Getting paid to travel sounds like a pipe dream, but there's a way to do it if you like driving.
Craig Chilton was a middle school teacher (Grades 6 to 8) until he decided to take a summer job delivering motorhomes.
"I never went back to teaching," said Chilton, who spent the next ten years delivering RVs and trucks to dealers.
Edmonton Journal Photo by Brian Gavriloff
Two years into that 10-year stretch, Chilton published a book telling other people how they could travel and get paid for it. During the last six years that he delivered vehicles regularly, Chilton earned an average of $52,000 a year (even though that was 20 years ago).
The book, How to Get Paid $50,000 a Year to Travel -- Without Selling Anything, has already marked its 25th anniversary.
Although Chilton still makes a few trips a year delivering vehicles, most of his time now is devoted to producing and promoting his book and instructional audio CDs. He stopped in Edmonton last week during a promotional trip through western Canada and northwestern United States.
While cars, minivans and pickups are delivered by truck to the selling dealer, virtually all other vehicles are driven to the dealer and customer.
The reason that these vehicles aren't shipped by truck is that it's not cost-effective to do so, Chilton said. It's cheaper to drive the vehicle to its destination.
"You never see RVs, ambulances, beverage route trucks, school busses, etc. on trucks," he said.
That revelation came to Chilton in the early 1970s from another passenger on a Greyhound bus. Chilton noticed that the man sitting next to him had a licence plate on his lap. When he asked why, the man explained he had just delivered an RV and was returning home.
Chilton remembered that tidbit of information and five years later took the summer driving job that ended his teaching career, [by choice].
He estimates that there are about 100,000 people doing this job and that number is about equally split between full-time and part-time workers. A tenth of the drivers work only on weekends, holding down another job during the week. The driving job earns them [an additional] $150 to $300 U.S. a week.
A third of the drivers are over 65 and some continue until they're 80 or over.
"The safest age group of drivers is 65-80," Chilton said. "Their heads are screwed on straight when it comes to attitude" and, for example, they're unlikely to succumb to road rage.
Statistics show that there is quite a demand for vehicle delivery drivers. There are currently 5,000 job openings a month in the field.
And the number of jobs is unlikely to shrink. Chilton said people will continue to buy RVs even if fuel prices rise. Because motorhomes carry such a high price tag, anyone who can afford one is not really concerned about the price of fuel.
"The rest of the specialty vehicles (such as school busses or ambulances) we deliver are needed by society as part of its infrastructure," he said.
Another of the great benefits of the job is that drivers not only get paid to travel, but they can often work a side trip into the journey. The time allotted for longer jaunts usually gives enough leeway to permit a short side trip. The relaxed scheduling also helps to accomodate the needs of older drivers."
For example, Chilton said a driver travelling from Edmonton to Toronto could make a side trip to Niagara Falls.
Drivers delivering RVs can make use of most of the vehicles's features, he said. They can sleep in it during overnight stops, for example. But Chilton himself has never stayed overnight in an RV park, preferring to stop instead at locations such as truck stops.
While drivers can use most of what the RV has to offer, they have no access to water in the RV since the water system is part of the dealer preparation, he said. When it's time for a shower, the best solution is for the driver to stop at a truck stop which will have the facilities.
The drive from the manufacturer to the dealer serves as "a nice shakedown cruise" for the new vehicle, Chilton said. The dealers can fix any problems or glitches that occur during the drive before delivering the unit to a customer.
A lot of couples report the job saved their marriages. Craig Chilton, author of How to Get
Paid $50,000 a Year to Travel
However, Chilton is quick to point out that "very few things go wrong" with vehicles now, as compared to the 1970s when several problems might have cropped up during the delivery drive. Despite that, he said he could count on one hand the number of times he was towed in and only twice did he have to leave a unit for repairs.
In addition, he found that dealers were quick to repair vehicles he was delivering when he explained that the units were in transit, and he was able to get back on the road in an hour or two.
Despite the size of the vehicles they undertake to deliver, most drivers are ordinary people -- from all walks of life -- rather than truck drivers, Chilton said. The only requirements for the job are a Class 4 licence and a clean driving record. Only vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds and those equipped with air brakes require additional license qualifications.
About 60 percent of the drivers are single, while the remaining 40 percent are couples.
"A lot of couples report the job saved their marriages," he said.
In some cases where husband and wife both drive, they have the opportunity to discover things together," he said. In others, the time apart gives the couple the space they need.
Chilton's book offers both a guide with information and tips for potential delivery drivers and listings of companies in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia that emply vehicle delivery drivers.
Currently, Chilton is offering a special for readers who want a copy of the book with an instructional audio CD.
[See the Order Page at www.RoadRat.com for current-offer details.]
The above story originated in Edmonton, and then ran in syndication in many other newspapers throughout Canada.
Ten years earlier, another story ran in a different Edmonton newspaper, The Edmonton Sun.
If you'd like to read it, just click here.
And if you'd like to read a major feature story that ran in the Los Angeles area, in 1990, click here.
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