Trucks currently move around 71.5% of the freight in the United States, when measured by weight — that’s over 10 billion tons of freight every year. As you can imagine, that means that there is a lot of demand for truck drivers, and that demand is not going to go away anytime soon. In fact, almost 8 million people nationwide were employed in jobs in the trucking industry throughout 2017.
It is no wonder that truck driving and related jobs continue to appeal to many. There is a certain amount of freedom associated with not being chained to a desk throughout the work day, every day, and those who like driving enjoy the opportunity to do it full-time. You also meet a lot of different people throughout the course of a day, and sometimes you can even form lasting connections.
But if this is a career that you have ever seriously considered — or even considered in passing — you might be wondering how you might go about it. So to help you out, here are some of the basics for how to become a truck driver, followed by the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Step 1: Do Some Research
The fact that you are reading this article is a good start, but before you embark on your journey towards becoming a truck driver, it’s important to first make sure that it is something that you would like to do. Thus, the first step in how to become a truck driver is to figure out why you want to become a truck driver.
This process is likely something that will be highly personal, but there are a few things that may help you to confirm that this is the right career path for you:
- Research the salary for a truck driver in your area. Remember that salaries can differ greatly from state to state, and so you need to make sure that you will be happy with the wages you will be earning in the state where you intend to live.
- Create a “pros and cons” list. A classic decision-making technique, a pros and cons list is classic for a reason — it can help you to collect your thoughts in a way that makes it easy for you to decide on a firm answer.
- Talk to different truck drivers who have been in the profession for a long time. Talk to them about their job, their daily routine, what they like about their job, and what they don’t. They, perhaps more than anyone else, can help you to understand whether you would enjoy being a truck driver or not.
Once you have decided that you want to do this for certain, it’s time to figure out how to become a truck driver.
Step 2: Check the Requirements
The most important thing to do, before you do anything else, is to make sure that you actually qualify to be a truck driver. The requirements to becoming a truck driver naturally vary from state to state, but there are a few requirements that you can assume are the standard for everywhere:
- You must be at least 21 years old to cross state lines, and 18 to drive locally
- You will have to pass a physical, as well as a drug and alcohol test
- You must have a clean driving record
It might go without saying, but if you do not currently qualify for a regular driver’s license, you are not likely to qualify for a trucking license. In most cases, the license required is a Class A Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL.
Step 3: Enroll in Truck Driving School
Your next step is to enroll in a driving school or course. These kinds of courses can often be found at community colleges, but there are also many independent training programs.
Step 4: Complete Your Training
Once you have applied and been accepted into a truck driving program, you can start learning the ropes. This training can often take between 3 and 6 weeks, but this can change depending on whether you are training part-time or full-time. To complete your training and get your license, there will again be different requirements according to which state you live in; however, in most cases there will be a knowledge-based written test, as well as a practical skills test (much like most regular state driving tests).
Step 5: Gain Experience
Before you get to your maximum earning potential, you will have to first pay some dues and gain as much experience as possible. In your first job, you will probably undergo some on-the-job training, which may even require you to ride shotgun for a period of time. You will get some valuable experience during this time, and may even be required to take a company test before you start driving “for real.”
Once you have a year of experience under your belt, you can apply for one of our many truck driving jobs, and join our family here at Matheson.
Step 6: Advance Your Career
Once you have completed all of your training and have some experience on your resume, you can move on to embark on your career proper. This might take the form of seeking more opportunities at your current place of employment, moving to a different organization, or perhaps even buying a truck of your own.
Now that you know the process, you have a good starting point. You may still have some questions, however. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions by those who are thinking of becoming a truck driver.
Do you make good money as a truck driver?
As with any job, your wage as a truck driver depends on a number of factors, namely: where you are based, how much experience you have, and the nature of the job (for example you may earn more if you move hazardous materials). However, the national median salary is currently somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000 a year, according to a number of sources.
Another factor in how much you are paid is the nature of how you are compensated for work. Most companies will pay you per mile traveled, but at Matheson you will be paid for every hour worked — this means that you can have the comfort of knowing exactly how much you will be paid each period, and not have to worry about losing money due to things such as heavy traffic delays.
How long does it take to become a truck driver?
The process detailed above could take you a very long or short amount of time, depending on how you go about it — and how long you have to dedicate to this path each day. However, most full-time courses at community colleges will take around 3-6 weeks at least.
How much does it cost to become a truck driver?
Again, this is something that varies depending on the nature and location of your training, as well as which kind of license you are getting; but to give you an estimate, becoming a truck driver with a course at a community college could cost anything between $3,000 and $10,000.
What qualifications do you need to be a truck driver?
As mentioned above, the minimum requirements are as follows:
- At least 21 years old
- Clean driving record
- Pass a drug and alcohol test
- Pass a physical examination
- Pass a test and obtain a CDL
Some companies or even states may have additional requirements, but this list is a good place to start.