Residents won’t be allowed to drive family autos or trucks without holding a current driver’s license, let alone commercial vehicles. By holding this license, you may qualify to start your career driving delivery trucks while studying to earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has found that most long-haul employers expect applicants to hold at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent, along with a CDL. In addition, serious candidates should attend and complete the curriculum from an accredited community college program or a private truck driving school. The programs run from several months to a full year, and some students may receive tuition assistance.
Truck driving schools typically teach students how to drive trucks as well as learn the regulatory details to pass licensing exams. Schools should include a focus on the essentials of the state’s CDL exam. And endorsements matter. A “combination vehicle” endorsement can open the driver’s qualifications to include driving semi-trucks, hazardous material loads, school vehicles, and tanker trucks. Drivers must also pass the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) exam that includes a physical sight and hearing assessment and a written section on federal traffic laws. Each type of CDL endorsement requires a passing grade on a skills test and/or a written test. You may hold a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) to gain on-the-road experience under the guidance of a CDL-licensed driver.
Some truck driving schools offer the services of job placement boards and career counseling. Truck-driving associations and organizations (see below) offer job boards and career mentoring for their members. There are also for-pay professional recruiting service organizations. Finally, there are the general national job boards like Indeed or Monster that post openings based on location, driving experience, and training. Indeed.com currently lists more than 28,000 new jobs for CDL holders and for those with special endorsements.
Congratulations, you have a job! The BLS reports that most companies require newly licensed employees to complete a proprietary, in-house training program. These can run three to four weeks. Often called Driver Finishing Programs, training sessions introduce new truckers to the vehicles, materials, and equipment relevant to the company. Student driving is monitored by a licensed mentor accompanying on-road training.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some employers will not hire tractor trailer drivers who don’t have two years of related experience, such as being a delivery truck driver. And experience can factor into total earnings for long-haul or semi-trailer drivers. On the road experience can foster networking with fellow drivers on job openings, learning tips, equipment improvements, or the value of gaining endorsements.
While there are no continuing education requirements to hold a trucking job, continuing education toward earning new CDL certifications can add skills and broaden your career opportunities.
That depends on the state of the original licensing. Each state establishes the length of the license cycle. DMV.org has a list of states, along with requirements for renewals.
Some trucking firms offer health and life insurance programs — or discounts on them. Some don’t, so do your homework on each company’s policies. Self-employed drivers may have to buy private insurance through state exchanges. Organizations such as The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) offers members group rates on life, dental, vision and other health insurance plans.
According to Forbes, students can expect to pay from $1,000 to $7,000, depending on the type of school (community college or private school), the state licensing requirements, and the region in the country.
AllTrucking.com reports that drivers can charge on a contractual basis per load, or they can lease their driving services and trucks based on a per-mile rate. Trucking companies often pay between $0.28 and $0.40 cents per mile.
The BLS reports that heavy tractor-trailer drivers usually work on a full-time basis. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires drivers to limit their driving time to 14 straight hours and no more than 60 driving hours within a seven day period. Time logs are required in federal reporting.
The following section examines the national average for entry-level pay for new drivers, along with the advancement in earnings pegged to years of experience. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for entry level drivers is currently $46,001. Mid-career salaries range from $33,951 – $73,938. Annual salaries for truckers late in their careers range from $37,474 – $83,426. Other income sources may include company bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions. Fluctuations in earning levels may depend on the employer, the state where the business is located, or the length of the driver’s professional experience.
The Labor Department reports that trucks transport the largest amount of freight in the country. As the economy grows, so grows the hiring in the industry. An increase in jobs may also be influenced by greater spending by businesses and households. Some 1,871,700 heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers served the country in 2016. The BLS estimates that the number of drivers will increase to 1,980,100 by 2026, for a total of 108,400 new openings. With many drivers reaching retirement age, the number of new drivers may be even greater.
A lot of thought, research and planning should go into the selection of an educational program. Compare essentials such as the cost of the full program and how long it takes to complete the training. Does the program lead to a degree, truck driving license, or certification? How long will the program take and how much will it cost to add endorsements? Other key factors are whether the program combines classroom or online learning with a minimum of 44 hours of actual driving and maneuvering practice. Ask about the modernity of the equipment and how many students are assigned to a single instructor. Finally, compare graduation rates and professional placement records for each school under consideration.
The following search tool can streamline the selection process by factoring in the name of the school, the state(s) in which it operates, the culminating license or degree, and a listing of the subjects taught by the school or academy:
Commercial truck drivers may spend considerable solitary time on the road aside from meeting their fellow truck drivers at fuel stops or talking on the radio/cell phone. But to succeed, a driver needs to network with other professionals for career tips, mentoring opportunities, and learning about new regulations. Other drivers can share advice and possibly help find opportunities and specializations that increase range of jobs. Here are some groups, organizations, or associations that look out for the driving industry:
Truck driving students can take advantage of informational articles and blogs about training and the profession. Recent topics include “5 CDL Student Driver Mistakes to Avoid,” “The Do’s and Don’ts of Trucking School,” and “Develop a Relationship with Your Trainer.”
This organization claims to host the “largest niche job board” for hiring drivers. Connected with thousands of recruiters, it sends completed driver applications to hiring personnel and sends drivers alerts on job openings organized by route type, location, license requirements, experience and endorsements.
For more than 40 years, with over 160,000 members, the OOIDA provides information and access to truck insurance, affordable healthcare and life insurance, information on federal regulations, news on law enforcement, warranty issues, and legal protections for drivers.
A truck and equipment sales site, Trucker to Trucker has an impressive listing of state trucking associations for networking, trucking news, truck shows, training scholarships, and trucking jobs.
The Trucking Track Mentoring Program was developed to help veterans, transitioning service members, and eligible spouses find careers in the trucking industry. Starting salaries from program graduates range from $35,000 to $65,000. More than 30 mentors help students network with industry recruiters.
This membership organization helps drivers connect with employers or trucking associations offering jobs or internships. Members can apply for jobs, post their resumes, have their references confirmed, and participate in an online career learning center.
Some six percent of today’s truckers are women. A membership organization, WIT provides women drivers with a monthly magazine, weekly newsletters, a listing of career mentors, and “women in trucking” blogs. Great for networking.
There’s a wealth of information available online for current truckers or new drivers seeking licensing. Learn more about Federal and State regulations, safety issues, and ways to prevent illegal activities on the road.
Founded in 1933, this organization advocates for federal licensing and safety regulations. Its comprehensive news section includes timely articles on topics such as tonnage, driver compensation surveys, and rules governing online hours-of-service logging.
Privately-owned, DMV.org lists CDL eligibility requirements, state-by-state CDL licensing requirements, and free CDL practice tests.
As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FMCSA regulates and provides safety oversight of CMVs. The website has details on regulations, registration, commercial drivers licensing, and road safety.
This large, informative section of the FMSCA resource site concerns the government mandates and requirements for the usage of ELDs. Learn how to edit and annotate records of duty status (RODS), certify the records, and how to collect supporting documents.
Designed for truckers and transportation managers, TT has current articles and statistics on government activities, business management, industry equipment, fuel alternatives, safety, technology and logistics.
while this is a commercial website, it lists the minimal Federal and State requirements to apply for licensing, how to comply with medical and physical regulations, details on self-certification, and a CDL Practice Test Center.
With an estimated 40 million slaves today across the world that are illegally trafficked by truckers, TAT works with corporations and nonprofit organizations to educate drivers and law enforcement personnel how to identify and report trafficking and risks. So far, 570,000 people have gained certificates of completion for training by the organization.