The Ultimate Guide for Beginners To Become a Commercial Truck Driver

January 16, 2022

People often think that being a commercial truck driver is only about the  driving. It’s true that it’s a big part of the process, but the job requires far more than merely driving a truck. The process of becoming a commercial truck driver takes specific skills and adaptability.

Truck driver duties and responsibilities include several kinds of duties . Drivers must transport  goods to their designated centers, plan routes, maintain vehicles, and many more. Starting a career in the truck driving industry can be difficult. Yet it proves to be a job that presents plenty of opportunities.

How Do I Start A Career in Trucking?

Commercial truck drivers are an essential part of the economy in the US. Starting a career in this field can be a little more complicated than you might think. However, if you’re interested in getting into the industry and earning a good income, here are the things you’ll need to do.

1. Meet the requirements. 

You must be at least 18 years old to drive within state lines, 21 and above to drive from state to state. Most trucking schools need high school diplomas or GEDs, but this is not mandatory for all. You’ll also have to go through a background check and medical examinations. This includes periodic drug testing.

2. Get a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP).

You will absolutely need to obtain a Commercial Driving License (CDL). A CLP will allow you to train to drive a commercial vehicle.  CLPs can be obtained in every state. CLP exams are available at any DMV near you. Plus, there are several  resources online that can help you prepare for the examination.

3. Get a Commercial Driving License (CDL).

For this, you will have to find a school offering CDL training. Because of the competitiveness in the industry, a training program will cost at least $3,000 and as much as $10,000. There are also various kinds of CDLs, which is why the duration of your program will depend on what type you decide to earn .

Sometimes, a company will sponsor your CDL training. These companies will treat you as an investment. In return, they will likely ask for you to work for them. This is a good option if the company is reputable and reliable.

4. Prepare yourself for the industry.

There has been a high demand for truck drivers in the past decade. The growth of the US economy relies on transporting goods and materials. That is why you have to expect plenty of competition. A proper job as a truck driver will guarantee you a salary higher than the average US citizen.

What New Truck Drivers Should Know

A CDL and driving capabilities are only the first few essentials you’ll need as a truck driver. As we said earlier, there is more to this job than driving. Fortunately, the skills you need are ones you can practice to perfection.

Keep in mind each of the skills below, to figure out which ones you still need to develop and improve.

Basic Mechanical Skills

Being a commercial truck driver requires a keen grasp of mechanical knowledge of the trucks and vehicles you will drive. This can be helpful for moments where you break down places that may be far from available help. 

It also helps to keep a few tools and supplies with you during trips because you might just need a wrench or screwdriver to fix a minor problem. You should know how to diagnose possible problems when you run into them. This can prevent you from missing a scheduled delivery.

Organizational Skills

Following deadlines and setting schedules is an important part of the job. You’ll have to keep track of routes, numbers, addresses, and expenses. Failure to keep track of information related to a specific job can put a dent in your paycheck.

Make sure to be organized. If you don’t have a good memory, it helps to have a notebook or place where you can keep all your information in case you need it.

Navigational Skills

Most of the time, trucks and vehicles will usually have a GPS paired with them. These help route navigation but sometimes they have their flaws. Trucks normally travel different routes than regular vehicles do. These routes can vary based on what product is being transported, especially if they’re considered hazardous material or not.

Having your own sense of direction is more than helpful. You can avoid traffic, know shortcuts and shorter routes. Make sure you’re fully aware of how to navigate an old-school map as well!

Comfortable Being Alone

Some people will often say that being a truck driver is a lonely job. It is true to a certain degree. But, hours alone on the road might seem like a bonus to some people more than others.

Riding solo can be difficult if you’re a naturally social person. Make sure that if you want to be a truck driver, you can be by yourself for hours on end. Being comfortable with the road accompanying you takes great skill to develop.

Reliability and Responsibility

A truck driver’s life is always busy. You might encounter irresponsible drivers, scheduling conflicts, or a short deadline. Being a great driver means you have the patience and strength to deal with these problems.

If you manage your schedule and work properly, you’ll likely rarely miss  deadlines. In fact, you might never miss one ever. Being a reliable and trustworthy driver can get you to many places.

What is the Highest Paying Truck Driver Job?

Since the growth of the industry, salaries for truck drivers have grown exponentially. Like any other field, truck driving also has its different types. In its diversity lies differences and specifications that you might want to know.

  • Flatbed Truckers 

    The average salary in this position is an estimated $62,400 annually. Highly experienced drivers make up to $95,000 per year.

    These truckers usually handle the transportation of vehicles and oversized freight. The trucks are called flatbeds  because the cargo is on top of a flat and open bed. Usually, flatbeds are used to transport oddly-shaped cargo like pipes and machines. Flatbed trucks are versatile and often chosen for that reason.
  • Dry Van Truckers 

    These truckers are a good fit for entry-level drivers. The hauling process refers to the compartment used in carrying shipments. The dry van itself refers to the trailer connected to these trucks. They are usually big and rectangular, the most common type of transportation.

    Additionally, there is another available type of trucker which is a reefer trailer. These are refrigerated trailers which can be controlled using portable HVAC systems. Anything that requires a certain temperature during travel or perishable can be hauled in a reefer. These include frozen goods, chemicals, sometimes even pharmaceuticals.

    The average salary in this position is an estimated $53,700 annually. Highly experienced drivers make up to $81,000 per year.
  • Tanker Truckers

    Tanker truckers are in demand in the industry. This involves the transportation of liquid, which often requires experienced drivers. Usually, these will be flammable liquids like oil and fuel. If not liquid, most cargo here is hazardous, sometimes non-hazardous.

    The average salary in this position is an estimated $53,600 annually. Highly experienced drivers make up to $74,500 per year.
  • Local, Regional, and OTR Drivers

    These drivers are usually measured by the distance or amount of driving paired with the job. Local drivers remain in state or within specific cities. Regional drivers cross states. OTR drivers can be directed to anywhere within the US.

    The average salary in this position is an estimated $66,673 annually. Highly experienced drivers make up to $75,250 per year.

A truck tank of gasoline with reflection on the road

How Do I Become a Truck Driver With No Experience?

The average salary of a truck driver is at an estimated $87,000 per year. . The transportation industry is growing larger by the day.  This makes it one of the top career choices in the US today. 

Even for entry-level employees, commercial truck driving has proven itself a great job. Not only in the opportunities it presents but it offers great financial rewards, too.

After you get your CDL license from a reputable CDL training school and you’ve met  all the requirements, finding a company to work for is your next step. Here are the best trucking companies for  beginners to work for

  1. Roehl Transport

The company was first founded by Everette Roehl, and began  operating with only a single truck. Nowadays they offer flatbed, dry-van and curtain side trucks, and many more types of transportation. Their freighting options include local, regional, and dedicated operations.

The company has specific jobs that are fit for beginner drivers. They provide training programs as a part of the benefits of the job. Staying in the company will also provide benefits above the competitive level. Roehl has definitely proven it’s a good company for truckers to stick with for the long haul (no pun intended). 

  1. Heartland Express

Heartland Express was originally Scott’s Transportation. The founder Russ Gurdin bought it and redesigned the company to what it is today. Now, Heartland Express is both a successful  transportation and logistics company.

Beginner drivers are very welcomed in this company. Landing a job in Heartland Express provides an excellent salary and many benefits. These benefits tend to grow in value the longer you stay with the company.

  1. Swift Transportation

Swift Transportation is a company that has made itself well-known in the industry. What started out as a small company now has over 22,000 skilled drivers and 14,000 trucks.

The company pays its workers according to experience. From the moment you start working, you’ll bank hours that will help your your salary increase. It offers both exposure and significant benefits as time passes.

  1. Schneider

Beginner drivers are welcome at Schneider, who also accepts recent graduates. They offer on-the-job training and sponsored CDL training. Schneider  also offers a tuition reimbursement feature, but  only if you get your CDL within 12 months in the company.

Entry-level drivers are given these benefits and more. Schneider is committed to helping drivers grow in the field. This makes their employees loyal to the bone, and within good reason.

  1. US Express

Like Schneider, US Express also hires recent graduates. They can offer a full $7,000 to pay for your CDL classes if you’re still in driving school. Once you enter the company, more benefits will be added. 

It’s a great company to begin working with, and to stay with for the long run. US Express offers  health insurance, medication, and dental. That, along with the guaranteed relationship with drivers, makes it a good company.

  1. Werner Enterprises

Werner Enterprises has over 25,000 trucks operating in Canada, the USA, and Mexico. A company with a fleet as large as this is always hunting for new drivers to hire. They are very known for their sustainable and eco-friendly trucking activities.

Werner Enterprises offers internship programs that can guarantee a position in the company. There is also a student driver program perfect for beginners. Aside from that, they provide very competitive wages, even for entry-level drivers.

Finding the perfect trucking company can be a difficult task, but there is no need to worry. The trucking industry is always growing in scale which offers more positions yearly. Being a beginner driver is always difficult but with dedication, you can be one of the best, too.

Is Being a Truck Driver Worth it?

Once you’ve completed everything in this guide, you’re all set to find a company and start on the road. These are the fundamentals that will help you start a career as a truck driver. It’s a big industry and things can be nerve-wracking, but there’s plenty of people ready to help you. 

The growth in the economy puts commercial truck driving as an in-demand job industry. Whether beginner or experienced, there are competitive salaries and benefits. You can never go wrong with this field if you’re really interested in becoming a driver. 

You’ll get to travel through cities, different states, and more. If being on the road is one of your favorite things, then this industry is for you. It comes with a lot of benefits and rewards but requires a lot of preparation. Be prepared to handle that and more.

Years of experience will bring you to more destinations. You can also form friendships with fellow drivers while learning new things. Being a truck driver is a respectable and gratifying job. This might be your sign to start working on your path to becoming a truck driver.

About the author

I’m Luis Uribe, author of this website. I am the owner and head publisher for Trucker Daily and a freight brokerage Total Connection Logistics. I have been in and around the trucking industry for over 15 years. It is my mission with Trucker daily to equip truck drivers, with the latest in industry updates, news, and helpful tips to help further your trucking career and life. Whether you are a truck driving veteran, or beginner, you will find information on this site to save you a lot of time in your driving journey.

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