Are you searching for a career where you can make money driving?
If so, working as a professional truck driver could be the perfect job for you. This career is superb for people who enjoy spending long stretches of time on the open road.
You need to be comfortable spending time alone and have a lot of focus to do this job. In addition to being a safe and competent driver, you also need to complete special training.
So, let’s take an in-depth look at how to become a truck driver and learn more about what this fascinating job involves.
What Does A Truck Driver Do?
This job involves operating very large motor vehicles such as tankers and 16-wheel tractor-trailers. You have the option of working directly for a transportation company or commercial fleet or becoming an independent contractor.
Most commercial truck drivers work at least forty hours a week and work long shifts. In many cases, you may work up to fourteen hours at a time to meet strict deadlines.
The Requirements For Truck Drivers
Before you start planning your career, you need to make sure you meet the standard requirements for a truck driver. These are likely to vary slightly depending on the state you live in, although they are generally very similar. Here are the requirements you have to meet before you embark on your career path.
A standard driver’s license
It is important to obtain your driver’s license and spend as much time behind the wheel as possible. As a truck driver, you could be on the road for eight hours at a time. It is best to complete a few solo road trips and make sure you enjoy the experience. You also need to have a good sense of direction and be comfortable reading maps and planning routes.
Clean driving record
Having points on your license will severely damage your chances of success. If you have DUIs, you can kiss this career goodbye. The way you drive will affect the reputation of the company you work for. Therefore, it is essential to drive carefully and responsibly at all times.
Be at least 18 years old
While you can start applying for jobs when you are eighteen, most companies prefer employees to be at least twenty-one. This age limit is set to make sure professional drivers have enough experience behind the wheel. It takes most people a few years to hone their driving skills and be confident enough to drive long distances alone.
High school diploma or GED
Before you can enroll in a professional training program, you need a minimum of grade 10 English. While it is technically possible to embark on this career path without a high school diploma, finding work will be difficult. Having good grades in a range of different subjects will help you stand out from the crowd.
Pass the Ministry of Transportation medical exam
Before you can start driving trucks, you have to pass the medical and vision tests from the Ministry of Transportation. This makes sure you have the physical stamina to sit behind the wheel of a truck for long periods. It stands to reason that you would need to have excellent vision to do this job.
Pass a drug and alcohol test
If drugs and alcohol are your jam, it’s probably best to think about choosing a different career. Truck drivers are regularly submitted to random drug tests. This is done to make sure you are not in an unfit state of mind when you are behind the wheel. Driving large and heavy vehicles requires a lot of concentration, and there is no room for error.
How To Become A Truck Driver?
The first step to becoming a truck driver is making sure you meet the stated requirements. Once you have a regular driver’s license and have graduated from high school, you need to complete special training. Here are the steps you can take on your journey to becoming fully qualified and employed.
Start professional training
Several institutions provide the necessary training, including trucking companies, private truck driving schools, and community colleges. Make sure you choose a course that complies with the DMV or BMV regulations in your state. Depending on the program you choose, it could take up to a year to complete the program.
If you are short on cash, it is possible to obtain financial aid through a community college. Alternatively, you could join a company-sponsored program, which takes up to six weeks to complete. While the standard fee this these programs is $6,000, some companies offer discounts and financing options to future employees.
Earn your CDL and other endorsements
You need to hold at least a CDL before you can start driving commercially. You may also need to get an endorsement code on your license. To gain your CDL, you will need to hold the right documents and pass a test. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can provide you with all the information you need.
Find the right job
There are several different types of truck driving jobs, and it is important to consider the options carefully. Many truck driving schools offer career counseling as well as job boards. Joining a professional organization can also help you gain the connections and advice you need to get started.
Complete your employer’s finishing program
If you have just obtained your license, the company you work for may require you to complete an in-house training program. This finishing program will introduce you to the vehicles, equipment, and materials that the company uses. It typically runs for three or four weeks and includes some supervised driving experience.
Different Types Of Commercial Driver’s Licenses
No matter where you work, you will need to hold a Commercial Driver’s license. This is commonly known as a CDL, and it comes in several different categories. Let’s take a look at the main categories and what each one involves.
Class A License
This license allows you to drive most types of commercial vehicles and comes with few restrictions. You are allowed to drive trucks internationally when you hold this license. This is very useful if you work for a company that delivers goods across the border.
However, it should be noted that this is the most difficult type of commercial driver’s license to earn. It is also the most expensive and is unlikely to be needed when you are starting your career. It is probably best to upgrade to this license once you have gained some experience and want to advance.
Class C License
This type of license is designed for people who plan to drive smaller commercial vehicles such as coaches. It is technically possible to enter the industry with a Class C license. However, upgrading it to another type of license will give you more options and make it easier to find work.
Class D License
This license is ideal for truck drivers who are getting started in their careers. It is a good option for people who want to drive single-piece trucks. The only catch is that the weight restriction that comes with this license is 11,000kgs. This limits the types of jobs you can do to a certain extent.
Class AZ License
This is a variation of the Class A license that comes with even fewer restrictions and more perks. The Z endorsement allows you to operate vehicles that use air brakes as well as traditional brakes. This means you will be able to drive the full range of larger commercial vehicles when you hold this license.
Landing Your First Job
Once you have the right skills, education, and experience, you are ready to start working as a commercial truck driver. However, depending on where you live, securing full-time work can be difficult at first. Here are some tips on how to get started and build your career.
Start as a temp driver
Most of the larger companies insist on employing drivers who have a certain amount of experience. This can be a bit of a Catch 22 situation, as getting the initial experience can be tricky. Taking on temp driving work for a smaller truck driving company is a good way to do this.
Many companies need to hire additional drivers at certain times of the year. Do your research and discover the busiest times of the year for the companies in your state. Timing is everything, and applying for temp work when companies are busy could be your best bet. You can also apply to be a fill-in driver when regular drivers are sick or otherwise unavailable.
Having a flexible approach to work when you are getting started can make it easier to find employment. You might have a clear vision of the type of company you want to work for and your ideal job. You may need to adapt this vision at first to match the available jobs.
Being willing to compromise on particular job elements will make it easier to find work. This will allow you to gain the necessary knowledge and experience to develop your career. This can mean working unpopular hours and routes and taking on odd jobs for the company. Before you know it, you will have a solid reputation and experience and will be able to land your dream job.
Build a record of safety and reliability
You need to have and maintain an impeccable driving record to do this job. Any case of reckless driving can cause you to lose your CDL. It is important to establish a history of reliability with your employer. Building strong working relationships can also help you to advance on your career path.
Gain specialty experience
Some companies employ drivers to transport hazardous materials and extra-wide loads. These jobs require extra skills and come with higher salaries as a result. Developing these specialist skills is a great way to gain access to higher-paying jobs.
Start your own fleet
Once you have experience working for a transportation company, you could decide to become self-employed. The best way to do this is by establishing yourself as an owner-operator and operating a truck or small fleet. It is best to start off driving your own truck until you gather the capital to purchase a small fleet.
Working for yourself can be very rewarding and allows you to set your own parameters. If you have strong leadership skills and are a business head, owning a small fleet could be perfect for you. This allows you to use your experience to train other drivers and plan routes to serve clients in the best way.
So, You’ve Decided To Become A Trucker?
That’s great news! I’ve put together various driver positions to see if maybe one of them interests you. So, check out my Truck Driver Job Description, my OTR Driver Job Description, and my Tractor Trailer Truck Driver Job Description, along with my Truck Dispatcher Job Description, and even my High Paying Truck Driver Jobs.
If you have a criminal record, you do have the Second Chance Trucking Companies for possible job opportunities. I first recommend reading up on What Truck Driving Schools Accept Felons, as well as Trucking Companies That Train And Hire Felons, and lastly, Trucking Companies That Hire Felons in 2022.
Of course, we found some excellent guides to help with your training, such as the CDL Study Guide 2021-2022, to help you prepare, the Trucker’s Guide for the Beginning Truck Driver, or how about he Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide to Becoming and Being a Truck Driver, and most importantly, Becoming A Truck Driver: The Raw Truth About Truck Driving, all available online today.
If you love to drive, this career can be very enjoyable as well as lucrative.
According to www.trucking.org, more than 11 billion tons of freight were transported by truck drivers in 2019 alone. Once you are fully trained and experienced, you are sure to find that there is plenty of available work.
The average salary for a truck driver in the United States is around $50,000 per year. Getting a special license and specializing in a particular area of transportation can boost your salary considerably. If you have a head for business, starting your own fleet is another great way to boost your earning potential.
Good luck in your new career as a Truck Driver!