Considering A Career As A Trucker... Any Advice?

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Christopher W.'s Comment
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Hi, I was wondering if anyone here could help me with something? I'm gonna' try to make a long story short, I'm 20 years old, can't afford college, can't just move back in with my parents and my current warehouse job is both not paying the bills, and driving me absolutely insane. A few days ago, a friend told me to consider a career in trucking and linked me to this website, particularly the article regarding free training. At first I wasn't sure this was the way to go for me, but after reading over a few of the articles and weighing pros and cons, it honestly seems like a better option than anything else I'm capable of at this point.

Pros - I like being alone, so not having loud, annoying co-workers or an overbearing to deal with won't be an issue. - While trucking does frighten me a little, I've enjoyed what little driving I've done so far. - I'm no stranger to pulling all-nighters, and I can deal fairly well with an erratic sleep schedule. - I prefer a job where I don't spend a lot of time on my feet, as I'm rather tall, heavy and not all that athletic. I have "natural big guy strength" but I don't lift weights or anything, and my feet hurt after about seven hours standing up.

Cons - I've never driven any vehicle on the highway, I've passed driver's ed twice now (Once in high-school before I moved, once for my Texas driver's license) but I've never really had access to my own vehicle.

So there are more pros than there are cons that I can see clearly by this point, but the lack of experience is a pretty big con... I just figured I would go ahead and see what some experienced drivers think about my situation, and I wouldn't mind hearing from some beginners as well! Thanks in advance!

- Chris W.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Best Answer!

Okay, looks like a new roadblock... Now I'm being told that even once I've had my Class D for a year, there's a physical exam and I'm highly unlikely to meet it because I'm overweight and therefore, will most likely have high blood pressure. Is this true? Should I just give up here? Is this a career killer?

Well there you go - now you have another awesome goal for the next year - get in shape! Obviously being overweight is not a life sentence, it's a choice. If you want to get your life moving forward by getting your license and eventually getting your CDL then add getting in shape to the list and make it happen!

Listen....I'm gonna throw this at you and you can do anything you like with it. You won't like hearing it but in my opinion you need to hear it if you're going to consider a career in trucking.

You're super young still but I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say to this point you've been a poster child for today's youth. You're broke, you live with relatives, you're a gamer, you're overweight, and you don't have a driver's license. On top of that you've also failed your regular driving test twice because of nerves. None of that says anything negative about the quality of human being you are. But it says everything about your work ethic, discipline, motivation, and ability to handle pressure - all of which you'll need if you're going to thrive in trucking.

Trucking is incredibly demanding. It's stressful, the days are super long, the job is thankless, and it completely overwhelms a lot of people. Just learning the basics of driving well enough to get your CDL is quite a huge ordeal for most people and nobody will tell you it's easy. Then surviving a month or two on the road with a trainer is even more difficult because now you're stuck in a truck with someone you don't even know and you're thrust into situations where you'll constantly feel like you're in way over your head. Then it again gets even more difficult when it's time to go solo and you realize the only thing worse than being stuck in a truck with another driver is being stuck by yourself trying to figure everything out. Getting started in trucking is a long, difficult process - a trial by fire if you will - and a lot of people never even make it to the point that they're running solo. It's a daunting task.

If this is something you want to do then I want you to understand just how difficult this is going to be so you can start preparing yourself for it. You have an entire year before you can really get started and that's probably a huge blessing. That's plenty of time to get in shape, study the training materials, research the industry, and prepare yourself mentally for the dramatic ups and downs you'll face once you get started with training.

If you haven't gone through our Truck Driver's Career Guide or my book about life in the trucking industry (free online version!) then you certainly should. It will help you understand just how difficult this industry can be and make sure you're prepared for it.

We're all about supporting each other here at TruckingTruth. We do all we can to encourage each other to endure the challenges and survive that first year on the road. I have no doubt you're capable of doing this and we'll be behind you all the way. But most people that run home with their tail between their legs after getting chewed up and spit out by the trucking industry were more than capable of making it happen. Unfortunately they underestimate (by a mile in fact) just how gruelling that first year in the industry will be.

So to me it's all about having the right expectations and preparing yourself for the challenges that lie ahead. That's why I'm saying all of this. We know how to help you get your career off to a great start and the first thing we have to do is warn you about how difficult this will be. The people who tend to thrive in trucking are Type A personalities who are fiercely independent and love a challenge and an adventure. If you're up for it the trucking industry would be happy to have you and we'll be happy to help you make that happen. But don't kid yourself into thinking this is some sort of relaxing job where you just cruise around enjoying the scenery without a boss looking over your shoulder. Oh sure that's part of it. But that's not the part that kicks people's *sses. The stress, the erratic sleep patterns, the very long days, weather, traffic, solitude, and thankless nature of the job - it can beat you down and wear you out.

But the lifestyle also gives you unparalleled opportunities to travel this country making good money living an amazing lifestyle. My years on the road were priceless and I wouldn't trade em for the world. But almost nothing about it was easy, even with many years of experience under my belt. Trucking is just hard - that's all there is to it. That's one of the main reasons I loved it.

I know some of this wasn't fun to read but I'm not going to help you be successful at this by sugar coat anything. I'm totally on your side and I'm pullin for ya all the way but I want you to do some serious thinking before committing to this.

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.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

ButtonUp's Comment
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Great Answer!

Hey, Christopher W. We have the same first name and middle initial lol.

Man, I was living at home when I was 22. That's actually the year I moved out and started in retail for the first time. I had moved out and moved back in before that.

I am just going to share my personal opinion with you. Take it for what it's worth. I am not an official spokesperson for the website or anything like that.

My personal opinion is that, despite a lot of what you hear, driving experience of any kind is beneficial before starting trucking. Highway driving as well, since that's when you're usually going the faster speed and posing the most danger to the public as well as to yourself.

My advice would be, go take the test and get your regular operator license as soon as possible. Drive as much as possible. Get a cheap car, or ask your parents or whomever to let you drive as much as possible. There are instincts in driving that develop over time that can't be learned any other way than actually driving. In a car, a close call is nothing to shrug off, but in a truck, that margin between a close call and outright catastrophe is mighty slim. Let me tell you, I don't doubt that if I hadn't had over 25 years of experience driving other vehicles before starting in a truck, I would have had a major accident or killed someone or myself by now. People will do stuff around a truck they normally wouldn't even do around another car, and it takes every bit of skill and luck combined sometimes to avoid a messy, messy situation. Truck drivers can go to prison over accidents.

A lot of the ability to determine in advance what the vehicles around you are about to do is the knowledge of having been in their similar situation yourself, and having observed other drivers' behaviours around you when you are driving in general, truck, car, bicycle, whatever.

I am not saying you can't start driving a truck and learn and develop the necessary skills without any other experience, I am saying IN MY OPINION - ANY experience helps. Sure, trucks shift different, and you have to learn how to properly shift a truck, and if you've shifted synchronized transmissions all your life it takes some getting used to, BUT there are aspects of driving a standard transmission that experience, synchronized or not, helps.

During the time you are developing driving skills in general, one year if necessary, see if you can find a place to access a truck simulator, or heck if you got a computer get 18 Wheels of Steel on Steam, or Euro Truck Simulator, and play that a little. It's not an actual truck simulator by any means but can give you an idea of why a truck turns wider and slower than a Porsche, etc., and practice backing it. After crunching a few light poles and little 4-wheelers in a game or simulator, you might see how easy it is to do, and reflect on how each of those incidents could be a trucking career-ender or ticket to prison time in real life.

I would highly recommend an actual professional truck simulator if you can somehow find access to one. I don't know what it would cost. When it comes time to go to a trucking school, I would recommend finding one that is NOT fast paced. (Unless you find you are particularly gifted when it comes to driving... which is possible.)

However you choose to pursue your trucking career, I think the most important thing right now is to get your actual driver's license as soon as possible. Focus on the basics. General rules of the road are universal. Signal before turning and 300ft on a highway before changing lanes. Come to a complete stop at signals and stop signs, etc. How to merge onto an interstate. Stuff like that. Following distance, etc. Knowledge is one thing. Experience is another.

The advantage you have is that it doesn't sound like you have a lot of aggressive or bad habits. You can start this with a pretty-much clean slate. And, you know what your goal is, and can devise a plan to obtain it.

Like I said, this is all just my personal opinion.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

ButtonUp's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Mmmm... generally speaking, I wouldn't recommend turning on the radio while taking your test.

The best thing to do right now is get your roommate to let you drive as much as possible, with a focus on taking your driving test as soon as possible. She could let you take it in her car. Ask her to let you drive more. If you can get that data entry position 30 minutes away, see if you two can figure out a way for her to help you commute if you help with gasoline cost. And, if you can do the driving... BONUS.

I would imagine that driving as much as possible before you take your test will take care of most of the testing jitters. If I hadn't driven that much before I took my car test I would have been nervous as heck, but, I started driving out on the farm at about 4 years old, doing the steering and shifting while sittin' in grandpa's lap. I learned to drive ol' Allice (tractor) out there, and the fear of her flipping over on me and killing me was enough to teach me smooth clutching. By the time I was 6 I was driving the ol' Dodge in the fields with a trailer next to the bailer while the big kids loaded the bales of hay on it, which was when I learned the basics of trailer backing. By the time I was 12 I had my own '64 Chevy with 3 on the tree, blazing my own trails through the fields, much to grandfather's dismay. When I got my permit at 15 1/2, I drove a lot. I went to test in my dad's Buick automatic, and the tester refused to test me in it because it had Missouri plates (I'm an Okie.) So, we went back and got my car, a Mazda with a standard transmission. I think since it was my own car I did even better than I would have in the automatic. The tester took a look at my red winged wiper blades, and the newly installed Sparkomatic radio, and figured out it was my car. I think I hit the curb on the parallel park, but he passed me anyway.

I am not trying to brag or anything, but the thing is, even after all that, and 25 years later of driving experience, when I got in the truck it was a challenge. I almost cried in school once because I struggled with my self confidence as a 40-year old (at the time) whether or not I was going to be able to pull it off. I am a single parent with a 15yr old (he turned 13 while I was in school) and that was a lot of pressure to be under. I was NERVOUS, you can bet. Even with all the life experience I had up to that point. Even yesterday when I got back to the yard and had to back a trailer in-between two crooked trailers that were double-stacked (in front of) the two trailers that were aside my spot, I struggled with it. The lot is dirt, and the engine fan and air-dryer puffing dirt all up around everywhere, I couldn't see much of anything, and the sun was either in my face, or reflecting off a surface somewhere into my eyes. I recently got a different truck and I am still getting used to it. Even after acing the last several drops I had to do, I was over-steering and over-correcting, and there were students watching me laughing their butts off. But I got it in there without hitting anything, pulling up at least 4 times. Dealing with nervousness and pressure is a trucking job requirement. I would dare to say, a LIFE requirement. Tackle your driving challenge. Even if you don't go into trucking, DRIVING is something I highly recommend taking seriously and would delay no further in your progression. You can see how a 30 minute commute is a challenge now, and how your life's progression in being hindered by your driving situation. Working and saving for a car may be your only alternative, but I would really be trying to work something out with your roommate if at all possible. Make a pretend driving test course around where you live and get her to let you do it a few times, and then go test.

Just my opinion.

Christopher W.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!
Well there you go - now you have another awesome goal for the next year - get in shape! Obviously being overweight is not a life sentence, it's a choice. If you want to get your life moving forward by getting your license and eventually getting your CDL then add getting in shape to the list and make it happen!

Ehh, not sure I'd call it "awesome" but it is a goal. I'm not gonna' let anything get between me and my end goal, I've been stagnating in this weird phase between teenager and adult for way too long. :P

You're super young still but I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say to this point you've been a poster child for today's youth. You're broke, you live with relatives, you're a gamer, you're overweight, and you don't have a driver's license. On top of that you've also failed your regular driving test twice because of nerves. None of that says anything negative about the quality of human being you are. But it says everything about your work ethic, discipline, motivation, and ability to handle pressure - all of which you'll need if you're going to thrive in trucking.

Ehh, kinda', except I don't live with family anymore or this would be a little easier to pull off since I could quit my job at the warehouse and dedicate myself to preparing for the CDL test. I'm fully aware, sadly, that I fit the mold for "millenials"...

Trucking is incredibly demanding. It's stressful, the days are super long, the job is thankless, and it completely overwhelms a lot of people. Just learning the basics of driving well enough to get your CDL is quite a huge ordeal for most people and nobody will tell you it's easy.

Yeah, but to be fair it seems like nearly any job I can get at this point will be stressful, and with long hours too if I want to make rent. The thankless bit doesn't bother me really, it's always been a weird thing with me where I don't really like being congratulated for doing my job. I'm not saying it's gonna' be easy, but rather that, it seems, nothing that's worth the trouble comes easy. It's a sad fact of life that if you want something, you're going to have to struggle for it, it seems, at least if you're in a situation like mine.

Then surviving a month or two on the road with a trainer is even more difficult because now you're stuck in a truck with someone you don't even know and you're thrust into situations where you'll constantly feel like you're in way over your head. Then it again gets even more difficult when it's time to go solo and you realize the only thing worse than being stuck in a truck with another driver is being stuck by yourself trying to figure everything out. Getting started in trucking is a long, difficult process - a trial by fire if you will - and a lot of people never even make it to the point that they're running solo. It's a daunting task.

Being with the trainer, admittedly, will probably be very stressful for me because to make a long story short, I'm not a fan of having other people so close to me for extended periods of time. On the other hand, I understand that it's a vital part of... well... training, and that without it, I'd be just as helpless as I am now. Going solo, again, will probably be scary at first, but I get the feeling that I'll like it once I get used to it.

If this is something you want to do then I want you to understand just how difficult this is going to be so you can start preparing yourself for it. You have an entire year before you can really get started and that's probably a huge blessing. That's plenty of time to get in shape, study the training materials, research the industry, and prepare yourself mentally for the dramatic ups and downs you'll face once you get started with training.

It's strange, I know, I hadn't really considered becoming a truck driver until about a month ago but I'd say this is the most determined to do a specific thing I've been in a long time... And yes, a year SHOULD hopefully be plenty of time for me to prepare. :)

Sorry, gotta' cut this short 'cause I have work... Time to go bust my you-know-what in a warehouse for around 8 hours, bleh... Ah well, I'll respond to the rest later! Thanks again!

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.

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.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Of the "pros" of trucking you mentioned, be careful about this one:

I won't have a boss that constantly peers over my shoulder to make sure I'm doing things HIS way

You'll have more bosses in trucking than at any 10 jobs put together. Every cop and DOT officer in America. Every private security guard and customs agent. Every dock worker and shipping/receiving clerk. Every dispatcher , load planner, operations manager, safety manager, and logbook compliance manager.

The list goes on forever. Truckers have absolutely no authority over anyone for any reason other than one - you and you alone will decide whether or not it's safe to drive. You can refuse to drive for any reason at anytime. That's about it.

Congress writes the laws governing the industry and every law enforcement agent on the planet can enforce them. They don't even need cause to pull you over, search your truck, or go through your paperwork.

When you arrive at the customer you'll have absolutely no authority over when you get loaded or unloaded. You'll do what they ask and then sit there and hope for the best.

When you get assigned a load you'll be given not only the routing you have to take but the fuel stops you'll need to use along the way and the schedule you must keep for both the pickup and delivery.

And of course there will be random roadside inspections and random drug tests at anytime.

The company also monitors everything imaginable about that truck at all times. They'll know your speed and location at all times, your shift patterns, your fuel mileage, and a million other things. In fact, the safety department will get a red flag notice if you exceed a certain speed or even if you hit the brakes hard. They'll know it happened within seconds.

So indeed you will not have anyone in the truck with you telling you what to do. But pretty much everyone in the world outside the truck can and will.

So as much fun as the lifestyle can be, the "freedom of the open road" really applies more to RV's and road-trippers than it does to big rigs. Truckers generally have the freedom to shut up and do what they're told by everyone they come across. That's about it.

Heck, back in the day before the 14 logbook hour rule you could even take naps and have a pretty flexible schedule. Now they make you do your full day's work in a 14 hour window which includes up to 11 hours of driving. Often times you won't even have the privilege of taking a nice nap or sitting down for a nice lunch somewhere. The rules pretty much dictate that once you start working you can't really stop for much of anything until the day is done. And when you do stop it's normally to get fuel, scale the truck, turn in paperwork, and grab something to eat while you're driving.

As far as being overweight...you have every right to make that choice for yourself. But depending on how overweight you are keep in mind you might be forced to pay for a sleep study to test for sleep apnea , which can be costly. If you do have sleep apnea you'll be required to use a CPAP machine which monitors and reports your usage to the company. So not only will they be monitoring every move you make when you're working but they'll even monitor your sleep. As young as you are I would imagine blood pressure shouldn't be an issue yet but at some point it likely will be and you'll have to take meds to control it. And if by chance you become diabetic you can only drive as long as you're not on insulin shots. Anyone who must take insulin shots is excluded from commercial driving. So there are some legitimate job concerns related to being overweight in trucking, many of which can instantly end your career if you can't get them fixed with approved medications. So just be aware of that.

We're certainly behind you all the way but I want to put all of this out there so you know your circumstances and options as well as possible. Having accurate information is essential for making good decisions. We'll give you all the information we can think of and you can make the decisions that you feel suit you the best.

smile.gif

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Sleep Apnea:

A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

CPAP:

Constant Positive Airway Pressure

CPAP is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from Sleep Apnea.

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.
Old School's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!
Well, it's not so much a thing about "I can't" or "I won't" as it is about "I don't really want to".

Christopher, that statement tells us a lot about your approach to life and the problems that you have with it. You seem to think that there is no way that you can "make rent" on the money that you are making at your job, and you often refer to "my situation" as though it were something especially unique to you. For a grown adult to not have their drivers license yet or know the rewarding responsibility of paying their own way is usually indicative of the very attitude you put forth in the above statement. You just don't want to do a lot of things.

It is not a helpful way to go through life thinking that you are somehow singled out as someone who is unfairly treated. You mentioned that your parents don't have anything to do with you and you pretty much stated that it was their choice and it didn't make a lot of sense to you. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you probably "didn't really want to" do a lot of the things they have suggested to you through the years, and you may really benefit by taking a nice long contemplative look in the mirror, and try to figure out where the root of your problems lie. I can guarantee you that there are people at your same job who are "making rent". I've "made rent" when I had to starve myself to do it. You can't out do me with hard times, even if you tried, you'd never come close. The reason you or anyone else can "make rent" on a meager income at a terrible job is mostly because they "want to". Life is a string of choices that we make, but it is also a mix of the way we react to the situations we find ourselves in. The small percentage of people who win life's lottery is overwhelmingly small, yet lots of people spend their whole lives foolishly bemoaning the fact that they have been treated unfairly.

Brett has been very kind to you, as I will be also, but at some point in a persons life they have to square up with the facts that are staring them in the face and make the choices that will move them forward, whether that is just with a career, or more importantly with how they face the adversity of life and it's consequences. We take a genuine interest in the folks who come in here, and will always try to help if we think they might be receptive to it. Sometimes we will sense that a person is just a total rascal and we will try and deal with them accordingly, but as you can see we think there is hope for you. For you to succeed in Trucking you will first need to succeed in life. Maybe your parents made some mistakes along the way, we sure wouldn't know. Parents certainly have a tough job to do, but even if they are total failures we still have our own responsibilities to develop into useful and productive adults as we grow up and face our own realities in the world.

Forgive me if I'm sounding like I just adopted you, but I tend to call things the way I see them. I know you are getting advice you never intended to get in a trucking forum, but you are free to run away at any time. As long as you are in here we will do what we do best, and that is to tell the truth.

Pat M.'s Comment
member avatar

The only thing that lack of experience has done for you is that you have not yet formed any bad habits... I hope! It can be done but it may take you longer to get there. You might consider a community college course and keep your present job until you have your license in hand. That type of course will not be as fast paced as a company program and I believe you can get grants or financial assistance for the tuition. It is also a longer course but since you are only 20 you have the time. To go interstate you have to be 21.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Christopher W.'s Comment
member avatar

"The only thing that lack of experience has done for you is that you have not yet formed any bad habits... I hope!"

Heh, I hope so too! I play a lot of racing games but I do have a somewhat realistic idea of proper driving speed, I definitely don't have a lead foot. :P

"It can be done but it may take you longer to get there. You might consider a community college course and keep your present job until you have your license in hand. That type of course will not be as fast paced as a company program and I believe you can get grants or financial assistance for the tuition."

I'll look into a course at the community college, but worst case scenario, what are the downsides to being trained in-company other than not being able to leave for another company without re-training? Could I take the in-company now and two or so years down the road take a legitimate paid course?

"It is also a longer course but since you are only 20 you have the time. To go interstate you have to be 21."

True! I turn 21 in February. :)

Thanks for the help!

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Snappy's Comment
member avatar

Hey there! I just completed my company sponsored schooling, and there are some pros and cons to both ways of obtaining your CDL , outlined fantastically on this site. On the plus side, I got my CDL, with tankers and doubles/triples in just over three weeks. Good luck with it!

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.

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Daniel B.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey! I'm 23 and started trucking as soon as I turned 21. I'm basically you in the future, I also worked a warehouse job that both didn't pay the bills and drove me nuts.

How long have you had your regular drivers license?

This is very possible. I did it, so can you! You just have to be very determined.

Christopher W.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey there! I just completed my company sponsored schooling, and there are some pros and cons to both ways of obtaining your CDL , outlined fantastically on this site. On the plus side, I got my CDL, with tankers and doubles/triples in just over three weeks. Good luck with it!

Thanks a ton! Yeah, when capable I've been reading a few of the articles, and I might copy a few of them over to my iPad for reading while on break at work tomorrow. (They don't give us the wi-fi password and I can't afford iPad service right now, sadly.)

Three weeks to go from complete newbie to licensed driver is pretty quick!

Hey! I'm 23 and started trucking as soon as I turned 21. I'm basically you in the future, I also worked a warehouse job that both didn't pay the bills and drove me nuts.

How long have you had your regular drivers license?

This is very possible. I did it, so can you! You just have to be very determined.

Haha, man, when it's not the physical part of the job it's the co-workers ehh? The group I work with are... Excitable to say the least. Very loud, look and act like they're my age but some of them are in their 40s. By contrast I'm 20, look 15 when I shave and am very relaxed and quiet. :P

I actually, despite having completed my Texas Driver's Education course, haven't obtained a class D driver's license yet. I've held a learner's permit since 2010, and occasionally will drive to the grocery store and back with my roommate, but already having missed nearly a full week at my current job (TL;DR: food poisoning) I haven't been able to get proper time off to schedule and take the actual test. I've failed it twice, once in 2011 and once in 2013, both times due to nervousness. I'm really hoping this won't disqualify me, I've never been ticketed in all this time, and when it comes down to it the only things really standing between me and my license are confidence and time off from work.

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.

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Daniel B.'s Comment
member avatar

Get that license as soon as possible!!!!

Trucking companies require that you have a regular drivers license for at least a year before they'll even consider you, for insurance purposes of course. There is no way around this.

Christopher W.'s Comment
member avatar

Oh, well that's a shame... I guess it's not off the table, but I'll have to find something to hold me over between now and that one year mark... I guess if you guys have any more advice though, it couldn't hurt to know ahead of time. Thanks.

Christopher W.'s Comment
member avatar

Well, I've sat and thought it over, and I think I'm going to go ahead and keep researching to become a truck driver. In the meantime, I need to find another job to hold me over between the time I get my license, and the time I become eligible for training. Any suggestions? I'm looking at call centers and cell phone stores now.

ButtonUp's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Hey, Christopher W. We have the same first name and middle initial lol.

Man, I was living at home when I was 22. That's actually the year I moved out and started in retail for the first time. I had moved out and moved back in before that.

I am just going to share my personal opinion with you. Take it for what it's worth. I am not an official spokesperson for the website or anything like that.

My personal opinion is that, despite a lot of what you hear, driving experience of any kind is beneficial before starting trucking. Highway driving as well, since that's when you're usually going the faster speed and posing the most danger to the public as well as to yourself.

My advice would be, go take the test and get your regular operator license as soon as possible. Drive as much as possible. Get a cheap car, or ask your parents or whomever to let you drive as much as possible. There are instincts in driving that develop over time that can't be learned any other way than actually driving. In a car, a close call is nothing to shrug off, but in a truck, that margin between a close call and outright catastrophe is mighty slim. Let me tell you, I don't doubt that if I hadn't had over 25 years of experience driving other vehicles before starting in a truck, I would have had a major accident or killed someone or myself by now. People will do stuff around a truck they normally wouldn't even do around another car, and it takes every bit of skill and luck combined sometimes to avoid a messy, messy situation. Truck drivers can go to prison over accidents.

A lot of the ability to determine in advance what the vehicles around you are about to do is the knowledge of having been in their similar situation yourself, and having observed other drivers' behaviours around you when you are driving in general, truck, car, bicycle, whatever.

I am not saying you can't start driving a truck and learn and develop the necessary skills without any other experience, I am saying IN MY OPINION - ANY experience helps. Sure, trucks shift different, and you have to learn how to properly shift a truck, and if you've shifted synchronized transmissions all your life it takes some getting used to, BUT there are aspects of driving a standard transmission that experience, synchronized or not, helps.

During the time you are developing driving skills in general, one year if necessary, see if you can find a place to access a truck simulator, or heck if you got a computer get 18 Wheels of Steel on Steam, or Euro Truck Simulator, and play that a little. It's not an actual truck simulator by any means but can give you an idea of why a truck turns wider and slower than a Porsche, etc., and practice backing it. After crunching a few light poles and little 4-wheelers in a game or simulator, you might see how easy it is to do, and reflect on how each of those incidents could be a trucking career-ender or ticket to prison time in real life.

I would highly recommend an actual professional truck simulator if you can somehow find access to one. I don't know what it would cost. When it comes time to go to a trucking school, I would recommend finding one that is NOT fast paced. (Unless you find you are particularly gifted when it comes to driving... which is possible.)

However you choose to pursue your trucking career, I think the most important thing right now is to get your actual driver's license as soon as possible. Focus on the basics. General rules of the road are universal. Signal before turning and 300ft on a highway before changing lanes. Come to a complete stop at signals and stop signs, etc. How to merge onto an interstate. Stuff like that. Following distance, etc. Knowledge is one thing. Experience is another.

The advantage you have is that it doesn't sound like you have a lot of aggressive or bad habits. You can start this with a pretty-much clean slate. And, you know what your goal is, and can devise a plan to obtain it.

Like I said, this is all just my personal opinion.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

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