Are you considering becoming a truck driver but aren’t sure how to get started?
A career as a truck driver isn’t on a lot of people’s radars, but it really should be. Working as a truck driver lets you see the entire country. It’s great for those who appreciate autonomy, and the pay is pretty lucrative.
Best of all, it doesn’t take long to get started in this career field. However, there are some prerequisites you need to know about before you jump in. Check out this guide to learn how to become a truck driver.
1. Research the Career
Before you embark on any new career, it’s always a good idea to do some initial research. While there are many benefits to working as a truck driver, there are also some drawbacks that you need to consider. Let’s take a moment to discuss the pros and cons.
Pro: Starting Salary
One of the biggest benefits of working as a truck driver is that it offers a decent starting salary of around $35,000. Considering that you don’t even need to hold a high school diploma or GED to work as a truck driver, the starting salary is very lucrative.
There’s also the potential to earn a lot more money as you progress in your career. According to the BLS, the median pay for truck drivers is $45,260. The top ten percent of truck drivers earn around $66,480.
As we mentioned earlier, working as a truck driver offers a lot of independence. As a truck driver, it’s just you, your truck, and the open road. While you’ll have a manager to report to, they won’t be breathing down your neck on a day-to-day basis.
Unlike many other American workers, you also won’t have to deal with daily office politics. As long as you stick to your job responsibilities, your day-to-day life as a truck driver will be pretty stress-free.
Pro: Entry-Level Requirements
The great thing about working as a truck driver is that it comes with just a few entry-level requirements. It’s the perfect first-time career, and it’s also great for those who are looking to transition into a new field.
As long as you pass the entrance exam (more on that later), you can get a job.
Pro: See the Country
One of the biggest benefits of working as a truck driver is that it allows you to see the country like never before. As a truck driver, you’ll get to see firsthand why American is one of the top destinations in the world for road trips.
You’ll also sometimes have layovers in cities, giving you an opportunity to explore a destination on a deeper level.
Pro: Job Security
The truck driving industry is very stable. As long as people have goods they need to get from one place to the next, there will be a need for truck drivers. The truck driving market is even secure during periods of recession, so rarely will you need to worry about losing your job.
While some people love the independence that truck driving offers, others find it to be lonely. You’ll be spending countless hours alone on the road, which can be especially taxing if you have a family.
However, there is the opportunity to work as a local truck driver so you don’t have to leave your family.
Con: Physically Demanding
Many people don’t realize how physically demanding this job can be. In some truck driving positions, you’ll be required to load and unload your own truck. If you don’t want to do this, make sure to look for no-freight jobs.
You’ll also be required to work very long hours in this position. In many cases, shifts can be 10 to 14 hours long.
Con: Hectic Work Schedule
Not only will you work long hours as a truck driver, but you’ll also often be asked to work nights, weekends, and holidays. When you’re just starting out, you won’t have much control over your schedule either. While some people like the odd hours, others find it to be very hard on their sleep schedule and overall health.
2. Study for the CDL Exam
The next step is to begin studying for your commercial driver’s license (CDL) exam.
You can head to your local DMV to pick up the commercial driver’s license manual. Many DMVs also offer the manual through their website. Make sure you’re using the most recent edition of the manual, as laws can change from year to year. Also, make sure you meet the minimum age requirements in your state before you start studying.
Here are some tips to help you pass your CDL exam:
- Don’t cram- The CDL manual is quite extensive, so don’t try to cram for the exam the night before
- Take a diagnostic exam to determine your weak areas and what you already know
- Take advantage of free practice tests
- Ask other truck drivers for advice on studying for the exam
The pass rate for the CDL exam is around 95 percent, so if you put your mind to it, you should have no trouble passing.
3. Meet the Minimum Job Requirements
As we mentioned, all states have minimum age requirements for truck drivers. In most places, you need to be at least 21 years old to work as a truck driver.
You also need to have a clean driving record. However, most places will overlook minor traffic violations such as parking tickets. However, if you have something big on your record such as DUI, you likely won’t qualify for this job.
While the law doesn’t require you to have a high school diploma or GED to work as a truck driver, most companies won’t hire you without one. Luckily, if you don’t have a high school diploma, you can start working on your getting your GED today.
4. Attend Truck Driving School
Passing truck driving school is perhaps the biggest hurdle to becoming a truck driver. This is mainly because of the financial requirements involved. It typically costs between $3000 and $7000 to attend truck driving school.
However, many companies will reimburse your tuition after hiring you. Plus, when you compare the cost of truck driving school to the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll realize that it’s very affordable. Also, many programs offer tuition assistance, so you won’t be expected to pay for school in one lump sum upfront.
Truck driving school involves a mix of both hands-on and in-classroom learning. During class time, you’ll learn about the laws and regulations of the truck driving field. You’ll also learn about what to do in the event of an accident. This article can also educate you more on truck driving accidents.
During the hands-on training, you’ll get behind the wheel and learn how to drive a commercial truck. While this can be intimidating at first, just remember that your fellow classmates are in the same boat as you.
The timeline for truck driving programs vary. They can be as short as 30 days to as long as a year. While attending a 30-day program means you can get on the road sooner, keep in mind that the learning environment can be very intensive. Plus, you likely won’t be able to work or attend many other obligations should you choose a shorter, intensive program.
Longer programs give you more flexibility and allow you to keep your full-time job, but it also means you’ll need to wait longer to launch your career.
5. Sit for Your Exams
After attending truck driving school, it’s time to sit for your CDL exam and your Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration exam (FMCSA).
While each state has its own exam procedures, no matter where you live, you’ll need to pass a driving exam and a written exam. The written test evaluates your knowledge of safety regulations and driving laws.
The driving exam will test your competency behind the wheel. If you plan to work as a specialty truck driver, you may be required to take more than the above two exams. For example, you’ll need a special endorsement to drive a tank vehicle, a double triple truck, and a truck that carries hazardous materials.
If you don’t pass your exam on the first try, you’re typically allowed to try again after a few days. Once you pass your exam, you can start applying for jobs as a truck driver!
How to Become a Truck Driver: Are You Ready for Your New Career?
Now that you know how to become a truck driver, it’s time for you to begin your new career. Before you know it, you’ll be behind the wheel and loving life.
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