How to Become a Truck Driver
Choosing your career is, obviously, a big decision. Your career isn’t just another job, it’s something you might do for the rest of your entire life. When you’re trying to see if you should start a truck driving career, you’ve got to know where to begin with such a big decision.
Where do you start? Where will you end up, and what are the steps you need to take to get your career on the road? The good news is you can start right now to prepare yourself for a future as a truck driver.
Step 1: The Requirements
The number one most important thing you need to start a truck driving career is your CDL or Commercial Driver’s License. To get a CDL, you’ll go through the DMV in your state. You’ll also have to be at least 21 years old, have a good work history, and have a clean driving record. It’s also required that you undergo a physical, and pass a drug and alcohol test.
In order to get your CDL, you’ll need to go to training at a truck driving school. The training will help you pass the test that you’re going to take at the DMV.
Step 2: The Three Basic Types of Training
There are three basic routes you can take to get your training. It’s up to you to choose which one works the best with what you’re looking for as an individual.
Private CDL School
Private CDL schools will likely require that you pay your tuition upfront. You’ll be looking at a range of a few thousand dollars. This is something to keep in mind as you search for which school you’d like to attend.
Most states have multiple private CDL schools for you to select from, and training will take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months, depending on the school that you select.
Most schools don’t have a set enrollment period, and you’ll be able to enroll at most times throughout the year. That means your wait time to enroll will be short, and you’ll be able to start truck driving sooner. When you’re done with your program at a private CDL school, they usually have resources that will help to place you in a job. Make sure that your private CDL school is accredited.
Community College CDL Training
There is still a cost to taking your CDL training at a community college, but depending on your status, you might qualify for funding to take these classes. However, unlike private schools, enrollment usually only comes around two or three times a year. If you get your training at a community college, be sure to pay close attention to enrollment times.
Your training will take some time here, usually operating on a quarter or a semester system. You might consider it if you’re already working full time and want to change careers because oftentimes night classes are offered.
Company Sponsored CDL Training
This is the type of CDL training that’s the most coveted. These company-sponsored CDL training mean that you’re not going to have to pay for your own training. It also means that once you’re done with your training, you’re essentially guaranteed a job afterward if you’re successful.
Going into this paid CDL training, most companies have the student sign an agreement that they’ll sign on to be a driver with the company after their training is completed. Usually, this is about a year contract. If that contract is violated, the student would then be required to pay for their own CDL training that they already went through.
This type of training is especially advantageous because your salary during your first year is lower than it will be in future years, meaning you don’t have to use your wages to eat into your first-year salary.
Step 3: Finding the Job
As discussed, many programs will place you in the job that you’re already looking for, so you can start right away. Other people might have to do more of a search.
The outlook on your search is overwhelmingly positive. There’s a huge need for truck drivers in the industry right now, and many companies are looking for new truck drivers just like you to place in their seats as quickly as they can. There hasn’t been a better time in this industry than the present to get a driving career started.
Use search engines, government sites, forums, dedicated sites, and even social media to expand your search. Job boards are also a great place to look for jobs that you might not have found by sourcing on your own.
Because you’re the one that the companies are fighting for, you have the opportunity to be picky. Do some research into the best trucking companies to drive for when you’re starting a truck driving career. Make sure they have good benefits and are reputable sources.
You might also want to consider the location you’ll be driving in. If you’re willing to relocate, some states have a higher rate of pay than others. A simple job search on the internet can point you to dozens of different truck driving career options to consider.
The Overview: A Step-By-Step of How to Start a Truck Driving Career
It helps to see the steps you need to take laid out in order. Here’s a brief assessment of the steps you’re going to need to take to kick off your career.
Show that you are 21 years of age. You can be 18 to 20 years old to drive intrastate, but not if you want to be a long-haul trucker.
- Complete your CDL application.
- Pay the fees for your CDL application. These are usually less than $40.
- Give your social security number verification, according to the requirements of your state.
- Submit proof of your U.S. and state residency, along with proof of identity.
- Complete a Medical Examination Report Form.
- Complete a Medical Examiner’s Certificate Form.
- Pass your vision test.
- Pass a knowledge exam. This is the CDL test you will be taking at your DMV.
- Receive your Commercial Learner’s permit or CLP.
- Schedule your CDL road skills examination. You will need to wait 14 days to do this after receiving your CLP.
- Undergo a pre-trip inspection.
- Take a driving and road skills test.
- Pay the fees for your CDL. This is usually in the range of $100.
- Start your truck driving career.
From state to state, this process might come with slight variations, but this is generally what you can expect in the step-by-step process.
For step thirteen, when you’re taking your driving and road skills test, you’ll need to bring your own vehicle. If you’re applying for a class A, B, or C license, you’ll bring a compliant vehicle along with you in order to qualify for the license.
Your First Year
If you start sooner rather than later, you could be entering your career in as little as a few months. During your first year as a trucker, you’re probably going to have to pick up the assignments that the more experienced truckers want to pass on. That means long routes or scarcely populated locations.
You’ll also have to think about how the job will keep you away from your family for extended periods of time, and how you’re going to keep in contact with them.
The reported median income for people who have just gotten their start in a truck driving career is about 38,000 dollars or a little over 18 dollars per hour. However, there is a 21 percent rate of growth in the industry.
How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?
How much money do truck drivers make per year? When you’re considering a job, perhaps the most important question of all is how much money you will make. The same goes for the trucking industry, and the answer is a little less straightforward than a simple salary amount.
There are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States right now, a number that is rapidly growing. That means that almost one in one hundred people are truck drivers. With statistics like that, it’s safe to say truckers make a decent amount of money, at least.
The amount of money truck drivers make depends on the amount of time they’ve been driving, who they drive for, the state they’re driving in, and more. If you’re considering a career in trucking, this is a question that you can’t miss. Even if you’re already a truck driver, it could be time to assess if you’re making the right amount of money compared with the industry standard for the work that you’re doing.
If you want the very short answer for how much money truck drivers make, it’s this: $43,680 a year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this as the average truck driver\’s salary in May 2018. However, this number can be taken with a grain of salt.
The top ten percent of drivers make $65,260 and above. The bottom ten percent make $28,160 on average. With such discrepancies, it’s difficult to answer in one simple statement just how much truck drivers make.
For details about truck driver wages please read our article How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?
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