Driving a truck does not appeal to everyone. Some jobs require that a driver sit, stay alert and awake for long hours during extended road trips. Drivers have the added stress of having to control an extremely heavy vehicle, filled with expensive cargo, on roads that may be wet, icy and slippery. Other motorists may have the misconception that trucks have the ability to stop as quickly as automobiles and pose a hazard. Truck malfunction, road construction or other uncontrollable conditions may hinder drivers from arriving at a particular destination at a specified time.
However, if these factors do not cause fear or hesitation, many different trucking companies welcome new drivers every year. The industry remains strong and a vital part of the transport services that many rely on for the delivery of goods and products. Some truck drivers take positions that require them to travel alone. However, there are more and more companies that are encouraging driving teams, which actually saves the corporation money. One driver handles the truck while the other rests, sleeps or performs other functions. Having someone at the wheel 24/7 means the cargo arrives in half the time.
While some may remain at the same company for years and drive the same type of truck, others may develop more skills and become more versatile by learning to handle many different types of vehicles. Safe truck driving also means acting responsibly and not taking for granted that the 40 ton vehicle spans up to 75 feet in length and 13 feet in height, cannot fit everywhere and becomes a great danger when the wrong person climbs behind the wheel. A truck driver must have the patience to endure numerous conditions and respect others sharing the roadway.
Where to Start
There are numerous private and commercial truck driving programs that offer instruction. According to government recommendations, reputable trucking school programs should provide at least 160 hours of training. There are also programs that span up to 400 hours, which understandably offer more of an in depth education. There are ill-advised programs that promise drivers a Class A license in but a few hours. Known as "CDL mills," these scam artists not only put drivers at risk but everyone else on the road. Reputable companies also generally will not accept the credentials.
Decent, comprehensive programs last two or more months in length. During that time, the student gains knowledge and experience handling various types of transmissions, trailers and truck sizes. Driving takes place in the city, on country roads and on the Interstate. Under the supervision of an instructor, a future truck driver gains the experience of being in the downtown area of large cities, driving during rush hour, stopping at truck stops and the ins and outs of weigh stations.
Night driving, accident prevention and jack-knife training are also important. In these situations, the driver learns vital braking and steering techniques, which ensure safe maneuvering in emergencies. Students must learn the rules and regulations of service hours, take dozens of written tests and multiple demonstration tests. Testing also means proving capability of properly handling the truck and trailer.
Truck Driving Wages
Pay depends on many different factors. Someone who drives locally, delivers or picks up loads and quits in time to be at home in the evenings will not earn the same pay as someone who has a long haul position. Potential truckers must also take location into consideration. Larger companies in larger cities will naturally offer higher wages compared to small companies in rural destinations. The type of freight carried and the type of truck driven also affect wages. Experience is another consideration. Obviously a truck driver having more years of experience will earn a higher hourly wage compared to someone who has recently acquired a license. In general, someone just starting out may earn around $12.00 an hour. Drivers with extensive experience may earn as much as $28.00 or more an hour. Companies may also provides various benefits ranging from health insurance to retirement plans. Days off for illness or recreation are other perks.
An initial position may not be the dream job of a lifetime. However, the job provides the chance to learn and grow. Over-the-road options may be the only choice when first starting a truck driving career. Just remember that regardless of the country's economic conditions, trucks continue to run, which means a sense of job security and employment availability if able to maintain a reputable driving history. Strive to improve skills and receive training whenever possible. In time, driving jobs may lead to a dispatching position, becoming a fleet manager, terminal manager or a safety director. A love for trucking may influence drivers to venture out on their own and purchase a rig. Some may also one day own a trucking company.