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.

Surviving the politics of being a truck driver


You have to understand the politics of being a truck driver

Ok, you have Truck Driver Training School. You have your Commercial Drivers License (CDL). You are ready to start your first job. However, like all schooling, you still have a lot to learn. And Politics is one of the areas you will need to master.


And before you think about Republicans and Democrats. Nope – I am talking about the people who will make your life miserable if you don’t play their games. Now before you take this negatively – it is really no different then any job you have ever had. You may not realize who they are until it is too late.


Here are some of the people you should learn to be nice to.

  1. Dispatcher. I can guarantee that your new employee packet will state that dispatch personnel are your immediate supervisors. As such, like all employment – you are required to treat them accordingly. Makes sense, but I am going to take it a step farther. Dispatchers are often under a lot of unseen pressure. They routinely will have all loads covered and everything will be going smooth when problems will arise. Some of the things that could be a major fire for them are (1) a key customer calling with several hot/unplanned loads, (2) trucks breaking down after already loading important freight that now needs a replacement truck, (3) another driver having a family emergency and now dispatch cover the work. The point is, when dispatch calls and says there is a change of plans – rather then rant and rave, joyfully respond that you will do everything that you can to make their life better. And here is the thing to realize – dispatchers are the people who decide who gets which (better) loads. The company may have a seniority system for assignments – but there is no system that could not be tweaked by the person at the keyboard. Be nice to dispatchers and they will be nice to you.
  2. Dockworkers. Expect these people to be arrogant with you. You should remember that these people are stuck on the dock all day. They are being hassled by their bosses to load/unload faster, move stuff around, and all the normal on the job (political) stuff. When they are driving to and from work – they have to deal with traffic. When they get home – the spouse and kids will raise their blood pressure. As a result – in their effort to feel, shall we say, superior to someone, anyone – you are it. They will berate you, talk down to you, sit on their forklift or behind their desk and look down on you. You are not important and the freight you are hauling is not important. They are important. And if you don’t realize this – piss them off just see how long you will be sitting there. And, hint – if you notice they only load (or unload) part of your load and then go to do something “more important”, you screwed up somewhere. They just showed you how much power they have by wasting your time.
  3. Other Drivers – You may think we are all equal, and you may be. But when another driver needs a favor, do it for them. Even if they don’t ask for help, if you see someone working on something and you have free time and can assist, walk over and offer. Just like every job you have ever had – someday you will need something and your reputation as a team player may be the deciding factor in how you are treated.
  4. Maintenance personnel. I will explain this one with a story from a family member. He turned his truck in for scheduled maintenance. Now, in the past, he was mouthy with the maintenance supervisor. (He actually had stated in so many words that he was a DRIVER this guy was just a mechanic.) So for several hours he kept looking for his truck in the area where they parked units after service. No truck. No truck meant that he could not go back on the board to get a load and make money. And since he was on duty, he was also burning hours. After about 6 hours, he finally found his unit parked around the corner near units the company was decommissioning for sale. When he relayed the story, I am certain he still had not learned the lesson that by talking down to maintenance, they had intentionally cost him time and money. Be nice to the people that fix your truck. Donuts may not hurt either.
  5. Payroll. Sounds simple enough, but often is not. If the person that handles your paperwork wants it a certain way – do it, even if you think it is stupid. Do everything in your power to do things exactly like they want.
  6. Training/Compliance. Again – it makes sense, but at the same time – I will reinforce it. Want to lose a day sitting in the office watching videos? Easy, just ignore any request from training. If they want you to watch a 4 hour video on, for example, HazMat – watch it. They may have a requirement that a certain number of drivers see the training. If you make it harder on them – they might just have dispatch pull you off the board so that you can watch an 8 hour video on Hours of Service and then the next day, watch the HazMat video anyway. Or maybe you don’t like something about how they want your logs completed because you know a better way. It don’t matter what you think you know. Don’t matter what you learned in school. What matters is what the person behind the desk wants.


In ending, it is really just common sense. Be nice to everyone you deal with. Although trucking can be fun because of the time you are basically on your own – you must still play the games of working well with others.

It is not hard, but you must lease the art of surviving the politics of being a truck driver.

Your Future Truck Driving Job – Part 2

Truck Driving Job

Your Truck Driving Job could have you working with a lot of different types of cargo. This section reviews some common types of the trailers you may use in today’s trucking industry.

Dry Van. Most positions, especially those for entry level drivers will be in the Dry Van Over The Road (OTR) freight business. This is because it is generally the easiest and also it the majority of the freight. Look at any truck stop and you will mostly see the big boxes of van trailers. If look closely, you will notice that some of them Climate Control Units on the top front of the trailer. Those are normally called Reefer Units and will be discussed in a moment. Dry Van Cargo includes household goods as well as business and manufacturing supplies. Dry food goods are also often transported in Van units.

Reefer Vans are used to transport, especially food and medical supplies, that require temperature control. However, Reefer Vans can also be used for loads that could be loaded on Dry Vans. That is one of the appeal for some drivers is the opportunity to get more loads. However, hauling perishable items in a Reefer requires the driver pay more attention the load and react to any equipment problems. These loads are also often more time sensitive requiring faster load delivery. (Note: All freight is time sensitive and needs to be delivered on time.) It is not uncommon for Reefer Vans to pulled by team drivers allowing for long distant runs to be handled with less required down time to comply with Hours Of Service rules.


Flat Bed as the name describes is simply a long flat truck trailer. These are used for machinery, building supplies, bulky items and plus loads that do not fit on standard shipping pallets. These loads may or may not need to be tarped or covered. Many loads do require tarps being placed on them – which can be both hard and dirty work. Loads that are not properly tarped could be damaged and may be rejected by the receiver and result in the company and/or the driver responisble for damages. A version of the Flat Bed is a Drop Deck, which has a portion of the trailed lower then standard trailers allowing for the hauling higher/taller loads.

Curtain Side or Soft Sided trailers are a class of Flat Bed trailers that are used for hauling loads that need to be protected from the weather. These trailers, sort of, have built in tarping that covers the whole trailer. For loading and unloading, the driver moves the soft, flexible sides out of the way. The loads are then loaded and secured like any other flat bed load, secured with chains or straps and then the sides repositioned to protect the load. These are specialty trailers used by truckers and companies that that nearly every load must be covered.


Tanker trailers are used to haul liquids. Although often chemical (hazmat), it can also be many other kinds of fluids. In the local transport business, tankers are used for Gas/Diesel Fuel to service stations. Special endorsements are required for pulling tankers and HazMat loads. HazMat loads, however can be many different things and are also common in Dry Vans.


Bulk Transport trailers are used to move commodities that are neither liquid nor packaged for handling on standard shipping pallets. Some examples could be bulk flour, sugar, etc being shipped from the processing plant to a large commercial baking plant that makes bread, etc. Bulk could also be involved in HazMat chemical shipments used in manufacturing.


Auto Transport, ok this is self explanatory. But there are two types of auto transport. Nearly all auto moving involves moving new cars from regional distribution centers to dealers. However, there are also opportunities for drivers to move cars from city to city such as for people relocating and needing to ship as opposed to driving their cars. Being an auto transport driver means you will spend a lot of time playing monkey climbing around on the trailers to load and unload the cars including securing them for the transport. A recent earning review disclosed that auto transport drivers generally made more money each year – but spend less time actually driving because of the amount time required to load and unload.

CDL – Commercial Driver’s License Exam (CDL Test Preparation)

Dump Trailers are used to generally haul aggregate commodities such as sand, gravel and some manufacturing products. Most dump trailer work is local in support of construction projects, however, there are some Over The Road opportunities in Dump Trailers.

Oversized Loads can be a lot of different things such as large construction equipment, extra large machinery for manufacturing or anything that will not fit on a standard trailer. Everyone, at some time or another, has seen the trucks pulling trailers that look like several trailer attached together and they may have 8, 10, 12 or more axles – far more then the average OTR truck with 5 axles and 18 wheels. These jobs are generally only given to drivers with a lot of experience.


I am sure I have missed something, and I will update from time to time. Regardless of what freight you move and for whom you do it, your Truck Driving Job can be a great career.