first.



Home Free

You can see from the smile on Mike's face in this photo that he was very happy to have dropped off the U-Haul truck after we moved our large belongings into storage the second time.

We did not have to worry about being enslaved to rent, a mortgage, property upkeep, residential property taxes, or a whole host of other residence-related matters.
Mike Simons smiles after the big move, when he became homeless the second time.

We announced to friends at church on the Sunday after we moved on Saturday that we were "homeless." One sister in Christ said that since our truck had become our home, we were actually "houseless." It was a point well taken. We were indeed much better off than many people who have been forced to leave residences due to foreclosure. Were it not for some of our other situations, one could almost say that we are "footloose and home free."



Truck and Truck Item Cleaning

When we had a residence, Mike regularly used water via garden hose and appropriate brushes to wash his company-assigned tractor and clean our portable toilet or ice chest.

When we had no home, we had no home water service, no outside faucet and no hoses; Mike has had to find other ways to keep these items clean.


Personalization

The information that we have shared on this page is specific to us. Your situation may vary quite a bit. We strongly urge you to write out a list of pros and cons before you decide to go homeless. You may wish to consult with other drivers who are in or have been in this situation to learn more. You may also want to ask the advice of your close friends or family members.

Being residence-less is not for everyone. Once you've made this decision, it can be harder to go back into a home. So, weigh your options carefully.

We discuss other adjustments we had to make on a separate page about truckers and the life of a trucker.



Financial Goal Setting

Saving money, a little at a time adds up to a lot

When you go homeless and your budget undergoes an adjustment from not having to pay for residential-related expenses, what do you plan to do with the extra money?

We encourage you to revise your budget to save that money toward the goal(s) of your choosing. Perhaps you would like to pay off your credit card debt, buy real estate without a loan, take classes online, set up a reserve account with 4-6 months' worth of income, or something else.

There's an old adage that if you don't have a target, you'll hit it every time. Small steps can lead to larger ones, and every bit of progress toward your goal(s) is worthy of acknowledgement.

If you don't have a goal for how to use your extra money, chances are good that you will fritter it away and have nothing to show for it. You will find a way to spend it if you have no goal. How do we know? You may wish to read the story of Mike's dad on our money management page.

To help you on your way, here are some money saving tips designed to help you if you desire to become homeless by moving from a residence into your truck full-time.


Update: In January 2011, Mike landed a local truck driving job.

Update: In December 2011, we had a dream come true and moved into our own debt-free home on our own debt-free land. Being homeless twice helped us greatly appreciate having a home of our own.






truck drivers money saving tip icon Money saving tip: Preceding, during and just after any move, you are likely to double up on some expenses. For us,
  • the cost of housing overlapped the cost of renting the storage unit and
  • the cost of mobile broadband overlapped the cost of home DSL Internet service.

To save money, see if your schedule allows you to minimize the periods when these expenses overlap. For example, can you overlap them for 1 month instead of 2 or 3 months?

If you're willing to go without cell phone and/or mobile broadband service -- or go with plans that have fewer minutes or less data transfer -- you can save even more money.

Going homeless may require you to have some additional costs that you did not have when you had a residence. One example is renting a postal mailing box (when it did not cost anything to receive your mail beyond buying and installing a mailbox at your residence). If you rent a postal box, determine based on your own needs what size box you need and for how long you need it. Work to get the lowest monthly fee that meets your needs.

With all due respect for owner operators, moving into a company truck (owned by your trucking company) instead of paying for your own rig can also save you big bucks. The expenses of owning and operating your own rig is material for another day...

When you vacate the place from which you are launching homelessness, be sure to leave a good impression by:

  • Taking everything that belongs to you,
  • Leaving everything that belongs to the residence (or landlord), and
  • Cleaning up after yourself (cleaning the bathroom(s) and kitchen, sweeping and mopping the non-carpeted areas, and vacuuming the carpets).

Leaving a messy home can have a negative impact on your ability to find housing later, particularly if (for renters) your landlord recorded any personally identifiable information about you (like a Social Security Number).

If you put down a security deposit, the return of which is contingent upon leaving a clean residence, be sure to request it and get it back.

Bearing all of these money-saving tips in mind, we hope that if you decide to become homeless, moving from a residence into a semi truck, you will be able to save as much money as possible.








Return from Homeless Truckers: On Preparing for Life Without a Residence to our Trucker Services page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.







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