Wanting To Become A Trucker But So Many Questions

Topic 29376 | Page 1

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Rebecca S.'s Comment
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Hi. I am a female in her late 30’s. I want to become a truck driver. I am looking for all of the knowledge, answers, and honest insights I can get. Any help is GREATLY appreciated! My main concerns are weather: if it is horrible snow, ice, etc. can you stop or are you expected to push through? Learning manual transmission: I have never driven a stick in my life and this concerns me. If I get trained only in automatic am I making it hard to find a job? I just found a local school. Small. I am wondering if I should go here and try to find my own job on my own or go to crst or cr England and be offered a job? Money: what is the ACTUAL reality of this? First year. Second. Etc. Does your pay really increase every year for a few years or not? On the money front: I want to own my own home which is my main motivation for choosing this career. I am single with no children so I am willing to spend most of my money to make this happen. I am concerned from things I have read online that I will in reality be making $12.00 an hour. I would really hate to go though all of this work to have a high risk job to be making the same amount as a cashier at any low risk job. Getting help from your employer when you need it, like on road emergencies. I’ve read horror stories of people being stranded for long periods of time.... Does CDL training prepare you props for the “real” job? I have so many more questions. I guess these are the biggest. I want to take this jump, but it is scary. I want to do this so that I can have a nice life and make good money, own a home and never have to rely on anyone to help me meet my needs. But it is a big risk to take if at the end of it I’m making $12.00-$15.00 an hour and will be unable to meet my life goals. Thank you for your time and responses!!!

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.

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.

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Welcome to the Trucking Truth site with excellent questions, Rebecca.

We highly encourage company sponsored schooling over private schools because you are hired after you complete training. The company has a lot of money and time invested in you so they want you to succeed for a return on their investment. A private school will train just about anyone for the money, but most cannot guarantee you a job afterwards.

Reputable companies are not going to push for a driver to move in inclement, dangerous weather conditions. A loaded trailer full of goods is worth much less broken open on the side of the road after a driver slid into a guardrail. Smart drivers and their dispatchers know when to stop. The weather and roads always get better and safer after a storm has passed.

Most large companies have switched nearly entirely to auto shifting transmissions in the past few years. Learning to shift and drive with a manual transmission is not as difficult as you may think, though.

Each driver that proves themselves motivated, safe, and reliable can be highly successful which equals to being paid very well. I see no reason a first year OTR driver cannot net $40,000. After that, the sky is the limit. Depending on your company, area, and freight type, I see a driver netting at least $75,000 in five years or less experience.

CDL schooling generally teaches you enough to become a licensed driver. Afterward, you will go out for one on one instruction with a trainer for anywhere from a couple weeks to several months, depending on the company. Once you are solo in your own truck, that's when you will truly learn the most. At that point, it's 90% or more in your own hands.

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.

Dispatcher:

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.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Rebecca!

It's obvious you are serious about this. You have definitely been researching this career online. One of the biggest problems with trying to figure out the trucking career is that there is so much terrible information online. Much of it is frightening. We completely understand your concerns. We struggle with fighting an information battle here on a daily basis. After being a very successful truck driver, Brett started this website with that very purpose in mind. His intentions were to shine some light on the truth about the trucking career. That's how he came up with that genius name he gave it.

I am concerned from things I have read online that I will in reality be making $12.00 an hour.

Here is the first thing I want you to know about this career. The trucking career is performance based. That means there is a certain level of competition involved. Let me try to explain what I mean by that.

In most common jobs, we get paid by the hour. We get paid for the amount of time we give to the job. That's simple enough to understand. If you are on the clock for 40 hours, your paycheck will reflect 40 hours worth of work. It doesn't really matter if you were goofing off on Facebook for 15 of those hours. Your boss doesn't know it, and still pays you for the 40 hours reported on your time card. People grow accustomed to that type transaction and get used to not devoting all their time to being productive. Not everybody works that way, but in the end the folks who are committed to their job, and devote all their time to being productive, yield the same amount of money as the screw ups playing around on Facebook all day. There is no distinction among the players on the team. If you are clocked in you are getting paid. It doesn't really matter if you are doing more than the next guy or not. Your pay is measured by the clock.

Now let's look at how the pay works in trucking. Truck drivers get paid for how much they accomplish. Have you noticed how everybody gets paid by the mile? Most trucking jobs are advertised as paying X amount of "cents per mile." As an experienced driver, I can tell you that a lot of folks don't get this "competitive" aspect of trucking. It's one of the things we stress here. For newbies coming into this, it is important that people understand how their level of productivity measures out their level of pay. That doesn't mean the folks who can stay awake the longest and drive the most miles get the most money. We all have the same rules and regulations that restrict how much driving we can do. What it does mean is that there are certain ways you can conduct yourself out here that allow you to be much more productive than the next guy. I have walked into customer locations before where there is a heated argument going on between the receiving clerk and the truck driver who got there ahead of me. He leaves without getting unloaded, and I am unloaded and out of there within the hour. He lost a day of productivity because of the way he conducted himself at the receiver. I gained a day because I knew how to handle the situation. I was the competitive one, and I came out on top. A truck driver who understands these type things can get a lot more done than his average performing peers.

Hopefully that gets you to thinking a little about the pay in trucking. You are going to read all kinds of things online about being treated like a slave and starving to death. All that nonsense comes from the people who don't know how to perform at a high level. In trucking you will always measure out your own pay by your level of being productive. When you see these drivers trying to claim Brand X trucking pays terrible and treats their employees like slaves, you can be assured you are hearing from a person who doesn't understand how to make this career work. Unfortunately they are the most vocal folks around. A guy like me who is productive, happy, and content with his great paying trucking job, is not going to waste his time commiserating with a bunch of losers in a trucking forum. I'm saying all this to assure you that you can make some great money at this. Every rookie struggles at first, but persistence and determination will get you where you need to be.

Continued...

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

Let's address some of your other concerns...

My main concerns are weather: if it is horrible snow, ice, etc. can you stop or are you expected to push through?

In eight years I have had to park my truck several times due to severe weather. Nobody has ever complained to me about doing that. Let me tell you it is extremely expensive for these trucking companies to dig your truck out of the ditch and get it back in safe condition for driving. If you damage the freight there is no telling what that will cost them. I have carried high value loads valued at over a million dollars. My employers have always reacted like this when I tell them I have got to park until this snow storm passes. "Okay driver, be safe and let us know when you think you can arrive at the customer. We just need to let them know what to expect. Thanks for being safe out there." That's the honest truth.

I have never driven a stick in my life and this concerns me. If I get trained only in automatic am I making it hard to find a job?

Don't give this a second thought. Knowing how to drive a stick is usually detrimental. A big truck doesn't shift anything like a car. More than likely you are going to learn in an automatic, and I can assure you that most jobs available to you as a rookie will be in an automatic truck.

I just found a local school. Small. I am wondering if I should go here and try to find my own job on my own or go to crst or cr England and be offered a job?

You'd be a lot better off going to what we call a Paid CDL Training Program. These programs are set up to have you a job upon completion of the training period. They train you. They invest their time and money in you. They want you to succeed and become a driver for them. Therefore they are way more committed to your success than the small school who is just wanting to get your money up front. You don't have to limit yourself to C.R. England or CRST, and I wouldn't. Click on that link for a fine selection of company sponsored training programs.

Money: what is the ACTUAL reality of this? First year. Second. Etc. Does your pay really increase every year for a few years or not?

Remember how I started this conversation? You will be in charge of your level of pay. Most rookies are going to make about 40 to 45 thousand dollars their first year. As you figure out how to be productive that will change each year. I made 50 thousand dollars my first year. in eight years I had doubled that income. You will work hard, but this career rewards those who understand how to get things done out here.

Getting help from your employer when you need it, like on road emergencies. I’ve read horror stories of people being stranded for long periods of time

I have never felt stranded on the road. There's two issues here when you read these outlandish reports online. You either have a rookie who doesn't understand how to communicate properly with road assist (remember how we talk about performance?) or you have a driver working for a really small company with very limited resources. You are going to get a rookie job with a large carrier. They have the financial backing and the national accounts to keep you on the road. Just communicate properly with the correct people and you will not experience this issue.

Does CDL training prepare you props for the “real” job? I have so many more questions. I guess these are the biggest.

The answer to this one is NO! CDL training only gets you a CDL. That is partially why we highly recommend you go the company sponsored training route I mentioned earlier. You will need actual on the road training to learn how to do the "real job." Small private schools don't even come close to this. That is why rookie drivers spend usually a month or more living with their trainer on their truck when they start their first driving job.

Well, I've spent a lot of time on this, but I want to leave you with some homework you can do. I'm including some links here that we call our "starter kit." Read these things. They will help you get a feel for things and they will also answer a lot of your questions. They will probably produce some more questions also. You feel free to jump in here with all your concerns. We will gladly address them for you and help you get started on a new and rewarding career in trucking.

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.

Company Sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Marcin M.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi Rebecca,

I am still at the school and we are practicing on manual transmissions 6,9,10 speeds and all students doing well. I drove a car with manual decades ago and developed bad habits so it might be even better if you have not drove one before. It is good to take a road test on manual because you will not have restrictions on your CDL and will probably have a first job with major carrier. They mostly use automatic anyway.

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.
Nancy P.'s Comment
member avatar

I think that most company schools are closed because of the virus...my grandson just finished a private school 4 months ago and the company that hired him is giving him his own truck this week. 😁 That being said, after 32 years driving, stick with it, find a specialty field of trucking you like ( flatbed, car hauler, high security frieght, etc.), get proficient at what you do and 2 to 3 years experience. After that, the sky the limit. I made $95,000 last year. I have always loved what I do, never have to make myself go to work. It is a sacrifice of time from home and family, but for the right person it can be very rewarding.

Old School's Comment
member avatar
I think that most company schools are closed because of the virus.

That's actually not true. Most of them are still accepting and training newbies. It's all done a little differently now, but it is still being done. Some aspects of it are even better, like trainees don't have to share a hotel room with a total stranger.

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