Truck Driving Career: How to Become a Truck Driver in 7 Easy Steps
49.3 million tons – that’s how much freight the U.S. transportation system moved every day in 2015. These shipments, packages, and parcels were worth around $52.5 billion.
Of all methods of transportation used, trucks come out on top. The trucking industry takes care of about 70% of all freight in the U.S. every year.
No wonder then, that the country is seeing a shortage on truck drivers. Experts estimate that within the next 10 years, the U.S. would need at least 890,000 truckers. Especially with the continuous rise in e-commerce and online shoppers.
All this has opened many truck driving career options to interested truckers.
So… Are you one of those who’ve always wanted to know what it feels to be behind the wheels of these massive machines? If so, then check out this guide we’ve made that’ll help you do exactly that!
1. Figure Out if a Truck Driving Career Is Really for You
As with any other career, you first want to answer the question, “Is truck driving a good career?” You want to make sure it fits you and your income goals.
Speaking of income, truck driver salary in 2017 averaged $44,500 across all states. Keep in mind that’s only the average, as salaries vary based on many factors, such as experience. There’s also the specific type of trucking and of course, the employer.
Experience is a huge determiner in the trucking industry. Those with about five years of trucking experience under their belt can earn around $55,000 a year. Working for the same company also increases the chance of seeing a salary increase.
Some trucking jobs, like those who drive for performers and artists, also earn more. The same is true for truckers who transport hazardous chemicals or fuels.
That said, once you’re sure you want truck driving as a career, choose which industry you want to work in. Especially since some sectors, like hazardous chemical transport, require a specific license.
2. Determine if You Have the Personal Qualifications
Next up, be sure you have what it takes to be a trucker. One of the most important is the ability to work independently, most of the time even alone. Also, keep in mind that many jobs may involve up to 11 hours of “daily driving”.
Since you can expect long hours of daily driving, you should have the physical stamina for it. You also need power and energy for loading and unloading the freight you move.
You should also have a sense of responsibility and a squeaky-clean driving record. Timeliness and stress management skills are also important to become a good trucker.
Plus, it’s important to have in-depth know-how of truck mechanics. You need to know when to change tires and have at least a basic understanding of truck maintenance.
3. Meet the Minimum Requirements
You should be at least 21 years old before you can drive a commercial truck. Also, most employers need their applicants to have finished high school. Some accept a GED equivalent though, so be sure to check with your potential employers.
A commercial’s driver license (CDL) is also mandatory. But before you can get a CDL, you first need to pass your state’s regular driver’s license examination.
4. Decide on the Type of CDL to Get
CDL drivers can only drive what their license allows them to. That’s because there are several CDL classifications, from A to C.
The type of license dictates the maximum size vehicle you can operate. It also dictates the specific type of vehicles you can drive. It even specifies what kind of freight and load you can legally move and transport.
The license with the least restrictions is the Class A CDL. With this license, you can drive any size vehicle, including tractor-trailer combinations. It also lets you move loads weighing more than 26,001 pounds.
Having a Class B license lets you drive single vehicles with a total weight of more than 26,001 pounds.
A Class C license gives you the authority to drive any vehicle outside of the A and B Classes. But it’s reserved for carrying and moving hazardous materials. Class C CDL drivers may also carry and move sixteen or more occupants (including the driver).
5. Get Your CDL Training
Once you’ve decided which type of CDL you want, next is to get the training for it! There are institutions that provide exactly that, such as the Truck Driver Institute.
Depending on the CDL classification you want, program lengths vary. If you’re interested in becoming a HAZMAT driver, then expect more training.
Consider getting the highest level of CDL qualification. This way, you’ll have more job opportunities even if your first job only needs a Class B or C license.
6. Pass the CDL Exam
CDL exam procedures vary from state to state, although most consist of both a written and a road skills exam. You need to pass both so you can get your license.
In general, the written test analyzes your knowledge of truck driving and road laws. It’ll also test you about other essential trucking safety regulations.
As for the road skills test, a state-licensed examiner will ask you to drive a commercial vehicle. You need to show them your actual driving skills in this test.
7. Seek Help from a Job Placement Service
Most reputable CDL training schools offer their students job placement services. That’s why you’d want to choose an institution that also provides this kind of assistance.
Aside from your school, truck driving associations can also help you find your first job. Make sure you also check reputable websites for job openings, such as Indeed or Monster.
Get Started with Your Career as a Pro Trucker
You can get started on your commercial truck driving career as soon as you hold a license! But since the entire process takes quite some time, it’s best you start Step 1 as soon as possible. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get behind the wheel.
As soon as you’re ready for your first truck driving job, accessorize! Check out this list of best truck accessories every trucker should have.