Becoming A Professional Truck Driver - Blueprint For Success
Image: Rennett Stowe, 2008
Starting a new career as a truck driver can provide you with adventure and a steady income. You will be able to set your own schedule, earn plenty of money and see the country. Qualified drivers can stay in the area as a short distance driver. Others will prefer the freedom of driving over the road on long trips. No matter what you choose, you need to start with the right kind of education and training. Follow this blueprint for planning a professional truck driving career.
Start With Research
Most forms of education require some kind of contract. Drivers will often sign with a freight company or with a CDL licensing school. The contract also comes with a variety of fees. Most schools charge for the entire course at one time, which runs between three and four weeks in most cases, before you can test for your license. If you sign a contract with a company, you may be required to work for them for up to five years after graduating. This can make it hard to pick a route you like or negotiate for higher pay. Research the CDL school and any companies offering to pay for your education before you sign a contract.
You need to practice due diligence when starting your life as a training driver. Consumers can practice due diligence by investigating the companies and schools they are interested in working with. Look for legal suits against the organization from former students or teachers. While these lawsuits may be unfair, check into settled cases where the judge decided in the student's favor. A chain of serious legal battles may indicate that the school is less than fair and should be avoided. Check that the company is showing healthy profits and has not recently filed for bankruptcy.
Pick a private or public school for the best results. These organizations only receive money from your tuition payments and don't have any interest in signing you with a specific company. This can ensure you receive a fair and balanced education. Many community colleges and technical schools include a CDL training program. Check that the school is accredited with the state as an educational establishment. You can find schools receiving regular monitoring by the Professional Truck Driver Institute to rule out many groups providing poor education.
Planning Your Career
Some programs leave you with enough experience to become a Class A driver, while others are insufficient for a full CDL license. Consider what you want to do before you enroll in a program. Drivers that can handle the stress of hauling chemicals can receive their Hazmat certification during the initial training phase. Choosing a basic industry to specialize in will help you save time and get to work faster. Drivers who take the time to research their options and plan their career tend to find a good job within a few weeks of graduation, rather than waiting months for additional training or certifications.
The Most Common Career Mistakes
New drivers make a wide range of poor choices when they are trying to break into this industry. Learning about these mistakes will help you avoid the pitfalls that keep thousands of people from becoming successful drivers each year.
Trusting the claims of every company: The freight companies have profits as their main goal. If you can help them earn more money, they will offer you a job and certain benefits. However, many truckers believe that the companies are working in their best interests when they first enter the business. They don't bother to check the fine details on their contracts and are shocked to find that they aren't receiving the health insurance or salary they were promised by advertisements. Read the details behind any offer to find the truth about what you will be expected to do as an employee.
Switching jobs too soon: If you sign a contract with a company that doesn't properly respect you, it is tempting to quit and seek new employment immediately. This can hurt your long-term reputation with other companies. Work for at least six months if you can to create a record of reliability for your resume. This is especially important for drivers with relatively little experience to report.
What To Expect In Your First Year
Start the year off by taking a three to four week course at an accredited and well-respected driver training school. Complete a program that provides at least 100 hours of education and 40 hours or more of hands-on driving instruction. Take your CDL Class A license test, then start applying for positions with reputable freight companies. If you have a few weeks to wait between offers, try negotiating for better benefits and higher pay. Don't expect to make more than $24,000 to $35,000 without any real experience. Many truckers make less than this and can struggle to get enough miles in the first year.
Focus on building your road experience and boosting your skills. Each mile you travel without a mistake, delay or accident will move you closer to a high paying position. You can learn more about ClassicCar.com and the life of a full-time truck driver by reading the real experiences of drivers around the country.