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commercial truck driving
Are you considering making the career switch to commercial truck driving? A CDL job is not just about the work for drivers who take pride in their profession. Driving is a lifestyle. It’s a commitment. It’s about feeling you belong and you’re valued. You decide if commercial truck driving is right for you. We’ll help you find the job that fits your skills, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

1. What Is It?

Commercial truck driving is any job where you are driving a commercial truck. While most people think of the 53’ semi-trucks that you see on the highway, commercial driving also includes school buses, garbage trucks, straight trucks, and more. Typically, commercial driving means hauling goods or people (in the case of passenger vehicles) from Point A to Point B. There are tons of different commercial driving jobs, and your day-to-day depends on your specialty and run type. 

2. Types of Jobs

Type of Run

The first distinction in trucking jobs is the type of run. Your type of run determines how far you typically drive from home and how many nights you spend on the road. Local drivers are usually home daily and stay in a relatively close geographic range. These drivers tend to spend more time on surface streets and do regular deliveries to customers. Over the Road or OTR drivers are the other end of the scale. These drivers are often on the road for several weeks at a time and may run loads from coast to coast and anywhere in between.

Regional drivers fall in between local and OTR drivers. They are usually home several times a week but also spend some nights on the road. Their geographic range might include several states in close proximity to their company’s home terminal. Last but not least, are dedicated trucking jobs. Dedicated drivers have a set route and deliver to the same customers on a consistent schedule. 

Type of Haul

cattle haulerThe second classification of commercial drivers is in type of haul. Depending on the type of goods you haul, you need a different type of truck. Many rookie drivers start with dry van or refrigerated (reefer) trucks because they are a good way to get experience without too many extra details to worry about. These are the 53’ box-shaped semi-trucks that are so common. Dry vans haul non-perishable goods, and reefer trucks carry loads that are temperature sensitive.

Tanker trucks haul liquid or dry bulk goods such as milk, sugar, or sand. Drivers need a Tanker endorsement to drive this type of truck, and there is an additional endorsement if you want to haul hazardous materials like chemicals or gasoline. Flatbed trucks haul a wide range of loads on trailers that are completely flat. Flatbed drivers often have to secure their loads with tarps and require some physical labor. There are also several types of specialty freight such as auto hauling, intermodal trucking, and livestock transport, but many of these jobs require a few years of experience. 

Type of Driver

two men in a truckThe final big decision to make is what kind of driver you want to be. As you can probably guess from the name, company drivers work exclusively for one company. Company drivers can work solo or in a team of two people. Starting as a company driver can be a good way to learn the ropes of a job without also having to run a business. It is also a good way to build your reputation as a good driver. 

Some drivers work as company drivers for their entire careers. Others choose to work for themselves. If you want to make your own decisions about when you are home, where you run, and what you haul, become an owner operator. These drivers run under their own authority, and they own their own equipment and negotiate for loads. Owner operators must be confident running a business as well as meeting all regulatory requirements.

Lease purchase drivers work with a company and put money down to start paying for their own truck. Lease purchase drivers work for one company, and at the end of the lease, these drivers will own their trucks. Programs that offer lease purchase are a good way for some drivers to work toward becoming an owner operator. 

3. Job Outlook

The job outlook for commercial truck driving is quite strong. There is a high demand for quality drivers, and there is a shortage of drivers available. Many companies are willing to hire new drivers, and drivers with a few years of experience and a clean record will be able to choose from top jobs that are a good fit for their skills and lifestyle.

One of the most important questions when you change jobs is the pay. Commercial driving can be quite well-paid. It all depends on your type of job. Typically OTR positions pull a higher wage than regional or local jobs, and NTI, the National Transportation Institute, anticipates that wages for all three will rise over the next 36 months. 

NTI anticipates that wages will rise for OTR, regional, and local jobs over the next 36 months.

Drivers can be paid in a variety of ways, so it’s important to look at total compensation when you compare job offers. To start, there are many types of truck driver pay. Some companies pay drivers by the mile, others by the hour, some by the load, and still others will pay with a salary. In addition to your base pay, company drivers frequently earn bonuses and have benefits included. These can add a significant amount of money to your bank account! Even beyond pay, consider things like home time as part of your compensation. If two companies pay the same wages but one gets you home more often, that might be a better fit for you, even though the money is the same. The bottom line is, look for a company that meets your needs and fits your lifestyle preferences.

4. How to Get Started

Once you decide that commercial truck driving is the career for you, the first step is to get your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). To be a professional truck driver, you need to be at least 18 years old. To drive interstate or hazmat routes, you must be at least 21. You will need a CDL A or CDL B. A CDL A license is the most universal because it also allows you to drive most CDL B and CDL C jobs. That said, it takes less time and money to earn a CDL B. Learn more about each license type and decide what is best for you. You will also need to consider whether to get any CDL endorsements for specialized loads such as hazmat or tanker. Once you have figured out what type of program you need, find a certified driving school where you can get started.

After you have your CDL, you are nearly ready to hit the road with your first job! As part of your CDL training, you will have completed your DOT physical fitness test.  Before you can officially hit the road, you will need to register with the FMCSA Clearinghouse. This database tracks positive drug and alcohol tests to identify unqualified drivers. As of January 2020, all drivers must be registered with the Clearinghouse for future employment. After that, the only thing left is to find your first job!

While the job search can be overwhelming, we’re here to help. Drive My Way partners with companies that are ready to hire new drivers and experienced pros alike! We’ll help you find a job that matches your skills and lifestyle preferences.

truck driver at loading dock

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trucking questions

Truck drivers need to consider many factors before deciding on a trucking job. Pay, home time, type of runs, and company policies all make a difference. Ideally, the recruiter is forthcoming about all the information a trucker needs to make their decision. In the case that recruiters aren’t being as transparent as you’d like, truck drivers need to ask the right questions. You don’t want to be blindsided, or worse, tricked, into accepting a job which doesn’t work for you. We put together 25 trucking questions drivers should ask their recruiter before taking a job with their company. We’ve organized these into different categories: about pay, operations, equipment, and the company. All of these are important, but some drivers will find some questions more important than others.

Questions about compensation and pay

One of the most important considerations for drivers are issues around pay and benefits. You want to make sure the company is offering a pay package fulfills your needs. Find out all the details about pay rates, bonuses, and expected raises. Companies have different ways of offering home time and vacation time too, so you want to make sure you understand the details.

Finally, you’ll likely end up negotiating on some of these factors. Have a list of non-negotiable items, so the company knows they are important to you.

Truck driver Tamera Sturgis shared this recommendation with us, “Have a non-negotiable list and negotiable one. Don’t defer from your non-negotiable list or you won’t be happy down the road. Once the list is prioritized they can begin to ask questions and make notes. Make sure the items that are verbally agreed to are legit. Wouldn’t hurt to get it in writing. If the recruiting department balks on giving you anything in writing then chances are they are over-promising and will under-deliver.”

Here are trucking questions on compensation and pay you should ask your recruiter:

  • How does the company pay? What is the max rate of pay for drivers?
  • How does the company handle raises? When and how can I expect a raise?
  • What types of benefits do you offer? When do they kick in?
  • Are there any bonuses for safety, fuel, sign-on, performance, driver referral, etc?
  • What are the details of your home time policy? And PTO?
  • Can you guarantee all the things on my non-negotiable list?

Questions about operations

Many truck drivers’ concerns are over nitty-gritty operational details. The type of freight they haul and the runs they make. Are the regional or local? Dedicated? Truckers need to know how many miles they should be expected to drive. Some drivers want to make sure they have no touch freight, while others don’t mind unloading. Many drivers despise forced dispatch, while some others appreciate the constant support. Knowing the company’s terminals will also give you an idea of their operational reach and effectiveness. Here are trucking questions about operations you should ask your recruiter:

  • What kind of freight do you haul?
  • In which states do you operate? What kind of runs do you have?
  • How do you calculate driver miles?
  • What is the average length of load? What is the average number of miles per tractor?
  • How many terminals does the company have and where are they located?
  • How much of your freight is drop and hook? Are drivers required to physically unload freight?
  • Is there forced dispatch?
  • How are you managing the ELD mandate?

Questions about equipment

One of the biggest drivers’ concerns is over equipment. If carriers possess newer models, it makes life easier for truckers. Many truck drivers don’t want to be left with the responsibility of maintenance for the truck in addition to their regular duties. Make sure the carrier doesn’t have outdated equipment which is falling apart. Since a driver’s truck is like a home away from home, it is important to feel comfortable in the cabin. Inquiring about truck amenities, especially regarding sleeping and meals, will give you valuable information. Here are trucking questions about equipment to ask your recruiter:

  • What types of truck does the company use? How old are they?
  • Am I expected to take care of truck maintenance?
  • Are drivers able to take equipment home with them during home time?
  • What amenities do the trucks come with? Refrigerators? Single or double bunks?

Questions about the company

Besides important questions about the operations and benefits, drivers should ask general questions about the company to get a sense of who they will be working for. Many drivers say they are looking for a family-oriented company, which will respect them as a person and not just a disposable number. If the company’s culture is strong, it can help drivers feel a sense of belonging and give more fulfillment to the job. If turnover is high, or there are many trucks sitting idle, it doesn’t reflect strongly on the company. Here are trucking questions about the company to ask the recruiter:

  • How many employees does the company have? How many drivers?
  • What is the ratio of driver managers or load planners to drivers?
  • What is the company’s turnover rate?
  • How many empty or idle trucks do you have right now?
  • How long has the average driver been with the company?
  • What is the passenger policy? The pet policy?
  • How would you describe the company’s culture? What do your current drivers say about it?

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How to Find the Best Trucking Jobs for YouFinding a new trucking job usually isn’t too tough for a good driver. But finding the perfect fit trucking jobs for any driver can take a little bit more effort. There’s plenty of job boards, and social media postings out there for drivers to sift through. As well as the seemingly endless emails and phone calls truck drivers get daily. It can turn into information overload, with no real path to the right answer. With all of the information out there, here’s 4 ways to find the best trucking jobs for you.

1. Know what you want

“Job prospects are projected to be very good for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers with the proper training and a clean driving record.” —Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you’ve just started looking into being a driver, or if you’ve been trucking for 20+ years, you need to know what type of job is the best trucking job for you right now. As time passes, things change, and your personal and professional needs change too. A new driver might be all about logging miles and making money. A more seasoned driver might be needing a change to be closer to home most of the time. In any case, be sure to keep a log of all the things that must be a part of your next job. As well as all of the things that you’d never want to do again.

Once you’ve got that list of preferences dialed-in, be sure to be clear in your conversations, or in your electronic profiles, of exactly what you want. And then don’t settle for less than that!

2. Do your homework

Truckers subscribe to various podcasts, video channels and social media outlets that provide content about all things in a truckers life. Use these channels to help you research your next job. Find out who pays well and who doesn’t. Listen to other drivers when they talk about benefits and how well they’re treated by their company. Follow the blogs and newsletter that give you data about retention and longevity with a company. The right opportunity is there for you to find the best trucking jobs for your next move.

3. Pay attention at truck stops

A quick stop and a stroll through the parking lot at a truck stop can be an opportunity to learn a lot. Talking with other drivers, checking out carriers’ equipment, and otherwise being immersed in “what’s out there”, can be a great way to find the next place you want to work. Or conversely, the places you should avoid.

Old equipment that needs a lot of work or listening to drivers complain about their working conditions give you all you need to know about where the wrong jobs might be. Take note, and be sure to avoid their calls and emails.

4. Create a profile with Drive My Way

One great way to do make sure you don’t miss a great match is to keep your profile and preference current on DriveMyWay.com. Once logged in, you can keep your changing preferences about types of driving, how much time away from home and other personal preferences up-to-date. So when a perfect fit job gets listed, you can be the first to know. If you haven’t yet filled out a profile, you can get started here. It’s fast and is a great first step to changing the way you look for your next trucking gig.

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