If you like to drive and want a rewarding career, becoming a truck driver is a great option. Finding out how to become a truck driver is a good start. Going into this career does require you to understand your job duties, too.
Before choosing a career path, you should always look into the job duties. However, it’s also helpful to know the steps needed to become a truck driver. Let’s look at both.
Job Duties of a Truck Driver
While it might seem rather self-explanatory, truck drivers do more than drive large trucks. Along with driving trucks for retail and distribution centers, truck drivers handle many other duties, including:
- Pre-inspect the truck before heading out on a journey
- Loading and unloading cargo, in some situations
- Maintain the vehicle’s maintenance
- Follow safe driving practices
- Operate and drive a truck from one point to another to deliver goods
- Follow road maps and driving instructions
- Log hours to stay within specific regulations
There’s more to driving a truck than just driving. Some truck drivers will also need to ensure cargo is completely secured. Others might work for themselves and need to handle business tasks, too.
How to Become a Truck Driver in 7 Steps
Step #1 – Meet the Requirements
You have to meet the minimum requirements before you can become a truck driver. This means you have to be at least 21 years of age in most states. You will also have to be a U.S. Citizen or at least legally eligible to work in the United States.
A good driving record is necessary, too. You cannot have DUIs or reckless driving charges if you want to become a truck driver.
A high school education or GED is necessary to apply to a truck driving school. Most employers will require a high school education, too. However, some will not require you to have a high school diploma.
Step #2 – Complete Truck Driving School
A truck driving school allows you to learn all the necessary skills to get your license. When you go to truck driving school, you will gain classroom education and hands-on training. You will gain experience driving a commercial vehicle during your schooling, too.
This type of schooling will last anywhere from one month to ten weeks. Some programs will even take a full year to complete.
Step #3 – Get Your CDL
You will need to pass the necessary licensing exam to get your CDL (Commercial Drivers Licenses). After completing truck driving school, make sure you study for the state commercial driver’s license exam. Each state has its own exam, and a good study plan will help ensure you pass the written portion.
Along with the written test, you will also need to pass the road skills test. This will be supervised as you drive a commercial vehicle.
Step #4 – Pass the FMCSA Exam
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) exam is the next one you will need to pass. The FMCSA exam has a written and physical component. You will need to know federal law to pass the written portion. It’s also necessary to pass the physical portion, which checks your vision and includes a hearing test.
While you won’t need to retake the written test, you must retake the physical test every two years.
Step #5 – Find an Entry-Level Truck Driving Job
Passing all your exams is a big step, but you still need to find a job. Most truck driving schools offer job placement services to help. You will also want to look into truck driving companies and reach out to them directly. But, again, getting an entry-level position is a big step towards becoming a truck driver.
Step #6 – Meet the Requirements of Your Employer
Most truck driving companies will have you go through orientation. Your orientation will cover the policies of the company and all the necessary paperwork. It’s also common to go through a drug test and a physical exam.
Job training is next after orientation. This will include learning the routes of the company and how they handle the paperwork. This may last a few weeks or even a few months.
Once you’ve gone through training, you will likely need to pass a company road test. Most employers test your driving skills before assigning you a truck and a route.
Step #7 – Gain More Qualifications
As a truck driver, you can open up more career opportunities with more qualifications. Some qualifications will give you the ability to earn more money, also. Consider the following qualifications:
- CDL A
- Doubles/Triples Endorsement
- TWIC Card
- Tanker Endorsement
- X Endorsement
- Hazmat Endorsement
- CDL B
- Air Brake Endorsement
Some of these qualifications will be necessary for specific truck driving jobs.
Top Tips for Those Considering a Career as a Truck Driver
Do Your Research
If you want to become a truck driver, you want to do plenty of research first. Then, consider if this is the right career path for you. Finally, take the time to look at the pros and cons of becoming a truck driver. For example, these jobs usually pay pretty well. However, you will likely not spend much time at home.
Speak with Truck Drivers
A good way to get some insight into this career is actually to speak with truck drivers. They can give you information about their experience and what they might have wished they knew before getting into this career.
Know the Commercial Driver’s Manual
If you go through truck driving school and you’re preparing for the CDL test, make sure you know your stuff. You want to pass this test the first time to ensure you don’t have to pay extra fees. In addition, a good study program for the CDL can help prepare you for the test.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Truck Driver
How much do truck drivers earn?
The average salary for a truck driver is about $47K per year. However, they might get paid in different ways, with many getting paid per mile. In addition, truck drivers often get paid time off and other benefits, too.
The pay varies, depending on the type of truck driver you become.
- Company Team Driver – $0.48 to $0.75 per mile averages about $3,154 per week (split between the team)
- Company Solo Driver – $0.40 to $0.64 per mile averages about $1,183 per week
- Owner Operator Driver – $0.94 to $1.79 per mile averages about $3,163 per week
As an owner-operator driver, you will likely need to pay for your own truck and maintenance.
You might also get paid based on the type of route you drive, which may include:
- OTR Driver – $0.44 to $0.58 per mile
- Regional Driver – $0.37 to $0.55 per mile
- Local Driver – $0.42 to $0.71 per mile
Working for a top company can give you the ability to earn a six-figure salary, as well. If you become a tanker driver, you can earn a higher salary, too.
Is the career of a truck driver growing?
The career of a truck driver is expected to grow a little bit over the next ten years. However, its growth rate is expected to be at 2%, lower than the average for all occupations.
Is becoming a truck driver risky?
Since your career will be driving, it can be a risky career. You could get into a car accident. It’s also common for truck drivers to develop health issues from sitting for long periods.
How much time at home do truck drivers get?
The type of truck driver you become will determine how much home time you get. Only about 3.2% of OTR drivers receive time at home weekly. Regional and local drivers receive more time at home. About 60% of regional drivers get home time weekly. More than half of local drivers get home time daily.
The amount of time you spend at home will completely depend on the company you work for. For example, some truck drivers will be home daily, while others may only be home a few days out of the month.
Do I need a degree to be a truck driver?
No. About 79% of truck drivers only have a high school education or GED. About 20% have a bachelor’s degree. You do not need any degree to become a truck driver.
How long does it take to become an owner-operator?
If you want to be an owner-operator truck driver, you will likely need a few years of truck driving experience. There are quite a few upfront costs to go this route, but it can pay more, too. For most, it will take two to five years to become an owner-operator.
There are plenty of great opportunities in the trucking industry. If you want to become a truck driver, you can use the steps above. Understanding how to become a truck driver offers the opportunity to enter into a fun career path.
Maybe you want to be somewhere new regularly. Maybe you want to see the country. As a truck driver, you can enjoy traveling throughout the country and earning a living.
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