For many, trucking is more than just another job, it’s a unique lifestyle that can offer financial freedom, stability, and a little bit of adventure on the open road. Truckers are the backbone of the transportation industry, so it only makes sense that trucking driving is a fairly sought after career. However, trucking isn’t a job you can just “try to see if it’s for you.” Before you jump in head first, it’s important to consider everything else that comes with becoming a truck driver. In this blog, we will take a look at everything we believe you need to know before becoming a truck driver.
- Getting Your CDL
- Prepping for Life on the Road
- Common Pay & Benefits for Truckers
- Trucker Responsibilities
Getting Your CDL
If you’ve thought about becoming a truck driver, the first step is to earn your Commercial Driver’s License. Each state has its own process when it comes to obtaining a CDL, but your state’s Commercial Driver’s Licensing Manual should lay out the process for you. There are 3 classes of Commercial Driver’s Licenses, but a class A CDL is the most common type of license and allows the holder to operate a wide variety of vehicles.
Regardless of which CDL you choose to obtain, it’s encouraged that you enroll in a CDL training program to prepare you for the written and practical exams. You’ll have to obtain your Commercial Learner’s Permit, or CPL, before undergoing training or practicing in a truck. Once you’re confident in your truck driving abilities, you take the CDL skills test at your local DMV. After passing the skills test and obtaining your CDL, you may have to add endorsements or complete additional requirements depending on your goals within the trucking industry.
It’s important to remember that each state has a slightly different process for obtaining a CDL, so make sure to check with your local DMV before completing these steps.
Prepping for Life on the Road
Before saying yes to your first trucking job, start your preparation for life on the road.
Physical and Mental Preparedness
Truck driving can be physically demanding while also requiring long hours of sitting. There is the potential for heavy lifting when loading or unloading your truck. It’s important to establish a routine of regular exercise and well-balanced meals to keep your body in the best shape to do the job.
When it comes to mental preparedness, you’ll need to find healthy coping mechanisms to manage your stress and loneliness. Many truckers experience feelings of isolation simply due to the long stretches away from home. Get into a good routine with phoning friends and family to keep your spirits up.
Plan Your Finances
For truck drivers with families, it’s important to plan your finances before you hit the road. You should factor in your own expenses – food, lodging, fuel, and maintenance – as well as your family’s expenses – rent, utilities, debt payments, and daycare. Establish how and when those expenses will be paid and if needed, put bills on autopay so it’s one less thing to worry about.
If you’re single, make a plan of where you will be living when not on the road and who will be watching your home while you are gone. Determine the costs for someone to pick up your mail, water your plants, and feed your pets while you’re on the road.
Common Pay & Benefits for Truckers
The pay for truckers can vary greatly depending on location, type of trucking job, and the company they work for, but truckers are overall compensated very well.
Pay per Mile
One of the most common ways to pay truckers is compensation per mile, or CPM. This method pays the trucker for only the miles they drive. Miles can be calculated in a few different ways, including practical miles, zip code miles, actual miles, or sliding scale pay for short-haul trips.
Pay per Hour
Truckers can also be compensated by hour. Companies with shorter or in-state ranges are the most likely to use this compensation method. Those who work hourly may also be responsible for things besides driving, such as unloading or customer interactions. However, hourly drivers often have the opportunity for overtime to increase their pay.
While few and far between, there are salaried trucking jobs out there that offer consistency and predictable pay. This compensation method works just like any other salaried job, meaning no matter how much or how little you work, your pay stays the same each pay period.
Instead of being paid based on mileage or time, owner-operators are paid based on a negotiated percentage of either the gross or net revenue on each load. This typically works out to be one of the better paying models in the trucking industry and is especially attractive for highly valuable loads or short distances.
There are many other ways truck drivers can be compensated, including bonuses, stop pay, per diem, or special incentive pay, but they are considered add-ons. The four pay methods mentioned above make up the majority of trucker’s base pay.
Learn More: How Much Money Do American Truck Drivers Make?
The responsibilities of truckers extend past just driving from one place to another.
Almost 7% of traffic accidents involve trucks, so it’s a truckers responsibility to make sure they are practicing safe driving and following the rules of the road. Truckers are also usually responsible for conducting inspections of their vehicles before they take the road, including brakes, tires, lights, and other essential components. The last part of safe driving includes securing the truck’s cargo load properly to stop any accidental damages.
Learn More: Top Safety Tips or Truck Drivers on the Road
Since trucking is crucial to goods being where they need to be, truckers have to manage their time efficiently to ensure delivery deadlines are met. Good time management in the trucking industry involves adhering to set schedules, considering traffic and weather conditions, and planning rest breaks within the regulations.
Documentation and Record-Keeping
In order to keep everything running smoothly, truckers must maintain accurate records of their driving hours, mileage, fuel usage, and any other documentation required by their company. Good record-keeping skills and organization are essential to making sure you’re complying with all regulations set forth for truckers.
Apply as a Trucker with US Trucking Service
At US Trucking Service, we make it easier to match the right truckers with the right carriers. If you’re looking to break into the trucking industry, we help place you with carriers that meet your needs. If you’re a carrier looking for your next hire, we help get you in contact with top talent. We’ve placed almost 1,000 truckers across 45+ carriers and look forward to hearing your story. Apply today and one of our recruiters will give you a call within 24 hours!