Let’s stick a fork in some assumptions about landing a trucking job. We will kill 7 myths about becoming a truck driver. Although all of these may be considered traditional, they certainly aren’t cast in stone. There are ways around everything. Just ask any former farm kid turned trucker.
So, you’ve never driven a truck before. Part of the reason is the process seems daunting. You may even think you would never qualify. Trust me, I was there. You may also have no interest in signing a 2 or 3 year contract for repaying the cost of a company sponsored driving school. Don the Beer Guy landed his trucking gig with absolutely no trucking experience, no contract and no training costs. It can be done.
Here are 7 myths. Things that would-be truckers assume are true. Many newbie drivers leave the industry after 3 months, and they owe the former employer thousands. Don’t let that be you.
You Need To Sign On With A Big Company For Training
Absolutely not. Becoming a truck driver doesn’t have to be expensive. I went to a small, independent truck driving school. I would recommend this school to absolutely no one. I signed a contract with the school for a $2,400 loan. They offered a hotel room and an open tab at a restaurant for meals. Of course, this would all be added to that high interest loan.
That school was supposed to be 8 weekends long, but we finished in 6. It was 200 miles from home. Heading out every Friday after work, I slept in my car. My wife packed my food and we never added another penny to that loan balance. My goal was met, learning trucking’s basic skills, receiving my CDL and medical card.
I’ll talk about how I found my first trucking job a little bit later in this post.
You Need To Go To Some Kind Of Truck Driving School
I went to a truck driving school, but you certainly don’t have to. You can get your Class A permit and medical card on your own. The only requirement after that is your ability to find someone with the equipment and time to train you. Remember, you need a driving test in qualifying equipment to turn that permit into a CDL.
Don went this route. He was hired, then trained. Finally, he took his driving test and was let out on his own. He’s been at that company for several years now, and he’s quite happy.
You Need To Spend Or Borrow Several Thousand Dollars For Training
We just killed this myth in the previous myth, but it’s too important to gloss over. Would I ever recommend a paid trucking course? As Don says, absolutely. But I’d never recommend a CDL school that’s run by the same company I am going to work for. Call me cynical, but I don’t want to be obligated to my employer for anything that doesn’t end if we part ways.
Don’t Sign That Company Contrct
What I would recommend is the accredited community collage or technical school truck driver training. These usually last several weeks, and are quite a bit more hands-on than anything a company offers. They also offer you the ability to keep your training costs separate from your pay check. Some companies may offer tuition reimbursement, and that’s fine. But you don’t have to keep sending checks to a company you decided to leave.
Some of the best companies offer no beginner training, but hire out of these schools. They know these students are more motivated, better trained and meet a consistent minimum training standard.
You Have To Be Willing To Be Out For Weeks At A Time
If you want to go on the road and see the country, go for it. I loved it. Although I am home every night now, I miss the road. It’s in my DNA, but it’s not for everyone.
Living in Wisconsin and being home every weekend came with some trade offs. I could run the midwest and south, but not the west coast. I had 10 years of trucking under my belt before I ever spent a weekend away from home. Don has never been away overnight with his trucking job.
If You Don’t Want To Go Over The Road, Don’t
Companies big and small are always looking for local drivers, shuttle and spotter truck drivers. Even most over-the-road jobs have weekly home time. Define what fits you and search for it.
I think many of these stay close to home are some of the best jobs in the industry. Many also combine different skill sets. As a livestock hauler for a small company, I knew I could work as a livestock buyer, seller or barn manager if my diabetes prevented me from renewing my medical card.
You Have To Be 25 To Be Hired
Several large companies have an age requirement of 23 or 25. This is driven purely by insurance. More and more companies are backing off on this one. The legal requirement for interstate commerce is 21 years of age. Intrastate is 18 years of age in nearly every state.
If you’re 18 to 20, you still have a way to go. We hired several drivers under 21 to deliver livestock when I was in the business. If we had a part time high school kid working in the barn, we’d teach the basic skills, then pay for their CDL test and medical card. They handled quite a bit of our in state pick ups and deliveries.
Once you hit 21, there are plenty of OTR companies that will hire you. At the very least, your in state driving proves your skill. It also proves your commitment and dedication to the industry.
I Have A DUI, Or A Criminal Conviction
They say time heals all wounds. But time changes people. Both of these are true. I know several drivers who’ve had drunk driving tickets. One of them was caught while driving a big rig. Different states have different rules. You’ll also need some time between that conviction and the new trucking job.
Whatever the offence, don’t spring it on a potential employer at the last minute, and definitely don’t hide it. This is one area where humility and remorse are everything. If a company decides they like your character and honesty, you’ll be surprised at how willing some might be to give you a chance, even if it means getting you home for any kind of mandatory meeting schedule.
I Have To Have A Perfect Driving Record
Again, the same rules as above apply. I haven’t had a single moving violation since I started my trucking career. To date, I think I’ve paid about 125 bucks in fines. Once was for my logs not being up to date. The other for being over weight on one axle set. But I didn’t start out this way.
I had one wreck and three tickets within the two years prior to earning my CDL. Everything was over a year old, so it wasn’t an issue with the companies I was hoping to work for. As I advised with the criminal record, just be humble and honest. Own it, and don’t make excuses.You need 3 things to be a trucker. Basic skills, Credentials, Employer wiling to hire you Click To Tweet
We’ve Killed The Myths. But How Do I Find These Jobs?
You need 3 things to be a trucker.
- Basic skills
- Employer wiling to hire you
And here’s the good news. You can find number 3 first. In my case, I was working for a cabinet company as a laborer when I decided to go to truck driving school. I told the lady in charge of human resources what I was doing after the third week. They offered to let me work in shipping, and be a back-up driver. I packaged cabinets 2 or 3 days a week, then delivered cabinets in Wisconsin and Michigan’s upper peninsula. After 6 months of that, I went over the road with a company near by.
My advice is to start with small companies that are close to home. Have your spouse, family and friends pay attention too. Also, look for businesses that don’t consider themselves trucking companies, but they own and operate trucks. They make or distribute a product, and delivery is a necessary evil.
Don and I found great examples of doing things this way. Don found a beer distributor and offered to work for less than what they were offering if they’d give him a shot. They hired and trained him. He took his CDL exam in one of their trucks. He’s been there over 5 years now.
That cabinet company had two employees who’d been there for several years, waiting for “their turn” to move into that back-up trucker job. I was hired in front of both them. Had either of them stuck their neck out and went to that sh## hole trucking school, that job wouldn’t have been available.