Preparing Myself for a Truck Driving Career

by TruckerMike

If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I'm getting ready to start my CDL-A Training. I've found a CDL truck driving school which I will be starting in about 3 weeks (which I will write about frequently) and my search for a good OTRcompany to get hired onto is ongoing. However, besides finding a good CDL school and trucking company, what else do I need to prepare myself for? Well, quite a bit....I think!

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I'm personally not going into this expecting it to just be another job. I think OTR truck driving is more of a lifestyle and hopefully one that I'll find rewarding. But I've come up with several questions about what lies ahead. As an example, I want to be sure I use technology to my advantage while out on the road.

What type of cell phone do I want? What provider should I use? What about some sort of wireless Internet for my laptop (air card)? Do I want satellite TV on the road? Should I keep my existing car with the high monthly payments, even though I'll only be home a couple days per month at most? I hear most truck drivers become overweight. What should I do to ensure I stay healthy? There are a ton of questions I'm coming up with and probably several more that I'll think of along the way. So, I'll fill you all in on what I've come up with so far on a select few of these questions. Keep in mind, everyone is different and everyone's life has different circumstances. I feel I'm in a pretty good position to enter truck driving as I'm single with no family to support, live with a friend which will be rent free once I go out on the road, have almost zero credit card debt,etc. Now, my bank account is sad (not much there), but you get the point. Many of you may have a family to support or have other expenses which could limit your funding, so take everything here with a grain of salt. And also realize that I'm not a truck driver yet. I haven't even started training! So don't take any of my statements as expert advice. In fact, if you disagree with me, post a comment and let me know! The last thing I want to do is give misinformation or mislead anyone. I'm simply stating my train of thought and my plans as somebody who is about to enter the truck driving industry.

It's been very difficult for me to decide on a cell phone and provider to go with. I currently have Nextel and am paying month-to-month as my contract is up. So I'm exploring which company I want to go with. Man, there's a lot to choose from! I feel a smartphone would be ideal so that I will have access to the Internet and email while out at truck stops and restaurants that have free WiFi. I'd also like a camera built into my phone for easy access while out traveling the country. This is something I'm still definitely exploring, but I think I'm going to go with the iPhone. Please feel free to comment if you think I'm making a mistake! From what I've seen, the iPhone must go through AT&T, unless I get an "unlocked" iPhone that can work with any service, but the "unlocked" version is quite expensive. I'd like to note however that the iPhone isn't the only smartphone on the market. The market is becoming flooded with different smartphones, so do your homework! Also, smartphones require a "data package" on top of your regular phone service, which runs about $30 / month. This seems pretty universal accross all of the major providers.

As for the service, from what I hear, Verizon is supposed to have the best coverage, followed by AT&T and T-Mobile. This is all hearsay, but that's what I've found in talking with truck drivers directly. No service will work everywhere and some will work betterthan others in specific areas of the country.I think I'll probably end up getting the iPhone and signing up with AT&T, so I'll be sure to write about my experiences with it out on the road. Definitely a tough choice! I'm waiting until January to pull the trigger as there are usually good deals to be found after the holidays. So please, tell me if I'm making a mistake before it's too late!

I have something to admit as well.My name is TruckerMike, and I'm addicted to the Internet....seriously. I know that I won't be able to get on and surf the web like I do now, but to me, having internet accesswhile out on the road is a necessity.As I began searching for companies who offer data plans for laptops, I was getting a bit disappointed. Most of the major cellular companies are about $60 / month and have limits on how much you can download. If you exceed their limit, you will pay heafty overage charges.I finally found a company called Millenicom. Check them out here: http://www.millenicom.com/

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They're $60 / month (some one timestart up fees at the beginning), but have no restrictions on how much you can download. And better yet, there are no contracts! They even provide the air card for you. If you cancel service, you just send it back.I started to dig deeper and found they are reviewed very positively by techology geeks. It also appears they use the Verizon network for Internet connections. These connections won't be as fast as DSL in most areas, but I'll have the internetin many parts of the country which is my main concern. And with no download limits, I can stream videos from youtube or download anything I want without having to worry about it.Again, if any of you have experience with Millenicom, please post a comment and let me know what you think! I haven't pulled the trigger on it yet, and would love to hear any advice! I'm not connected with them in any way, so any comment is fine, good or bad.

How about TV then? I hear about a growing number of truck drivers getting satellite TV for their trucksand it seems like a good option. This is definitely something I'm going to hold off on until I'm out on the road for a while. Other than watching sports, I don't really watch a ton of TV. But I did run across an interesting option that many of you may not know about. Check out this site: http://www.slingmedia.com/go/slingbox.

Slingbox is a device that will allow you to watch your home television from your computer (antennae, cable, satellite, whatever), as long as you have Internet access fast enough to stream it. Since most truck stops have free WiFi these days, I think this could work. The device ranges in price depending on the model / features you want, but even the best device, which is able to stream HDTV,is around $350 max and there are no monthly fees once you have the device. So if you have cable or satellite at home, you just plug this sucker in and you can watch it from anywhere in the worldon your laptop or computer. Unfortunately, the reviews have been so-so. I guess sometimes the box needs to be reset, whichhappens fairly often.And if you're not at home to reset it, you're out of luck until you get back home. The reviews that complained about the box needing to be reset were fairly outdated, so I have no clue if this problem has been fixed or not. Any of you have experience with Slingbox? I'd love to hear about it! Post a comment!

I've been having trouble deciding what to do with my car. My car payment isjustover $400 / month and I still have 4.5 years until it's paid off. Car payments really suck.My Dad once told me, "never get emotionally attached to a car." Well, I have. I own a 2007 Mazdaspeed 3 GT. It's no muscle car, but it's a complete blast to drive and she's quick. I love that car. Do I sell it? If I do sell the car, I'll be lucky to break even on my loan. I don't want a piece of crap as a replacement, but was thinking I could at least cut my car payment in half. After getting really close to selling, I've decided to keep my car. If I save $200 / month, that's $2,400 per year. A decent chunk of change, but I feel that I can still actually afford the car. I should make about the same in my first year of trucking as I make now (assuming I make in the mid 30k range). I can afford the car now, so I should be able to afford it while I'm out on the road. Since I'll be putting very few miles on the car once I'm out on the road, it'll help my resale value, and I'll have something nice to drive when I'm home. I'm trying to be responsible about it, but after talking with my Dad whois ineconomics for a living, and weighing the pros and cons, I'll be keeping my car. Should I find I get into financial trouble once I'm truckin' my family has offered to help me sell it while I'm away. PHEW! I get to keep my baby for now! But it's something to think about. Truck drivers aren't home very often, so selling a car may be a good idea to help during those tough first couple months.

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As for my health, well, that's something I'll just have to deal with while I'm out there. It's definitely a concern of mine though. You see...I love to eat. And the foods I like aren't the healtiest in the world. I'm already slightly overweight, but I could really go either way at this point. Sitting in a truck may put me over the edge and just make me totally obese all together. My goal is to learn simple exercises I can do in the truck, park in far away parking spaces, helpload / unlaod if I have the option,be conscious of what I'm eating, and just do little things to help improve my health. While researching, it appears truck drivers live 10 years less than the average American. With so many truckers smoking cigarettes, I'm sure this skews the numbers a little bit. Afterall, I sit in a chair all day at my current officejob anyway. But it's definitely a concern of mine and something every new truck driver should be conscious of. I'll be sure to update my blog with any tips or tricks I have, but for now, I'm not too sure what I'll do on this front.

One thing I'll be changing for sure is my alcohol intake. I really like beer...a lot. I never drink and drive, so that's not a concern of mine (a DUI can all but destroy a career in trucking). But on the same token, when I get home from work these days, I like to have a couple beers. In truck driving, this is a horrible habit to keep. While I'm not a truck driver yet, it is my opinion that alcohol has absolutely no place in a truckers life while they are out on the road. It should just be a rule; when out on the road, whether "on-duty" or not, just stay away from the stuff. As soon as exceptions are made ("ok, one beer during my off -duty time wont hurt"), that's when the trouble can start. I'm taking a zero tolerance approach to alcohol and have already started to be concious of that here at home. Once my CDL training starts, I will not be drinking any alcohol at all.Some sacrifices have to be made when going into a truck driving career, and I think when it comes to alcohol, it should be zero tolerance and enforced by yourself. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for this career. Is it a sacrifice you're willing to make? ...Just an opinion of mine. Again, take it with a grain of salt as I'm not even a trucker yet. But I would love knowing people I'm sharing the road with take it as seriously as I do.

Well, as you can see, my mind is running at a million miles a second. There are a lot of things to think about and even some sacrifices that need to be made. Those of you with a family have even more to think about. Actually, I think Iprobably have it easy compared to many of you.

Maybe I'm "new school" and will think differently once I'm out on the road, but I plan on using technology to my advantage while I'm out there. If any of you have any advice for me, please post a comment! But my main messageis that Irealize there are sacrifices that need to be made entering this career. It's best to be prepared as possible. So I'm preparing now. I think a big reason turn over is fairly high in trucking is because people don't prepare themselves for the lifestyle change associated with truck driving. Are you prepared?

My CDL training starts on January 12th, 2009. It's getting close and I'mcrazy excited! I can't wait to quit my current sales job! Only a couple more weeks.I'll be posting about my experiences during trainingin detail. So stay tuned.

Until next time, drive safely!

TruckerMike

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

DUI:

Driving Under the Influence

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

by Brett Aquila

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