How To Become A Truck Driver

truck driver
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Considered one of the fastest growing occupations, there is quite a large number of truck driving job openings every year.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) says that one out of 16 American jobs is generated by this industry, so if you are thinking of becoming a truck driver, we are in the best possible moment to do so.

Take into account that a good truck driver must love to travel and adapt to flexible schedules. This job is a great way to get to know the country and it doesn’t entail sitting in an office chair for eight hours, or even more.

What Do You Need To Become A Truck Driver?

To become a truck driver you need to follow both federal and state regulations, the latter much more strict than the former. Your driver´s license must be issued by the state where you live and your driving record needs to be completely clean.

When getting your driver’s license, you’ll need to consider the following information:

  • the type of truck you will be driving
  • the weight it can transport
  • the type of material you’ll transport

For instance, if you carry hazardous materials you must get a commercial driver’s license, commonly known as CDL. It is important to check the regulation in the state you live in, since in several states you can drive light trucks and vans with a regular license.

Also, to become a truck driver you need:

  • excellent hearing.
  • excellent vision (color-blind individuals are not eligible for this type of profession).
  • good physical condition (especially when the job requires loading and unloading).
  • the ability to sit for extensive periods of time.
  • to have a strong sense of spatial relation.
  • good communication skills.

Apart from these skills, every driver must take a written exam on the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Individuals that struggle with alcohol or drug addiction as well as those that have been in involved in criminal activities cannot work as truck drivers.

Those interested in this line of work must also have customer service skills, the ability to inspect cargo, read maps correctly, practice defensive driving to avoid preventable accidents as well as the ability to park in every situation, among others.

Not having your own truck isn’t an impediment to work as a truck driver since most companies hire your services but expect you to use company-owned vehicles.

Benefits Of Being A Truck Driver

The lifestyle of a truck driver has both its pros and cons, as does every profession. It tends to be more suited for those who enjoy traveling instead of being stuck in one place. In fact, this is one of the main benefits of this job: the constant change of scenery. This job can take you to places that you never thought you would go to, and it is one of the best ways to get to know the country.

Payment is another good aspect of being a truck driver, especially for long-haul drivers. In fact, in some states you can earn more than a college graduate! Also, as your years of experience grow, so does your salary, and if you are considered a reliable and responsible employee you can earn even more. Additionally, several companies offer bonuses for loads carried, kilometres travelled and years in the company.

Another aspect many might consider beneficial is the fact that you don’t need to have a college degree to work as a truck driver. Companies normally provide the necessary training to become a truck driver. You can start working at the age of 18, and at the age of 21 if you want to drive across state lines.

Flexibility is another interesting benefit. Schedules tend to be flexible in trucking companies. You can also choose the type of haul, whether you’d rather handle long-distance, cross-region or local runs. Of course, this might vary, depending on the company you are working for.

Health programs are an important benefit for those working as truck drivers. Dental and visual assistance are the most common benefits, although you might also have the possibility of hiring life insurance and get paid vacations.

Job stability is also key when considering a profession. In this case, because there is a growing shortage of truck drivers, there are thousands of job openings available.

On a more personal level, this work has an important social aspect. You will meet all kinds of people and experience different situations, which normally means that you will always have an interesting story to share with others.

Job Opportunities

Qualified truck drivers are difficult to come by, and because this shortage only seems to increase, companies are always searching for new professionals. In fact, by 2025 there would be more than 170.000 vacancies in truck driving positions.

Currently, big companies such as Amazon and Walmart are looking to hire more than 50,000 new drivers to cover their needs. These companies ship goods all over the country and they are struggling to find the qualified amount of drivers they require.

However, this competitiveness and shortage of professionals is good for drivers, since their salaries are increasing. Most of them are employed in metropolitan areas, where big retails and wholesale companies are located. Others work in rural areas, for instance in coal or delivery services.

What About Salary?

Experience and performance are two major factors when it comes to a truck driver’s salary. Salary is an estimate based on a cents per mile basis. Although every company operates differently, annual salaries normally amount to 40k to 50k a year, and more experienced drivers can make up to 70k. Drivers that take on longer distances and haul more specialized freight tend to have higher salaries.

The state where you live can also have an impact on your salary. We recommend you make an estimate of monthly expenses to know whether a salary is convenient or not. Some companies offer performance bonuses and financial incentives, which can definitely be worth factoring into your decision to take a job.

In order to maximize earnings, the best option is to become an independent contractor. Besides the money, another attractive aspect of becoming a truck driver is the fact that you can be your own boss: you can decide schedules and routes without being controlled by anyone. If you don’t own a truck, there are several leasing plans you can turn to to start working as an independent contractor.

In conclusion, to work in this industry it is important to be patient and to truly enjoy driving for extended periods of time. Drivers must be responsible, conscientious workers with excellent vision and hearing. If you are interested, contact your local DMV office and learn more about the state requisites to become a truck driver.