Your 1st Trucking Job

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:

  1. Students Encouraged (so new drivers are okay)
  2. 1 Year Experience required (Unless you can prove 1 solid year of OTR, do not apply. Even 6 months will generally not be sufficient.)
  3. 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.

Truck Driving Schools and Training

Truck Driving Schools and Training

There are two (main) ways to get in to trucking, unless you personally know the owner or major player in a company. (1) Truck Driving Schools and (2) Company provided training.

Non-affiliated Truck Driving Schools
There are numerous truck driver training schools scattered around the United States. There are two sub-classes of truck driving schools – those operated as a part of a community college or other adult education sponsored training and independent For-Profit schools. The classes offered thru college or workforce education programs are generally cheaper then State Licensed For-Profit post secondary education centers. However, where you attend most likely will be affected by where you live and how much freedom to travel you have. If you have to pay for room and board also and your finances do not permit you to live apart for the (typical) 5 weeks of training, you may have to opt for a school with in driving distance to home.

While not exactly cheap to attend a truck driving school, the investment in time and money is minimum considering the cost of attending a 2 or 4 year college training program and with in weeks of starting school, you can be on the job and earning a paycheck. Starting income for a 1st year Over The Road (OTR) truck driver is easily $35,000 a year and depending on your exact employer and how hard you work, could be more. Most companies offer employee benefits, some starting only a few months after you first jump behind the wheel and haul your first load.

Some Truck Driver schools are accredited by the Veterans Administration (VA) to offer training to US Armed Forces veterans with the VA picking up all or a portion of the tuition costs. If you plan to request payment thru VA, check with the VA not just the school that the school is approved by the VA.

Different training schedules may available at different schools. Some offer a 8-5, 5 day a week program which are basically full time. While others may have weekends and limited nights during the week for students who must continue to work a job while training for a new career. Obviously the full time schools are completed much quicker, but if you have ot keep working to support a family or pay bills, the part time training may be a viable option.

While you will normally have to pay for your training up front, many trucking companies will reimburse you for your tuition costs (but not living or commuting expenses) if you hire on with them and stay a minimum amount of time, commonly 1 year but it does vary. Not all companies offer this so pay close attention to which companies do and which do not and more importantly the conditions you have to complete to qualify for payment. See Your First Trucking Job for a more detailed discussion on reimbursement of training costs.

When selecting a Truck Driving school, especially if you have several to pick from, you should pay attention the variety, the age and the condition of trucks and equipment you will be training in.

Trucking Company Provided Training
Some larger trucking companies, because of a continuous shortage of qualified drivers, have established their own drivers schools. The key advantage to selecting one of these programs is that there is no out of pocket costs for tuition and supplies as the company is providing them for you. Some will even pay a minimum salary while you are in school. (Some do, some don’t – check carefully.) The downside to this arrangement is that you agree to work for the company for the first year or more and if you fail to do it, as based on your specific contract, you will have to repay the company some or all of the costs to train you. And the company determines how much your training was worth, not you nor is it necessarily based on nearby independent schools. The other problem with not staying with company is that you may be establishing a record of undependability. See Your First Trucking Job for a more comments about jumping company to company.

Many programs operated by trucking companies are completed much faster then independent programs. Since most over the road truck drivers, especially in the beginning, will work in three week stints, basically 7 days a week for three weeks. These companies will also train their employees with the same mindset as opposed to the 8-5, 5 day theory that many full time schools will utilize. Since you are training in the class room and on the (drivers practice) range and also some on the road, you will complete the required minimums must faster then just working 5 out of 7 days. You can also expect to actually haul freight for the company sometime during the training.

Minimum Training Required Different states have different minimum training requirements, and there not going to be researched here as they are subject to change way to often. Some times require a specific number of hours in a class room environment and a designated amount of time practicing specific maneuvers and actual road time. Others, not so much, you have to pass a written test to be issued your Temporary Instruction Permit and then later you have to pass another written test and then a Skills test by an authorized (by the state) tester, and you get your Commercial Drivers License. Check specifically what the rules are for your state. If you live near a state line with another state, taking a class in the other state may not qualify you for a license in the state where you live.

Medical requirements While you are researching, check the specific requirements regarding your medical certificates. Again, different states have different – and very specific – requirements and methods to obtain a medical certificate authorizing you to drive an 80,000 lb monster down the road.

Going to a certified and accredited Truck Driver Training School is an excellent, fast and efficient way to become a professional truck driver.