The Hardest Part of Starting a Trucking Career

by Old School

We hear a lot of reports from rookie drivers and new students in truck driving schools, or paid CDL training programs, giving us a run down of the things they are struggling with as they begin their trucking career.

See also: What Causes People To Fail CDL School?

Let's go through a brief list of things that new drivers tell us they are struggling with. We've heard reports about problems associated with:

  • Double Clutching and downshifting
  • Straight backing, or just about any type of backing maneuver in a big rig
  • Having the driver's seat and the mirrors adjusted properly
  • Making right hand turns
  • Getting started from a stop on an incline
  • Figuring out how to parallel park that beast

I get a lot of satisfaction from helping newbies get the hang of all this, but there is one thing that I repeatedly see tripping up new drivers as they are trying to get this thing off the ground, and oftentimes they get their solo career started with this singular problem still dogging them.

If I could ever figure out a way to help new drivers get past this one problem, I could help the whole trucking industry improve itself dramatically. The disturbing thing about this problem is that most folks who are plagued by it don't even seem to recognize how it is hindering them. It is a subtle problem that hinders almost all rookie drivers, and many of the experienced drivers I've met seem to be hindered by it for most of their careers. It is, in my opinion, the biggest hindrance to real success in the trucking industry. It is difficult to put a name on it, because it is an evasive phenomenon of disillusionment that somehow continues to thrive on it's own falsehoods.

Let's just call it “Misinformation.”

What Does It Take To Succeed In Trucking?

I believe the hardest part of starting a new trucking career is being able to understand how one succeeds at this career, and to really lay hold of the simple principles that lead to success as a truck driver. I called this problem “evasive” because we tend to get all bogged down over the physical aspects of this job. We all want to make sure we find success at things like double clutching or learning how to “set the truck up” properly for a backing maneuver while completely ignoring the cognitive challenges that we are faced with on any given day out here. You cannot do even the slightest bit of research into this career without being exposed to gross misrepresentations of this career and how it works. It is truly one of the most misrepresented, misunderstood, and miscalculated industries that I have ever encountered.

See also: Podcast 10: Terminal Rats Are Derailing Trucking Careers

How many times must we endure seeing the same old preposterous claims being leveled against the trucking industry in online forums and videos? They never seem to stop, and are very seldom even challenged. As truck drivers we always seem to be vulnerable to fears that are based on misinformation in the first place. The commonly held notion that companies are holding their drivers back so that they can't make good money is absolute baloney, yet we see drivers making claims like this all the time.

This whole business is based on moving freight. The more freight you move, the more potential you have at making money. This is true for the company as well as it is for the driver. I don't know how these baseless rumors and innuendo keep their legs underneath them half the time, but they are like household roaches who just keep showing back up no matter how hard you try to stomp them out.

Top Performers Make Top Pay

This is a results-oriented business. Top performers make the top pay. Top performing trucking companies manage to squeeze out a profit, and their top performing drivers get rewarded accordingly. One of the foundational principles of success in a commodities business like trucking is that you have got to do a large volume of work. Nobody lays out a strategy in this business that takes the rogue approach of "holding their employees back and keeping them from succeeding at moving the most freight possible.” That would be self destructive.

Truck drivers get paid by the mile. This is commonly called performance based pay. The whole reason a business pays a person performance based pay is so that the wage earner himself will develop ways to become more productive. The more you can accomplish, the more money you can earn. It is a win win situation because the more you get done, the more revenues the company will be producing. It is a concept that is foreign to many employees who have been accustomed to getting paid based on the amount of time they spend at their job. Hourly pay is actually counter intuitive to productivity, while performance based pay gives the worker an incentive to use his talents and skills to set himself apart as creative, imaginative, and therefore both more productive and prosperous.

It should be every workers dream to be able to determine their own level of pay, and that is a great motivating factor for those who lay hold of the principles of success in trucking. I have oftentimes likened a truck driving career to being self employed. It really does have a common denominator with those type persons who are self motivated, disciplined individuals who thrive on making things happen for themselves in the marketplace. Successful truck drivers demonstrate those qualities daily, and do it both willingly and convincingly against the same odds that trip everyone else up.

There is so much misinformation circulating all around concerning this career that I truly do consider overcoming the influence of misinformation to be the toughest part of getting this career off to a good start. I am sitting in the driver's lounge of one of my company's terminals as I'm typing this little piece, and I am half listening and half trying to ignore a conversation going on among five other persons sitting here in the room with me. I wish I could play back for you a recording of what is being said. Here we are, all of us working for the same company, and yet I have no experience with any of the problems that they are vehemently complaining about in their jobs. How is that possible? Why is it that some people can't seem to lay hold of success in this industry while others consider it their dream job? How does one person come to the conclusion that trucking is like slavery, when another who is working for the same company is reaping financial rewards that rival many jobs that require college degrees.

Think For Yourself

When you allow your thought processes to be influenced by misinformation and falsehoods you have surrendered your ability to think critically and given over your good reasoning to corruption. Once you have surrendered yourself to a false way of thinking and processing what you need for success you have given up on the hope that you have control over your own situation. All successful truck drivers make their own path to success. Their employers hope that the motivation of performance pay will trigger something in them that gives them an edge over their competitors (their fellow employees). Is that concept new or foreign to you? That concept being that you are competing against your fellow employees. Success in this industry comes easily to those who take control and make things happen. I have taken so many different approaches to problem solving out here that my dispatcher recently gave me this compliment:

“You have got so many tools in your tool box that it really sets you apart from all my other drivers.”

Don't Listen To The Naysayers

If you want to succeed at truck driving don't let yourself be so easily influenced by the massive misinformation campaign that controls the thoughts of so many new entry level drivers. It's not the physical challenges to starting this career that will ultimately hinder you. Anyone can get past those things with a little practice. It's not some nebulous task master of corporate greed that is going to keep you from being prosperous as a new driver either.

Trucking companies want their drivers to succeed, and they go out of their way to help those who demonstrate a propensity for success. But those drivers who fall into the age old category of being victims to the status-quo of misinformation will make it very hard on themselves as they start this career. They will focus on all the wrong things when trying to get started. They will believe all this nonsense about there being some really good companies to start with and that there are some really bad ones to avoid getting started with.

There... you see what I mean? You were all ears until I made that last ludicrous statement. You're wondering how I could not be aware of all the bad starter companies out there willing to take advantage of new drivers, aren't you?

We've still got a lot of work to do!


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.


A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.


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.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Operating While Intoxicated

by Brett Aquila

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