With the economy starting to ramp up, and high volumes of freight needing to be moved around the country as a result, there’s never been a better time to become a truck driver. But those who are new to the industry likely have plenty of questions about how to get started.
Thanks to popular reality shows that feature long haul truckers, not to mention movies and TV programs, the American public has always had a romantic notion of life on the road. The reality may not always be glamorous, but the truth is that driving a big rig offers a great deal of freedom and flexibility, not to mention growing salary potential. While trucking isn’t for everyone, for people with the right mindset, it can be an extremely lucrative career.
In fact, projections indicate that not only is the demand for trucks going to increase in the coming years, industry insiders worry there won’t be enough qualified drivers to fill all the openings. This means that truckers with a clean record and the right training will be able to command high salaries.
So what are you waiting for? The time is right to launch your career as a truck driver.
What are the requirements to become a truck driver?
The first thing to do when looking to become a truck driver is to make sure you qualify. This starts with checking on the legal requirements in your state. While the Interstate system in the United States is technically under federal supervision, each state has its own rules and requirements with regards to how they are managed, and this includes the prerequisites for a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
No matter what state you’re in, you’ll need your CDL. Find out what the process is for your state, but it’s likely going to involve some combination of age requirement (usually 18 or 21 depending on your location), knowledge test, and driving skills test. There are different classes of CDL’s for different types of vehicles, such as Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A covers all of the different types of vehicles, including semis, and is generally the hardest to acquire.
If you’ve never driven a semi before, or even seen inside one, then it’s important to realize that it’s nothing like driving a car or small truck. It definitely requires special training and practice, which is why most people who elect to become a professional truck driver enroll in a training program. This is almost certainly the best way to fast track your way to becoming a truck driver.
Where can you become trained as a truck driver?
If you want to be hired as a truck driver, and you’re new to the industry, you not only need to have your CDL, but hiring managers will want to have proof that you know what your doing. There are two main ways to get the skills, as well as the proof, that you’ll need to get your career started.
The first option is to enroll in an independent driving school. They can be found all around the country, many of them national chains with locations across many states. While the tuition may seem steep for some, there are a lot of reasons why these schools are convenient. Enrollment doesn’t just happen a few times a year, so drivers don’t need to wait for a new semester to start. They are also very focused on one thing, producing safe, skilled drivers that can handle the road right away.
The other common choice is to enlist in a sponsored program that will cover the cost of tuition for you. Many of the large trucking fleets will pay to train their drivers at one of the private schools, or else have their own training programs for getting drivers up to speed. In exchange for covering tuition, and perhaps even a signing bonus, new drivers need to sign a contract that will lock them in to driving for this fleet at a set salary.
There are pros and cons to both. Independent driving schools are more expensive, and require an upfront investment that is out of reach for many newcomers, but in the long run, you’ll likely be able to make more money and have more freedom to take your career in the direction you choose. There’s no right and wrong answer. Each driver needs to choose the option that is most suitable for them.
What kind of person makes a good truck driver?
Another important consideration a potential truck driver needs to examine is whether the trucking lifestyle is a good fit. Being a trucker definitely poses some significant challenges. Drivers spend the majority of their working time alone on the road. They might be away from their family for days at a time, and life on the road can present significant health risks if not careful.
This is a career best suited for those people who are self-reliant. It’s up to individual drivers to stay motivated and get to their destination on time safely. There are also a lot of temptations on the road, such as junk food, drugs, and alcohol, that may make this career inappropriate for certain personality types.
Having a calm personality also helps. Driving can get extremely frustrating, especially as you’ll be surrounded by drivers who aren’t trained professionals and don’t always follow the rules (written and unwritten) of the road. People who anger easily or have a hard time letting slights go may not enjoy driving every day.
People who do thrive are self-motivated and disciplined, with a hard-working mindset. They like to see the country and have the freedom to be away for long periods of time. They are reliable and conscientious and make safety a top priority at all times.
Is it safe for a woman to become a truck driver?
Traditionally, truck driving has been an extremely male dominated industry. This is starting to change, and many companies are trying to diversify their work force and actively seek out female drivers. There’s a good reason for this. Research indicates that women truck drivers actually have a better safety and reliability record than their male counterparts.
While there are certain safety precautions that female drivers take, most of them report that the biggest obstacles they face have to do with old-fashioned attitudes. Another worry is accidents occurring during the loading and unloading of trucks. A lot of the gear and loaders are sized for larger individuals, and newer drivers aren’t always adequately trained with this type of equipment, leading to avoidable accidents and injuries.
With the industry facing a driver shortage, there are active recruitment efforts being undertaken to bring more women into the industry. If you are a woman who’s thinking about getting started as a truck driver, now’s a great time. Sign up for a driving school or get in touch with a fleet recruiter today.
Saint John Capital Understands Trucking
When you’re just starting out, having someone to answer your questions and be on your side is invaluable. For more than two decades, Saint John Capital has been supporting truckers succeed in the industry, whether they have been behind the wheel for a few months or many years. Our commitment to the trucking industry is unparalleled, as testified by the fact that we only purchase freight invoices. This means that we are in a position to not only provide tailored services that directly meet the financial needs of our customers, but also offer them comprehensive support they won’t find anywhere else.
We have a simple goal at Saint John Capital. Our entire team is dedicated to assisting drivers and freight companies to better manage their cash flow so that they can grow their business. The increased financial flexibility we offer will allow you to reach your goals more quickly. Saint John Capital is always there to forerun your cash, whenever you need it the most.
Contact us today to learn more about the Saint John Capital difference.