How To Become A Truck Driver: The Ultimate Guide for Newbies
According to a report by the America Trucking Association, the trucking industry is headed for a significant growth in the 2017-2028 decade.
In its report, 15.18 billion tons are expected to have been hauled by the end of 2017. A 36.6% increase is expected to be achieved by the end of 2028 to reach 20.73tons.
This increase in haulage means an increase in trucks which must be accompanied by an increase in truck drivers.
In the last decade, there has been a gradually increasing shortage of truck drivers. This deficit is multiplying not only due to an aging generation but also due to the younger generation not interested in truck driving and an increase in haulage.
That said, there’s no better time to become a truck driver than today.
In this post, I will be diving deep into a full guide on how to become a truck driver.
First things first:
You’ll need to be passionate about truck driving. If you don’t have a passion for this career, you might have a hard time along the journey, and you’d want to stop right before its too late.
If you are really interested in becoming a truck driver, there are other major factors you need to consider…
Choose Your Driving Category
Trucks are divided into so many categories. Before you start your journey into this career path, you need to understand and make proper decisions as to which class of trucks do you want to be driving.
According to dmv.org, these categories include:
- Special trailers which require special skills for loading offloading.
- Trucks used for transporting boats
- Vehicles used for carrying livestock
- Trucks that are driven only by your state
- Trucks that can be driven between different states (mostly called interstate trucks)
- Trucks used for moving home items.
- And others
Which of these categories best suits your needs?
Class of License
The class of license you have will determine the vehicle type you’ll drive and also any other qualifications that you may seek.
Driving has one single licence-Commercial Driving Licence (CDL)- but which is subdivided into two different classes, A, B and C with most of the trucks being in class A & B.
This subdivision is only for heavy trucks. Other classes refer to other types of vehicle permits.
The classes are grouped according to the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR):
This class is ideal for anyone looking into driving trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001lbs and an additional towing of exceeding 10,000lbs.
Among the different vehicles you can drive with this kind of license include the trucks used in the transport of livestock, home items and also trailers.
If you would like a truck with GVWR of 26,001 and a towing weight not exceeding 10,000lbs, the towing capability, then this license class is for you.
Among the trucks you can drive with this class include the straight trucks, city buses, couriers, e.t.c
It’s also worth noting that the trucks you can drive under each class will also largely depend on the kind of endorsements you have.
Endorsements are special permissions to operate certain types of trucks. Example of an endorsement is the HAZMAT which allows you to drive trucks hauling hazardous materials.
Truck Driving School
Depending on the type of license you want, you will need to scan through the available truck driving schools in your state to identify if they offer them.
You will also be required to check their admission calendar so that you don’t fall behind. Some schools only admit once in their intake, and they don’t allow late intakes.
Some of the factors you can consider when choosing a school include:
Always look out for a school that has good connections with trucking companies. This increases your chance of getting a job right after graduation.
You also get attachment opportunities so that you acquire more hands-on experience behind the wheel.
Since this is your career path, you need to be handled by competent instructors who have a passion to see you succeed.
They will make sure you have undergone theoretical and practical stages. This is in a bid to mold you to the great driver you want to be.
Driving fees will vary from school to school and will also depend on the class of license you want to acquire and the endorsements you are looking at.
Generally, truck driving schools fee ranges from $3,000 to $ 7,000.
I know you don’t want to spend your whole life learning how do drive a truck. Reputable schools will make sure you spend the shortest time possible and having everything you need to be a truck driver.
A class A CDL will take you 7 weeks to complete assuming that you will be attending on a full-time basis, which is five days per every week.
Getting A Job (and Earning!)
This is the part. Yes, it is!
After all that time and troubles you’ve gone through to become a truck driver, you’re finally ready to look for a job as a fully trained truck driver.
BUT…how much can you expect as a salary?
I don’t mean to turn you back from being a truck driver, but the amount you earn will largely depend on your years of experience behind the wheel.
At J.B Hunt- a credible trucking company- you are assured of $40,000 annually on average as an entry truck driver with their seasoned drivers getting more plus benefits and allowances.
Walmart is the best paying company, with their truck drivers take home a cool $71,500 per year on average.
Generally, a rookie truck driver will be paid an average of $34,000 per year.
Additional (Crucial) Tips:
When you finally achieve your dreams of becoming a truck driver, you’d want to observe the following things for to make your career journey:
- Always be professional in ALL your daily dealings
- Exercise good stress management. Truck driving is not a walk in the park and you are bound to meet all kinds of characters on the road. Don’t let bad characters provoke you into doing something stupid that will make you last longer in the industry
- Be physically and mentally fit. Always find time to exercise your body mentally and physically. This will include not driving when you are extremely exhausted.
- Repeat all the above tips daily
Truck driving is a career like any other you have ever dream of. Make sure you put in the required amount of time and energy to learn. Make it a point to learn something new every day, whether you are a student or already a driver.
Stop dreaming, wake up, and start trodding that path!