Are you hoping to start a career as a truck driver?
At first, it doesn’t seem like the most glamorous job in the world. But trucking allows you to travel, manage your own hours, and earn thousands more with minimal extra training required.
Don’t let your lack of experience stop you from pursuing a truck driving career!
Though it’ll be more challenging, it’s possible to get a new truck driving job as a new CDL driver with little to no experience!
To start as a truck driver without experience, begin by understanding the nature of truck driving jobs. You can then move onto completing your CDL requirements. From there, work on building your resume and driving experience by applying at an entry-level trucking company.
In this article, we’ll help you jumpstart your journey as a truck driver without experience by understanding:
- Truck Driver Duties and Responsibilities
- Truck Driver CDL Requirements and Qualifications
- Beginner Truck Drivers Skills and Training
- Landing a Trucking Job with No Experience
But before we tell you more about how to become a truck driver with no experience, we’ll give you an overview of some truck driving basics you need to know.
How do I start a career as a truck driver?
In this article, we’ll cover the nitty-gritty of what it takes to become a truck driver without any previous experience.
1. Know the job
Before getting into the industry, the first thing you need to do is understand the job you’re getting into. This means understanding:
- Your duties and responsibilities as a truck driver
- Impact of a truck driving job on your lifestyle
2. Review the requirements
Do you have what it takes to be a truck driver? There are certain requirements you need to fulfill to get your CDL and land a trucking job:
- Fulfill the age and education requirements
- Complete your records
- Complete a physical exam
3. Land a job
Congratulations! You’re one step away from achieving your truck-driving dreams.
The next step is to build your resume and gain experience.
Are you ready to get behind the wheel? Read on to find our tips and tricks on how to start as a truck driver with no experience!
Step 1: Get to Know the Truck Driving Industry
What are a Truck Driver’s Duties and Responsibilities?
Ever wondered how your Amazon order arrives on your doorstep? Trucking is an essential service to industrialized societies.
Truck drivers haul commercial goods over land using tractor trailers, working flexible hours in the day or night.
They’ll zigzag from retail and distribution centers, traveling locally or even cross-country.
Most regional and long-haul truckers will haul 48-foot to 53-foot long truckloads.
What types of truck driving jobs can I choose from?
Before you can start applying to schools for beginner truck drivers, consider what type of truck driving job is best for you.
- What size company do you want to work for?
- What type of work duties and lifestyle can you commit to?
- What areas of the country do you want to work in?
- How often do you want to get home?
Here are some of the most common truck driving jobs:
Dry Van Hauler
Dry van shipments usually refer to box type trailers hauled by semi-trucks. Truck drivers for dry van trailers will usually transport dry and packaged goods in boxes or pallets.
Generally, dry van freight is the easiest way to learn the rules of the road. It also carries the least amount of risk.
Flatbed haulers carry machinery or other bulky products in an open trailer. Goods are often oversized and oddly shaped, making for a more difficult trip.
Flatbed haulers need more skill and experience, especially for securing irregularly shaped goods. This means that flatbed truckers make a lot more money! Thankfully, there are flatbed trucking companies for new drivers with zero experience .
If you’re interested, look for flatbed trucking companies that also provide training. This way, you’ll hit two birds with one stone.
Tank truck driver
Truck drivers for bulk liquids are also highly skilled and in demand. It’s considered the most dangerous of all trucking jobs. This is why trucking companies are willing to pay more for truck drivers for tanker trailers.
Less than Truckload Driver
LTL drivers fall under the same category as dry vans, but they drive smaller and more localized cargo. LTL truck drivers are usually required to load and unload their shipments.
It’s one of the lowest paid truck driving jobs, they carry great benefits but while driving LTL you will be required to make many deliveries in a single day.
Professional auto transporters are certified to carry new cars to their respective lots for car dealers or private automobile owners. Due to the high level of skill involved in maneuvering oversized trucks, auto haulers are usually paid more.
Hotshot drivers have very different work conditions than your average hauler. They usually drive a smaller class 3 or 5 truck with a smaller trailer.
Goods fall under “express delivery” and are expected to be delivered as fast as possible.
Most hotshot haulers will deliver many loads in a day, depending on the distance.
What’s a Truck Driver Lifestyle like?
Most new truckers start as over the road or OTR drivers. This entails driving long distances to transport goods for two to three weeks at a time.
Most truck drivers are on the road for 250 days of the year..
Unique and challenging experiences truckers have on the road are:
- Inconsistent sleep patterns,
- Staying in motels,
- Cooking in a truck, and
- Finding places to park.
Some truck drivers will have irregular routes week to week. It gets hard to control hours of work. It can get difficult to map out schedules, like planning for parking or finding a place to stay.
But it’s not all bad...
Most truck drivers stay on one route every week. This means that they’re likely to get home on the same day the next week.
Step 2: Review Truck Driver Qualifications and Requirements
What qualifications do I need to be a truck driver?
Truck driving can be rewarding and lucrative. There are certain requirements, though, that you need to fulfill to become a trucker driver.
Requirements will usually depend on your state and company, but there are standards all US truck drivers need to meet.
To start as a truck driver with no experience, start by fulfilling all these requirements before you hit the open road.
Requirements for Truck Drivers with No Experience
Age Requirements for Truck Drivers
Most Trucking companies will have the same initial age requirements. Trucking companies with a more thorough application process will have an even higher age qualification.
The Department of Transportation allows drivers at least 18 years to apply for a CDL. That being said, there are some restrictions:
- Drivers under 21 are only allowed to handle commercial loads within their state.
- Drivers must be at least 21 years old to handle hazardous material
You should also know that most big trucking companies will only accept truck drivers who are at least 23 years old. This is because most insurance companies will only extend coverage for drivers older than 23 years.
Records Check for Truck Driving
If you are working for a trucking company, chances are you’ll be loading large amounts of valuable commerce into your truck.
Most truck companies are comprehensive with their background screening of truck driver applicants.
You will be asked to show a clean driving record. Ideally, your motor vehicle report should be free of accidents. This makes sense since you’ll need to be trusted with valuable cargo.
Your driving record should be free of any major convictions or moving violations. If you have several of the following violations on your driving record, it will be harder to find a trucking job with no experience:
- Accumulated traffic tickets or points
Aside from that, you need to show a criminal record that doesn’t have any conflicting charges with the position.
You’ll also need to show records that verify you’ve completed a physical examination at the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Aspiring truck drivers also need to present proof that they’ve passed the DOT pre-employment drug screening.
Some trucking companies will hire previously convicted felons. We wrote an entire article about who they are and where to find them right here.
Education Requirement for Truck Drivers
Technically, there is no formal education required to become a truck driver. While you don’t need a college degree, a high school diploma or GED is often recommended.
It's not a requirement for all trucking companies, but you can present a certificate of completion from an accredited truck driving school.
Here’s what all truck drivers are required to have: a CDL or commercial driver’s license.
Some states will also require you to complete a truck driving and safety competency course. Some trucking companies will also require you to complete certifications such as HAZMAT endorsement.
Many trucking companies will also have driver training programs specific to their company and the position you’re applying for.
Physical Requirements for Truck Drivers
Remember, truck drivers have a different lifestyle than most other jobs. It can get physically demanding at times.
To ensure that you can get started as a truck driver right away, make sure you pass the DOT requirements to be “physically healthy.”
DOT physical exams cover:
- Overall well-being
You will also need to pass a test that shows you can endure sitting for extended periods. This is something you will need to do as a truck driver. It also shows how you handle driver fatigue.
Some truck driver jobs also require you to load and unload your cargo. In that case, your trucking company will need to ensure you can lift heavy loads of at least 50 pounds or handle a pallet jack.
Step 3: Tips to Landing a Trucking Job with No Experience
Entry-Level Truck Driving Jobs: How do I get trucking experience?
Have you completed all the requirements in the previous section? Congratulations, you can now move on to finding a trucking company!
Don’t have any trucking experience just yet? No problem, there are lots of truck driving jobs that train and pay new drivers.
Here’s the good news. With the shortage of truck drivers in the US, it is almost impossible not to land a trucking job! All you have to do is build your driving experience resume. Here’s how you can do it:
Apply at several carriers
The only way you can start building up your resume is to apply to as many trucking companies as you can.
Apply with the large carriers and independent carriers. The more companies you connect with, the higher chances that one will get back to you.
You should check out the Top 20 trucking companies to work for in the USA.
Try out for Different Types of Commercial Driving Jobs
Next pro tip? Look for trucking jobs other than driving a trailer. Sure, it’s not your “dream trucking job” just yet. Getting any kind of truck driving experience, though, will help you land a job. You can drive dump trucks, plow and gravel trucks, and delivery trucks.
That’s because your CDL or Class AZ license will allow you to drive all these trucks. They’re great for gaining work experience, seat time, and they pay well too. Not many people know that these trucking jobs pay by the hour, compared to most OTR jobs that pay by the mile.
Most OTR companies appreciate all types of experienced heavy vehicle commercial drivers. Especially if you don’t have any accidents on your record, since there will be no concerns about your ability to drive a dump truck or trailer.
Applying for all truck driving job types and companies will help you gain experience and seat time. At the same time, you’re building up your resume while getting paid. You’re also more likely to get home every night.
Apply for Apprenticeship Programs
You can also build up on your resume by applying for on-the-job training at a truck driving company.
Additional training will depend on the requirements of the company. If you are expected to haul regulated or hazardous material, you’ll need to gain additional endorsements on your license.
Other typical on-the-job training includes:
- How to use navigation devices to find truck friendly routes
- How to follow safety protocol for loading and unloading cargo
- How to stay safe on the road.
Considering Salary and Benefits
While it’s not ideal to be too picky, especially as a new driver, take the time to review company policies, benefits, and potential salary.
Even as a beginner, it’s important to ask these questions :
- What’s your annual expected salary? The average beginner truck driver earns about $45,000.
- What are your benefits? Does the company offer dental, health, vision, disability, accidental death, and dismemberment insurance? Make sure that retirement plans, performance bonuses, and leaves are accounted for.
- Do they offer company perks and discounts?
- Are tuition assistance and on-the-job training offered?
Even if you’ve got no experience under your belt, go for a company known for, committing to helping you strengthen your career in the field. Especially if you’re planning to be a long-term employee, go for a company that values your well-being and growth.
Conclusion - Starting a Career in Truck Driving
Becoming a truck driver with no experience will definitely be challenging! However, most anyone in the field will say that the journey is rewarding and lucrative.
To start your career as a truck driver with no experience, begin by getting to know the ins and outs of the job you’re getting into!
Get to know the trucking business. Find out about your:
- CDL qualifications
- Truck driver duties and responsibilities
- Required skills and working hours
Most of the time, you’ll be on the road for long periods at a time. You’d need to develop:
- Exceptional concentration
- An in-depth understanding of road safety and defensive driving
- People skills
Will you be able to keep up with the nature of a trucking job? If you answered yes, then congratulations!
From there you can work on getting your CDL! Build on your resume and driving experience by applying at different carriers and commercial driving jobs.
While it won’t be easy as a novice truck driver, try to find a company that values your career growth, well-being, and time with family.
It’s going to be a crazy ride, but follow these steps and you’ll get behind the wheel in no time!