First Year as a Truck Driver

What to expect as a First Year Truck Driver

The ability to travel on a regular basis while making money doing something you love is a privilege and a dream for most. One of the few employment positions that have this privilege are truck drivers. Drivers deliver items from around the world throughout the U.S. and sometimes even Canada and Mexico. Truckers are an essential part of everyday life for almost every industry including, retail, manufacturing, automotive, and food and dining. First year truck drivers have the opportunity to see the country, but will also be developing their driving skills. There are both positive and negative aspects to driving a truck and in the first year of driving, each trucker is sure to become acclimated with these different situations.

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Understanding the Life of a Trucker

Truck driving is a career choice like any, however trucking requires tailoring a lifestyle completely around a job. The schedule of a typical trucker is going out on the road for several weeks at time, and then having a few days home, which is called Hometime. This schedule is perhaps one of the hardest aspects for new truckers and his or her family. There are not many other jobs that require being away from family and friends on a daily basis during most weeks, aside from military or oilfield workers. So, truck driving is pretty much in a league of its own as a career choice for a family man or woman. The inability to participate in daily life and the solitude can take a toll on anyone; however, this is a part of the position as an Over-the-Road or OTR driver.

Learning to control the truck and trailer that he or she will be operating may be one of the biggest physical challenges of the job. Training for a commercial driver’s license, or a CDL, takes just a month or more of courses and workshops. One great thing about the CDL training is that it is much easier than other trade schools and college courses. With a CDL, first year drivers can start driving after a few months and make a full time income similar to that of those who exit college.

Though a CDL is considerably less expensive to obtain and in much less time, there is still a learning curve that comes along with being a long haul driver. Driving for eight to ten hours a day will be much more demanding than training for a CDL. The adjustment period of being on the road alone for the majority of the day or night will require determination and a love of the job. Setting up a proper daily work schedule according to his or her current load, with rests and work breaks, will aid first year drivers in making the change to an OTR driver far less challenging.

Gaining Steam in Year One

For the first year, many drivers may find themselves being assigned loads that are less than favorable. Many trucking and freight companies allow the drivers that have worked for the company for an extended amount of time to receive first choice in driving assignments. First year drivers may have to drive to desolate locations, into New York City or Canada, and have pickups or deliveries with undesirable schedules.

This can be typical of trucking companies, as first year hires must work their way up in the company and prove his or her skills and reliability. Keeping to a delivery schedule is essential for trucking and freight companies to keep client contracts, so providing services in a timely and reliable manner will help the first year trucker build up a positive reputation, and possibly allow first years to be dispatched better assignments.

The one highlight of receiving driving assignments is taking the road less traveled, literally. Driving is the one way to view the countryside, big cities, and hundreds of American suburbs all at once. Stopping in a variety of cities throughout the country will help gain a glimpse into life in different regions around the U.S. and is an experience that is like no other. No other career, other than anthropologists, travels the world and experiences other groups and their lives on a regular manner. Truck drivers receive one of the best crash-course educations on daily life around the U.S. through his or her freight routes.

While on the road, it is easy to become detached from the daily life that he or she once knew. However, new technology makes it easier to keep in contact with family members, so having that much needed connection with them on a regular basis is entirely possible. Keeping a cellular phone is essential to the job for emergencies with the truck or delivery, contact with the dispatch room, and for contacting the shipper or consignee.

So every driver should have a cellular phone within days of becoming a full time driver. Calling family while at a rest is a small, but important method to being there for family while in a different state. Many truck stops have several amenities like showers, dining areas, and wireless internet and using it for social media or video messaging is the next best thing to actually being able to go home at night. Messaging and phone calls will allow first year drivers to ease into their heavy driving schedule and fight feelings of homesickness.

Making plans to integrate into family life during days off is also a requirement for a healthy transition into long term OTR driving. It is easy to want to rest on days off, but getting up and out with the rest of the family and re-adapting quickly will keep life running smoothly on off days while on Hometime.

Long Term Long Haul Outlook

CDL certified drivers who enter into the trucking business have the opportunity to make a full time, middle class income from the very beginning. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most heavy and tractor tailor drivers will make a median income of $37,770 or $18.16 per hour. Trucking also has a higher than average rate of growth, with twenty-one percent rate of growth and millions of available jobs on the hauling market. In fact, there continues to be a driver shortage year after year. Driver’s wages are more than twice as high as the federal minimum wage and will allow most to provide for his or her family and live a comfortable lifestyle. Trucking is physically demanding and being away from family, friends, and familiar areas can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, but once drivers settle into their new life as professional drivers, the benefits can far outweigh the negatives.

View a detailed analysis of a Class A CDL Salary

Understanding what is expected of the long haul truck driver, then integrating personal and family time into the job will make the work environment much simpler regarding acclimating. If trucking for a living truly appeals to you, seeking out a CDL and trying out long haul loads for a year is the only fool proof method towards figuring out if trucking is a career for you long term. Again, a trucking career has its challenges; however, the positive gains towards becoming successful, getting paid to see the country, and providing a good life for your family greatly overshadow the negatives of being an OTR driver.