otr driver

OTR truck drivers have one of the coolest jobs. Their office is a window to the world, or at least the country. As an OTR truck driver, your job will take you all around the US. You may have the opportunity to visit popular attractions and travel destinations across the country. Some of these are on the bucket lists of most Americans. Here are 8 top places to see in America as an OTR driver.

lake tahoe8. Lake Tahoe

Often forgotten among top travel destination lists, North America’s largest alpine lake still enjoys visitors year-round. Nestled between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is known for its stunning clear water.

The area surrounding the lake is surrounded by a panorama of mountains on all sides. In the winter months, you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding through one of the numerous resorts in the area. The warmer months will offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and boating.

mount rushmore7. Mount Rushmore

Visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota will give you a chance to pay tribute to America’s greatest presidents. The sculpture is carved into the granite face of the mountain and features the 60-foot heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

The four presidents were chosen to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively. Sometimes referred to as the “Shrine of Democracy”, the sculpture is unlike any other in North America. Families can enjoy hiking trails, ranger talks, and lighting ceremonies. If you’re in the area, consider touring the surrounding Black Hills and the South Dakota Badlands, known for its sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles.

Florida Keys6. The Florida Keys

Sure, the Florida Keys aren’t one single destination to see, but if you’re there you might as well see it all. You can traverse the entire coral cay archipelago, including the seven-mile-bridge. Key West is home to the southernmost point in the continental United States and offers pristine beaches and a lively bar and restaurant scene.

In Key Largo, you can find some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving spots in the country. The entire area is known for its ecological preservation, including the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park in the United States. Visitors flock to the Keys to enjoy all sorts of water recreation including snorkeling, sailing, deep-sea fishing, or simply lounging on the beaches. No trip to Florida is complete without seeing the Keys at least once.

yosemite national park5. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park in California boasts nearly 768,000 acres of land with granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and giant sequoia trees. Over 4 million people visit this UNESCO world heritage site every year.

Among the famous spots here are El Capitan, a sheer granite rock that measures about 3,600 feet tall, and Yosemite Falls, North America’s tallest waterfall. Yosemite is a popular destination all year-round, even though the best hiking months are when its warmer. Tuolumne Meadows is a hiker’s delight, complete with alpine lakes, rivers, and mountain peaks. The diversity of the terrain, along with the unique flora and fauna, make Yosemite one of America’s great treasures.

everglades4. The Everglades

If you’ve never seen a tropical wetland before, the Everglades should be at the top of your must-see list. The Everglades National Park comprises only 20 percent of the original Everglades region in Florida. It’s the largest tropical wilderness in the United States, with over 1 million people visiting the park every year.

As another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Everglades functions to preserve a fragile ecosystem, along with many threatened or protected species such as the Florida panther and American crocodile. Visit the River of Grass, where you’ll find the largest stand of old-growth cypress trees on Earth, along with alligators and black bears. The 15-mile Shark Valley Scenic Loop tram or airboat tour will also offer spectacular views right through the glades, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings.

yellowstone national park3. Yellowstone National Park

With over 2 million acres, Yellowstone is so massive that it spans three states- Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It was established by the US Congress and signed into law in 1872, making it the first national park in the US. Yellowstone is famous the world over for its wildlife and geothermal features like lakes, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges.

The park is open year-round and offers different recreational activities each season, to complement the must-see natural wonders. Yellowstone Lake is one of the highest elevation lakes in North America. It’s centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent. Half of the world’s geysers are in Yellowstone, including the famous Old Faithful, which erupts every 90 minutes. Yellowstone is another original American natural treasure.

niagara falls2. Niagara Falls

Rightly considered one of North America’s great natural wonders, the Niagara Falls State Park and Heritage Area is housed between the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York. The Falls are actually comprised of three waterfalls- the largest Horseshoe Falls which straddles the border, the American falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls.

During peak daytime hours, more than 168,000 cubic meters (six million cubic feet) of water goes over the crest of the falls every minute. The best views of the Falls are undoubtedly from a helicopter tour or from the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Alternately, you can stay until dark when the falls are lighted or walk across the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side. The Falls are famed the world over for their beauty and enjoys an average of 20 million visitors annually.

grand canyon1. Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon frequently tops lists of best places to visit in the country, and for good reason. The canyon is carved by the Colorado River in Arizona and is a testament to nearly 5 million years of water cutting through layer after layer of rock. The canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and attains a depth of over a mile.

The park is one of the world’s premier natural attractions and enjoys about five million visitors per year. Once again, helicopter tours or other aerial sightseeing offer some of the best views of the canyon. On foot hiking tours will also offer some jaw-dropping vantage points. Aside from sightseeing, visitors can also enjoy rafting and camping. Along with Yellowstone and Yosemite, the Grand Canyon completes the holy trinity of must-see natural wonder sites in America.

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safety tips for truck drivers

On the road truck driving is one of the most important jobs for the economy. It ensures timely delivery of important goods all across the country. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous jobs. In 2017, 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 9-percent increase from 2016, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Truck driving comes with the heavy responsibility of safety for yourself, your cargo, and others on the road. Every great truck driver is going to try to prioritize safety. Here are ten essential safety tips for truck drivers.

1. Defensive driving

Driving defensively means being constantly aware and vigilant for changing or unexpected road conditions. You have to take particular care for motorists who don’t understand trucks and how they operate. Make sure you leave enough space ahead of you—about twice the distance of that the average motorist keeps. Braking distance is the time it takes for the truck to reach a stop once the brake has been applied. The average braking distance for a commercial truck is about 4 seconds. If you’re traveling 55 mph, that’s another 390 feet until you come to a complete stop.

2. Regulate your speed

Of course, you want to follow the speed limit. When it comes to trucking, there are even times when the posted speed limit is too fast.

Take corners, curves, and ramps very slowly!

This is an example of when the posted speed is for cars and not big rigs. Trucks can easily tip over if approaching these too fast. You also will want to take weather and traffic conditions into account for your speed. Know when to slow down, and when you can afford to speed up. You probably shouldn’t be driving at top speed anywhere except the middle of a deserted Interstate on a clear day.

3. Vehicle maintenance

Make sure you complete your pre-trip inspection. The tires and brakes are especially vital given how much weight is riding on them. Any abnormalities should be reported to dispatch right away. If you skip steps in your inspection, or gloss over them, you are compromising your safety and the safety of others on the road!

4. Weather conditions

Subscribe to weather alerts, so that you’re aware of the weather conditions before departing on a trip. Winter weather is especially dangerous as it causes roughly 25% of all speeding-related truck driving accidents. You should be cutting your speed in half for snowy or icy roads. Allow more time for everything in winter weather—signal longer before turning, double your following space, and change speed more carefully. If you see other truckers pulling over, consider doing the same.

5. Work zones

Work zones will present many hazards for truck drivers, like lane shifts, sudden stops, uneven road surfaces, moving workers or equipment, and erratic behavior from other motorists.

About one third of all fatal work zone accidents involve large trucks.

Keep an eye out for road workers and adjust accordingly. Along with obeying all work zone signs, you can also slow down, maintain extra following space, and be prepared to stop quickly.

6. Minimal lane changes

The most adept truck drivers pick a lane and stay in it. The chances of getting into an accident increase every time the truck moves to another lane. If you absolutely have to change lanes, move over very carefully and slowly. Check your mirrors, be aware of blind spots, and signal well ahead of time. Remember that most motorists don’t know how to react to a lane-switching truck, so you’ll have to take that into account. Avoid lane changes during heavy traffic, poor weather conditions, or during night driving.

7. Check delivery spots

Here’s a safety tip veteran truck drivers will recommend to you.

Scope out your delivery spots on foot if possible.

A truck can easily get trapped or unable to turn around into a tight or unmanageable delivery location, even if the shipper assures you that they have trucks there all the time. When delivering to a new customer, find a place to park safely, leave the rig secured, and check out the delivery spot on foot. Shippers may not be aware of all the hazards or obstacles that make it difficult to turn your rig around. A large fraction of accidents take place while backing up, so try to avoid that if possible.

8. Trip and route planning

If you plan your route ahead of time, you’ll be aware of road and weather conditions, detours, work zones, and other obstacles. Non-commercial GPS navigation systems and apps may not be the most complete or accurate guides for truckers. They also don’t provide warning of height and weight limitations. Invest in a GPS especially designed for truckers which shows vital info like which exits to take, distance before exit, when to change lanes, etc. Don’t rely on any one resource entirely, and cross-reference your information. The Rand McNally Road Atlas is another invaluable tool for truck drivers.

9. Remain alert

This is probably the single most important of the safety tips for truck drivers. Good driving requires you to remain alert at all times and that means no distracted driving. At any given second you may face changing traffic, road conditions, poor weather, or unpredictable motorists.

If you’re distracted, you won’t be able to react in the fraction of a second that is needed.

Texting is the worst driving distraction as the odds of being involved in an accident are 23 times greater for truck drivers who are texting. Add to that list anything that will take the focus off the road such as eating, map reading, or interacting with a navigational device excessively. Make sure you are well rested and getting enough sleep to feel refreshed and alert behind the wheel. If you’re drowsy, pull over. These cautionaries are drilled into truck drivers for good reason but are still worth repeating. If you need to attend to something other than driving, then get off the next exit. Remember that none of those distractions are worth risking your life over.

10. Use seat belts

This one is a no-brainer but super important. Remember to buckle up every time you drive the rig. Don’t take the risk. Seat belts have been shown to save lives and reduce injuries. It also protects you from being ejected from your vehicle in case of a crash.

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Truck drivers are required to get a tanker endorsement (Type N or X) in order to haul large loads of liquid cargo.

N endorsement is required if you plan to haul 1,000 gallons+ of liquid or gas cargo.

X endorsement combines tanker endorsement with HAZMAT endorsement, allowing drivers to haul large quantities of liquid hazardous materials.

Getting this endorsement takes some extra time and money to complete the process. There is a written test that you must pass as part of the process. Drivers also need to gain the skills required to handle large volumes of liquid cargo. And of course, you already need to possess a CDL truck driver’s license. However, deciding to get a tanker endorsement along with your CDL license can be very beneficial. Here are 3 key reasons CDL truck drivers get a tanker endorsement.

More Opportunities

Companies that ship any type of large quantities of liquids or gasses, require drivers that have tanker endorsements. By going through the process to get this endorsement, truckers automatically make their applications more attractive than drivers that aren’t endorsed. This opens doors to jobs that require drivers to have a tanker endorsement. And gives those truckers an advantage when someone is scanning through job applications seeking tanker drivers.

More Money

Drivers with any additional skills and endorsements often find that they are paid more than drivers without additional endorsements. Driving a tanker requires additional safety skills due to the unstable nature of hauling liquids. Therefore, drivers with tanker endorsements many times are some of the highest paid truckers on the road. So, the payoff of seeing those paychecks increase certainly outweigh the up-front costs to pay for a tanker endorsement and training.

Required for Additional Endorsements

Getting a tanker endorsement sometimes requires the CDL truck driver also get a HAZMAT endorsement at the same time. Having this X endorsement even further separates a driver from other applicants when filling out a job application. Having tanker and HAZMAT can further highlight your application, and dedication to your career. And give those drivers access to some of the highest paying jobs.

Getting your tanker license can be very beneficial to any CDL truck driver. Regardless of what stage you are in your career. With a tanker endorsement the job pools is bigger, the pay is likely higher, and overall earning potential as a trucker increases.

If you’re looking for tanker truck driving jobs, complete your driver profile here, and be sure to include that you have that endorsement. We can match you to a great new job that best fits your lifestyle and driving preferences!

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great truck driver

Whether you’ve recently begun your CDL trucking journey, or you’ve been driving for 20 years, you probably have the goal of being a great truck driver. Truckers enjoy the freedom and independence that the road brings, and along with it the opportunity to really succeed at the job and strive for improvement. Drivers know that nothing beats the pride and dignity that comes from a job well done, and the knowledge that you’re doing honest work to provide for themselves and their families. Whether you’re a rookie driver or a veteran, there’s always room for improvement. Here are five secrets to becoming a great truck driver.

1. Safety

Veteran drivers all keep coming back to this point: safety is a driver’s number one priority.

Truck driving can be a dangerous job considering freight and road safety. Drivers are responsible for maintaining the safety of their freight, themselves, and other motorists on the road. Remember that other drivers may not be familiar with the challenges and differences in driving a truck, so you may have to go out of your way to ensure their safety as well. Safety also involves having a good mechanical aptitude in case you need to troubleshoot equipment issues while on the road.

Truly great drivers take their safety department’s concerns seriously and do the due diligence to maintain safety. Pre and post trip inspections form the backbone of safety, but it can and should go much beyond that. Maintaining a safe and accident-free record will also clear the path for continued professional success with that carrier. If you’re hoping to switch to another carrier or become an owner-operator one day, a strong safety record will be essential.

2. Build relationships

Truck driving is often considered to be a solo gig- it’s just you and the open road. But drivers are actually in constant communication with others, whether it is dispatchers, fleet managers, or other drivers. You’ll also interact with shippers and receivers, and other reps from your own carrier or others.

The secret is that you need all these people in your corner to be successful.

So, a truly great truck driver seeks to build relationships with all these colleagues.

No man is an island, and no one does it alone, so seek to build a network of people you can communicate and work well with. Always strive to be courteous and respectful to everyone and try to be easy to work with. While trucking can be challenging, avoid projecting your negativity on colleagues since it may come back to bite you. In addition, great drivers need to avoid negativity from others impacting them, since the job is too important to be affected by someone’s bad attitude.

3. Prioritize health

Great drivers are the ones who don’t let the challenges of the job negatively impact their health and lifestyle. It’s no secret that truck driving is considered an unhealthy profession. Between the schedule challenges and sitting behind the wheel for hours at a time, it can take a toll on the mind and body.

Great truck drivers know that these aren’t excuses to neglect their mental and physical health.

Truck drivers can take simple measures to improve their diet and find time to exercise regularly. Some drivers cook in their cabins, or find small snacks to continually munch on, instead of relying on the greasy truck stop food. Similarly, finding about 15 minutes to exercise everyday can make a big difference in a truck driver’s lifestyle. Not having access to a gym shouldn’t be a problem since many exercises can be done in or around your truck, or in parking lots. While a trucker’s schedule is rarely regular, making sure you get proper sleep will help keep you alert and allow the body to rest and mind to feel fresh. Great truck drivers are the ones who are happier because they found a way to prioritize health despite the obstacles.

4. Professional attitude

The difference between a good truck driver and a great truck driver probably boils down just to attitude. Companies are looking to hire drivers who have certain characteristics. They want to make sure drivers can be reliable, responsible, honest, and work hard.

However good a driver’s record, credentials, or skills are, there’s no substitute for good character.

Keeping this in mind, make sure you’re always on time. Being reliable shows everyone that you take the scheduling seriously and can be depended on to make deliveries on time. Timeliness will also shine through when you’re looking to get promotions or raises or looking for a better driving job elsewhere.

A professional attitude also means not complaining too much, or at least too loudly and to the wrong people. While trucking can be frustrating, complaining to your colleagues only reflects poorly on yourself instead of anyone else. Find a different outlet for complaining about work and maintain a professional attitude to distinguish yourself from other drivers. Working hard means sometimes taking the appealing runs or working extra when no one else can. Yes, it’s a sacrifice and you can’t do it every time. But whenever you do take that extra step, it will be noticed and will probably help in the future. Truck driving has become a more professional job, whether the general public realizes it or not. Treat yourself with respect and dignity, and maintain a professional attitude through all the troubles, and others will probably do the same.

5. Don’t forget life outside of trucking

Here’s a big secret to becoming a great truck driver: don’t think of trucking all the time.

Work-life balance is important in any profession, and it’s no different for truck drivers. In fact, there’s more of a risk that trucking can become all-consuming, so it’s important to know when to hit the metaphorical brakes and rest. Great truck drivers make sure that they find enough time to spend with their families. Even while away from home, you can Skype with the kids or enjoy a virtual date night with your partner. Finding a job with good home time will allow you to take a break from trucking, refuel and energize, and then return.

Even while on the road, great truckers will find hobbies to engage in. Some truckers like photography or cooking. Others have gotten into reading or audiobooks. Some others are passionate about travel or exercise.

Whatever your passion is, don’t leave it by the wayside just because you’re a truck driver.

Engaging in hobbies and leisure will help ensure a sound body and mind for work-life balance. Not only will you reset and forget the stresses of the job, but you’ll be better prepared for them when you get back to work. Remember: trucking isn’t everything!

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If you’re thinking about starting a new career in trucking, then you’ve probably been learning about how to enroll in CDL classes. The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is what the Department of Transportation requires all drivers to obtain before being able to drive trucks professionally. Programs which offer CDL classes include community colleges and technical schools. CDL training usually lasts several weeks and includes behind-the-wheel training and classroom preparation. Eventually, truck drivers will take a series of written exams and skills tests to be officially granted a CDL permit. The permit is the first step to finding your first driving job with a trucking carrier. Here’s everything you need to know before taking CDL classes.

What is the CDL?

Students who want to become professional truck drivers must earn a Class A CDL. There are many other classes of the CDL which we detail further below. The type of CDL you obtain will determine what kinds of trucks you’re permitted to drive. The first step is to make sure you qualify. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets the minimum standards that states must follow regarding the CDL, but it is the responsibility of the state to administer the license itself. Thus, some of the requirements vary some state to state. Each state is in charge of the application process, license fee, renewal procedures, and renewal cycle.

Requirements

There are some universal requirements in order to qualify for the CDL. Applicants must be 18 years old and must have a valid driver’s license from the state where they are training. They must also submit driving records from the past 3-5 years. Different states may have slightly different physical requirements to evaluate medical fitness before applicants can qualify for the CDL.

Most CDL programs or trucking carriers want a clean three-year motor vehicle record

This means no speeding tickets, DUIs, accidents, or suspensions in that time. Some companies will be more lenient than others and may encourage you to reapply in the future. Applicants must also pass a drug screening, physical examination, and background check.

Training

CDL classes will provide a mix of classroom studies and hands-on driving training. Students are expected to gain familiarity with the machinery and concepts on the road. Driving topics and techniques that are covered include close quarters driving, city driving, highway driving, road signs and rules, turning and backing-up the truck, and others. Classes will also cover a range of other helpful topics such as trucking industry information, safety and first aid, materials and cargo, state and federal laws, trip planning and routing, managing logbooks, and more. Coupling and uncoupling a trailer is another unique skill you might learn in most programs. Finally, understanding pre- and post-trip inspections is another essential skill you’ll learn.

CDL Classes

There isn’t just one CDL. There are three CDL classes which are required to operate different types of motor vehicles. This will determine what kinds of trucking jobs you can take. The three CDL classes are:

  • Class A: required for any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided that the GVWR of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Vehicles requiring a Class A license are primarily tractor-trailers for long-distances.
  • Class B: required for any single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,000 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVWR that does not exceed 10,000 pounds. Vehicles requiring a Class B CDL license may include buses, dump trucks, tow trucks, delivery trucks and garbage trucks.
  • Class C: Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that does not meet the criteria of either Class A or Class B, but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, or is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act

In addition to the license, a CDL holder can complete and pass additional testing to receive certain endorsements. These prepare you for specialized trucking jobs. You can gain them along with your CDL or add them later along the way. The endorsements include:

  • T: Double/Triple Trailers- requires knowledge test only
  • P: Passenger- requires knowledge and skills tests
  • N: Tank vehicle- requires knowledge test only
  • H: Hazardous materials- requires knowledge test only
  • X: Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements- requires knowledge test only
  • S: School Bus- requires knowledge and skills tests

Finding a good CDL program

In order to complete CDL classes, you need to find a solid program. You’ll need to consider the quality of training and the cost and practicality of the program before you apply. Most CDL classes are offered by dedicated truck driving schools or community colleges. Some carriers may offer to help you obtain your CDL in return for committing to working there for a period afterwards.

Make sure to consider all your options before deciding on which type of program is best for you

Location and cost are definitely factors- ideally you want to find classes close to you, but if there is a better program further away, it may be a better choice. The cost of a good program is considerable- you can expect to pay between $4,000 to $10,000 for CDL training. There are plenty of grants and other financial aid options available since there is a shortage of drivers, so be sure to do your research before dropping a pretty penny.

The quality of training is the most important thing to consider. Remember that a good program length is several weeks, or about 160-200 hours of training.

If you find programs offering a CDL within a week or two, it’s probably too good to be true

You also want to make sure you get enough behind-the-wheel time in your CDL classes, although observational time is beneficial also. The student to instructor ratio and the quality of the instructors are strong indicators of the quality of the program. Good instructors are usually former/current drivers or industry specialists. Many programs will have some sort of job placement or networking service which can help you land that first truck driving job. You can read more about how to choose a CDL driving school on our previous post about the topic.

Taking the tests

Once you’ve completed your training in CDL classes, it’s time to proceed to the exams. You’ll get the Class A CDL by passing a series of written exams, which differ by state. In most states, these include tests on General Knowledge, Air Brakes, and Combination vehicles. In addition, you must pass a CDL driving test. Usually this is a three-part exam which includes a pre-trip inspection test, basic control skills test, and driving test. This skills test must take place at either a state CDL test site or an approved third-party test site in the testing state. Once the skills test has been passed, a driver can be issued an actual CDL license from that state.

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The truck driver shortage is showing no signs of stopping any time soon. In order to fill the open jobs, the pool of drivers needs to find ways to grow. This is attracting many new job seekers to enter this hot job market. Women are entering training programs and getting their CDL endorsements. So, for women truck drivers seeking their first trucking job, what can they expect?

Training is Important

Women trucker drivers go through the same training and licensing requirements as men do. The difference might be that women might look for programs that have women included in their advertising, websites, and in their list of instructors or staff. Or even a program that has a course specifically geared towards women. This might differentiate a school that will offer a program that will be a better fit for a woman entering the industry vs. one that doesn’t feel welcoming or respectful of women in a trucking job.

Male-Dominated

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up about 6.6% of all truck drivers. And that number has been fairly steady (4.5% – 6%) over the past 15 years. Something women truckers can expect to find is that it is a still a HIGHLY male-dominated profession. Women truck drivers might frequently find that she’s the only female trucker at a truck stop. And she could be the only one in the lot waiting on loads where all the other drivers are men. Women trucker drivers also find that truck stop showers and parking lots might be places to use extra caution at night.

Physical Job

Life on the road is a physical job, and it’s important to stay healthy. Part of that is being prepared for the physical demands of the job as well as the mental aspects as well. Many of the today’s trucks have features and improvements that make them easier to drive and maintain.

But there are other aspects of the jobs that demand women truck drivers stay in good shape. Cleaning out trailers, moving loads around, covering and tacking down cargo, are all things a driver might have to do daily. And this job can be very stressful, so maintaining your mental health is important too. You can find a great ebook resource for staying healthy on the road here.

Whether it’s the lure of the freedom of driving a big rig along miles of open road after years at a desk job, or a change of pace once the kids have moved out, being a CDL truck driver can be a great career for a woman. If you’re looking for a perfect fit truck driving job for you, start here and complete a profile. You can list all your driving preferences and we can help match you with an opportunity tailored specifically to you.

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A truck driver is required to get a HAZMAT endorsement to haul loads that are considered hazardous materials. This takes some extra time, and money to complete the process. There are required TSA background checks, a written test, as well as a physical examination by a DOT doctor. And of course, you already need to possess a CDL truck driver’s license. Deciding to get a HAZMAT endorsement along with your CDL license can be very beneficial to a truck driver. Here are 3 key reasons CDL truck drivers get a HAZMAT endorsement.

1. More Opportunities

Companies that ship any type of flammable, explosive, corrosive or anything else the USDOT has determined to be a “hazardous material”, require drivers that have HAZMAT endorsements. By going through the process to get this endorsement, truckers automatically make their applications more attractive than drivers that don’t have it. It also shows that you’ve gone above and beyond to invest in your career.  This opens doors to jobs that require drivers to have this endorsement. And gives those truckers an advantage when someone is scanning through job applications.

2. More Money

Drivers with additional endorsements often find that they are paid more than drivers without additional endorsements. Drivers with HAZMAT endorsements typically get paid a few cents more per mile. Over time, those pennies can add up to thousands of dollars. The payoff of seeing those paychecks increase  certainly outweigh the up-front costs to pay for a HAZMAT endorsement.

3. Required for Additional Endorsements

Getting a tanker endorsement in some states requires the CDL truck driver also get a HAZMAT endorsement at the same time. This is an X endorsement. Having this X endorsement even further separates a driver from other applicants when filling out a job application. This allows a driver to haul large loads of any type of liquid or gas, many of these being classified as hazardous materials.

hazmat endorsement hazmat materials

Getting your HAZMAT license can be very beneficial to any CDL truck driver. Regardless of what stage you are in your career. With a HAZMAT endorsement the job pools is bigger, the pay is likely higher, and overall earning potential as a trucker increases.

If you’re looking for HAZMAT truck driving jobs, complete your driver profile here, and be sure to include that you have that endorsement. We can match you to a great new job that best fits your lifestyle and driving preferences!

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Nicer weather usually means that road construction season is about switch into high gear. Though driving safely is always a best practice, there are some additional things to be aware of when it comes to driving in a construction zone. A little bit of extra care and planning when trucking through construction zones will ensure that you AND the road workers make it home safely. Here are 3 work zone safety tips to focus on this time of year.

1. Always Be Alert

Expect the Unexpected. Be alert for work zone signage along the side of the road, and the overhead digital signage as well. Watch for workers or flaggers helping to direct traffic. Be prepared for the changes in speed limits and lane closures. Give yourself plenty of time to react and keep an eye out for those that aren’t reacting correctly.

Using your height advantage to see signage and changing traffic patterns ahead gives you an advantage when it comes to work zone safety.

And be sure to stay alert if you drive the same routes daily. A long-term construction project might have daily lane shifts or different road closures.

2. Exercise Defensive Driving Skills

Apply the best driver training and experience here. Quick stops from other drivers ahead often lead to rear-end collisions. Using good defensive driving practices allow truckers to avoid accidents and have plenty of time to stop safely.

In construction zones it’s recommended to use extra caution to prevent accidents that most commonly occur due to road work.

Give a little bit of extra braking room to allow for late mergers or someone reacting poorly to changes in the road.

3. Plan in Advance

An ounce of prevention applies here. Plan routes and timing according to what your GPS app or travel websites indicates are the best. Many times this will be to avoid road work if possible. These often will be a little bit longer but will keep you moving and not stuck in traffic jams due to construction work. And everyone arrives safely at the end of the day.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, almost 30 percent of all work zone crashes involve large trucks.

The number of people killed in work zone crashes involving large trucks has been increasing. Over 1,000 fatalities and over 18,000 injuries have occurred during the last 5 years.

Work Zones might be temporary, and some might be multi-year projects in the same area. A one-day closure for minor repairs or lane painting and a 3-year interchange overhaul should demand the same amount of safety precautions from those using the roads. The construction team is out there working, sometimes around the clock, to keep the roads in good repair and improving for the future of all drivers. Be sure to continue to reference these work zone safety tips and “GIVE ‘EM A BRAKE” as the saying goes!

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cdl driving school

If you’ve decided to become a professional truck driver, finding the right CDL driving school is crucial. Enrolling in a training program is a big investment, and you want to make sure you select the right school for you. Pick a school that will set you up for acing the CDL exam the first time. Here are four factors to consider when choosing a CDL driving school.

1. How is it licensed?

The most important thing to consider is how the training program is licensed by the state’s Department of Education or Department of Motor Vehicles. Only pick a school which is licensed by state regulators so that your credentials will be accepted by all trucking companies. A licensed CDL is the requirement all truck companies look for when hiring new drivers. In addition to being licensed, some driving schools may be certified by third-party organizations. Consider it a bonus if your driving school is aligned with one of these associations. They help ensure that the school meets their additional training standards, which may be higher than those by the state. Three of the major professional driver organizations are the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA), National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools (NAPFTDS), and the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). Ideally, your driving school is certified by at least one of these.

Do some research into what types of licenses the driving school offers. Your license classification will depend on what kind of driving you want to do and the type of truck you want to drive.

Class A certification is the most common and popular, as it is for any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. With a Class A CDL you may be able to drive tractor trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tractor-trailer buses, tanker vehicles, flatbeds, and more. Class B is for a single vehicle with GCWR of 26.001 pounds or more, including straight trucks, most buses, box trucks, and dump trucks. Class C certification is less common and usually for small hazmat vehicles, passenger vans, and small trucks towing a trailer. In addition to the CDL, you might need special endorsements to operate special types of vehicles such as hazmat or tanker endorsement. Think about what kinds of trucks and jobs you want and match them with a CDL driving school which offers those endorsements.

2. How good is the training?

There’s no point investing time and money into a CDL driving school if the training isn’t exceptional. Fortunately, there are some indicators of good programs which you can investigate before enrolling.

One of the most important numbers is the student-to-instructor ratio. A ratio of 3 or 4 students to one instructor is ideal.

You want to be able to benefit from having a few other students in the program to learn along with. Don’t settle for anything beyond a 1-5 ratio. Do some research who the instructors are. Ideally, they are former drivers or current drivers who are teaching as a side gig. Great instructors are skilled drivers but also experts on industry trends, federal regulations, and can give you perspective of the job and lifestyle. There’s no substitute to being taught by someone who has years of hands-on experience in the industry.

Another important metric is the time behind-the-wheel (BTW) where you’re controlling a real truck and not a simulator. There’s no point enrolling in a program if you don’t get significant amount of actual drive time. The more drive time, the better. A solid program will offer at least 27 hours of BTW time for each student. Observation time is important as well- your learning can benefit from watching others drive also.

Don’t forget to consider the program length. Strong programs will be around 160-200 hours in length- that’s about 4 to 5 weeks.

You’ll see ads for schools offering a CDL in a week or two: avoid them! Learning to drive an 80,000 lb tractor-trailer takes time and can’t be rushed within two weeks. Finally, research to make sure the driving school has a high graduation rate. You can research all these things by checking online reviews, the school’s website, and talking to previous graduates and current drivers about the reputation of the driving school.

3. How practical is it?

Finding a great school won’t be any help if it is impractical to enroll. You’ll need to consider cost, location, and your schedule before investing the time and money into the program. You can expect to pay between $4,000 and $10,000 for CDL training. That’s a pretty penny, so you’ll want to make sure you’re in a strong financial position to be able to invest in the driving school. Signing with the lowest tuition can be really tempting, but make sure that the school fits all your criteria before doing that.

There are dozens of truck carriers willing to pay drivers to get their CDL and come work for them. Carriers may cover a portion of your tuition or offer tuition reimbursement after you graduate.

Look into different companies to find the details and don’t be afraid to ask around about financial aid options. There are also various federal and state funding programs, including for veterans, which can help cover the costs.

Try to be flexible about the location of the driving school. If there’s a better school 30 minutes further away, then consider driving the extra distance if you think it is worth it. Even if your preferred school is in the next state, consider if you want to live there temporarily for a few weeks while in the program. You’ll be driving and living all over the country, so this can be good practice to get in the habit. Make sure to confirm that your CDL will be transferable to your state of residency. On the other hand, you may have job or family commitments during the week and can’t take off a few weeks for driving school. In that case, look for a school that offers the training program during nights or weekends. There are many students with other commitments and schedule constraints, so schools will understand that students need flexibility in order to enroll.

4. How will it help me get the first job?

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is job placement.

Your purpose in getting CDL training is a to land a great first job to set you up for a career in trucking. Ask about the driving school’s job placement services.

Many schools will have relationships with different trucking carriers which can help you find the right job for you. Opportunities to connect with visiting recruiters from the carriers upon graduation will be a major advantage in securing the first job. You can even get ahead of the game by narrowing down which companies you’d like to work for and speaking to recruiters to ask about the driving schools you are considering. If they’ve never heard of that school, it’s a good sign you shouldn’t enroll there.

Company-sponsored training programs are an alternative to finding an independent CDL driving school. If you go the company route, you get free training and a job with the company when you graduate. However, you’ll have long training days away from home and have to agree to work for the company sponsoring your training, even if its not the best fit. Consider all your options before you decide on a company-sponsored program versus an independent driving school.

Investing your time and money to start a new career path is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Ensuring that you receive proper training and at a licensed CDL driving school is an unavoidable part of that decision. You’ll want to find the best deal for you that provides good training, is practical, and helps you land your first job, without breaking the bank. Remember these four factors when choosing a CDL driving school.

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efficient-truck-driver

A truck driver’s work and life can be full of inefficiencies. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re losing time and energy because you ended up doing things in the wrong order. Sometimes other people’s schedules don’t match yours. Inefficiency can be annoying, but it can also waste resources like time, money, and fuel. Improving truck driver efficiency means saving more time, money, and energy by doing things in more optimal ways. You’ll feel more productive and get the sense that you’ve hacked some mysterious way of the universe. Here are three simple ways to become a more efficient truck driver.

1. Attempt early pick-up and drop-off

Every time you get a new dispatcher, find out when the load picks up and delivers. This is important because sometimes they’ll ask you to drive a very short distance to pick up a load, but the pick-up time is five hours away. Let’s say you’re only 70 miles away from the pick-up and expect to be there by 1:00 PM. But dispatch says that pick-up time is 5:00 PM, which means you’ll have arrive four hours early and will have extra time to kill. Or you may find yourself arriving at the delivery location several hours early as well.

Yes, you can take a break during this time, but if you’re interested in efficiency you won’t like that option. Instead, always find out if you can load or deliver early.

Your documentation will usually have some notes on this sort of this, but it isn’t always 100% accurate. If you have the shipper/receiver’s contact info, call and ask whether it is an option to load or deliver early. You’d be surprised how often the shipper wants to send out the freight quicker and how often the customer wants to receive is sooner. If you don’t have their contact info, you can contact your dispatcher and ask them to make the same inquiry. Yes, your dispatcher may get annoyed if you do this repeatedly.  But remember that it’s part of their job to manage efficient fleets. A few instances of successfully changing to an early pickup/delivery time will remind your dispatcher that this is possible.

2. Keep everyone updated on available working hours

By now you’re aware that your ETA and PTA times are important to remember and communicate with others. But wait, what are these again?

ETA means estimated time of arrival and PTA stands for projected time of availability.

To make things more confusing, some people might use ETA for estimated time of availability. This is completely different and is more like PTA. What’s the difference? Your estimated time of arrival (ETA) at the receiver location may be 2:00 PM, however you won’t be available right after. It’ll take the customer an hour or two to unload, so your projected time of availability (PTA) is closer to 4:00 PM. But if either the customer or your dispatcher is using ETA to mean the other thing, then they’ll be confused and believe you are free at 2:00 PM instead of 4:00 PM. If you arrive at the customer location the previous night and don’t unload until the morning, there may be a twelve-hour difference between your ETA and PTA! Make sure your shipper, receiver, and dispatcher are all kept up to date on your ETA and PTA. More importantly, coordinate to see if they are all using those terms in the same way. Otherwise your schedule and route will become very confusing!

3. Plan your route and truck stops

You’ll find trucking to be easier once you have a tentative idea of where and when to stop instead of playing it by ear.

When you do close for the day, consider stopping at smaller or independent truck stops instead of the big chains (Pilot, Love’s etc). Parking fills up quicker at the nationwide chains and it can be difficult to find a spot.

The reason for this is that most trucking companies are getting fuel discounts from the big chains, so they become required fuel stops for drivers. While there is no requirement to park there for the night, most truckers will do so because they’re already there! Parking spaces at smaller truck stops won’t fill up as quickly—you could easily refuel at a chain and then go elsewhere to park for the night. That being said, if you’re looking for laundry, showers, or other amenities, then the chains are your best solutions. It all depends on your needs for the day. Some of the bigger stops have laundromats. If you run into these wash your dirty clothes even if you have plenty of clean clothes. These premium stops are few and far between, so it’s most efficient to utilize them whenever you find them.

How are you going to know your options for stopping, fueling, or parking? Sure the dispatcher has some information, and you have a handy GPS app, but are those enough? Every trucker knows that both dispatch and GPS will fail them sooner or later. Build redundancies by picking up some essential books. The National Truck Stop Directory is an essential guide to the truck stops you’ll hear about, and more importantly, all the ones you won’t hear about. Another gem is The Next Exit, which documents every exit on Interstates in the country. Finally, the Rand McNally Road Atlas is a fantastic guide to turn to when your GPS provides sketchy directions. Planning your route and schedule through these resources will help you locate where you should stop at the end of your day.

Takeaways

The trucking job and lifestyle usually has many competing demands to juggle. Trying to tackle them all without a method can lead to losing time, money, and other resources. Try out some of these methods to maximize your schedule and route efficiency. You may find that using route planning resources, communicating about available working hours, and trying for early pick-ups and drop-offs will make you a much more efficient truck driver.

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