Like most countries, the trucking/logistics industry in the US serves as its economic backbone. As a result, a job as a truck driver can be one of the most reliable career choices that also plays an important part in boosting national competitiveness, efficiency, and productivity. So if you want to learn how to become a truck driver, read on.
Being a truck driver is not easy. Unfortunately, because of the risk involved and safety requirements, not everyone can be qualified to drive a truck. Professional drivers must have the necessary skills and expertise to drive trucks safely and get their cargo to its destination on time and in one piece.
If you want to start a career in trucking, now is a great time. Why now? Because the cost of training a truck driver is lower than it has ever been. Additionally, there is a huge demand for this profession by different companies and pay is good.
You need to know a few things before you become too enthusiastic about this vocation. What do truck drivers do? Is it worthwhile to work as a truck driver? What are the many categories of truck drivers? What is the most difficult aspect of this job? Are companies looking for truck drivers? Do drivers get paid enough?
In This Article
What is a Truck Driver?
A truck driver is an expert who drives tractor-trailer and heavy trucks across states to make deliveries. Their routes can be either national or international. And they have to make short and long hauls.
The roles and responsibilities of a truck driver also include loading and unloading the truck, completing the required paperwork for every delivery, and inspecting the vehicle before driving it.
Expert truck drivers have a better long-term focus, accurate navigation, and critical thinking skills. And they get paid better.
What Does a Truck Driver Do?
Becoming a truck driver might sound like an easy affair, but it’s not. So, before you decide to pursue your career as a licensed truck driver, it’s necessary to know the actual roles and responsibilities of a truck driver.
- Inspect for safety issues in the truck before driving it
- Transport raw materials, hazardous materials, and finished goods
- Inspect the truck in mechanical terms
- Plan the best route options
- Comply with rules and regulations
- Report defects, violations, and accidents
- Plan and meet delivery schedules
- Document and log your work expenses
Every truck driver is not the same because they work for different sectors and companies. Keeping this in mind, their salary, safety, roles, and responsibilities also differ. But one thing that remains the same is the truck driver qualifications.
To get a commercial truck driver’s license and work with a reputed truck owner operator, you must have a trucking school diploma or GED. Also, you should have good knowledge of truck driving rules and regulations.
An ideal truck driver is one whose concepts regarding time management, truck driving, and traffic rules, and safety are clear. Similar to heavy equipment operators, without in-depth knowledge, one cannot pursue a career in truck driving.
How Much Does a Truck Driver Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers was $47,130 as of May 2020. That’s $22.66 per hour.
However, it is important to understand that truck drivers are typically not paid an annual salary or hourly wage, as with many other careers. Instead, they are usually paid on a cents per mile basis.
- On average, truck drivers get paid between 28 and 40 cents per mile.
- Most drivers complete between 2,000 and 3,000 miles per week.
- That translates into average weekly pay ranging from $560 to $1,200.
Skills of a Truck Driver
Truck drivers work in transportation and must understand the rules of the road, the limits of their equipment and road conditions, and the requirements for operating large tractor-trailers over the road. These professionals can be found in different sectors and companies like oil and gas, mining, wholesale, warehouse, and more.
But what essential skills are required to get into the trucking industry? How can you get hired by the best trucking company? Is there any necessary skill that this job requires? Well, the answer is yes. Scroll down to know about the trucking community and what skills you need to pursue this rewarding career.
Safe Truck Driving
If you cannot drive safely, maybe you should drop the dream of becoming a truck driver. That’s because, as a reckless driver, you will do more harm than good.
When you are driving, you should not only take responsibility for your and others’ safety. Attending a truck driving school and getting training can help you learn proper techniques on how to maneuver the truck properly while also ensuring it is always in safe operating condition.
While technical skills are important, soft skills play an equal role in helping a person become a professional truck driver. With good communication, long haul capacity, and people skills, you can make your job a lot easier.
This way you can quickly resolve any delivery or pickup issues and work with customers. So, in short, if you are a people person, you are off to a good start.
Good Navigation Skill
It goes without saying that you cannot become a good truck driver and get paid fairly if you don’t have navigation skills. That’s because this field is all about reaching the given location safely and on time – even when the use of navigational technology like GPS is not available.
A good truck driver may need to follow a paper map or even written directions provided by another person in order to reach his or her destination.
Focus is a critical skill that the truck driving community requires. Because the long haul is a part of this job, you cannot sit on the driver’s seat with an absent mind for all the hours you are truck driving.
Before starting your trip, you can make certain strategies to stay focused such as getting plenty of quality rest. And once you hit off the road, you can stay focused by staying hydrated, and sticking to your plan and route.
Another must-have skill that a company wants is is organization. As a truck driver, you have to fill out paperwork and make sure the proper chain of custody has been maintained.
Also, the trucking company you want to work for would like you to keep a record of deliveries. Having better organization skills helps you get better pay.
Often times you are on your own. In such times, keep yourself motivated because that’s when you want to hear a few words of wisdom.
Challenges of Being a Truck Driver
While millions of truck drivers are running on the road to deliver us the products we need, we still sometimes fail to appreciate them. Sometimes people don’t realize that without the service of this community, there will come a gap in the market that would be quite difficult to fill.
But this does not make a truck driver’s job any easier. In reality, the life of this community is full of challenges. So, make sure that you are aware of the challenges that this job is likely to have.
Probably one of the biggest challenges as a truck driver is irregular schedules, uneven pay, and long hours. That’s because truck drivers generally don’t know their working schedule for the next week. So, they have to be ready for any schedule that’s given to them.
Irregularity in jobs can come due to distance covered or continuous work. While these do not sound challenging, you will get a reality check when they slowly start taking over your life.
An irregular schedule can also result in sleepless nights. That’s because some days you might have to work for 6 to 12 hours, while other days you can even work for three days or more.
Another downside of working in a transportation company is accidents. Unfortunately, some drivers go beyond the proper safety recommendations to meet their deadlines. In this situation, you and the people on the open road become an easy target for road accidents.
According to a report, around 20% of road accidents involving truck takes place due to damaged roads, irregular working time, worse health care, alcohol consumption, long working hours, and overloading of the truck.
If you want to keep yourself safe, take a properly constructed road and stay away from things that may inhibit your ability to meet state, federal, and company safety standards.
Detention and Delays at Customer Facilities
Delays experienced by truck drivers at the customer’s facilities have increased. It happens when the driver’s route is delayed at the original pickup. So, the carrier requests free detention free for the delay.
Avoid this situation by getting proper training. Make sure that you are on time. You can do this by optimizing the scheduling process. Besides this, try to load the truck in less time possible, and for unloading, you should have the proper equipment.
The irregular lifestyle of truck drivers often makes them fall under one of the unhealthiest populations. That’s because truck drivers often carry ready-to-consume food and drinks and often don’t get the minimum exercise they need to stay healthy.
They don’t get proper nutrients. Thus, they get surrounded by different kinds of health issues like obesity, musculoskeletal problems, stress, lung cancer, hypertension, dehydration, and more.
Lack of Home Time
Lastly, truck drivers can’t spend enough time with their loved ones. Most of the time, they are doing their job. It makes them miss out on different family events, which causes homesickness.
You must find a way to balance your work and professional life.
What is the Hardest Part About Being a Truck Driver?
Probably now, you might be aware of the challenges of being a truck driver, but do you know the hardest part of this profession? Do you know about the difficult things that a truck driver has to cope with while working for owner operator?
- Downshifting and double-clutching
- Making right turns
- Straight backing
- Irregular salary
Some of these activities can be stressful. However, with proper driving training from the owner-operator, you can overcome most of the challenges.
Is it Worth it to Become a Truck Driver?
After knowing about the challenges and hardest parts of being a truck driver, you might likely ask, is it worth being a CDL truck driver? The short answer to this question is yes!
Below is the answer that tells why becoming a commercial truck driver is worth it.
Having an Independent Work Environment
When you are behind the wheel, you are your own boss. There is no office, no company politics, and no commute. That means you are your boss. You can organize the work at your convenience and get it done.
But working alone for long hours can make you feel demotivated and lonely. To overcome this challenge, have someone in the truck with you. This also increases your safety.
Traveling the Country
If you like traveling, being a truck driver is the answer to following your passion and getting your job done at once. As a truck driver, neither will you lack time or money for traveling.
To make the truck driver’s life easy, trucking companies provide them with a variety of home time. Choose a home time that works the best for you.
Living a Truck Driver’s Lifestyle
When you become a truck driver, you get an opportunity to live such a lifestyle. That means you have the mobility to go anywhere. This freedom will make you travel the country in a way that you have never imagined.
Receiving CDL Training
To become an expert truck driver, get a CDL license and CDL training. You can get your CDL in around six weeks. After getting behind-the-wheel training, you can expect job placement in the department of motor vehicles.
Classes of Truck Drivers
Those who want to become a truck driver are aware of CDL, i.e., Commercial Driver’s License. This commercial driver’s license CDL gives a permit to drivers that they can operate large and heavy autos. Also, getting this license means you can take care of hazardous materials.
Different companies require a driver to have this license. CDL license is divided into three categories, i.e., class A, class B, and class C.
Class A CDL
Enroll yourself in one of the best programs and pass the test to get a Class A license. This lets you operate autos with a gross weight of around 26,001 pounds or more. The drivers with this commercial driver’s license CDL can drive vehicles, including tractor-trailers, flatbeds, tank, truck and trailer combinations, and livestock carriers.
Class B CDL
Pass the test by getting into the best programs to get this license. Then you can drive a vehicle of around 26,001 pounds or more. You are eligible to drive box trucks, tractor-trailers, straight trucks, box trucks, segmented buses, large passenger busses, dump trucks with small trailers. This license does not permit you to tow a vehicle heavier than 10,000 pounds.
Class C CDL
Lastly, with class C CDL, you can operate an auto that has the capacity of transporting 16 passengers or more. You can also drive a vehicle that transports hazardous material.
The vehicle you can drive with a Class C driver’s license includes combinations not covered by Class A and B, passenger vans, and small HazMat.
How to Get CDL
To get CDL, you must be at least 21 years old and pass the test. Certain states have started giving out commercial driver’s licenses to 18-20 years drivers.
When applying for the CDL program, carry personal identification documents and proof of citizenship. Also, meet medical and physical standards, and have a clean driving record to pass the exam.
It’s essential to answer the question and pass the written exam. Meet the language requirements. And lastly, the skill and road test program.
Once you have qualified for the necessary exam, you can get a commercial driver’s license. When you start driving, states can create endorsement classes, but some classes are the same.
- S: School bus
- N: Tank vehicle
- D: Double/triple trailer
- H: Hazardous materials
- X: Combination of tank vehicle
- P: Passenger
How to Become a Truck Driver
Not everyone passionate about becoming a truck driver can pursue this profession. If you don’t want to give up on your dream, enroll yourself in the right program and pass the exam.
What discourages people from becoming truck drivers is the challenges that come with it. They think that living such a life is not something they can do.
But if you truly want to become a truck driver and work for a company, see the positive sides of this professional, like freedom, working at your convenience, salary, and traveling.
Here’s the blueprint of what should be your next step into becoming an expert truck driver.
Step 1: Conduct Good Research
Before kickstarting your career as a truck driver, it’s important to do detailed research on the trucking community, company, and salary. That’s because after becoming a driver, you cannot look for a new career.
You can do a simple Google search. Read the blogs, articles and watch YouTube videos. This way, you get a closer idea of how a truck driver’s life looks.
Step 2: Review Requirments
Once you have done your research and have made your mind, you can proceed to review the requirements for pursuing this career and working for a company. If you don’t want to fall into any kind of legal trouble, ensure that you meet all the requirements.
- You must be at least 21 years old
- You should have a clean driving record
- You should not be a reckless driver
- You should be physically and medically fit to perform under pressure and overcome the challenges that come with this role.
If you meet the CDL criteria, apply for the license and pass the exam. After a couple of tests, if you are passed, you will get the commercial driver’s license CDL.
To pass the CDL exam, answer questions, attend truck driving school and get a high school diploma or GED. Also, pass a drug test, alcohol test, and undergo a physical test. Once you have passed the tests, you can expect placement in a good company and a handsome salary.
Step 3: Find Truck Driving Schools
To pass the CDL exam, enroll yourself in a truck driving high school training program. Do thorough research on the best school you can attend.
Pick a high school diploma course that helps you get all the information about the truck and commercial driving. Generally, such programs get completed in six weeks.
Step 5: Get Hired
After giving the answer to the question and getting the CDL license, your next step is getting a job placement and salary. Multiple trucking companies are in search of licensed truck drivers who can get their goods transported safely.
Based on the CDL license, you will get vehicles that you can drive.
Step 6: Complete Employer’s Training and Orientation
Complete employer’s training and orientation. Certain trucking companies want their hired truck drivers to complete the training program because the owner operator cannot trust everyone with their vehicles.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Truck Driver?
To become an expert, it’s important that you have a budget of around $3,000 to $10,000. With this much money, you can easily pay the CDL application fees and get into one of the best programs.
Besides CDL application fees and programs, you can cover road test fees, CDL skill test fees, license, and other endorsements.
The cost of becoming a commercial driver can further increase or decrease. This depends on a couple of factors, like public vs. private funded truck driving schools, truck driving schools reputation, equipment, and additional amenities.
What is the Highest Paying Truck Driver Job?
Truck driving is the right career and you should go for it. To get the highest-paying trucking industry jobs, you have a couple of options. These options include ice load trucking, private fleets, hazmat hauling, oversized load-hauling, luxury car hauling, or mining-industry trucking.
Besides these driving jobs, other trucking jobs can also pay you well, but the ones mentioned above are the most profitable trucking professions.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Truck Driver?
If you attend the best truck driving school, you can easily get a high school diploma. But in general, you would require somewhere around three weeks to six months.
Conclusion: How To Become A Truck Driver
Becoming a driver can seem challenging at first, but when you get into the details, you will understand it’s the best career you can choose for yourself.
Not just this, but truck drivers also get to live an adventurous lifestyle where they can travel the country without jeopardizing their work. Truck driving is a perfect profession for people who are passionate about traveling and meeting new people.
But for becoming a professional truck driver, you have to learn many things- starting from the basics of safe driving, having proper navigation skills, communication skills, and working under pressure. And also, you must attend truck driving school.
Staying committed to truck driving learning programs can get you licensed within a few weeks. That means you can kickstart your career in no time.
So, enroll yourself in a reputed school, start your career in the right direction, and get a job in a good company.