Newbies - Becoming A Driver


There is much to consider and think about before beginning a truck-driving career. The following is a general list to help you sort through the variables of the trucking lifestyle.

Requirements

  • You'll need a CDL or learner's permit
  • You must have a relatively clean driving record
  • Be able to verify employment for the past 10 years
  • Have no addictions to drugs or alcohol
  • Be able to pass a drug screen
  • Be 18 years old to drive intrastate and 21 years old to go cross-country
  • Be able to pass a basic physical test, including hearing and vision
  • Have a desire to drive truck
  • Have an interest in mechanical things

Training

  • Choose your training: private driving school, public (state) driving school, carrier-sponsored school or personal training with an owner-operator
  • Realize that attending a school takes resources of both time and money
  • After graduating driving school, you'll be required to go through more training by your employer
  • You'll be put in a truck with a stranger (your trainer) and you'll ride with him at least four to six weeks before you're given your own truck to drive

Lifestyle Change

  • Discuss a trucking career with your family, especially if this is a mid-life career change
  • It requires a lot of adjusting for both you and your family
  • Your schedule will keep you away from your family for extended periods of time
  • Role changes - the stay-at-home spouse has to handle being mother and father, nurturer and caretaker, along with handling any problems that arise (with children, bills, repairs, etc.) because truck drivers can't always be reached
  • You will have to make extra effort to stay in touch and be involved in your family's life
  • You're going to miss special events in your family's life (like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and sport events)

A Whole Different Place

  • Ride with somebody and see what truck driving is like
  • It's not an 8-5 job; you are called out 24 hours a day
  • It's a stressful job and it gets nasty out there
  • You have to be able to make decisions and do things unsupervised
  • There are many distractions on the road--drugs, women and gambling to name a few
  • It's a lonely profession even though you're surrounded by people
  • Your only company is the radio or CB
  • You'll work irregular hours and have an erratic sleeping schedule
  • Being gone for one week might seem okay, but it's week after week after week
  • The trucking world is a whole different place and it's a drastic change from a regular job

Financial

  • Have enough savings to cover living costs while you're training and settling into employment
  • You may receive very little compensation during your employer's training period
  • It may take awhile to receive the first paycheck depending upon the company's pay period
  • It takes awhile to get money flowing
  • Don't count on signing bonuses--they're often withheld until you've been with the company for a certain amount of time or are spread out in payments over the year
  • It costs money to live on the road
  • You'll have to pay for your own food, laundry, shower, snacks, entertainment, etc.
  • Phone charges home can add up

Misconceptions

  • Don't fall for the gimmicks in advertisements: "Get paid to see the country; you'll be home every weekend"
  • Recruiters will make many promises; they aren't always kept
  • In reality, you're days will be longer than what you've been told
  • If you're going into trucking to make "big bucks," you're not going to last
  • Over-the-road truck driving is a tremendous commitment, not something to be taken lightly
  • It is not for everyone--you'll find out after about six weeks on the road if you're cut out for it or not
  • If you don't like OTR driving it's not the end of the world; you can find a job driving locally