Do you love the open road? Do you want to see America’s greatest sights while getting paid at the same time? If yes, truck driving just might be your calling. There’s a few things to consider before getting behind the wheel; here are 5 things you need to know about becoming a truck driver.
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What to Know Before You Drive
1. The Hours Can Be Long
Some of the days can be 18+ hour days long. Sometimes truckers will need to drive through the night to get to the dock on time the next morning. There’s no guarantee of weekends or holidays off, depending on your carrier. The bright side is that more hours on the road usually means more money. Many drivers warn people with families against taking longer jobs. Days or weeks spent away from home can damage relationships with your spouse or children if you’re not careful. Most recommend not taking jobs longer than four or five days at a time. Thankfully in the age of technology, smartphones, video calls, and free wifi at many truck stops allow drivers to connect with their families better than ever. Balance is possible, but it is something you have to consider before committing to the job
2. It Can Be Lonely
Long hours driving a truck means a lot of alone time. This is the appeal of the job for more independent personalities. You won’t have a boss always triple-checking if you’re doing your work or annoying co-workers. But loneliness can drain a lot of people. Being away from home means being away from friends and family, and phone calls aren’t the same as truly being there.
But drivers are not always alone. You meet many different kinds of people from all walks of life out on the road. You also will likely have a trusty Citizen’s Band (CB) radio where you can chat up drivers nearby with the same device. Yes, that thing you see truckers use in cartoons is real. There’s also a lot to do to keep yourself occupied to and from jobs. There are many different audiobook services, and many are free if you have a library card. You can crank your music loud and croon to your favorite song, or learn something new with a podcast.
Many carriers understand the need for company on the road, so many have policies in place that allow pets on board! It is also possible to become a team driver, one of a pair of drivers in the same rig who work in shifts to the destination. Many teams who do this are married couples.
3. Self-Discipline is Necessary
It’s not all fun and traveling. Trucking is a very demanding job. You need to know everything about your truck. All carriers require drivers to perform pre-trip and post-trip inspections on their commercial trucks. Inspecting it every time you arrive at and leave a stop ensures that there are no issues with the truck that can cause an accident. Drivers also have to remain vigilant of road safety at all times. Either paper or electronic logbooks must be consistently updated, and drivers must communicate with their employers for every pick-up, delivery, and change to plans or route. Truck driving is a complete lifestyle with its own rules, and understanding them is key to your success in the industry.
4. Crossing State Lines
One of the biggest challenges and draws to the job are the common cross-country trips drivers take every day. One merely has to glance at any truck’s license plate, and it’s likely that truck won’t be from your area. Many drivers relish the opportunity to travel from east to west coast and see all of the sites and natural wonders along the way.
Keep in mind, the job is still work, so you may not be able to see everything you would like on a given trip. You also have to follow each state’s individual road safety laws. The Department of Transportation requires special numbers for a commercial vehicle traveling to other states before you take it to another state. Not having one could mean fines or an impounded vehicle. You’re also subject to the shift regulations of each state and may have to pause your trip in order to remain in the clear. Logistics are very important to, what is at first glance, an easy job.
5. Get Your CDL License
Many people don’t know that you need a special classification of license to be a truck driver and need certain other certifications to drive specific kinds of vehicles. There are several classifications of commercial drivers licenses (CDL):
A CDL A license certifies you to drive any vehicle combination that exceeds a minimum weight of 26,001 pounds, or a truck with a trailer of 10,001 or more pounds. This is the essential license for drivers because it allows you to transport tractor-trailers, dump trucks, livestock carriers, flatbeds, tank vehicles, and more!
You get endorsement codes through additional tests that legally prove your ability to operate specialty vehicles like school buses and tankers. Pages from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) can explain the different kinds of endorsement codes. Remember: categories for license classes may vary state to state, or have additional codes for restrictions on CDLs. Check with your local DMV or BMV to confirm the rules for your state,
The CDL license can be obtained independently, but few carriers hire drivers unassociated with a reputable program.
Many opt to go to driving schools, which go for 3-4 weeks on average before graduates take their official CDL tests.
There are many different choices for truck driving schools out there, but Truck Drivers Institute stands out. Not only do we have fully comprehensive classes that will help you get certified in 3 weeks, but our program focuses on job placement for our graduates. Yes, it is our job to make sure you get out on the road as soon as you can. Even better, if for any reason you leave your first carrier, you’ll be able to come to us at any time for job assistance. No expiration date, no conditions.
Should I Become A Truck Driver?
That’s the big question if you’ve never driven a truck before, Thankfully, the internet is full of resources for current and future drivers alike. Find some truck driver forums and ask questions to experienced drivers who have years of experience. They’ll be honest with you whether they love it or hate it. Only you can know if trucking would be a good fit. Learn more about how TDI can help you at drivebigtrucks.com.