How To – Trucker
So you have finally decided to become a trucker? Or are you just researching how you would go about it. It matters little, because you will find this page useful either way. We will go over all the hoops that you will need to get over to become a truck driver. Save this guide and keep it around, to refer to it at any stage of you driving career.
Understanding the Truck Driving Industry
Sure, you might know the stereotype of a truck driver and you got an idea of the type of people you will be around as a truck driver. However truck drivers are the way they are for a reason. Truck driving jobs require a certain character to manage the role. Trust me it’s not for kind and gentle souls.
That’s due to the nature of work and the inherent constant pressure that exists amongst all stakeholders in the industry, receivers, dispatchers, brokers, recruiters. The pressure falls down to the truck driver in the end, because without him business and infrastructure doesn’t exist.
Truck driving companies are dime a dozen, the regulations allow for many small and very large companies to deliver loads, from spot market owner operators to massive mega carrier contracts over many years. Hence trucking companies are hiring all the time and media loves to coin this as the driver shortage.
However labor demand is always high with truck drivers, especially for drivers that are willing to drive for under the local pay standard. So find a job is never a problem, finding a good job is the real goal.
According to Salary.com a truck driver can expect to earn from $37,000 to $49,000. This is the lower end of the trucking earnings, assuming you work 40hrs a week, in a dedicated route for a local company.
Owner operators that work with the spot market cam make upwards to $100,000 a year. Even if some years, the spot market might affect the final earnings.
Requirements for Becoming a Truck Driver
To ensure the safety and efficiency of the trucking industry, there are specific requirements that aspiring truck driver needs to meet before they can hit the road. Let’s take a closer look at these requirements, including age and physical conditions, education and training, and maintaining a clean driving record. An action plan how to become a truck driver is further below.
Age and Physical Requirements
The minimum age for obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is typically 21 years old for interstate truck driving and 18 years old for intrastate driving. This age requirement may vary slightly depending on the state you reside in. Additionally, a truck driver needs to be in good physical condition, as the job can be physically demanding, with long hours behind the wheel and occasional heavy lifting when loading and unloading cargo.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires all commercial truck drivers to pass a DOT physical examination. This examination ensures that drivers are physically fit and able to perform the essential duties of their job, such as having good vision, hearing, and overall health. It’s important to note that you’ll need to maintain your DOT medical certificate and renew it every two years or as required by your specific medical condition.
Education and Training
Becoming a truck driver requires specific education and training, including obtaining a high school diploma or GED, acquiring a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and attending truck driving school.
High School Diploma or GED
While not all truck driving jobs require a high school diploma or GED, having one can make you a more competitive candidate in the job market. It’s also a common prerequisite for attending truck driving schools, which are essential for learning the skills needed to obtain your CDL.
Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
A CDL is a critical requirement for anyone looking to become a professional truck driver. Acquiring a CDL involves passing both a written knowledge test and a skills test, which includes a pre-trip inspection, basic control skills, and an on-road driving test. Before you can take the CDL test, you’ll need to obtain a CDL learner’s permit, which requires passing a written exam.
There are three classes of CDLs – Class A, Class B, and Class C. The type of license you need will depend on the type of truck and cargo you plan to transport. Class A CDL is required for driving tractor-trailers and other large vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, while Class B CDL is for driving smaller trucks and buses. Class C CDL is for driving vehicles that don’t fit into Class A or B but require a CDL due to the nature of the cargo being transported, such as hazardous materials.
Truck Driving School
Attending a reputable truck driving school can be a valuable step towards becoming a truck driver. These schools provide the necessary training to help you pass your CDL exam and gain practical experience behind the wheel. Many schools also offer job placement assistance, which can be a valuable resource for finding your first job in the industry.
Clean Driving Record
Having a clean driving record is essential for aspiring truck drivers. Employers typically look for candidates without a history of major traffic violations, such as reckless driving, DUIs, or excessive speeding. Maintaining a clean record demonstrates your commitment to safety and responsibility on the road, both of which are critical qualities for a successful truck driving career. If you end up with a bad record, you might need to go through truck driving program again.
Federal grants can really support new drivers with easing of financial burdens. Most of the times these grants are not required to be paid back.
WIOA – this type of grant helps to cover costs from people over 18 years of age, that have lost their job. They provide full or partial coverage.
Pell Grant – this grant is supervised by FAFSA and requires an application before June 30th. You would have to apply to find out how much cover you are eligible for.
How to Become a Truck Driver
A clear step by step action plan to kick-start your career.
1. Research the Industry
Before diving into a truck driving career, take some time to research the industry. Familiarize yourself with the various types of truck driving jobs, such as long-haul, regional, and local positions, and consider which type of driving job would suit your lifestyle and preferences best. It’s also helpful to understand the job outlook, salary expectations, and potential challenges associated with a truck driving career to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
2. Obtain a High School Diploma or GED
While not always required, having a high school diploma or GED can improve your job prospects and is often necessary for enrolling in truck driving schools. If you haven’t already, work towards obtaining your high school diploma or GED to prepare for a career in truck driving.
3. Get a CDL Permit
To start your journey towards obtaining a CDL, you’ll first need to acquire a commercial learner’s permit. Visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office or equivalent agency to get the necessary study materials and take the written knowledge test. Once you have your permit, you’ll be able to practice driving a commercial vehicle under supervision.
4. Attend Truck Drivers School
Enroll in a reputable truck driving school to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to pass your CDL exam.
These schools provide classroom instruction on the rules and regulations surrounding commercial driving, as well as hands-on experience behind the wheel of a truck. Many truck driving schools also offer job placement assistance, which can help you find your first job in the industry upon graduation.
Paid cdl training program can be found whilst looking for trucking jobs and speaking with recruiters. Certain paid cdl programs can have tuition costs around $1000. Whilst certain states offer grants for tuition reimbursement.
CDL training programs can offer the best mentorship opportunities.
5. Pass the CDL Exam
Once you’ve completed your truck driving school training, it’s time to take the CDL exam. The exam consists of a written knowledge test, a pre-trip vehicle inspection, basic control skills test, and a road test. Make sure to study and practice diligently to ensure you pass the exam and obtain your CDL.
6. Gain Experience
As a new truck driver, it’s essential to gain experience to improve your skills and increase your value as a professional driver. Entry-level truck driving positions may not offer the best pay or most desirable routes, but they provide valuable on-the-job experience that can lead to better opportunities down the road.
Be prepared to put in the work and demonstrate your dedication to the profession. Make sure to stay with a company for a whole year, since you will struggle to find any serious positions before you hit 1 year experience mark, best time to try out long haul truck drivers roles, OTR.
7. Networking and Job Searching
Networking is a crucial part of any career, and truck driving is no exception. Connect with fellow truck drivers, attend industry events, and join online forums to establish connections and stay up-to-date on the latest industry news.
These connections can be invaluable when it comes to finding new job opportunities or getting advice on how to navigate the truck driving world. Make sure to keep a clean copy of your commercial driver’s license.
Vast majority of experienced drivers perform their job search on job boards. Keep in mind that a lot of companies perform background check before bringing you into their yard.
The Pros and Cons of Being a Truck Driver
The truck driving industry is always in demand, as goods need to be transported from one location to another. With a growing economy and increasing demand for transportation services, truck drivers can expect a steady flow of job opportunities.
Truck driver generally earns a competitive salary, with higher pay rates for those with more experience, specialized skills, or willingness to take on long-haul routes. Many companies also offer bonuses and other incentives for safe driving and meeting performance goals. Most companies can offer a lucrative career according to labor statistics.
If you enjoy seeing new places and experiencing different landscapes, truck driving provides ample opportunities to travel across the country. Long-haul drivers, in particular, can explore various regions and experience the beauty of the open road.
Truck driving offers a sense of independence and freedom, as you’ll spend a significant amount of time on the road without direct supervision. This can be a major perk for individuals who prefer to work alone and set their own pace.
Variety of Job Options
The trucking industry offers a diverse range of job opportunities, from local delivery routes to long-haul trucking and specialized cargo transport. This variety allows drivers to find the type of work that best suits their preferences and lifestyle.
Long Hours and Irregular Schedules
Truck driving often involves long hours behind the wheel, which can be physically and mentally exhausting. Additionally, drivers may have irregular schedules, with overnight or weekend driving required, which can make it challenging to maintain a work-life balance.
Loneliness and Isolation
Spending extended periods on the road can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Truck drivers may find it difficult to maintain personal relationships or engage in social activities while they’re away from home for long stretches.
The sedentary nature of truck driving can contribute to health issues, such as obesity, heart disease, and sleep disorders. It’s essential for truck drivers to prioritize their health by maintaining a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and addressing any medical concerns promptly.
Stress and Pressure
Truck driver jobs can be a high-pressure, with tight deadlines, unpredictable traffic conditions, and the responsibility of safely operating a large vehicle. This stress can take a toll on a driver’s mental and emotional well-being.
Regulations and Compliance
Commercial driver’s license holders must adhere to strict regulations, such as hours of service rules, weight limits, and vehicle inspections. Navigating these regulations and maintaining compliance can be complex and time-consuming.
Life After Truck Driving School
Becoming a truck driver is only the beginning, as you visit more and more truck stop corners, you will need to think about your end goal. Whether you wish to become an owner operator or establish your own trucking company. Going onto proper training in more specialized trucking roles, might have upfront costs but will offer a more rewarding career. To be among the top 5% highest paid truckers there is a variety of skills required.
Is truck driving worth the money?
Truck driving is definitely worth the money. Its a career that is rewarding for people who perhaps do not have a higher education degrees. Truckers can make enough to retire early if they are smart wit their money. Many truck drivers buy trucks and start running their own fleets.
Is it hard being a truck driver?
A rewarding role is also a hard role. Yes being a truck driver is hard, constant pressure and work on the road. It’s not good for you health and that is the biggest concern for all truck drivers, safety and health.
How long does it take to become a truck driver?
Becoming a truck driver can take 1 to 2 months. Depending on the intensity of training program that you are willing to commit. A usual truck driver training with a trainer can take up to 3 months after getting your CDL license.