Your 1st Trucking Job
Once you have your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you will start looking for your first truck driving position. While it is possible to work an entire career for one company, most drivers will change jobs at least a couple of times. This is not a reflection of the drivers and their loyalty but a combination of numerous factors.
A key reasons drivers will change jobs, especially very early in their career is a lot of the best companies for will not hire new/rookie drivers. Also, many desired jobs (daily work, home nightly) are very competitive with a lot of drivers applying. With a lot of drivers to pick from, companies will [generally[ hire the best they can, often the more experienced drivers.
When you start looking at truck stop magazines or online for truck driving openings, you will see 3 common statements. They may be worded differently but they will say something such as:
- Students Encouraged (so new drivers are okay)
- 1 Year Experience required (Unless you can prove 1 solid year of OTR, do not apply. Even 6 months will generally not be sufficient.)
- 2 or More years required (Again, they are looking for someone that will require little to no training and those will sell then the sufficient experience will not be considered.)
You can always down apply. A driver with 20 years experience may at a company that will hire students, but not the other way around.
Companies will set these requirements based their ability or desire to train drivers. Regardless of your opinion of your driving skills and the fact that you completed a CDL Training course, you have a lot to learn about real world of trucking. Such as planning routes; handling changing traffic conditions; the proper paperwork/records; planning fuel stops; understanding different dock procedures and dealing with shipping and receiving clerks. And that is just the start.
Where ever you get your first driver’s job, you will be expected to work with a Driver’s Trainer in a team driving pairing for anywhere from two (2) to (6) months. Again, like it or not – but it will happen. The school taught you how to pass the tests – experience will teach you reality.
When selecting your first position (shall we not call it a job), you need to consider numerous factors. While clearly limited by your lack of experience, you will have fewer choices. However, that does not mean you have to settle for what is offered. Every person is different and every person has different desires. Plus where you live may offer opportunities now available everywhere.
Just a few of the things you will want to think about (and this is not inclusive)
- Tuition Reimbursement. Some companies may offer to pay your school Tuition. Not all companies do. If this is important be sure to ask, even if not included in a company’s advertisement. If you do start with a company that pays your school costs, know the terms and make sure you can accept them. Most likely you have to agree to work their a minimum amount of time, often at least 1 year. And generally they will not pay it all up front. They may pay it prorated over a year or more, or they might not pay any of it until the end of the year as a lump sum.
- Where you will be working. Even companies that will hire new drivers may have weekly home time, while others you can expect to be OTR 25 out of 30 days. If you are single and want to make the maximum money – a lot of road time may be best for you. You may be driving coast to coast and border to border. Family demands may require you to spend more time with in a few states and home more often.
- What you will be doing. Do you want to spend more time driving, you might look for a company that does more long hauls. It may pay less per mile, but you book more miles. Maybe you enjoy shorter runs, which means more time in and out of docks. Higher per mile pay but few daily miles on average. Do you hate sitting around waiting to unload? Some companies do most of their freight drop and hook – you back in to the specific dock, unhook the trailer and then hook to a different trailer and take off again. Sometimes the trailers may be dropped and/or picked up from a drop lot. Do you like a challenge – flat bed cargo may be for you. See Your Future Truck Driving Job part 2 for more info on types of trailers and cargo.
- Rider Policy. Some companies do not allow any riders at any time under any circumstances. Others will allow your spouse or a child (16+) to ride with you under limited circumstances. Some are more generous then others. Under all circumstances, Federal Law and Insurance Requirements will demand that all ‘guests’ in your truck must be preapproved by the company. Pets may or may not be allowed. If either of these are important, ask before you even waste your time setting up an interview.
- Age of Equipment. Not much else to be said, but if other factors are equal, why drive a 10 YO rattle trap when you can pilot a new rig. Note,new trucks go to senior drivers, so you will get a hand-me-down.
Again, this is only a few of the things you will want to consider before you start you first career building position. But you will want to research because if you start at one company and leave after only a few months, you may find it harder to get a new position because the new company will be afraid to take a risk on you. And if you trade positions every year, again, companies may be afraid to hire you. No position is perfect, select one that is close your desires.
One simple way, after you have narrowed your selection of possible companies to work for would be go to any busy truck stop and approach drivers with your target companies in the fuel island or restaurant (never bang on the door of a truck) and ask this question “Knowing what you know now about [company name], would you hire on with them again?” You will get an answer real quick about the good, the bad and the important about the company.
Happy Trucking and welcome to your new career.