The world of truck driving offers an array of opportunities for those seeking a career that combines the freedom of the open road with steady employment and the chance to explore new places. As the backbone of the transportation industry, truck drivers play a crucial role in keeping goods flowing across the nation. If you're considering a career in truck driving, here are the essential steps to get started on your journey:
Research and Self-Assessment
Before embarking on any career path, conducting thorough research and assessing whether the profession aligns with your skills, interests, and lifestyle is important. Truck driving requires long hours on the road, a certain level of independence, and the ability to manage time effectively. Research the various types of trucking jobs, such as long-haul, regional, and local driving, to determine which suits your preferences.
Meet the Requirements
If you plan to drive between states, you must be at least 21. Some states allow you to get a CDL at 18, but that's usually for driving within the state. Most companies, however, prefer to hire drivers at least 21 years old.
Hold a Standard Driver's License
You'll also require a valid driver's license with minimal or zero driving violations. Companies conduct background checks during hiring, making a clear driving history advantageous.
Obtain a Learner's Permit
Before receiving your full CDL, you'll typically need to obtain a learner's permit. This permit allows you to practice driving a commercial vehicle under the supervision of a licensed CDL holder. Gaining the experience and confidence necessary for the skills test is essential.
Get Some Driving Experience
It might be beneficial to consider enrolling in a truck driving school to gain relevant training and experience. Several local colleges provide training courses. Certain companies even have programs they sponsor, and they might cover expenses if they decide to hire you.
Obtain your CDL
Securing a CDL involves a series of steps, typically managed within your state. The basic requirements are:
- Be at least 18 years old (21 for interstate travel)
- Clean driving record
- Pass DOT physical exams
- Proof of citizenship
- Hold a valid driver's license
- Possess driving experience (usually at least two years, dependent on the state)
- Successfully complete FMCSA-approved training
- Pass a background check
Depending on the type of truck you intend to drive, there are CDL classifications that require extra measures. These include:
- Class A: Tractor-trailers (semi-trucks), tankers, flatbeds
- Class B: Trucks not hitched to a trailer, like box trucks or buses
- Class C: Hazmat vehicles or those transporting 16 or more passengers
For a career as a truck driver, you'll need a Class A or Class B CDL. Certain certifications can help you secure a job faster and command better pay. These endorsements encompass:
- (H) Endorsement for transporting hazardous materials
- (N) Endorsement for operating a tank vehicle
- (T) Endorsement for hauling double or triple trailers
- (X) Endorsement for transporting tankers or hazardous materials
The State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues endorsements, which could involve written and road tests.
Job Search and Employment
With your CDL, you're ready to embark on your truck driving career. Start your job search by looking for reputable trucking companies that align with your career goals and lifestyle preferences. Consider factors such as pay, benefits, routes, and the company's reputation for safety and employee satisfaction. The DOT requires all CDL drivers to have background checks and pre-employment drug screening.
Ongoing Training and Education
The trucking industry constantly evolves, with new regulations, technologies, and best practices emerging. Consider participating in ongoing training and education programs to stay competitive and maintain your skills. This could involve learning about new equipment, safety protocols, and industry trends.
Embarking on a career in truck driving can be a rewarding and fulfilling journey for well-prepared and committed people. By following these steps and continuously honing your skills, you'll be on the path to a successful and satisfying career in trucking.