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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 company closesThe past few years have been hard for many in the trucking industry, and several companies have closed with virtually no warning. Celadon Group, New England Motor Freight, and Falcon Transport made big headlines (along with several others), but countless smaller companies have also shut their doors without warning. There are countless reasons for the shutdown, but as a driver, if your trucking company closes suddenly, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Here’s what you need to know to navigate your next steps.

1. The Warning Signs

Warning signs don’t help if your company has already closed its doors, but sometimes you might be able to spot a few warning signs before a shutdown. When a trucking company closes, it’s usually because of financial strain. So, unsurprisingly, the warning signs are also usually about money. If you start noticing inconsistent freight or that vendors aren’t getting paid on time, start watching for other red flags. 

As a driver, you probably won’t be the first person to be notified of major business changes or shutdowns. Management may hear about pending shutdowns or other changes more quickly, so keep an eye on staffing changes. If you notice that your bosses start interviewing elsewhere, it might be time to ask why. Similarly, if your company starts eliminating job perks, it could be a sign that money is tight. Often companies try to save money by scrimping on the “extras.” 

truck at gas stationThe biggest red flags are also the most obvious. If your paycheck bounces, that’s a big sign that something isn’t right with your company. Along the same lines, if you’re fueling up and have a fuel card declined, that is a huge red flag, especially if your company can’t easily clear up the situation. Another sign of trouble on the horizon is filing for bankruptcy. While some companies do make a comeback after filing for bankruptcy, that’s often not the case. If your employer is making news headlines for filing for bankruptcy, that might mean your job has a limited lifespan. It’s a good time to start looking for other opportunities.

2. Immediate Steps to Take

Hindsight is 20/20, so sometimes the warning signs are only clear after your trucking company closes. If you are on the road and get blindsided with news about a company closure, there are a few important steps you can take. 

safe truck stopFirst and most importantly, stay level-headed. This is a stressful situation, and you probably have a lot of questions. As soon as you realize what has happened, find a safe place to stop. Then, read any communication from your employer carefully. Follow any final instructions they send you. These directions may indicate whether to finish your current delivery and where to leave your truck. You may still get paid for finishing your current route. If there are no final instructions from your employer, consider what is best for you in that situation and how you can move forward.

Once you have handled any immediate concerns, start planning your way home. Some companies, especially large ones, will help fund your way home. If you get stranded far from home and your company is unable to help, there are some support resources available to help. The St. Christopher’s Truckers Fund is one example. The Truckers Fund is a non-profit that helps truckers with financial assistance. Drivers can apply for aid, and they may be able to help support you and your family in difficult times. 

3. Planning Longer Term

displaced driver resourcesIf your trucking company closes, there is a lot to think about, and it can be overwhelming. Once you are safely home and have taken a moment to clear your head, start looking forward. In the short term, there are a few things to take care of. Drive My Way’s Displaced Driver Resources can walk you through the process of filing for unemployment if you choose. We also have details on how to make sure that your health care continues and disability insurance does not end.

If you have a rainy day fund, consider using some of it during this time. Times like job transitions are exactly what you’ve been saving for. 

Once you have resolved any immediate concerns, it’s time to start job searching. Especially after going through a company closing, you might have lingering frustration, hurt, or resentment toward trucking. That’s completely reasonable. When your trucking company closes, it can be quite a roller coaster. Prioritize mental and emotional health for your whole family. When you do start talking to recruiters for other jobs, it’s ok to explain your situation and ask tactful questions about company stability. Any recruiter worth their salt won’t see the past company closure as a poor reflection on your skills as a driver. When you’re looking for your next job, Drive My Way can help you find a company that fits your skills and lifestyle preferences. You’ll be back on the road in no time.

truck driver at loading dock

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Dump truck jobsDump truck jobs are great positions for drivers who want to stay close to home and are happy to be out rain or shine. Dump truck work includes a big range in type of load. Some drivers haul garbage, but others haul paving materials and construction supplies like dirt, gravel, sand, or coal. If you’re new to the dump truck world or are thinking about switching to become a dump truck driver, we have everything you need to find your first job.

1. How To Get Started With A Dump Truck

License and Certifications

As with most types of truck driving, one of the first steps for starting with a dump truck is licensing. Professional dump truck drivers need either a CDL A or CDL B license to get started. A CDL B license will take less time and has a lower cost, but a CDL A allows drivers to accept a greater range of jobs. Before signing up for a CDL licensing program, do a little research to decide which type of license is better for you. 

In addition to a CDL license, there are a few certifications that can be helpful for dump truck drivers. The Dump Truck Operations and Dump Truck Tailgate Removal and Installation CBT Certifications can make drivers more competitive as job candidates. Hazmat, Passenger, and Air Brakes endorsements can also benefit dump truck drivers. Each of these additional certifications opens up job possibilities and makes you a more competitive driver candidate. 

Types of Trucks

As you get started in dump truck driving, take some time to get to know the types of dump trucks. There are a lot of options here. The most common type of truck, a standard dump truck, is a truck chassis with a dump truck body on the frame. The back of the bed is hinged. Also, there is a hydraulic ram under the body that raises the bed to dump loads. We won’t get into all the details here, but there are many other types of trucks that drivers use for specific types of loads or in specific geographies. To see them all, check out this list

Job Details

While the work for dump truck jobs isn’t a light load, there are many benefits to hauling dump truck loads. Typically, dump truck work is local, so most drivers are home daily. For drivers with a family or who are tired of long nights on the road, this is a huge advantage of driving dump trucks. That said, drivers should be prepared to work rain or shine! Depending on where you live, there can be a wide range of weather conditions. As a dump truck driver, you’ll work in all of them. For drivers who are more social, dump truck jobs can be a great fit. Many drivers work with a lot of the same people consistently, so there is a sense of camaraderie on the job. 

2. Company Driver or Owner Operator? 

Company Driver

Dump truck driver Travis

Travis, Dump Truck Driver

A big decision to make if you are getting started in dump trucking is whether you want to be a company driver or an owner operator. If you’re new to the dump truck world, starting out as a company driver can help you get experience while having a steady job. We asked Travis, a dump truck driver from a small company in Southern Oregon, if he had any tips for new drivers.

“Just be confident in yourself as a driver. Take every bit of criticism and knowledge people want to pass down. Research and watch some videos on YouTube just to get some basic knowledge. Try and find a smaller company that will be more apt to help and give drivers a chance,” shared Travis.

Owner Operator

On the other hand, if you are ready to jump in as an owner operator, you will have more flexibility. You can decide what jobs fit your schedule and meet your financial needs. Before you start, make sure you are financially ready. The biggest costs for new dump truck owner operators are in equipment. You will need to decide what type of truck is best for you and will help you get the jobs you need. While a truck is typically the biggest upfront cost, make sure you also budget time and money for licensing and smaller costs like fuel and any technology you want in your truck. 

We spoke with Greg, an experienced owner operator for his company Greg Melendez Trucking, about how to find dump truck work.

“I started in ’99 and the one thing I learned was to NEVER turn down the first job and NEVER cancel due to a second job that might be better. Take the first job and work it and the person your working for will appreciate it, not like the guy that cancels thinking the second job offer is better cause most [of] the time it’s worse. Honesty goes a long way in this type of work. The more honest you are the more respect you’ll get in return,” shared Greg.

Becoming a dump truck owner operator is not cheap, but for some drivers, the payoffs in money and time are well worth it.

3. How to Find Work

Dump truck work

Photo from Dump Truck Driver, Travis

If you take the big step to become a dump truck driver, being able to find jobs is a lifeline! To start your search, use sites that partner with multiple employers. Drive My Way can save you endless hours of job searching by matching you with a company that fits your qualifications and personal preferences. 

If you start your job search in person, it’s all about connecting with the right people. Networking is the key to success. For local work, start with a drive! Keep an eye out for construction companies in your area that might need dump truck workers. Look for developments in your town and nearby and find out what company is paying for the work. Then, reach out to that company and see if they need extra trucks. If you want more information on a company before you reach out, go to safer.fmcsa.dot.gov and look at company snapshots. Enter the name or US DOT number to look at the fleet size and the driver number. If there are more trucks than drivers, that may mean they are looking for people to fill those jobs!

To expand your job search beyond what you find on a drive around town, start looking for construction zones. Then, find out which companies won those construction bids. For local work, contact your local government and find out what companies have contracts. Then, get in touch and ask if any of those companies are looking for sub-contractors. Dump truck owner operators can also bid on state construction contracts. However, these bids are often harder to win because many construction companies are looking for companies with multiple trucks. Start your search close to home, then make your circle bigger if needed.

truck driver at loading dock

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hot shot trucker

Picture from Hot Shot Trucker, Tyler

Hot shot trucking is a little different from a typical CDL tractor-trailer job. For a start, hot shot drivers use very different equipment and make specialized runs on a short time frame. Usually hot shot loads are smaller, and they take time-sensitive loads to delivery locations. Hot shot drivers can take loads anywhere from across town to across the country. For most drivers though, local and regional routes are the most common. The startup costs for hot shot trucking are a little lower than for owner operators, so it can be a good way to be your own boss in the trucking industry.

What Is Hot Shot Trucking?

As the name suggests, hot shot trucking is all about speed. Hot shot drivers take loads of materials that must be delivered to a specific location as soon as possible. These types of loads first became common making runs between oil part manufacturers and the oilfields. Now, there’s a wide range of materials that hot shot drivers haul. Just a few of the more common types of loads are construction equipment, agricultural equipment, industrial machinery, and other heavy loads.

You might be wondering what the difference is between hot shot trucking and expedited freight. Both are about speed, right? While both jobs are all about getting loads quickly to where they need to go, there are some differences. Hot shot truckers drive smaller loads in smaller trucks to deliver heavy equipment. Usually, hot shot drivers find their loads on load boards. On the other hand, expedited shipping means delivering loads faster than they’re usually sent. The equipment varies, and expedited shipping vehicles are always on standby for a specific company. Speed is the common ground hot shot trucking and expedited freight, but otherwise, the two jobs are pretty different.

Hot Shot Equipment

Unlike most CDL jobs, hot shot trucking does not require driving a tractor trailer. Most hot shot drivers use a heavy-duty pickup truck. Class 3Class 5 trucks are the go-to picks. Then, drivers usually pull some type of flatbed trailer. That could include a bumper pull, gooseneck, lowboy, or deckover trailer. Each trailer type has pros and cons, so it’s important to read up on the differences and decide what’s best for you. 

hot shot trucker Earl

Earl, Hot Shot Trucker

One advantage of hot shot trucking is that the initial costs of equipment are usually lower than becoming a tractor trailer owner operator. But, as drivers will be quick to tell you, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap or immediate. We talked to Earl, a hot shot trucker with his company, JEPPS Enterprises, and asked if he had any advice for drivers considering starting in hot shot trucking.

“Cost is high to get started. And once you get all your paperwork to start taking loads. They make you wait 90 days b4 most brokers will let you take a load for them,” shared Earl.

There are several big costs that you should plan for. The pickup truck and flatbed trailer will probably be your biggest starting expenses. There will also be other miscellaneous equipment like chains and binders that you’ll want to have on hand. Finally, make sure you leave room in the budget for the paperwork. Registration, insurance, and legal fees (if you decide to become an LLC) should all be part of your budget plan.

Pay and Home Time

If you are a hot shot trucker, you are running under your own authority. That means that you have some say in where you run and how often. Most hot shot jobs are local or regional routes, so drivers get frequent home time. Running under your own authority also means that bringing home a paycheck is largely based on your hustle. Typically, hot shot drivers earn pay by the mile. Rates change from haul to haul, so hot shot drivers are regularly negotiating their pay. Typical rates can range from $1-$2 a mile depending on the load, location, and haul. 

How Do I Get Started?

If you’re ready to get started as a hot shot driver, grab a computer to start the paperwork. Hot shot trucking doesn’t require a CDL for loads under 10,000lbs, but you will need a Motor Carrier Authority Number and FMCSA approval. To get approval, drivers will need to meet the FMCSA fitness regulations, so make sure you check their website. Because Hot shot drivers run on their own authority, organization is key. That means you will also keep all your own records, so it’s important to be very detailed. 

hot shot trucker Tyler

Tyler, Hot Shot Trucker

Once you have proper licensing, registration, and equipment, you’re ready to look for work. Many people get their hauls from load boards

However hot shot driver Tyler from his company, Dark Horse Hotshot LLC, shares this advice, “Probably my biggest tip I can offer people is to go out and get their own customers. Do not rely on the load boards and brokers. Grow your customer base and grow your business.”

Like any job, hot shot trucking is about building relationships. Load boards are a great place to get started, but as you grow in the business, you’ll build a reputation. With a little experience under your belt, you can be proactive in reaching out to customers to get the loads you want.

truck driver at loading dock

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dot drug test

DOT Drug tests aren’t going to win a contest for the best part about trucking any time soon, but all drivers have to take them. DOT Drug tests are required for all “safety-sensitive” employees, and that includes all CDL holders. Normally, the drug tests are pretty routine, but the possibility of failing a drug test can be pretty nerve-wracking. Hopefully, you will pass every DOT Drug test, but if not, here’s what you need to know to get back on your feet.

What is the DOT Drug Test?

The DOT Drug test started with the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act. Essentially, in 1991, the Department of Transportation saw a need for federally regulated drug testing to keep traveling public workers safe. Since then, CDL drivers and other designated employees have to regularly take DOT Drug tests.

Everywhere in the United States, the drug tests are non-invasive and test for a standard list of substances. The drug test looks for evidence of Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates (any opium and codeine substances), Amphetamines and Methamphetamines, and Phencyclidine (PCP). Each of these substances has a cutoff concentration, and drivers must be below that limit. Drug tests are typically done with a hair or urine test, and saliva or breath tests are used for alcohol. 

When Do Drivers Take the Drug Test?

There are a few times where you can count on getting a DOT Drug test. The first is for a new job. Any time you are starting a new position as a CDL driver, you can count on a DOT drug test. Employers can also test when they have reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In this case, their concerns must be based on legitimate observations. That could include appearance, smell, behavior, or similar tip-offs. Finally, employers give random drug tests on a quarterly basis. This doesn’t mean that you will get tested every quarter, but it means that someone will. 

According to DOT regulations, when on duty, drivers are prohibited from specific behaviors including:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol
  • Drug use (including residual amounts in your body)
  • Refusing a DOT Drug test.

What If I Don’t Pass?

If you fail or refuse a DOT drug test, there will be several consequences. You will likely be removed from your job immediately. Employers aren’t required to wait for the final results from the Medical Review Officer (MRO), so you will typically be asked to step away from your job right away. In some cases, you could lose your license or driving endorsements. At the end of the day, the consequences will be a little different depending on your company and your employment agreement. If you believe it was a false positive because of medications or another factor, reach out immediately! You will not be able to give a second sample, but you can ask that the sample is retested. You will need a follow-up appointment and proof of your prescription to validate your claim.

How Do I Get Back To Work?

If you fail or refuse a drug test, there is a separate process for moving forward. While you will likely be asked to immediately step away from your job, that doesn’t mean you will never be able to return to driving. Typically, after drivers fail a drug test, they work closely with a qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) for several months as part of a Return to Duty process. The SAP plans a program that may include some type of rehab and/or education. At this stage, it’s no longer in the hands of your employer. Ultimately, the decisions of the SAP are final. Once the SAP confirms that the driver is healthy and has completed the rehabilitation program, drivers may be eligible to return to work with their previous or a new employer.

Will This Stay on My Record?

Failed DOT Drug tests are recorded in the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Refusals to take a drug test are also documented in the Clearinghouse. The SAP will also stay in touch with drivers who fail or refuse a drug test. Typically, the SAP will follow up with the driver six times in the 12 months after the failed test. Drivers may also be required to take additional drug tests up to five years after the initial failed test.

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safety bonus

A good safety bonus is always a welcome addition to a paycheck. Not all companies have the same criteria for what they expect from drivers. However, there are several best practices that will help keep you safe no matter what you haul or who you drive for. Our list includes some of the most common expectations we’ve seen from companies.

1. Every Company Is Different

Safety bonuses are a nice boost to a paycheck, but the bottom line is, it’s a bonus. Companies don’t have to give drivers that money. There’s also a lot of different philosophies between companies. Some offer large bonuses that make up a good chunk of change. Others give smaller bonuses that are more like a pat on the back. The frequency of payment also depends entirely on the company. Some might give bonuses quarterly, while others might stick to an annual bonus.

2. Safety With Your Truck

Truck maintenance and repairs are an important part of truck safety, and they can help keep you on track for a safety bonus. Make sure to take your truck in for regular preventative maintenance. Those little problems that can probably wait until later might eventually become big problems. Also, always perform and document pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Make sure your boss knows that you are diligent in caring for your vehicle. Keeping your tractor in good condition goes a long way toward safety on the road.

3. Safety On The Ground

As any experienced driver knows, truck safety starts before you reach your tractor. It’s important to have a plan for your next route. Find the balance between timely deliveries and cautious driving. Make sure to allow time for unexpected incidents, especially in poor weather or when you know there are construction zones on your route. If something comes up that will delay your delivery, get in touch as soon as possible.

Find the balance between timely deliveries and cautious driving.

Some companies may look at other parts of your driving record when deciding on a safety bonus, For example, drivers should not have any hours of service violations. If you find yourself in a forced dispatch situation that would violate HOS rules, refuse the load. It’s illegal to force dispatch that violates HOS rules. A safety bonus could also look at drug tests or days absent from work. 

4. Safety On The Road

Safety on the road is all about accident prevention. All of the basics you learned early on are the same things that will help you get that safety bonus. Use turn signals. Maintain a safe following distance. Keep scanning every 8-10 seconds. Don’t get pulled over for a speeding ticket (or anything else), and make sure your record is clear from preventable accidents. All of these are fundamental safety tips that are tried and true for a reason. 

Earn a driver safety bonus

Whenever possible, make sure to eliminate or at least reduce distractions while driving. Whether it’s a phone, the radio, or another piece of technology, use it safely when you’re behind the wheel. Driving distraction-free is especially important when you’re maneuvering in tight spaces. Whether it’s backing into a loading dock or navigating tight city streets, these are areas of increased work accidents. Loading and unloading zones may have vehicles, people, and all kinds of other obstacles or distractions in your path. Stay alert to your surroundings, and don’t hesitate to ask for other vehicles or people to move if there’s not enough space. Safety bonuses are most important to you as a driver, so put yourself in a position to be successful.

5. Benefits of a Clean Driving Record

A clean driving record will leave you in a better position for almost any job. To start, good driving can give you an extra pay bump from a safety bonus at your current company. It will also give you better hiring prospects for almost any job in the future. In addition, there are some trucking jobs where safety is even more important such as tanker hazmat loads. A clean driving record will open doors for these types of jobs if you decide to apply for them in the future.

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dedicated truck driver
For many dedicated truck drivers, the job is part truck driving expert and part customer service guru. In trucking, a dedicated driver is more than someone who is loyal to their job. Dedicated drivers are a specific route designation. Sisbroinic.com clarifies that dedicated positions are “when a driver operates in a specific area, delivering freight to the same customer on a set schedule.” Essentially, a dedicated truck driver can expect to work closely with the same customers on a route and schedule that will not change frequently. The level of interaction with the customer may vary based on the position, but your route will be consistent. The nature of dedicated trucking jobs means that they are often (but not always!) centered in urban areas.

Home Time

One of the big advantages of being a dedicated truck driver is consistency in many areas of your job. That includes more consistent home time. Many dedicated drivers are home multiple times a week and sometimes daily. Unlike regional drivers, dedicated drivers don’t always stay within a specific regional geography. That said, like regional drivers, many dedicated drivers are home regularly.

Even better, because routes are relatively set, dedicated drivers are more likely to have a schedule that doesn’t change a lot. Once you’re assigned a shift as a dedicated driver, the assumption is that you will keep working with that customer indefinitely. So, dedicated drivers often get frequent home time and a schedule that they can plan around. Bring on the birthday parties and weekend plans!

Route Predictability

Route consistency is one of the top perks for dedicated trucking jobs. Once you have an established group of customers, dedicated drivers drive the same route. This means you can get very efficient in your workload. There may still be delays because of weather, construction, or other surprises, but you’ll always know where you’re going. 

Azricam, Dedicated Driver for J.B. Hunt

Azricam, Dedicated Driver for J.B. Hunt

Azricam, a dedicated truck driver for J.B. Hunt shared this advice for dedicated truck drivers on how to make the most of the job both on and off the clock.

“Some basic advice of always having food and water in the truck, make sure the bed is comfortable, and (as a gamer) have some stuff to preoccupy you while you’re not driving. I have the Nvidia GeForce app so I can play my games on my phone. Also, get a decent dash cam, it’ll save you lots of hassle because the company dash cams are not the greatest,” shared Azricam.

For some drivers, dedicated trucking sounds like a dream job. But, if reading this makes you fall asleep at the wheel from boredom, OTR trucking might be a better fit for you. The trucking industry has enough variety that there are jobs that appeal to just about everyone.

Solid Relationships

If you’re on a dedicated route, customer relationships are a top priority. Being polite to customers is always a job expectation. It becomes even more critical when you will see that customer regularly! In many cases, dedicated routes are a great opportunity to show off strong customer service skills and build rapport.

Even if you haul no touch freight and don’t speak with the customer regularly, dedicated drivers need to prioritize the customer through timely, reliable deliveries.

For that customer, you are the face of your company. They see you regularly. As a result, they will be more comfortable sharing praise and areas of improvement as they get to know you. If you are a people person and enjoy getting to know people on the job, dedicated routes are a great choice.

How to Become a Dedicated Truck Driver

Like most trucking jobs, the first step to becoming a dedicated truck driver is a CDL license. Once you have your license, consider getting some experience under your belt before applying to dedicated trucking jobs. It is possible to find a dedicated job as either a new or experienced driver, but some companies prefer at least one year of OTR driving experience. Once you have some experience, make sure to find the right company for you. Since you will be working closely with customers, find a company that matches your expectations and work preferences.

truck driver at loading dock

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cdl requirements for trucking
If you are ready to make the change to trucking, there are several CDL requirements to keep in mind. There are different types of commercial driving licenses and regulations can vary based on state. Also, make sure you meet the basic requirements and do some research on driving schools. A little preparation beforehand will get you off to a good start in trucking!

1. Who needs a CDL?

People who operate large commercial vehicles need a commercial driving license (CDL). That includes truck drivers! There are three main types of CDL: A, B, and C. 

  • CDL A: For drivers who want to operate vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 pounds. That includes tractor trailers. 
  • CDL B: For drivers who want to operate a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of less than 10,000 pounds. 
  • CDL C: For drivers who want to operate a commercial vehicle with a GVWR that is less than 26,000 pounds and transports hazardous materials or 16+ passengers.

Class A licenses are the most universal license type. Drivers with a CDL A are also qualified for CDL B and CDL C jobs. A CDL A is a bigger time and money investment than the other license types, but the payoff is well worth it for many drivers.

2. Basic Requirements

Before you get started in a CDL program, there are a few basic requirements. First, you must have a non-commercial driver’s license and some previous driving experience. Next, you must be at least 18 years of age to earn a CDL. To operate across state lines or carry hazardous materials, drivers must be at least 21 years old. In addition to age and license expectations, drivers have to meet physical and medical standards. Many states have specific rules, so make sure that you check the regulations for your state. As of February 7, 2022, entry-level driver training will also be one of the CDL requirements for drivers. 

3. Do I Need a Driving School?

If you are a new driver interested in getting your CDL, there is a lot of information to go through. One of the big questions is whether or not to get your license through a driving school. The short answer is: it’s your decision. That said, while it’s not technically required, most people do go through a driving school. That’s because driving schools offer a lot more than a CDL driving license. Driving schools also train you on specific skills such as key rules and regulations, maneuvering, and how to fill out a logbook to name a few. 

If you decide to get your CDL license through a driving school, there are a few more decisions to make. Choose whether you want to go through a school from a specific carrier or a general CDL driving school. No matter what you decide, do your research before making your final choice. This is a big financial and personal investment. Your CDL school should help prepare you for your license and often will help you find your first job. A little research at the start goes a long way!

4. Passing the CDL Test

One of the last CDL requirements before you can hit the road is to pass a written and practical test. Just like your non-commercial driving test, you will need to log hours with a learning permit before taking the written test. Then, drivers need an 80% pass rate to earn their license. The test has multiple choice questions and is often taken on a computer.

State CDL manuals and free online practice tests are great ways to prepare for your written CDL test.

It’s a good idea to study up beforehand. State CDL manuals are an excellent place to start. You can also take online practice tests to make sure you’re ready for the real thing. Typically, the written test is then followed by a skills test. You will need to demonstrate your ability to do a pre-trip inspection and properly maneuver a tractor trailer.

5. Should I Get Endorsements Right Away?

Many new CDL drivers start out hauling Dry Van or Reefer (refrigerated) loads. These types of loads often do not require any endorsements and are a good way to build experience. If you don’t have a specific job type in mind, start in a job that doesn’t require endorsements. 

On the other hand, if you know what you eventually want to haul and it requires an endorsement, you could get certified right away. There are 6 types of CDL A endorsements including Hazmat, Tanker, Passenger Vehicles, School Bus, Doubles/Triples, and Tanker/Hazmat. Each allows the driver to carry a specific type of specialty load. Figure out which endorsements you need for what you want to drive. Then decide when the best time is for you to get those endorsements.

Getting your commercial driving license opens a lot of exciting opportunities! Once you understand the CDL requirements, you are ready to get started in trucking.

truck driver at loading dock

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hauling livestock

If you are a truck driver looking for a new haul, think about carrying livestock. This is a specialty niche for people with a lot of patience who don’t mind the good, the bad, and the smelly of working with live animals. If you have experience on a farm or ranch and are considering trucking, hauling livestock could be a great fit. Hauling livestock has many similarities to other types of trucking, but there are also some big differences based on the type of freight. So, before you get started, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Types of Livestock Drivers Haul

When many people think of hauling livestock, there’s a good chance that they think of cows or chickens. Cattle do make up the largest part of the livestock transportation industry, but livestock haulers can carry anything that is live freight. Some common loads are pigs, goats, sheep, and even bees. Some livestock haulers train to carry high-value livestock such as show horses. Drivers are working closely with the animals. So, it’s common to see drivers with experience on a ranch or who have spent plenty of time in the livestock industry.

Animal care is a huge part of transporting livestock, and drivers take their jobs very seriously. Patience and attention to detail are huge for livestock haulers. As anyone who works with animals knows, getting frustrated with them rarely makes things go faster. It will only stress the livestock. Livestock drivers also need to be patient behind the wheel and drive defensively. Harsh stops or turns can easily injure or stress livestock. Regulations for carrying livestock vary somewhat by state. So, drivers must be detail-oriented to ensure compliance for every load. 

2. A Whole New World of “Touch Freight” and Cleanup

Hauling livestock is unlike any other type of freight for a lot of reasons. One of the big ones? Well, let’s just say that sanitation is incredibly important, and cleaning out a livestock trailer is a little different than cleaning out your trailer after a dry van or reefer load. Drivers must completely sanitize trailers after every load or they could infect the livestock in their next load. 

Dustin Nesbitt hauling livestock

Dustin, livestock hauler for Nesbitt Transportation

We talked to Dustin, a cattle hauler and co-owner of Nesbitt Transportation, and asked him if he had any advice for drivers considering hauling livestock. He shared this:

“Someone who is going into hauling cattle needs to be patient. It’s not like driving freight. You need to give yourself extra time around other vehicles because it actually takes longer to stop because it’s a live load. Also need to be patient with the animals and have your head on a swivelalways protect yourself. Cattle’s attitudes can change in a split second and go from cooperating to they want to kill you so always keep your eyes on the animals when loading and unloading.” 

Agfax adds several additional tips for transporting cattle. According to their website, a thorough pre-trip inspection is even more important for livestock haulers. Delays for maintenance or repairs can cause extra stress on the animals, especially if there are heat or chill concerns. Agfax also recommends that drivers master livestock sorting. Within any type of livestock haul, drivers should transport similar animals together. For example, large cows should be transported with other large cows, not cows that are small or weak.

3. Livestock Truck Drivers Earn More

loading livestock

While livestock haulers often have to meet specific requirements beyond a typical CDL driver, they are also well compensated for their work. Livestock haulers are typically considered specialty hauler, so pay is increased. That said, these drivers earn higher pay for good reason!

Livestock haulers must maintain additional certifications that show their understanding of the risks of hauling live animals. In addition, owner operators will need to purchase specific equipment. The type of trailer that drivers need depends on the type of animals and the distance of the haul. No matter the exact specialty, that equipment is not cheap.

In addition to the cost of equipment, livestock hauling takes time and doesn’t allow for shortcuts. For example, biosecurity is ultimately the truck driver’s responsibility, and each buyer or seller may have their own protocols. Sanitation includes disinfecting the trailer but also guarding against cross-contamination from the driver. Livestock haulers must maintain sanitary practices when moving between locations or loading and unloading livestock so they don’t transmit infection. This might seem like too much hassle for some drivers, but for livestock haulers, it’s all part of a day’s work.

cattle hauler

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garbage truck driver

Garbage truck driver jobs can be a great fit for new drivers and experienced drivers alike. These jobs are typically local, so drivers get regular home time. They’re also great for drivers who like to stay on the move throughout their day. Garbage truck jobs often require some physical labor. As with many trucking jobs, it can be easy to find a garbage truck driving job, but hard to find a good one. Here’s what you need to know to find the best garbage truck driver jobs.

1. Know the Lingo

  • Residential: Residential garbage truck drivers are the ones you see in your neighborhood if you live in an urban area. These drivers are responsible for picking up cans from individual residences. 
  • Commercial: These drivers are the opposite of Residential garbage truck drivers. Commercial drivers pick up waste from businesses or apartment complexes. 

2. A Day in the Life

Garbage truck driver jobs can be quite different from other CDL jobs. Most of these positions are local, so drivers will stay within a relatively close radius. Typically, drivers are home nightly. That said, hours are not always consistent, so a garbage truck driver may find that their schedule does change at times. Another important thing to decide before you take a new job is what level of touch you prefer. Most garbage truck driver jobs call for a high level of touch, and there is usually manual labor required. If you like to be active, this job will keep you moving!

trashguyninja

Kevin, Garbage Truck Driver for EZ Pack

We talked to Kevin, a garbage truck driver for EZ Pack, and asked him if he had any suggestions for other drivers looking for a garbage truck driver job. He shared his perspective with Drive My Way.

“Well I guess everyone is always looking for a good driver with a clean CDL. So if you have those key ingredients you’re bound for success anywhere. Good perks and benefits if you find the right place, they’re out there, if you’re willing to work for it,” shared Kevin.

Commercial garbage truck drivers usually work in urban environments, so if city driving isn’t for you, think twice about this job! Similarly, many garbage truck driver jobs are for residential positions. That means that drivers need to be comfortable maneuvering in tight streets. In addition, because there are a lot of jobs in residential areas, some drivers may have a higher level of interpersonal engagement than in other local positions. 

3. How are Dump Truck Jobs Different?

If you are taking a job as a dump truck driver early in your CDL career, there are a few things to consider. This type of job can be a great way to get started in trucking, BUT you should know that not all employers consider this type of work good experience for other CDL jobs. Also, if you find yourself thinking that garbage truck driver jobs are an easy way to get started in trucking, that’s not necessarily the case! These trucks have a higher center of gravity than many other types of trucks, so it takes skill and experience to avoid incidents. Dump trucks are often considered more dangerous than other types of CDL work.

4. How To Become A Garbage Truck Driver

Once you’ve decided that this is the job for you, there are a few things you’ll need to get started. First, get your CDL A or B license. Some companies will accept either, and deciding between the two licenses will depend a lot on your plans for the future. If you want to drive dry van, tanker, reefer, or other similar jobs, a CDL A is more flexible. Some employers also value mechanical experience. While it may not be the main part of your job, a driver who can fix machines can be valuable. 

If you want to drive dry van, tanker, reefer, or other similar jobs, a CDL A is more flexible.

In addition to the technical requirements, there are some personal attributes that are helpful for garbage truck driver jobs. Often, driving a garbage truck requires a high level of physical fitness, so it’s helpful to be in good physical condition so you don’t strain or injure yourself. Also, it’s important that you like to be outside and are willing to work in different weather conditions. When you’re ready to make your next job change, check out Drive My Way to find companies hiring near you who are a good fit for your lifestyle and job preferences.

5. What Questions Should I Ask Employers?

truck driver holding steering wheelAny time you prepare for a CDL job change, there are a few important questions to ask. These questions will help you find the best garbage truck driver jobs for you at a reliable company. Before you even talk to the company, do your research on compensation, hours, and benefits.

If a company meets your needs, get in touch. Otherwise, stay away and move on to the next company. If possible, ask to speak with a current company driver to get their perspective. 

For garbage truck jobs, ask a recruiter about your route. Then, find out whether you will be working with a partner or solo. Equipment also plays a particularly big role for garbage truck drivers. Older truck models may not have the same grabbing hooks and may require more manual labor than newer models. Similarly, what level of touch can you expect? As you finish your conversation, make sure to ask about opportunities for advancement. You may not be looking for a career move right now, but you may be looking for a promotion in the future.

garbage truck driver

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