How to become a truck driver
Working as a truck driver can be a rewarding and exciting career move. This is a job with good pay, stability, and other perks.
The job offers you an opportunity to travel and see the countryside while making money. But to qualify as one, you will need the necessary training. If you are interested in working as a truck driver, here are the steps you need to follow:
Research on the job
You will want to carry out research to determine if the job is a good fit for you. You don’t want a situation where you go ahead and join a driving school only to realize later that this wasn’t a good career choice.
One of the fastest ways of getting the information you need is through online research. You can find a lot of articles, Youtube videos, and other resources that will guide you on how to become a truck driver.
You can also talk to a truck driver to understand the realities of the job and whether you have the qualities needed to become a trucker.
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Learn the requirements
There are several requirements that companies need before you can be employed as a driver.
First, To drive across state lines, you need to be at least the age of 21. But for local positions, you may qualify if you are above the age of 18.
Secondly, to become a truck driver, you will need a clean driving record. While the majority of employers will overlook minor traffic violations, if you have gotten a ticket for reckless driving or DUI, you may not qualify to join a truck driving school.
Some companies also require candidates to have special endorsements with their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Find out the endorsements that are needed in the companies you are interested in. Some driving schools may also require you to have a high school diploma before you can attend. While this doesn’t apply to all schools, you will want to find out if it’s required in the school you are considering.
Pass the regular driving license exam
To be allowed to drive a truck, you will need to have a regular driver’s license. Once you get the license, you can now be allowed to train as a truck driver.
Find a good driving school
To be truly prepared for the CDL test, you will need to attend a driving school. When searching for a driving school, ensure that you select a comprehensive course that will teach you everything you will need to know.
On average, it will take 4 weeks to complete the driving school. But if you have no experience, it can take you a minimum of 180 hours of training. When picking a good truck driving school, there are several factors you need to consider. These include:
- Proven track record
Find a driving school that has a track record. Consider how long the school has been in existence.
Comprehensive training program. How many instructors does the school have? Does the school have trainer-assisted driving lessons, where you go to the road with the instructor? All these are important questions you need to ask.
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- Job placement history
The only reason why are going to a driving school is to get a job as a truck driver. You want a training institute that will help you find a job as soon as possible when you complete school. This is why you need to choose a school with a good record of placing drivers after completing school.
- Qualified and experienced instructors
A good program should have instructors with many years of experience. The instructors should have the ability to teach you with books and also on the road. They should teach you how to interact with customers.
- The amount charged by a driving school is a key consideration
Remember that you are investing in your career and future and should not go with the school with the lowest tuition. However, this doesn’t mean you go with the school with the highest fees.
The most important thing is to find an reputable program that offers value for money. Also, find out the long-term success of their former students.
Average Driving Fees
Driving schools usually charge anything from $4,000 to 10,000 which needs to be paid upfront before a student can begin the course.
There are also truck driver programs that are usually hosted by trucking companies and are usually more affordable.
These can house you while studying for the CLP. They will then practice with you to enable you to get the practice needed to pass the CDL.
Some of the programs include the Prime student driver training program that guarantees a job after the completion of the CDL and pays while you train. This can help get rid of the hassle of finding a job after you have graduated.
Get your CDL
To qualify as a professional truck driver, you will need to get Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is the ideal qualification for the truck driving field.
To get the license, you will need to pass a written exam that tests your knowledge of road rules and the vehicle you will be driving.
CDL can be categorized into A, B, and C depending on the type and size of vehicle you are legally permitted to operate.
The restrictions in Class A are minimal and you can drive tractor-trailer combinations as well as a vehicle with a weight of over 26,001 pounds.
The class B license, allows you to drive a vehicle with more than 26,001 pounds. However, the license is geared towards drivers of the school bus, city buses, dump trucks, straight trucks, delivery trucks, and more.
Class C license allows you to drive smaller vehicles such as smaller trucks, passenger vans, and more. It’s advisable to acquire the highest level of qualification as it enables you to apply for a wide range of positions.
There are certain endorsements you may need to have to allow you to haul certain kinds of cargo or equipment.
Without these endorsements, you cannot carry such kind of cargo. Some of the popular endorsements you may want to get are:
- Doubles and triples
Therefore, endorsements will open up your qualification to enable you to drive hazardous materials, semi-trucks, tanker trucks, and more. It’s also necessary to pass the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) examination.
This consists of a physical hearing and sight assessment as well as a section of written federal traffic laws. All CDL endorsements need a passing grade on a written or skills test.
You will need a Commercial Learner’s Permit to train on the load while under the guidance of a CDL-licensed driver.
Get a D.O.T Medical Card
To work as a truck driver, you will need to complete a sight, hearing, and physical test by a D.0.T physician. This will prove that you are healthy enough to drive on the road.
Searching for a trucker’s job
Some driving schools have connections with the schools around them. This enables them to provide job placement and career counseling services. Such schools can be a great resource when searching for a job.
There are also recruitment services that you can pay to find a job for you after getting your license.
Another place where you can find a job as a truck driver is on job boards such as Monster and Indeed. These often post job openings depending on training, location, and driving experience.
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Go through job orientation and training program
Trucking companies will not just let you get on the road without having to go through a training program.
The length of the training program will differ from one company to the other. But in most cases, the program can last from a few weeks to a few months.
According to the Bureau of Labour statistics, newly licensed employees should complete a proprietary in-house training program. This usually runs for 3 to 4 weeks.
The training that is commonly referred to as Drivers Finishing Program, teaches new drivers on the materials, vehicles, and equipment related to the company. The student’s driving is usually monitored by a licensed mentor.
Many employers require drivers with at least 2 years’ experience. The level of experience can be a factor affecting how much a truck driver earns especially for semi-trailer and long-haul drivers.
Getting on-road experience can help drivers network with other drivers. They can learn about available job openings, learning tips, how to improve equipment, and how to get endorsements.
Join a truck driver organization
Working as a truck driver may mean solitary time on the road. Apart from answering phone calls and meeting other truckers at fuelling stations, truck drivers may not have a lot of opportunities to network.
This is why it is important to join truck driver’s organizations that offer an opportunity to network.
Such organizations may provide truckers with career tips, mentorship programs, and lessons on new regulations.
Drivers can learn from their colleagues and even learn about opportunities that can increase their chances of getting a job. One such organization is the American Trucking Association.
Salary and career growth for truck drivers
According to Payscale, drivers in an entry-level position can expect an annual salary of about $46,000. The mid-career salary of an OTR (over-the-road) driver is $53,945.
Experienced drivers who have been on the road for over 20 years should expect a median salary of $60,450. On top of the generous salaries, drivers can benefit from commissions, bonuses, and profit-sharing.
The total earnings of a driver will, however, depend on the employer, location of the company, and the period the driver has been on the job.
Job Outlook of truck drivers
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, this can be a good time for getting into the truck industry. This is because the industry is expected to grow at a rate of 6% for the next 10 years and isn’t likely to slow down at all.
The growth in the industry is mostly driven by more purchases from Americans.
Truckers will play a critical role in transporting freight from the manufacturing facility to customers and drivers. The growth of the economy will also see a growth in the number of hiring.
Currently, there is a shortage of truck drivers. It is estimated that there is a shortfall of 50,000 drivers and that number is expected to rise to 174,000 by 2026.
With trucks playing a major role in hauling freight, drivers play a key role.
According to the American Trucking organization, the economy requires 3.5 million truck drivers to haul cargo to different parts of the country.
Therefore, if you are going to choose a career as a truck driver, you can be assured that there is a role for you.
If you hate been confined in an office, one of the careers you may want to consider is that of a truck driver. Hitting the road with lots of possibilities ahead of you can be a great feeling.
But if you choose to take this direction, one of the things you need to research on the industry before undertaking the necessary training. That way, you can become a successful trucker.