Earlier this week, we asked drivers this question: What factors should a prospective CDL student consider before entering the trucking industry? What might he or she not know about the industry?
Here’s what CDLLifers had to say:
Think if you can handle isololation and long periods away from your family. Everybody thinks I’ll get my foot in the door and the get a local job so I can be home everyday– Sadly, there just aren’t that many local jobs to be had, and you’ll have to drive regional or OTR. Most folks quit when they realize that fact. It takes a special person to be a trucker and a special person to be a trucker’s spouse. – Freddie S.
It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. The meek shouldn’t apply. Decide what and where you expect to be in two years, and stick to that goal while putting up with low pay, long hours and the endurance it requires. Plan ahead– Don’t chase the myth of the magic 3,000 mile week; it’ll come once your experience allows it. Listen to the old timers, and don’t buy into the mob mentality that certain companies are good and certain companies suck. They all suck unless they have a fleet of 50 or less. Don’t lease or train until you have good experience. You learn on the road, not in CDL school. Good luck, and don’t give up in that first two years. You can make a career, and keep your record clean while accepting every load. On-time delivery is the name of the game, and your reputation as an individual will let you stand out whether good or bad.- Tyrone W.
Guard your CDL license. Treat it like a gold card. You will always be employed. And stay away from negative people. It’s going to be what YOU make it.- Stacy A.
If living alone in a box on wheels for weeks at a time sounds like fun, then you’ll love it! Find a good company! If you talk to a recruiter and he/she tells you things that sound too good to be true, they most likely are! That’s the norm with most companies! I drive for Super Service and my recruiter didn’t tell me anything that did not happen! No wild stories about miles or pay! The only time I sit is when I’m at a shipper, consignee or taking my 30 minute and 10 hour breaks! I run my a*s off but I work my hours to where the ONLY time I ever have to take a 34 is when I go on home time every 12 days! Most of all, try it! You’ll never know if you don’t try it! Just please, do everyone out on the roads and their families at home and your family, use common sense and BE SAFE!! If you ever feel like you can’t do something safely, DON’T DO IT! Stop, think and reevaluate your options to find the safe way to perform the task!- Sandy M.
I have run OTR for years and have always got my home time. I don’t ask for it; I tell them when I’m going home and I stand up to them. After all, I’m a grown man. Don’t let them push you around.- Mark W.
The very first thing you need to consider is that you will work twice as much as anyone else with a 9-5 job. If you’re married this will take its toll on your relationship.- Chris P.
If you don’t know how to do something or feel uneasy, ask an experienced driver I still humble myself with 17 years experience and keep learning.- David R.
Basically nowadays it’s worth the $200 or so per week pay-cut to be home every evening and have weekends off and actually have a life.- Alexander L.
There’s more to it that holding a steering wheel and driving down the road and you’d better like, love and enjoy spending quality time alone with yourself.- Karen J.
Keep a positive mind when doing OTR, it can be very stressful if and when you don’t know where you are going with 53 feet behind you.- Corey H.
Have pride in what you do; be professional. Don’t put your job before family. Run every load they give you, don’t be a crybaby and be scared to go to NYC or wherever because of some b.s. another driver told you. Take pride in your ride. Always pay attention. You never know what’s gonna happen. Be mindful of your surroundings and conditions.- Chris N.
Here’s a few things not covered yet. In ’95 or even ’85 you learned to drive and then drove. Now you’re going to be driving for a big company and not making much for the first year or so. The personal touch won’t be there in most cases, and you’re going to feel like a number not a team member. After a few years, I always suggest people try a smaller company. Learn about the business, not just the truck operation and learn about the truck. You’re not going to be a dispatcher, but if you can see how that side of this thing works it will help. You’re not going to be a mechanic, but if you understand how to identify a problem or can gauge how serious or not so serious a problem is, you’re going to be a value. You may not be a truck manager in any official way, but if you manage your time and communicate with the company, brokers, dispatchers, and other drivers in a valuable way you’ll do okay. — Just learn to imagine a how the dispatcher, company, customer, driver, distance, time, parking, truck, trailer, parts, load, reefer or tank or any other stuff… and then the most important part – YOU all fit/fits together and solve the problem don’t be the problem and it will be an okay job. You should always want a better job or better pay so be a better asset and you’ll find the home you want.- Joe G.
Be careful of anyone who has an ad in the pages of one of those truck stop books. Use your state workforce, Craigslist, indeed, etc. Find a company based near you ( home office not just a terminal) if you wanna be home. If you wanna stay out, look for good trucks, newer trailers and an APU. Companies hate idling, but you deserve to be comfortable. And like the others, bring what you can. Try to stay at rest areas or even Walmart. Truck stops are money holes, unless you need fuel or a shower, try to keep away. Be safe and ALWAYS, ALWAYS remember you have the final say. It’s your license, you can find another job getting your cdl fixed isn’t as easy. -Jarett M.
Keep your record clean and go local ASAP. Don’t job hop, as it will bite you in the ass down the road. Remember you’re in control of your truck, if you dont feel safe, don’t do it. Make sure you don’t let dispatchers treat you like a dog. You can always say No.- Tim H.
Ask questions, always pay attention to trainer constantly work on that pre-trip and don’t expect to know everything the day you think you do turn in the keys because you will always be learning. Also expect long days and not seeing you family as much as you would like. Also don’t listen to drivers on what the best company for you will be only you can figure out what company suits you not every company is for every driver.- Steven M.
Don’t get frustrated and quit if you’re not being treated well, stick it out. I quit a great company with great potential to own my own truck because I got fuatrated. Take the good with the bad. If you have a good fleet manager, you will be OK. Don’t get in a hurry. If you can’t handle being alone for a long time each week and living in a 6×8 closet, trucking isn’t for you. Set your mind to it have fun and you will be fine.- Josh P.
Everything every day is a learning experience– Heck every hour and minute is. Come into the industry with a open mind and willingness to learn. Listen to us seasoned veterans and do not be timid about asking lots of questions.- Josh B.
Never overdrive your level of experience. If your dispatcher tells you to do something that is illegal, DO NOT DO IT. They do NOT have your back. Remember to be professional. Never let anger get the best of you, you’ll lose in the end. Everything you do make sure you’ve covered your ass.- Susan R.
Not everyone out here is negative, but the truth is, trucking is not for everyone. Most everyone has a false idea of what trucking is before they get into it; be prepared for the realty shock. Once you get over that, make your plan and don’t let anybody stop you. A lot of what you see on here is not necessarily just negativity, it’s a dry sense of humor that a lot of truckers develop . Just remember to keep the rubber side down the shiny side up you’ll do well God Bless. – CJ L.
The actual driving is the “easy” part. It’s a lot more physical than most people think. Even pulling a box you’ll have to be able to get up and down out if the trailer, up in the motor, under the trailer, etc. The mental issues of not being home very often can get to you at first. Your friends will change. It takes awhile to really start making money but it will come.
It’s a major lifestyle change for some. Carry yourself as a professional because you are and you’ll be treated like a professional. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, we all do, and remember to help your fellow driver out as well.- Brenda W.
That it’s hard work! I always knew that my husband worked hard, but until I got my license & started driving & helping with loads (we have a step deck) I didn’t realize just how hard! From driving, to putting up with all the regulations, eating all hours of the day & night, not sleeping well, strapping, chaining, tarping loads..it’s a very challenging job. – Peggy S.
Find a mentor, and remember, it not a job it’s a commitment to a lifestyle that’s very different then anything you’ll ever experience. It is what you make it. Oh, and like some on this page, stay positive there’s good & bad in every industry.- James B.
Can you sleep behind a team driver; how do you handle driving in snow; do you have road rage, do you mind being away from home; do you have bladder problems or IBS; can you deal with an assholes as a driver manager; does traffic in big cities scare you; do you mind eating shifty processed food; do you panic easy, and can you save money to possible prepare for the slim winter months?- Jeanne W.
You got to get at least 6 months to 2 years over the road before you can go local. Don’t think you will make awesome money at first, you got to do your time. Companies want you to stay out as long as you can. It’s not for everyone. Flat bed is where the money is.- Tonya C.
Being safe in whatever you do out on the road. If you push too hard you’re going to die or kill someone. Also taking care of yourself, and eating good is also important.- Zachary O.
While on the road, do not take advances on your pay. You will end up with $100 check if you’re lucky. Then you won’t have any money going home to support your family.- Scott H.
Its hard work for low pay, for long times away from home, friends and family, dealing with people who don’t care about you or what you do, and those who will try your patience at every curve in the road and on every hill in all kinds of weather (including the clear sunny kind). It’s a lifestyle that you can either do, or not do, because there is no try. I wouldnt change it for the world because after you been in a while, the pay goes up, the idiots on the end of the phone get better, and its a helluva lotta fun!- Wolfy W.
Do they have any idea what it costs to live on the road. Food is anything but cheap, no matter where you buy it. What about being away from friends and family for weeks at a time?- Dennis M.
You sit all day, your food choices are mostly unhealthy options. I don’t care what anyone says, you can make a decent living and stay within the law, but you will not get rich. If you feel you must drive, buy a refrigerator, or at least a 12 volt cooler, and keep healthy goods in it. Stop that truck every 2 or 3 hours and take a 15-20 minute walk. Stop for lunch and walk for 30 minutes, and eat something healthy, NOT truck stop food!- Darrell R.
Learn how to read a map and know the size of your truck. A good percentage of “trainers” are only in for the team miles while you make “training pay.” If you’re not learning enough from your trainer, ask a lot of questions or ask for a new trainer.- James P.
You have to put your time in and get the experience with very little pay, then move on to bigger better things. I’m still working on the experience part, and the pay sucks for a rookie, but I love it and am very good at it.- Cathy C.
As a trainer, I try to make the driver aware of the fact that ( while away from home) to not let business and your personal life confuse you. It’s a rewarding lifestyle if you are patient enough for the rewards.- Scott H.
This is not another get rich quick scheme. Don’t live on cash advances, they’ll eat your pay before you get your check. Keep your food in the truck. Be prepared to wait a month for your first check if you’re going to be paid biweekly.- Russell R.
If it is what you really want to do, always be receptive to what more experienced drivers have to say. Don’t become overconfident, that’s when mistakes happen. Always try to learn something new every day. Also don’t become a lazy steering wheel holder who only pulls dry vans. Learn many different things ( flatbed, reefer, specialized.) and get endorsements. The more you can do the more you will learn.- Brad D.
The lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as some think. Take extra care of the companies you choose to drive for. And get everything in writing.- Lisa C.
The minute the truck didn’t scare you is the minute you’ll do something to wreck.- William C.
Don’t listen to all the negativity! Any job is what you make of it! Driving can be fun and rewarding! Yet very lonely and it does take its toll!!- Paul C.
My best advice just starting out, is try to get on a dedicated account if possible. Unless you’re running team, that’s about the only way to make a decent check just starting our with a big company. Yes you will more than likely have to unload freight, but not on all accounts. Your miles will be more steady and so will your paycheck and home time.- Brad H.
Research who they are going to work for and once there stay at least a year. All company’s starting out are gonna be the same. And don’t try to to home every week end; you have to get miles in to make money.- Eric M.
A driver must be able to quickly adjust to changing routes schedules & home time length. It’s a great occupation just not an ordinary one where you would be always staring at the same 4 walls & off for the weekends.- Betty W.
Also, you need to take into account that it costs an average of $120.00/week to live on the road. So if you make an average of $650.00/week, you really make $530.00/week.- John L.
I would say BE HONEST with dispatch. Don’t try to be a super trucker then want to be home every day. The dispatcher owns you and your family. Do EVERYTHING they say and you will get miles. Piss ’em off one tim,e and the miles can be cut in half. It sucks but that’s the way it is.- Marty B.
The first thing I always recommend is for one to decide what type of driver they want to be. Otr, local, construction(water hauler, dump truck, etc.). When they figure that out, then they need to learn as much about that side as possible. The best way to do that is to talk with a seasoned proffessional with lots of experience. It helped me when I started out more than anything else, and prepared me for certain difficulties.- Aaron H.
Try it first. It does take a lot of guts. I give you credit that your main goal is to drive safely. Keep that in mind, if you are little late for delivery, it’s better to be late than kill someone out there. Get plenty of sleep when you can, eat right, and the rest will follow through. Things change everyday; that’s a good! Patience– You will need a lot of. The first time you do this, you will have a hard week, month, or a day. You will Learn from this; I guarantee it. If you have a question, or a problem ask other drivers for help, and pass it on to help out others. This means all super truckers, you know the ones that think they know everything about everything, and have a bad attitude to you. Be happy and drive safe!- Randy A.
Enter this profession with an open mind and a constant willingness to learn. You learn something new every day. Never think you know it all, because that’s when the truck will come and bite you in the ass. Get a plug-in cooler or find a company with APU so you can have a refrigerator, because eating at truck stops is expensive(10-18 dollars per meal). – Robert S.
Strap ur seatbelt on cuz it’s gonna be one helluva ride. – Jamie B.