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What to Expect your First Year of Driving a Truck
So you want to drive a truck? We’ve compiled what to expect your first year of driving a truck. We’ll cover some aspects such as getting your CDL, general procedure, common pay rates, and staying healthy.
What to Expect as A Truck Driver
If traveling everyday and seeing the nation is something you enjoy, becoming a truck driver might be for you. Although this is only one of the benefits, making money while doing so is almost a dream and a privilege to boot.
Truck drivers deliver freight that is imported as well as manufactured in the U.S. This makes them an important part of almost every industry. It’s their job to deliver key components to manufacturers, retail goods to stores, and supplies to companies nationwide.
A huge physical challenge of learning to become a truck driver is controlling your truck and trailer. Although the learning curve is slightly high, learning the basics of how to drive a semi truck and trailer generally take between 3-4 weeks.
As a professional driver, you’ll be expected to communicate often with your driver manager and customers. You will be a part of the public face of your company, always keep that in mind.
Getting your CDL
There are several avenues available when you want to get a commercial driver’s license. This shows you have met all the criteria to understand the basic inner workings of a semi truck and what is expected of you while operating one.
Company Paid CDL Training
Many companies offer sponsored CDL training so long as you meet their criteria. This usually entails a mandatory period you must stay with the company. After the mandatory period of employment, most companies will pay off the debt in its entirety.
This is a good idea if you’ve done your research on a specific company and feel it matches with your personal goals.
When I drove, this is the path that I chose because CDL schooling can range from $2,000 to upwards of $7,000 according to AllTrucking.info. For most, this is quite a lot of money to come up with in the beginning and seemingly impossible.
Various trucking companies may have other stipulations as requiring you to be a team driver for at least 6 months out of a required year. This is important to keep in mind when considering how you want to get your CDL.
Not everyone is a people person so to speak. Coming from experience, living with another person in the cab of a truck can be extremely stressful. We’ll cover more on cohabiting with someone in a sleeper in another article.
One of the biggest benefits to going through a company sponsored CDL school is that you’re more often than not guaranteed a job once you finish school and get your license.
Paying for CDL School Yourself
Some aspiring truckers may choose this option when they want to get their CDL. The advantage of going this route is that if you decide not to stay with the first company you work for, you don’t owe any debt.
Another option for paying for CDL training is getting a government grant. Getting a pell grant for trucking school isn’t as easy as getting one for college. Only certain CDL schools will take a pell grant as payment. This option will require a little more research than the others.
Many schools will accept G.I. bill funding or workforce assistance funding if you’re unemployed. These will also require some research requiring you to reach out for more information from schools in your area.
If you decide to take one of these routes, you won’t be under contract to stay with a company for an extended amount of time.
What Do You Learn in CDL School
While you’re in school you’ll learn the basics of Log Books, ELD’s (Electronic Log Device), Regulations, and basic maneuvering of a semi truck and trailer.
Here are some classroom topics that will be covered while you are in driving school:
- Driving Log’s and ELD’s
- Federal Motor Carrier Regulations
- Road Signs and General Laws
Once you have your permit to drive a semi truck, you will practice the following:
- Dashboard Controls
- Local and Interstate Driving
- Vehicle Inspections
The last point here is something that will be drilled into your head over and over. Vehicle inspections are very important as you are essentially verifying that your truck and trailer are safe to operate on the highway.
If you are stopped by a DOT Officer and they perform an inspection and find something malfunctioning, you could be cited and fined.
First Year As A Truck Driver
Your first year of driving a truck will find you behind the wheel of a big rig traveling the U.S. and seeing the countryside you’ve never seen before. While this is a great thing, there are many more things at play.
Load Assignments for New Drivers
Your first year of driving a truck, don’t expect to get the best loads, the most miles, and the optimal delivery schedules. Most of these go to the seasoned and well proven drivers for the company. You may have to take a load you don’t particularly want.
This is rather common in a lot of trucking companies because you’ve not yet proven that you can be reliable and keep a delivery schedule. However, it’s not always the case depending on your location, you should be able to get loads with healthy miles.
The key way to make sure you receive good loads is to always be consistent, communicate clearly with operations, and make your loads on time.
Average Truck Driver Salary
The average salary of a truck driver varies from company to company depending on your base CPM (cents per mile). While many factors can play into how much you’ll typically make driving a truck, rookie truck drivers tend to be on the lower end of the scale.
Given the conditions of the market lately and the alleged driver shortage, new company drivers can expect to see CPM’s between .25 and .38. This means new truck drivers should expect to make about $625 to $950 based on a 2500 mile average per week.
One of the best aspects of pursuing a career as a truck driver is that there is no degree requirements. Training is done either by a private institution or at the company itself. Truck driver careers are expected to grow as fast as average at 5% year over year.
Take a look at this info-graphic that gives you some insight into the average truck driver salary.
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Managing Personal Life as a New Driver
One of the downfalls of driving a truck is the detachment that happens while you’re out on the road. From experience, it’s far too easy to lose touch with friends and family.
Maybe you’re like me, in the beginning it was great to be detached. After awhile though it becomes heavy on your mind and your heart.
Everyone knows that safety is an essential part to having a successful driving career. However, becoming distracted due to depression, issues at home, or a variety of other issues caused by being detached is also an issue.
In this day and age cell phones are everywhere, you can get them for fairly cheap just about anywhere. Drivers should always have a cell phone. Not only to communicate with operations, but to keep in touch with friends and family as well.
Humans are innately social animals. When we seclude ourselves, it puts us in a dark place and that’s nowhere to be when your on the road.
Make time everyday to reach out to a family member or friend and tell them about what you’ve seen on the road. Integrating a small amount of time on your rest break to reach out to family will fight off the homesick feeling many drivers experience.
Staying Healthy your First Year
Staying healthy as a truck driver isn’t as easy as you would think. You’re constantly sitting and usually only getting out of your seat for a fuel stop or walking into a shipping office.
It’s important to remember to do some sort of exercise for at least 15 minutes a day. As a new driver, you may be used to being able to get up and move around at will. Unfortunately in this profession that’s not going to be an option. You can find some tips for staying healthy in this article we wrote.
The Advanced Career Institute lists several exercises truckers can use to stay healthy. If all else fails, remember that 33 times around a tractor and trailer is one mile! Try to do this at least once a day either on your 30 minute break or when you stop for the day.
Healthy eating choices are also key. Most places you’re going to stop won’t have very healthy options for food. If you can, get a mini-refrigerator for your truck and keep it stocked with healthy options.
Remember, you’re going to sit for extended periods of time. Eating junk food, drinking sugar packed drinks, and not exercising is going to see that your trucking career is short.
First Year as a Truck Driver Wrap-up
Start off with making a plan. Do your research on different trucking companies and find one that suits you the best. Find out if they work with a certain CDL school or if they will train you at their location and help you get your CDL.
Figure out if you’re going to attend a private institution for CDL Training. Then, nail down exactly how you’re going to pay for school.
Once you start with a trucking company, do your best to always be on time for your loads. This is going to make load planners trust you. The end result of this is better quality loads most of the time.
When it comes to pay, the grass usually isn’t greener on the other side. Expect to make between .25 and .38 CPM’s your first year driving a truck. This may even increase after six months with the company. Safe miles and experience will ensure your cents per mile increases.
Remember to always make time to reach out to friends and family. Living in solitude on the road is really hard on a person. Your mental state is vital as you’re operating an 80,000lb vehicle. Your mind needs to be clear and sharp while operating.
In addition to keeping your mind sharp, it’s imperative to your driving career to stay healthy. Try to stay away from truck stop food. I know first hand it’s hard to do but try hard to make healthy choices.
It’s easy to be complacent and eat the wrong things while driving a truck. Try to make time for 15 minutes of exercise a day. Keep in mind that 33 times around a standard truck and trailer equals a mile.
Are you an experienced truck driver or planning on pursuing a career as a truck driver? What tips or questions do you have about the first year driving a truck?