How to Become a Truck Driver: The Essential Guide

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If you’re looking for a career without a cubicle and a chance to see the country, you might consider becoming a truck driver. It’s a great option if you have a little bit of wanderlust and don’t mind long drives away from your home base. You’ll have a chance to live on the road, meet new people across multiple states, and have the opportunity to see all the country has to offer. 

To help you with your first step to becoming a truck driver, here is a handy guide explaining all you need to know. 

So, if you’ve ever said, “I want to be a truck driver,” then buckle up. There’s a lot of information coming your way! 

Being a Truck Driver: Pros and Cons


So,
what are the benefits of being a truck driver?

As a trucker traveling across state lines, you will get a chance to see the country. The best part: you’re getting paid to do so. 

You also benefit from a stable industry that provides a strong sense of job security. As there is a shortage of drivers on the road, if you’re good at the job, you can expect a steady stream of income for the long haul. 

There are some cons that need to be weighed, primarily the fact that you’ll be on the road for days at a time for most types of jobs. This means time away from home and family.

However, you can always look into regional deliveries. These allow you to make closer hauls so there’s no need to spend many nights away from home. Additionally, you can look into local deliveries which means that you’re not leaving the state. 

Requirements of How to Become a Truck Driver


If you’re looking into
how to become a truck driver, you might be surprised to find out that it doesn’t take that long to get the proper paperwork in order. However, there are a few strict prerequisites that you need to meet before you can get behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle.

Education

While formal education isn’t a requirement, you might consider attending an accredited truck driving school. If you receive a certificate of completion, this can help you significantly during the hiring process. 

What is an indisputable requirement when it comes to how to become a trucker is a commercial driver’s license (CDL.) How you obtain a CDL can vary depending on the state you reside in, as some will only issue a CDL if you’ve passed a truck driving and safety competency course.

Another aspect of how to get into truck driving you need to consider is the type of cargo the company you’re applying for hauls. If the company requires drivers to transport hazardous material (HAZMAT) or doubles, then you will need to attend a specific course in order to receive the proper certifications. 

By attending a truck driving school, you’ll learn the basics in about one month. As for which school you choose, it will depend on what you hope to gain from it. Normally schools are broken down into two different categories: paid CDL truck driver training programs and private truck driving schools.

The school will issue the written exam for you to obtain the CDL permit and CDL Endorsements. These permits make you eligible to operate a commercial vehicle on the highways with an instructor who holds a CDL. The practical coursework will include maneuvering the vehicle forwards, backward, and parking. It will also include performing a pre-haul inspection of the vehicle. This will prepare you for the exam that issues the CDL. 

If the school you chose is a paid CDL program, you will usually have a job waiting for you upon completion. You’ll then enter into a transitionary period where you run jobs with a trainer along for the haul. Eventually, you’ll be deemed ready to hit the road on your own.  

Driving Record

If you’re researching how to become a semi-truck driver, then you should probably be aware that you’ll need a clean driving record. The bottom line of being a truck driver is that you’re hauling extremely valuable cargo that other companies rely on to function. 

Since many third-party logistics companies are working with goods that can range between the tens of thousands and upward, it’s safe to assume they will perform a thorough background check. This check is to verify every candidate also has a clean criminal record in conjunction with their driving record. 

One more requirement in the list of how to become a truck driver is a Department of Transportation (DOT) pre-employment drug test.

Physical Requirements

If you are wondering “is truck driving a good job,” you need to understand that it can be a physically taxing one. This is why trucking companies require you to pass a DOT physical. This physical will gauge your senses, eyes and ears, as well as your overall physique. Life as a trucker will see long periods of sitting, so you need to show that you have the physicality to endure. 

There is also the chance that you may have to load and unload the freight, so you may also be required to lift cargo up to 50 lbs. 

Age Requirements

To become a truck driver, you first need to reach the appropriate age. While the DOT has listed a minimum age requirement when it comes to both local deliveries and long-range hauls, you still need to surpass the age limit set by the hiring company. 

As it stands, the DOT has set the minimum age requirement for obtaining a CDL at 18 years old. However, adults between 18 to 20 are required to perform commercial deliveries within the confines of the state. This age bracket is also restricted from hauling HAZMAT. 

While the DOT relaxes the laws when a driver turns 21, many companies may still hold out, as they might be looking for drivers over the age of 23. The primary reason for this is due to insurance companies who are unlikely to extend coverage to anyone under this age.  

What to Expect Your First Year of Being a Truck Driver


Truck driving has extremely specific rulesets that need to be maintained to avoid penalties. A critical one that you need to adhere to is the time spent driving. Currently, drivers are restricted to 11-hour on-the-road shifts for every 14-hour timeframe. After every 14-hour block, you will be required to spend a minimum of 10 hours off. Many vehicles have built-in devices that monitor these blocks of time, which, if you’re ever stopped by law enforcement, might be required to display. 

Keep in mind that the 14-hour shift begins when you first clock in for any work activity, not only driving. 

What to Do While Driving

As stated earlier, truck driving is a solo endeavor, and you’ll have a lot of time to yourself. You might wonder how other truckers remain awake, but remember that they’re operating a large truck within traffic. This focus is usually aided by the fact that every driver is required to operate their vehicle within limited time periods. 

Many drivers find it easy to pass the time with audiobooks and podcasts to keep their minds at work without becoming too distracted. 

What’s the Interior of the Cab Like

If you’re operating an over-the-road (OTR) semi-truck, it’s most likely equipped with a bed that pulls down inside the cabin. So, if the weather is comfortable, you can find a place to park the truck and bed down inside the vehicle. However, if you’re driving through inclement weather, it might be best to locate a motel to get some proper rest. 

You can even find semi-trucks outfitted with generators to power televisions, microwaves, and small refrigerators. 

What Types of Jobs Can You Expect

Before you hit the road, you need to consider what type of truck driver you want to be. One of the most common is as a solo operator for a third party logistics company. You will work for a company that acquires various types of clients and make deliveries for them. This job doesn’t necessarily have to be a solo one, as there are opportunities to do this as part of a two-man team. This is a setup where you take turns driving the truck and split the pay. This model’s benefit is that the truck never stops, and you can accomplish more in less time.  

If you’re feeling entrepreneurial, you may want to branch off on your own and purchase a truck outright, becoming an owner-operator. While you have the perks of being your own boss, you’ll also have to cover the overhead of insurance and maintenance out of your own pocket.

What Can You Expect in Salary

The salary you receive will depend on the type of trucking work you perform. It will also vary depending on the company you work for and your experience level. However, a baseline you can expect for your first year will range around $40,000 a year.

After you’ve gained some experience to become a seasoned truck driver, you can expect an increase in your salary up to double the base for an entry-level driver in around six years. 

However, different factors can also affect your salary, such as whether you’re transporting hazardous material. By being HAZMAT certified and hauling potentially dangerous cargo, you can ask for an increase in compensation.

How To Find a Trucking Job

If you’re ready to become a truck driver, the next step is to apply for jobs! The best place to start is by filling out an application through Tenstreet’s Driver Pulse App. The app saves your application details so you only have to fill out your information once and can apply to multiple jobs in minutes, and we have openings for hundreds of companies to browse and match with. It’s a great way to see what jobs are out there in your area.

Ready to get driving? Get the app today and start applying!

Download the Driver Pulse App

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