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Local Truck Driving Jobs

So you’re looking at local truck driving jobs? Great choice. Local trucking is a good fit for many drivers. Remember, as with any job, there are pros and cons to local trucking jobs. Before you make the switch, get to know the benefits and drawbacks of local trucking, and decide whether it’s a good fit for you. 

The Pros 

family life 1. Home Time

Many drivers are drawn to local truck driving jobs because of the home time. It’s for a good reason. Local jobs typically get drivers home every night. If not every night, drivers can expect to be home almost every night. For drivers with a family, that’s hard to beat. 

2. Frequently Off on the Weekends

In addition to being home every night, many local drivers are off on the weekends. This does depend on your company and what you’re hauling, but many local drivers have weekends off.

Weekends off are much more likely in a local position than for OTR drivers.

Attending social gatherings or events on the weekends becomes much more possible with a local truck driving jobs. 

3. Health Benefits

In addition to more home time, local truck drivers pick up some serious health benefits. Local drivers tend to spend less time behind the wheel than regional or OTR drivers. As a result, local drivers are less exposed to the safety risks of being on the road for long periods of time. They are also usually more active. Because local drivers make more stops, there are more opportunities to move around throughout the day. 

4. A Set Routine

If you like to have a fixed schedule, local trucking is for you. Drivers generally have a set hourly schedule that they can count on. That’s great for planning things outside of work. It also gives you a little extra peace of mind to know when you’ll be home and when you need to leave. 

work life balance of Local Truck Driving Jobs5. Excellent Work/Life Balance

Work/life balance is a huge consideration for local drivers. Local truck driving jobs are hard work, but they also help drivers be present for the day to day relationships at home. Local drivers still have to find a balance with their loved ones, but the rewards can be great. If you value being physically present for life’s little moments, local truck driving jobs are for you. 

The Cons

There’s a lot to love about local truck driving jobs. At the end of the day though, they’re just not for everyone. There are a few downsides to consider when you are deciding whether to become a local driver. 

6. Lower Pay

On average, local truck driving jobs pay less than the average OTR position. According to Ziprecruiter, local drivers in the United States earn an average of $51,355. Consider your personal budget and whether the finances work for you in the short and long term. For many drivers, the lower wage is worth the extra work/life balance, but pay is an important consideration.

7. Positions are Competitive

Local truck driving jobs are often extremely competitive. Trucking companies can afford to be choosy because they have a lot of interested candidates.

A good position may require drivers to have some experience first. In addition, there will likely be lots of applicants, so you have to make a strong positive impression when you apply.

If you don’t get offered a position right away, keep getting more experience to help you stand out from other candidates. 

load unload Local Truck Driving Jobs8. Loading and Unloading

Some local truck driving jobs make frequent stops and require physical labor. This depends heavily on your company and type of haul. In some positions, drivers may need to load and/or unload their trucks. Think of it as a built-in weight lifting workout! This might be minor for some drivers, but if you are only interested in no-touch freight, read the job descriptions carefully.

9. Long Hours

The hours you work as a local driver depend heavily on your company. However, for many drivers, days last 10-14 hours. In addition, local drivers may start at any time of the day. For example, it’s not uncommon for a work shift to begin at 4:00 AM. The good news is, many companies offer overtime pay. Longer hours can help bring in a bigger paycheck. With such long days, some drivers find home time a challenge during the week. While local drivers are home every night, there may not be a lot of downtime between shifts. Some drivers feel like they finish work just in time to go home, eat dinner, sleep, and wake up to do it all again. 

Additional Factors

Some parts of local truck driving jobs aren’t exactly pros or cons. It all depends on your preferred work experience. Here are a few additional things to think about.

Are you a People Person?

Some local jobs require more customer interaction than regional or OTR positions. Others don’t ask drivers to interact with customers regularly. Also, local drivers tend to communicate very frequently with their coworkers and dispatchers. This can be a huge plus for some drivers and a downside for others. It’s really about personal preference. Decide for yourself whether you want more interaction with others. Then, seek out jobs that fit your preferences. 

CDL B licenseCity Driving

Like more regular communication, city driving isn’t necessarily a pro or a con. If you don’t mind spending more time in cities and towns, local driving is a good fit. If you strongly prefer to drive on highways as much as possible, consider whether the benefits of local truck driving jobs outweigh the downsides.

Choosing Your Company

You’ve heard it a million timesgood employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses. It’s true for local truck driving jobs too.

For any trucking job you’re considering, read the details carefully. When talking to recruiters, try to get a sense of the company culture.

Each fleet traits drivers differently. Look for a fleet that matches your professional qualifications and your personal lifestyle preferences.

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truck driver pay

Truck driver pay is one of the key elements that CDL drivers look for in a new job. Some of the most important factors for earning potential are years of experience, location, the number of miles driven, special qualifications such as endorsements, type of haul, and haul range. Not all jobs are equally compensated, but you should be able to know what to expect from your paycheck. Make sure you get all the details from your recruiter. Whether it’s for a new job or to get started in trucking, here are the types of compensation you may get offered. 

Base Pay

For company drivers, there are four main types of base pay. Some drivers may receive additional compensation in the form of bonuses or specialty pay. That said, the bulk of your income will come from one of these types of base pay.

1. Hourly

Hourly pay is likely familiar to many drivers because it’s common in many industries. In trucking, pay per hour is frequently used by intrastate delivery companies with relatively small driving ranges. Drivers who are paid hourly can often expect work with frequent stops, loading and unloading, and regular customer interaction. Many hourly positions offer overtime hours which can add a big bonus to your paycheck if you’re willing to take on extra hours.

2. Pay Per Mile

This is one of the most common types of pay across the trucking industry. Pay per mile, often called CPM (cents per mile), pays drivers for the miles they run. Within mileage pay, there are several ways to calculate truck driver pay.

  • Practical Mileage. This is the number of miles based on the most efficient path between the address at your starting location and the address at your destination. It’s often calculated with an ELD. Think of it as similar to how Google or Apple Maps calculate a driving route. 
  • Household Goods (HHG) miles. HHG miles are also called zip code miles. Companies calculate routes based on the shortest distance between the post office zip code in the origin city and the post office zip code in the destination city. 
  • Hub Mileage, also called Actual Miles. This type of truck driver pay uses the mileage change on the odometer. It accounts for all hours of service miles including changes in routes or stops. 
  • Sliding Scales Pay. Often this type of pay is used by companies who want to give short-haul drivers a chance to earn a higher income. For example, short hauls (1-500 miles) may pay $0.55 CPM while routes of 500+ miles might earn $0.50 CPM.

In addition to CPM, a job description that pays based on miles should include the number of miles per week that drivers can expect. For example, a job description might offer $0.53 CPM and an average of 2500 weekly miles. A higher CPM is usually good news, but it’s important to read the fine print. Your total pay depends on the number of miles traveled, so look for jobs with a high CPM and enough miles to earn the paycheck you want.

3. Salary

Salaried trucking jobs offer income consistency. For drivers who receive a salary, income is not dependent on the specific miles or hours worked. Instead, a flat rate is set at the start of the job contract and drivers will consistently earn that amount. Often, salaried drivers receive pay weekly.

4. Pay Per Load

Pay Per Load is the least common type of base pay. Most jobs that offer pay per load are in the agriculture, oil and gas industries, or are local delivery jobs.

Drivers earn a flat rate of pay for each load they deliver. In this type of pay, drivers earn more when they deliver more loads regardless of hours or miles.

Additional Truck Driver Pay

Per Diem

In a nutshell, per diem is money given for any place you stay overnight, meals, and other incidental expenses. Per diem is a form of reimbursement, but the biggest benefits come during tax season. Companies may offer per diems by day, per mile, or even as a percentage. If you are a company driver, per diem wages are not considered taxable income. 

For example, if you are paid $0.60 CPM and $0.40CPM is your base income and $0.15CPM is per diem, 25% of your income is not taxable. 

As of 2018, even though company drivers can no longer claim $63 per day as an expense on their taxes, they can claim the standard deduction. A higher per diem wage doesn’t change your annual income, but it does mean that you will pay less in taxes. Owner operators are still able to use per diem and deduct it as an expense on their taxes.

Detention and Layover Pay

When drivers are stopped for long periods of time, some companies will offer compensation. Drivers get detention pay when they are held up at a shipper or receiver for an extended amount of time. Layover pay may be given to drivers who have to wait between loads. Detention and layover pay are particularly important for drivers who are paid by the mile. In addition, some companies offer breakdown pay when incidents happen on the road and drivers cannot log miles.

Stop Pay

Stop pay is typically offered to drivers who will make multiple stops on their run. In general, stop pay does not include the initial or final destination. Like detention and layover pay, stop pay compensates for the time that drivers are not adding miles to their logbooks. More deliveries mean more time stopped and fewer miles. Stop pay helps make up the difference. 

Special Incentive Pay

Drivers can earn special incentive pay for loads that are more difficult because of location, border crossings, hazardous materials, or other non-typical duties. For example, tarp pay is not uncommon for flatbed drivers. Truck drivers who haul refrigerated loads may get a higher cent per mile rate. Similarly, there may be additional compensation for over-dimensional loads or routes in NY and NJ. Endorsements such as HazMat, Tanker, Doubles/Triples, or TWIC cards also frequently help drivers earn higher pay or bonuses.  

Bonuses

While base pay makes up the majority of a driver’s income, many people receive additional pay through bonuses. All companies choose their bonus structures a little differently. Some of the most common bonuses are for fuel, safety, and inspections. Many companies also offer hiring bonuses for signing on to their job or referral bonuses for bringing in new drivers. Performance and on-time delivery bonuses are also frequently used to incentivize drivers. 

Team Driver Pay

Like solo company drivers, team drivers most commonly receive pay based on mileage. For teams, the per-mile rate is a bit higher than for a solo driver, but team drivers share the rate.

The rate for each driver may be lower than for a solo company driver, but each person’s annual income is often higher because teams can drive significantly more miles.

Typically, team drivers split the mileage pay evenly. In some situations, each driver has a different per-mile rate. This may be based on experience or other similar factors. Team drivers may also qualify for bonuses if they reach certain mileage targets. 

Owner Operator Pay

Percentage pay is one of the most common types of income for owner operators. Typically, owner operators negotiate a percentage of the linehaul (gross revenue of the load minus the fuel surcharge). A load with a higher gross revenue means a better payout for the driver. Both independent owner-operators and lease to own operators can also expect to be paid all or almost all of the fuel surcharge. 

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2019 brought several proposed changes to Hours of Service Rules for truckers. Since then, those proposed HOS changes have been in a long review process with community input. Some of those same rules have already been modified under March’s Emergency Declaration to meet changing demands during COVID-19. Whether you love the changes or hate them, most of the updates from the end of last year are here to stay. 

The Final Rulings

There are four main changes that were added to the new HOS rules. Ultimately, the goal of each update is to improve safety and offer drivers more flexibility. On June 1, 2020, the final Hours of Service rule updates were released. The new HOS Ruling will officially take effect on September 29, 2020. Until then, the current HOS regulations from the Emergency Declaration will stay in place. 

“30-minute break” Flexibility

Before

The 30-minute break has been hotly debated among drivers since it was first issued. The FMCSA added the rule to improve safety, but it can force drivers to stop at inconvenient times. The old rules stated that drivers had to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours on duty. That time had to be logged as sleeper berth or off-duty. Many drivers don’t love the 30-minute break, but the new rules do bring some improvements.

Now

Under the updated Hours of Service Rule, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time. You can also now take your break as any combination of Off-Duty, Sleeper Berth, or On-Duty, Not Driving. It still has to be a continuous 30-minute break, but now there are more choices for how you can spend that time.

Split-Sleeper Berth

Before

We’ve voted this rule “Most Likely to Wish You Paid More Attention in Math Class.” The old version of the split-sleeper berth was pretty complicated. About Trucking does a good job explaining the details if you want the full picture. In a nutshell, drivers could split their sleeping time and were able to log driving time either before or after the break. Drivers then had to track how much time they had for the next shift and compare it to the 14-hour work shift clock. That might leave a driver with 5 hours of drive time available, but only 3 hours before hitting their maximum 14 hours. Ouch.

Now

Drivers can split their 10 off-duty hours into one period of 7+ hours in the sleeper berth and 2+ hours either off-duty or in the sleeper berth.

You can use that time for sleep or take advantage of the time to destress in other ways. Importantly, all breaks extend the 14-hour clock.

Whew. The mental math for hours just got easier. 

You may have seen the proposal for the “split-duty provision” aka the “14-hour pause” that was initially proposed. After hearing arguments on both sides, this update was ultimately not included in the final ruling due to safety concerns. 

Adverse Driving Conditions 

Before

Prior to the new Hours of Service rule, drivers were getting mixed messages about the policy for adverse driving conditions. Drivers could extend their drive time by up to 2 hours. That said, the 14-hour threshold was still a limiting factor. For example, even if your shipment got delayed due to unforeseen weather conditions and you were 30 minutes from delivering when you hit 14 hours, that’s where you had to stop. 

Now

Under the updated HOS rules, drivers can extend their drive time AND their 14-hour workday if needed. The extension can be no more than 2 hours but it gives drivers more flexibility in keeping their intended schedule. Even with the added time, pay close attention to road conditions and safety. If the weather gets really bad, make sure you know your rights as a driver.

Short Haul Exception

The Short Haul Exception applies only to CDL holders who run close to their home terminal AND do not run logbooks. If you don’t fit that description, this last update won’t affect you.

Before

The previous short haul rule stated that drivers who meet those criteria could drive a maximum of a 12-hour work shift and were limited to a radius of 100 miles from their terminal.

Now

The basic ideas behind the short haul exception have not changed. Instead, the time and radius maximums have been expanded. Drivers who meet the criteria of the short haul exception can now work 14 hours on-duty and with a radius of 150 miles. This rule won’t impact all drivers, but it may increase miles for anyone in this category.

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per diem for truck drivers

The new per diem regulations were passed in December of 2017 and took effect for the next year’s tax season. Even though that was 4 years ago, there’s still a lot of confusion about changes in per diem for truck drivers. There’s a lot of information and mis-information out there, so we’re here to make it a little simpler.

The per diem rules are all about costs on the road and how you get paid back. You work hard to make a living, and every dollar counts. Make sure you understand per diem for truck drivers to keep money in your pocket. Whether you’ve never been clear on how per diem works or you want a refresh, this is for you

1. Definition

In a nutshell, per diem is money given for any place you stay overnight, meals, and other incidental expenses.

Literally, per diem means “per day,” and you can think of it as a set amount that you will be reimbursed for certain expenses per day. The updated per diem regulations come from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 

2. How does Per Diem Actually Work?

Per diem is a form of reimbursement. If your company has a per diem allowance, you probably have to pay for meals on the road, and then they will reimburse you for that cost in your next paycheck. The money usually comes as a set amount or in proportion to the number of miles driven. Since you paid for those meals (or lodging, etc.) out of pocket, and your company is simply paying you back, that money is not considered taxable income. Good news for you! That distinction between per diem (which is a reimbursement) and income is important. It means that your adjusted gross income will be lower when it’s time to file taxes. And a lower adjusted gross income means that you will likely owe less in taxes or get a bigger refund. 

3. Impact for Company Drivers vs. Owner Operators

Company Drivers

income taxes

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, per diem for truck drivers has changed the most for company drivers. If you’re a company driver, you can no longer itemize deductions for your taxes. In other words, drivers cannot show all of the expenses that come from being on the road in the same way that you used to. Don’t worry though. You can often still receive per diem for the nights you’re away from home.

There are two ways the money you spend for your job comes back to you. First, most company drivers will make up a lot of that money by claiming the standard deduction, which doubled under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. For single tax filers, the standard deduction went from $6,300 to $12,000 and for couples filing jointly, it increased from $12,000 to $24,000. Second, some companies have increased their per diem wage. 

Here’s an example. If you get paid 55 cpm, and 45 cpm is a base wage and 10 cpm is considered per diem wage, that part of your income is not taxable. Now, if a company still pays 55 cpm, but 35 cpm is a base wage and 20 cpm is per diem wage, that would mean that 36% of your income would not be taxable.

A higher per diem wage means that your salary stays the same, but you will pay less in taxes. Companies should, however, be very careful to avoid wage recharacterization.

Owner Operators

Tax season for owner operators hasn’t changed as much in terms of per diem. Owner Operators can continue to claim per diem expenses more or less as usual. What is the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on owner operators? Actually, it’s a huge benefit. As an owner operator, you can continue claiming per diem and use the higher standard deduction rate. To do that, keep careful track of your work expenses. If you claim per diem for truck drivers in your taxes, you will need to individually list out, or itemize, all your costs. A little organization early on goes a long way when tax season rolls around.

4. So… Do Company Drivers get Per Diem Benefits?

trucking industry changesIn short, it depends on your company. If your company reimburses costs with a flat rate or a cpm increase in your salary, then yes—you are getting per diem benefits. If your company does not offer a flat rate or cpm increase for overnight stays, you can no longer claim those expenses as lost income on your taxes. You can claim the new standard deduction which is much higher and will help offset the money spent for food and lodging while on the road.

5. Eligibility 

Per diem programs can vary significantly by company. When you consider joining a new company, ask about their per diem policy. Our friend Leah Shaver, President & CEO of The National Transportation Institute (NTI), works closely with industry experts to track driver compensation, including per diem.

Leah shared, “[NTI’s] in-house research analysts and fleet executives collaborate to design, develop and deliver driver pay studies. One of those pay study subject matters is per diem and we find that many fleets offer this benefit in some form, either per day or per mile, some even on a percentage basis.”

Not all companies have a per diem plan, but these programs can be a benefit for both company drivers and owner operators. If there is a per diem program, find out whether you are eligible. This eligibility may be based on the number of miles you’ve driven, how long you’ve been with the company, or other similar criteria. Then, if you’re eligible, decide if joining the per diem program makes sense for you. 

6. When you get the money (Owner Operators)

Choosing to claim per diem for truck drivers as an owner operator can change when you will get the money for the costs of being on the road. 

Essentially: Do you pay for expenses and then get reimbursed in your next paycheck? Or Do you claim per diem in taxes (owner operators only) and get a bigger tax refund? If you participate in a company’s per diem program, you will be reimbursed throughout the year in your paychecks. If there is no per diem program or you choose to claim those expenses on your taxes, you will get a bigger tax return. At the end of the day, your take home pay (after all taxes) should be very similar.

Think of per diem as a decision of when to get the money and in what form, not of how much money you will get.

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lease purchase programs

For many drivers, becoming an Owner Operator is the gold standard of the trucking industry. Lease Purchase programs can be a great way to move toward that goal, but they’re not for everyone. If you’re considering a lease purchase program, make sure you read the fine print. Details are everything. Here’s what you need to know.

What and When

First things first: a lease purchase program is a program that allows drivers to buy a truck through an established carrier. Remember, lease purchase programs are not the same as lease operator programs.

Trucker NaeNae & her dog Jake

We spoke to Trucker Nae Nae, a Lease Operator, and she explained, “Lease operator has no money down but you return the truck at the end of the contract. Lease purchase [are] usually 10-14k down, higher payment and [drivers] keep truck at end of contract.”

Lease Purchase programs can be a great stepping stone on the way to becoming an owner operator. Take time to get to know the pros and cons of lease purchase programs. Ultimately, that will help you make the choice that is right for you.

Pros of Lease Purchase Programs

Finances

If you’re looking for a way to end up with a truck of your own, but aren’t ready to buy a rig outright, lease purchase is a good option. You will own your truck at the end and will have smaller down payments compared to buying a truck directly. Trucker Nae Nae notes that drivers can expect down payments of $10,000-14,000. While not small, that’s much more affordable than buying a used truck outright at an average cost of just over $40,000!

Monthly payments for lease purchase programs typically range from $300-$1,200/month.

In addition, drivers don’t need to establish an individual line of credit because the lease purchase agreement is through a carrier.

Choose Your Own Truck

Lease Purchase programs are the first step to completely owning your trucking career! As you consider what tractor to purchase, decide what type of hauls you want. Choose the truck that fits the direction of your career as well as your personal equipment preferences.

As you narrow down your list of potential lease purchase companies, make sure your top choices have enough loads for you. It’s critical that you get enough miles to support yourself, so choose a program that can prove they have sufficient loads for you.

Build A Strong Reputation

As an owner operator, one of your most important assets will be your reputation. Carrying freight for a lease purchase company is a great way to build a reputation as a reliable carrier. Some companies allow drivers to contract for other companies while under the lease purchase agreement. Start building your list of connections while working under the lease purchase agreement. By the time you own your own truck, you can apply for contracts with confidence and a good name.

Permits

Getting your own truck on the road is so much more than buying a rig. For one thing, all trucks have a series of required permits. Lease purchase programs typically provide those permits for anyone in their program. It’s a great way to save yourself from jumping through a few extra hoops. In addition, getting your permits through a company will get you on the road a little faster.

Get the Perks

If your lease purchase program is full service, ask about service and maintenance benefits! Some companies will keep a maintenance account for you. They may fully or partially cover the cost of preventative maintenance, training, or performance reporting. Read the contract on maintenance costs and perks particularly closely. If the leasing company does not offer a full-service program, be very clear on who is responsible for maintenance. If you are responsible, CDL Life recommends setting aside 15-25% of each paycheck to offset the cost.

Cons of Lease Purchase Programs

Making It Add Up

When you start the lease purchase journey, income might feel like a big question mark. First of all, your pay is likely to fluctuate as you adjust to the new position. And, you’re now responsible for making payments on the new lease! A Truth About Trucking survey found that many drivers were promised more miles than they actually received. Make sure your contract clearly states how many miles you can expect, so you can be confident that it meets your needs.

Navigating Contracts

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all contract that companies use for lease purchase agreements. There can be some pretty big differences between carriers, so make sure you read the fine print. When possible, get a second opinion from an attorney or other legal professional. Repairs and maintenance are two of the biggest costs – review these sections with a fine-tooth comb. Before you sign, make sure you understand the contract inside out. If you’re not sure about something, ask questions. Only agree to the contract when you feel confident that you understand the agreement.

Common Red Flags

If the lease purchase contract seems off for any reason, get a second opinion. When you look at the contract, there are a few common red flags to watch for.

  1. Unreasonably high missed payment penalty
  2. The company is pushing you to make a decision quickly or they don’t want you to get a second opinion
  3. You’re not sure whether you’ll be able to get enough miles
  4. There is a balloon payment at the end of the contract that essentially requires you to stay on with the same company even if you can technically pursue other jobs.

If you review a contract with any of these red flags and the company seems unwilling to negotiate, step away. There are many lease purchase companies to choose from, and you are likely saving yourself from trouble down the road.

The Takeaway

Lease Purchase Programs are a great way to make the leap to becoming an owner operator. When you choose a company, get to know the details. Look for carriers that allow you the freedom to run as you see fit (not tied to a central dispatcher). Also, check load boards to make sure they will have ample freight for you.

As you consider lease purchase programs, don’t forget about the business side. Are you ready to run your own company? Make sure you feel confident with your bookkeeping, taxes (don’t forget the 2290 Highway Use Tax), and other necessary paperwork. Similarly, understand how your payment for the lease purchase is made. Have you done your research and talked with drivers who have successfully completed the lease purchase program? Listen for any hesitation they might have as well as positive reviews of the program.

Whether to pursue a lease purchase program is a big decision. Ultimately, it will impact you as well as your family, especially if you are a parent.

Trucker Nae Nae

Trucker Nae Nae

Trucker Nae Nae shares her experience with making the transition, “I wanted to make sure I like my new career choice without having to worry about ownership. Now I am ready. For any lease, you will work to cover your payments with less time at home. Really consider your family life before signing the contract. It will be fine. It could be financially difficult to get home monthly.”

At the end of the day, this is a very personal decision. Remember, if anything seems not quite right, don’t sign the contract yet. You can walk away from a bad deal. Know your priorities going in, and you’ll find a program that is a great fit for you!

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cdl job change

Job changes are part of the natural evolution of a career. In the trucking industry, the turnover rate is high. Many drivers change jobs after only a year or two. Whether you’re new to the trucking industry, switching jobs after a layoff, or just looking for better employment, there are a few things to keep in mind for a CDL job change. 

1. Finding a New Job

The first question every driver has to answer when preparing for a CDL job change is, “Where do I find a new position?” Job boards are a tempting place to start, but they’re actually one of the least effective resources for finding a good job that fits your needs. Job boards are focused on quantity over quality. Drivers are matched with everything and anything (you’re probably not actually interested in that pizza delivery job when you’re an OTR driver).

Prioritize job resources that actually meet your professional qualifications and personal lifestyle preferences. Avoid job boards and choose better resources that will allow you to have a job AND a quality of life that you love.

Keep your ears open and ask other drivers which companies they love. Word of mouth is one of the best indicators of driver happiness in a job. Direct referrals from drivers are also a great option, and it might put a little money in someone’s pocket. If you want to expand your search, check out options like Drive My Way. We specifically match drivers with positions based on your skills, needs, and personal preferences. Don’t waste time on jobs that won’t be a good fit—apply only to the jobs that are a match for you.

2. Check the Boxes

As you prepare for a new job, there are a few housekeeping things to take care of. If you haven’t already, register for the FMCSA Clearinghouse. This allows future employers to easily complete the required pre-employment background check. If you are coming off a driving break, make sure all of your relevant endorsements are current. Obtaining an additional endorsement can also be a great way to boost your job prospects or earning potential. 

3. Transferring a CDL

A CDL license is valid for every state that drivers pass through, but your license does need to be issued from your state of residence. Even if you’re hauling freight in the same region, if you move to a new state, it’s time to head to the DMV. Typically drivers have 30-60 days from the time they move to a new state to complete a CDL transfer.

When you’re ready to transfer your CDL, here’s the list from Drive Big Trucks on what you need for the DMV.

  • Go to the DMV in a new state
  • Present proof of new address
  • Be prepared to retake part of the licensing exam and/or pay a licensing fee
  • Present a medical exam or certification to demonstrate your physical fitness
  • Complete a background/fingerprint check or drug test

Once you get the new license, the old one becomes invalid. It’s best to only carry your most current CDL license.

4. Preparation is the Best Strategy

As you prepare for a CDL job change, research the companies you’re interested in. Figure out what parts of a job are most important to you and figure out exactly how those aspects work.

When possible, make a point to talk with terminal managers, recruiters, and, most importantly, current drivers. Get the key details on home time, pay, hours, and any other elements that are important to you. 

5. Nailing the Interview

In the interview, your potential employer will likely ask questions that are about your license as well as about your experiences. Be clear and straightforward when answering questions about your endorsements, license, and work history. 

Some companies use a hiring practice called behavioral interviewing. This style of interviewing asks about how you have handled specific past situations. An example is, “Tell me about a time when you had to plan a complex route with multiple deliveries. What was the outcome and how did you handle it?”

When you answer this type of question, honestly consider your past successes and challenges. Use your experiences to highlight strengths and what you’ve learned from situations that didn’t go well. 

Once the interviewer has finished asking their questions, it’s your turn. Good jobs are a fit both for the company and for you as a driver. Know what you’re looking for, and use the interview to clarify any questions you have. 

6. Adventure and Anxiety

A CDL job change can be accompanied by a lot of internal (and often conflicting!) side effects. If you’re switching jobs for an exciting new opportunity, it might feel like a grand adventure. If you’re looking for a new job because of the current COVID-19 crisis or have been laid off for another reason, stress might feel like a constant companion. For drivers who have recently lost their job, our Displaced Driver Resources can help you navigate everything from health care to disability insurance and other unemployment resources. 

Regardless of why you’re switching jobs, there can be a lot of conflicting emotions. Excitement and anticipation for a new (and hopefully better!) job. Fear or anxiety about jumping into the unknown. 

Be sure to pursue companies that match both your professional qualifications and personal preferences. Then, you’ll have a lot to be excited about with a new position. New jobs often bring a work upgrade in some way whether that’s higher pay, more home time, or better company culture. As you prepare for your new position, hold on to the things that made you excited about the job in the first place.

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Want to Get Your CDL License? Here's What to Know

Getting your Commerical Driving License (CDL) is a big deal. It’s an exciting step toward a career as a professional driver, and we hear from lots of veteran drivers that it’s the best job out there. Earning your CDL license isn’t an overnight process, but it’s worth it. Take the time to prepare yourself for each of the steps, and you’ll be on the road before you know it. Here are a few things you should know before you get started.

Types of CDL Licenses

There are three main types of commercial driving license: A, B, and C. They all allow you to operate large motor vehicles, but each is designed for a specific purpose. A CDL A license is considered the most universal because it allows you to also drive most CDL B and CDL C jobs. Here are the distinctions between each type of license

  • CDL A: Allows drivers to operate vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 pounds. This license lets you drive tractor-trailers (also known as semi-trucks, big rigs, etc.) as well as most Class B and Class C vehicles. 
  • CDL B: Permits drivers to operate a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of less than 10,000 pounds. This license (sometimes with endorsements) allows you to drive most straight trucks, buses, box trucks, dump trucks, and most Class C vehicles. 
  • CDL C: Allows drivers to operate a commercial vehicle with a GVWR that is less than 26,000 pounds and transports hazardous materials or 16+ passengers. This license is typically used for passenger vans and small HazMat vehicles.

With any of these license types, you may need to supplement with endorsements. Not all trucking jobs require them, so consider what you’re interested in before you commit to adding them. The standard endorsements are (H) Hazardous Materials, (N) Tank Vehicles, (P) Passenger Vehicles, (S) School Buses, and (T) Double and Triple Trailers.

Eligibility

From a Federal perspective, the eligibility requirements to be a truck driver are pretty straight forward. If you can satisfy these requirements, you’re off to a good start.

  1. You must be 18+ for trucking in the same state (intrastate trucking)
  2. You must be 21+ for trucking between states (interstate trucking) or carrying hazardous materials
  3. Don’t have any criminal offenses on your record that disqualify you from earning your CDL

Once you’ve confirmed eligibility at a federal level, look into the specific requirements for the state that will be issuing the license. Every state is a little bit different, but there are several common things you will likely be asked for. 

  • Proof of ID
  • A release of your driving record for the past 10 years
  • Demonstration of medical health
  • Pass a written and skills test
  • A road test fee (usually $50 – $200)
  • Verification that you’ve completed a professional training course

You can only have a CDL License from one state at a time. If you move (or have another reason to transfer your license), make sure you review the CDL license requirements for your new state. 

Choosing a Driving School

Once you have decided what type of CDL License is right for you, it’s time to pick a driving school. There are pros and cons to all programs, so research carefully. Technically, you’re not required to get your license through a driving school and could self-study for your tests. That said, many companies will only hire if they see the driver has gone through a verified driving school. You can also get your license through a company-sponsored program. There are benefits and drawbacks to this, but it’s a good option for many drivers. We recommend that future drivers get their license through some type of verified program. 

As you look for programs, look for the following as signs of credibility: 

  • Is the school/program accredited? (Approved by the Department of Education)
  • Is the school program certified? (Approved by the Department of Transportation)
  • Is the school/program licensed? (The instructors and curriculum meet state guidelines)
  • Is the school/program listed with the Better Business Bureau? Use these ratings to compare programs
  • What’s included in the price of tuition? Quality programs usually offer all the necessary supplies, classroom and over-the-road training, and extra help if requested. 

If you can’t find answers to any of these questions, make sure you get in touch. The driving school or program should be able to answer any questions you have before you get started. Most programs have a similar curriculum and are a mix of classroom and on-the-road instruction. You can expect to cover things like operating a truck, use of electronic logs and other industry tools, and safety procedures among other essentials

Time and Cost

Getting a CDL License is an investment in your future. Like any training program, there is a cost in both time and money. The total cost varies by state, but you can expect to spend about $3,0000 – $7,000 on a training program. As a rule of thumb, the more training time required for your license type and endorsements, the higher the cost of the program. A full-time driving program usually takes around 7 weeks, though it can take longer. Deciding to obtain a CDL License is a big commitment, but it will pay for itself quickly through your new career.

Passing the Test

After you have completed a certified driving program, you must have your Commercial Learning Permit (CLP) for two weeks. Then, it’s time to take your CDL test.

The exam has written and practical components. For the written exam, the test is multiple choice and typically taken on a computer. An 80% passing rate is required for the written exam. For the road test, you must not have more than 30 points deducted from your score.

The examiners will be watching for your ability to maneuver the vehicle, your behavior during the test, and your ability to handle pressure or stressful situations. Reviewing your state CDL training manual and spending practice time in a rig are great ways to prepare. 

You passed! Time to get hired

Now that you have your CDL license, it’s time to start looking for a job. This might sound intimidating, but many driving schools offer resources and connections to their students. That’s a great place to start. You can also use driver-friendly platforms to search for jobs that match your lifestyle and job preferences. As you are offered opportunities, make sure the position is a good fit for you. Ask the recruiter the essential questions about pay, home time, operations, and equipment to get as much information on the job as possible. Soon enough, you’ll be ready to hit the road!

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Terry Christofferson picks up the phone with an upbeat “Hello.” He’s calling from his sunny home just outside of Chico, California. There’s a cheery enthusiasm to his voice, but also the subtle depth of a man who knows hard work. Terry came to Drive My Way like many CDL licensed drivers—looking for a job and expressing interest in one of the many positions on our site.

Except, unlike most drivers, Terry already has a job. Just not in trucking. 

He’s a certified respiratory therapist in California, one of the first states that was reporting positive COVID-19 cases this spring. A respiratory therapist who wants to drive a semi-truck. At a time when medical professionals are desperately needed, Terry Christofferson wants to drive a semi-truck not instead of, but in addition to being a respiratory therapist. And Christofferson has the credentials to do it. Despite working a very secure job in the medical field, he made sure to maintain a CDL A license with Tanker, Hazmat, and Double/Triple endorsements for more than 30 years.

 

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Terry and his wife Sondra

Before He Became a Respiratory Therapist

Terry Christofferson grew up on a farm in a small town in North Dakota. Before he completed high school, he moved with his family to northern California. After graduating from high school, Terry started college to become a respiratory therapist. Education doesn’t come without a price tag, but Terry was no stranger to hard work. Life in a small town in the Great Plains is a strong and relentless teacher –  hard work, perseverance, and grit weave the fabric of each day and toughen the hands of the people who live there.

From growing up on a farm, Terry knew how to handle big machinery, so he accepted a position with Viking Freight working on their docks near his California home.

One afternoon, a supervisor asked him to back a semi-truck up to a loading dock. Terry could have driven most agricultural machinery blindfolded, but trucks were an entirely different story.  “Sure I can.” Terry confidently responded and jumped in the cab. One clean movement later, and the truck was up against the dock. His colleagues smirked appreciatively and laughed, “You obviously know how to drive a truck.” 

maintain a CDL licenseOnce a Truck Driver

His humble display of skilled maneuvering quickly upgraded Terry to a job hosteling for Viking Freight. Terry’s skills driving cargo around the freight yard impressed his managers, so he quickly moved up again. Even though he had only been with the company for a few years, Viking Freight sent him to driving school through their company to get his CDL A license to drive a tractor-trailer.

Terry continued driving for Viking Freight through college, and soon enough, Terry was a certified respiratory therapist with a full-time job. With the job security that accompanies the medical profession, many people might have let a truck driving license lapse. Terry wasn’t ready to do that.

“It’s just one of those things that you do… Then pretty soon, you kind of go, “Well I’ve been doing it for this long, I might as well keep going.”

I always thought, “You know, one of these days, I want to go back ‘cause I really miss working on the farm. I enjoy driving trucks… I’m going to go back and do it part-time.”

Always a Truck Driver

open road

Over the years, Terry happily accepted small driving jobs from time to time. Lending a hand here and there. An errand for a friend. He continued to maintain a CDL license. His work as a respiratory therapist remained steady, and his family was close, but every so often, the undeniable call of the open road would whisper.

“[My love of driving] is hard for me to explain. It’s just, it’s enjoyable. It brings back a lot of memories of growing up on the farm…especially if I’m driving in the agricultural industry… I enjoy driving a truck, you know, it’s not something that everybody could do…” 

Speeding down the road at 70mph while maneuvering 30 to 40 tons of truck with the precision of an engineer is no small feat. Most semi-trucks weigh 60,000 to 80,000 pounds, and as a truck driver, you have to be aware of not only your truck but also all of the (often unpredictable) drivers around you. Each time Terry finished a job for a friend, he was reminded of the exhilaration of driving a semi-truck. And each time, the thought crept in, “I should just a do a little bit more of this.”

maintain a CDL licenseDeciding to Maintain a CDL License

In the state of California, to maintain a CDL license (Commercial Driving License), drivers must submit a license application, driving history clearance, a knowledge test, a background check and fingerprinting, and a renewal fee. And so, year after year, momentum carried Terry to the doctor for the requisite physical. It led him to the DMV every two years to retake the tests for his endorsements, right on schedule. 

In time, a few decades and a few miles slipped by. One year, on his regular trip to the DMV, Terry thought it might be time to set aside his CDL license.

He asked the DMV staff, “Well what if I just, I don’t want to do it anymore? What would happen if I decided down the line to go back and get it?” The man’s one-line response settled his decision. “You would have to start from scratch.”

Terry renewed his license

Is truck driving a job or a way of life? Driving is certainly one way to pay the bills, but so is being a mechanic or practicing medicine or starting a business. For many drivers, especially those long haul truckers who drive OTR (Over The Road), the open road is ingrained in the core of their identity. It’s the freedom of open roads and a clear sky. The precision and finesse of mastering a vehicle with immense power and knowing how to handle it, just so. For Terry, each drive in a big rig is also personal. It’s a bond back to his childhood on a North Dakota farm. Agricultural work, in particular, has always connected him through years and miles to the small North Dakota town he once called home.

medical professionalsTwo Essential Professions

When 2020 started, cheerful New Year’s parties rang through the country. Blissfully unaware of the months to come, no one in the United States rang in the decade with even the shadow of a global pandemic. By March, COVID-19 was sweeping from the ports of the coasts to the center of the heartland leaving sickness and death as unwelcome guests in big cities and small towns alike. Storefronts stand empty and the number of Americans filing for unemployment applications steadily climbs. Millions of Americans are suddenly working from home, and we’ve become acutely aware of the essential professions that are keeping this country moving forward. 

Medical professionals and truck drivers are at the top of the list

Four years from now, Terry Christofferson will be happily retired and traveling the world with his wife. But before then, he wants to join his fellow drivers on the road. “Truck drivers are one of those backbones of society that are really being highlighted right now. Absolutely amazing. I mean, every truck driver out there right now should pat themselves on the back… And when I watch it, even though I’m not actually out there doing it with them right now, I still feel pride hearing that on the news.”

Time to Drive

For Terry, it’s time to hit the road. He’s not leaving his job as a respiratory therapist—instead, he’s planning to drive on his days off. After decades of working to maintain a CDL license with several endorsements, Terry is in conversation with a California freight company. In a perfect symmetry that calls back to his Great Plains childhood, he’s hoping to haul agricultural products.

As we wrap up the call, Terry tells me about his wife, children, and grandson. He has a daughter who is becoming a nurse and a son in the construction industry. It’s clear he couldn’t be prouder of them. Their chosen lines of work stand as a living testament to his own duality. Before we hang up, he reiterates his appreciation for all the drivers who are working and delivering essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Definitely proud of all the truckers out there. It’s been awesome to listen to them getting interviewed in a profession that doesn’t get recognized enough. And it’s really nice to see them getting recognized.”

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Night Driving

Most drivers will put in their fair share of night truck driving at some point in their careers. Depending on what you drive, night shifts might be your normal routine, or you might drive them only once in a while.

There are several perks to night driving, but it also can be more dangerous. Three times more crashes happen at night than during the day. If you’re headed out for a late shift, here are 7 things you need to know about night truck driving.

1. Your body’s natural rhythms are at a lull in the middle of the night.

Typically, your energy and alertness will drop in the early morning hours. This is particularly true for drivers who don’t typically drive at night.

Consistency along with a good diet and exercise helps your body adjust to a night driving schedule and helps you get the good sleep you need during the day.

If you need a good audiobook to keep you alert on the road, check out our top 10 list.

2. Your visibility is weakened at night.

Unfortunately, humans just don’t have amazing night vision. At night, your peripheral vision will not be as good, and you can’t see as far ahead of you on the road. That makes it hard to see animals who jump out at the last minute. It also means your response time to other drivers and events on the road is likely to be a little slower. Leave yourself extra space whenever possible.

3. Traffic is usually lighter.

Much of the world works a 9-5 job, so if you’re night driving, you will rarely have a problem with traffic. Even congested urban areas are often not a problem when you’re night driving. That said, the other drivers who are out are also at a low point of alertness. Keep your distance and drive defensively. You never know what other kinds of drivers are on the road.

4. Deliveries can be more dangerous.

At night, there are fewer people around, and you’re more likely to run into bad characters. Some drivers say this is especially true in urban areas when you’re making a delivery. Use your street smarts and if you’re traveling to a new area, try to learn what you can about the drop before you go. 

5. You’re on your own when night truck driving.

Most dispatchers and customers aren’t operating 24/7. Typically, that means less after-hours assistance if you run into trouble or need last minute directions to your client.

If you’re an independent driver who loves being self-reliant, you’ll love the self-sufficiency.

It’s on you to solve your own problems and get the job done. Keep a few essential tools in your cab, and you’ll be good to go.

6. Parking options are better.

Night drivers aren’t competing for parking in the same way that other drivers have to in the day. Most of the time, you won’t need to dock early or plan your route around the places you know you can stop. That can be a huge time saver (not to mention the headache you avoid!). If you do need to look for parking or gas, try TruckerPath or GasBuddy to get you where you need to go.

7. Keep your windshield, headlights, and mirrors clean.

Glare can be a big problem for night truck driving. Luckily, a little glass cleaner and elbow grease usually does the trick.

Reducing glare from your mirrors and windshield will go a long way toward keeping your night vision.

Similarly, try not to look closely at oncoming traffic. The bright white lights will temporarily impair your vision. Look slightly down and to the right (or at the white road line) to avoid the negative effects.

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When someone says they’re a truck driver, some people might think that’s all there is to it. But if you’re a driver, no matter if you’re in your first year or a seasoned veteran, you know that there are many types of driving jobs. Today’s spotlight is on being a tanker truck driver. What do drivers love about hauling tanker trucks? What would they change? Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about becoming a tanker truck driver.

The Pros

1. Good pay for the industry

Tanker truck drivers average $20.32/hour across the United States. That’s higher than the average hourly wage for many other driving positions. As with any job, pay increases with endorsements and experience.

Some tanker truck drivers may have longer hours. The good news is that most of these jobs are also hourly. If you have a long run, you’ll get paid for your time. 

The pay also depends on the material you haul. Hazmat driving typically earns more because of the experience required and extra job risks. 

2. Good benefits

Not all tankers drive Hazmat, but many do. Because being a tanker truck driver is considered slightly more dangerous than other types of CDL driving, the benefits are also better. Good health insurance, life insurance, and vacation days are all standard for tanker drivers

3. Typically short load/unload times

Loading and unloading a tanker truck is done with a big hose. While you might wait for hours to get your dry van or reefer unloaded, you’re usually in and out in 15 – 20 minutes when unloading a tanker. Getting loaded usually takes around 45 minutes. 

4. Many drivers are home every night

Tanker truck jobs are typically regional or local hauls. Frequent home time is a huge perk of being a tanker truck driver. You get to spend more time with your family and stay closer to home while doing a job you love.

If home time is a priority for you, becoming a tanker truck driver might be a great way to be home every night or nearly every night. 

5. Can be no touch freight

As a Hazmat driver, you’re often no touch. Frequently, your clients will take care of loading and unloading, so you don’t have to worry about heavy loads or the liability of handling freight. You may still be hooking up hoses, but you won’t have to tarp a load on a windy day.

The Cons:

1. Driving takes some adjustment time

When driving a tanker truck that isn’t full to the top, there is room for your load to move when you start and stop. This is called “surge.” Basically, if you slow down too quickly, the liquid in your load will be a little bit behind. A moment later, you might feel the liquid slam into the front of the tank. The force can be enough to slide your whole truck forward several feet! It’s challenging at first, but most drivers say they adapt quickly and use safe driving habits.

2. Can be more dangerous than other hauls

If you’re a tanker truck driver, there’s a good chance you’re hauling Hazmat. Whether that’s chemicals, hot oil, gasoline, or something else, it does increase your risk.

Normal activities like checking your load and your driving time can be more dangerous.

Even if you’re hauling food grade or other non-hazardous materials, climbing on top of a tanker truck in icy conditions can be dangerous.

DOT officer

3. Draws more attention from DOT 

While there aren’t any studies that officially confirm this, some drivers report that Hazmat drivers tend to draw more attention from DOT. This also may depend on the reputation of the company you’re driving for and the region you’re driving in.

4. Safety equipment

If you’re a hazmat driver, you will have a few extra safety requirements. A big one is the uniform you wear. If you’re a tanker driver, you typically wear fire resistant coveralls and an H2 monitor as protection from toxic fumes.

If you live in a hot part of the country, it’s not always comfortable, but it’s a small price to pay to keep yourself a little safer.

During load and unload times, you will also wear safety glasses and a helmet with a face shield to reduce your risk. 

The Take Away

As with any job, there are pros and cons to being a tanker truck driver. If home time and good pay are a high priority, this might be the perfect job for you. There are extra risks for tanker truck drivers, but there are also specific rules to help drivers stay safe. Overall, most drivers who haul tanker trucks say they love it and are never going back!

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