Becoming a truck driver can be a rewarding career choice. Trucking is always in demand, so it’s a stable career. It’s flexible, since you can work for yourself or for a trucking company. And with the right experience and the right mindset, you can make an impressive income.
But before you can become a truck driver, there are some things you’ll need to have in place.
What You Need Before Becoming a Truck Driver
Before you can become a full-time truck driver, you’ll need these, at minimum:
- A clean record. Most trucking companies aren’t going to hire you if your record is questionable. If you’ve never been involved in an accident, with no significant traffic violations, you’ll be in good shape. Otherwise, you might struggle to find work. That doesn’t mean that if you’ve gotten a speeding ticket, you’ll be forbidden from becoming a truck driver, of course, but you should strive to keep your record as clean as possible.
- The right equipment. Depending on your role and how you’re working, you may be responsible for buying and maintaining your own equipment. Fortunately, you’ll have the opportunity to buy used. Buying a used semi-truck or semi-trailer can be a financially savvy way to get started. Just make sure that the specs are correct for your intended use and conduct an inspection to ensure your equipment is reliable.
- A proper license. A standard driver’s license is likely not enough to allow you to drive commercial vehicles. Depending on where you live, you’ll be responsible for acquiring a special type of license. For example, in the United States, you’ll need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and depending on the vehicles you intend to drive, you may need a class A, B, or C license.
- At least some education. Before becoming a truck driver, you may want to have at least some education. There are no specific educational requirements to drive a truck; you don’t need a college degree and you might not even need a high school diploma. However, most trucking companies will prefer their hires to have a GED at minimum.
- At least some experience. It’s hard to find a trucking job with no experience, so how can you get that all-important initial experience? You could consider getting an entry-level job in the trucking industry or pick up small gigs from local companies. Once you have a couple of strong referrals and a real track record, you’ll find it much easier to get a full-time truck driving gig.
- Realistic expectations. Truck driving can be great; it’s a stable, potentially high-earning career that almost anyone can do. But it can also be hard at many stages. You may struggle to find an initial job. You may suffer from cutbacks due to lack of demand. You might deal with a lot of stress and be away from home for long periods of time. None of these drawbacks are dealbreakers, but you need to set realistic expectations and be prepared for them.
- Stress management skills. Truck driving is highly stressful. You’ll be responsible for safely navigating roads with a vehicle that weighs tens of thousands of pounds. You’ll have to deal with tight deadlines and strict demands. And on top of that, you might be away from your family for days to weeks at a time. To succeed, you’ll need to manage all that stress effectively.
- Physical endurance. In addition to being mentally demanding, truck driving can be physically demanding. It may sound easy to sit on a cushioned seat all day, but steering the vehicle and maintaining good posture can take a lot out of you. On top of that, many truckers are responsible for loading and unloading, which demands significant strength.
- Adaptability. Not all trucking jobs are going to be the same. And the industry is likely to change considerably in the near future. If you want to keep making money and stay relevant in the industry, you’ll need to remain adaptable. Prepare to learn new things, change your plans, and respond to new circumstances.
- A long-term plan. Finally, you’ll need some kind of long-term plan in place. What kind of truck driver do you want to be? Where do you want to work? How are you going to grow in this industry?
Is trucking the right career for you? Before you jump headlong into the career, you should prepare for it. Consider talking to someone who has been in the trucking industry for many years, or a mentor who can guide you in the early stages of your career development. Take your time, make sure trucking is the right decision, then start assembling everything you need to advance.