How does a Truck Driver Start a Career in Trucking

Today we’re talking about how you can become a trucker.

Truckers are the necessary lubricant for the gears of both the urban and suburban communities in America. Without secure deliveries for our physical goods our quality of life would whittle away. The trucker will remain a staple in the economy regardless of burgeoning automation.

Getting in this field is as simple as researching forums, researching pay rates and companies, calling recruiters, and watching videos, but in this article we get into common questions prospective truckers have.

First question to address when thinking about a new career is “what is the lifestyle that comes with this?"

To address this concern you may speak with someone you know in the industry, or, if you know no one in the industry, you may have some idea of the erratic sleep schedules, road time hours, and the cooperation between truckers and dispatchers. Before making any decisions on the trucking career, it is important to note that the lifestyle of a trucker is very flexible, but this flexibility depends on the type of trucker you wish to be.

The three kinds of truckers are defined by the Commercial Driver License (CDL)  that he or she has.

What is a CDL Class A?

Class A commercial driver’s license is required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. With a Class A CDL and the proper endorsements, you may drive the following types of vehicles: 

  • Tractor-trailers 
  • Truck and trailer combinations 
  • Tank vehicles 
  • Livestock carriers 
  • Flatbeds

What is a CDL Class B?

A Class B commercial driver’s license is required to operate a single vehicle with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, or tow a vehicle not heavier than 10,000 pounds.

With a Class B CDL and the appropriate endorsements, you may drive the following types of vehicles:

  • Straight trucks
  • Large passenger buses
  • Segmented buses
  • Box trucks
  • Dump trucks with small trailers
  • Tractor-trailers

What is a CDL Class C? 

A Class C commercial driver’s license is required to operate a vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more occupants (including you, the driver) or transport hazardous materials (HazMat), materials that are classified as hazardous under federal law. 
With a Class C CDL and the proper endorsements, you may drive the following types of vehicles: 

  • Small HazMat vehicles 
  • Passenger vans 
  • Combination vehicles not covered by Classes A or B” [1].

If you have chosen what sort of trucker you wish to be, the next question becomes:

How do you get your CDL? This is a topic discussed often.

The answer is that there are many ways. To be precise one may either go to a CDL Driving School and pay out of pocket or apply for grants (some schools give discounts to veterans) to pay for school, or some companies will pay for CDL Driving School and hire on a rookie. The case is that many companies are willing to train someone with little to no experience due to the demand for truckers! Do not let a lack of experience stop you from building your life. This industry does not sleep, and in many cases companies will be patient if you are willing to learn. If you keep a GREAT attitude and prove yourself as a reliable AND safe driver, then you have nothing to worry about. 

There are discussions in the trucking community about what the best way to go about paying for CDL school is. There are, of course, debates as to whether it is better to go through company-paid training or to pay out of pocket/through grants and THEN get hired onto a company. Listed below are excellent resources on this discussion from real drivers, an article on the discussion, and an article on practical ways to pay for this education, respectively.

  1. https://www.truckingtruth.com/truckers-forum/Topic-6127/Page-1/company-paid-vs-private-school-cdl-training-whats-your-choice
  2. https://drivetrucks.com/cdl-school-vs-company-training/
  3. https://www.smart-trucking.com/pay-for-truck-driving-school/

How old is too old to be a trucker? How young is too young to be a trucker?

To answer the first question, age does not matter unless one is unable to pass the Department of Transportation (DOT) physical. A good way to curb this fear is to foot the bill for a physical before speaking with a recruiter. It is better to walk into a transition with good health if possible.

To answer the second question, a good rule of thumb is to ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR STATE’S DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. A good way to find this information is to type in google: the name of your state + “Department Of Transportation” + “CDL.” Here you will be directed to the kahuna of legal info for your state’s regulations.

Although internet articles can bring good information, we HIGHLY recommend that you check with your state’s DOT because regulations can change, so it is best to get the answer from the horse’s mouth on this one, and frankly we recommend that all of your legal questions about this go straight to web searches on your state’s DOT website. 

With the practical questions listed above, what are the emotional elements that tie into transitioning to trucking?

  1. These questions range from self-doubt, basic needs for  the social environment, and common fears that come with a new endeavor.
  2. How would I like to travel the country? Do I want my spouse to travel with me? Do I want a furry companion or two by my side?
  3. How often do I want time at home? 
  4. Would I be comfortable with long periods of solitude? 
  5. Am I competent enough to drive safely at all times?
  6. Am I willing to learn a new trade and give it my all?

If you want to have a discussion with people in the industry about these weighty questions without knowing a single trucker, an excellent place to start with is truckingtruth.com. This website is built on a community of truckers who help each other out with tips and answers to questions about trucking and the lifestyle. The questions stated above have been answered time and time again, however, this does not mean the answers are the same each time. The trucking industry is filled with self-sufficient men and women and they all have stories about how they answered these questions.

It is never too late to switch careers and embark on an adventure. Wish you the best!

References:
[1] https://driving-tests.org/cdl-classification-licenses/

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