If you’re reading this, you’re probably asking yourself, “Should I Be a Truck Driver?” Any career move is a big deal, but this is even more true when you’re looking to become a truck driver.
Driving is a unique career path that will affect your lifestyle and your entire family.
We’ve come up with these 9 questions to ask yourself to make sure you are ready, willing, and able to tackle this one-of-a-kind, challenging career:
1. Are you willing to invest a year of time to get to where you want to be?
The first year of trucking can be a challenge. After you get your CDL, you first start with company orientation, and then you’re sent on the road with an instructor for additional training.
Once you complete training, you’ll get to be on your own (or with your dedicated team), but you won’t get the best freight.
From the company’s perspective, a new driver is an added expense on their insurance, and they’re not likely to trust you with their most valuable loads.
After the first year, though, the job gets better.
You’ll be more marketable as an experienced driver. You’ll make more money, get better freight, and travel better routes.
If you put in the time as a long-haul or over-the-road (OTR) driver, local jobs that can get you home every night may also become available. Companies that offer local trucking jobs prefer drivers with OTR experience, and you become much more desirable for these positions after a couple years.
Truck driving can be a lucrative and rewarding career, but, as with any job, you need to pay your dues. If you’re expecting to get the best pay and the best freight within your first 3 months, you might want to reconsider.
2. Is your family (or significant other) on board with your decision?
Your significant other should be on board with your decision to be a truck driver, or it could be devastating to your relationship. It is important for both of you to understand that you may be on the road more often than either of you would like.
The time away from home is especially important if you have a child. Think about the moments you might miss when you’re on the road.
If you don’t have a child, the path to becoming a truck driver is easier, but it’s still important to make sure that you sit down with your significant other, partner, or family to discuss the road time versus the home time.
3. Are you willing to consider being away from your house or hometown for a few days to a few weeks at a time?
This is crucial, as this is the reality of being a truck driver. Many truck drivers are on the road for weeks at a time. Your loved ones aren’t the only people that need to be okay with this. You do too!
Yes, you will be getting paid, but driving a truck does take a toll on life as usual. You need to make sure that you are content with life on the road, however long it may be. This includes holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, and it’s just part of the sacrifice that comes with being a truck driver.
When people ask “Should I be a truck driver?” they need to answer this question.
4. Would you be able to handle extended periods of time alone, driving in the truck? Or can you get your significant other, spouse, or pet to join you in the journey?
If you enjoy your alone time, then you shouldn’t have any major issues. Some people love being alone with their thoughts and a great view. Others love hitting the road with some good music or a good audiobook.
For other people, being alone for hours at a time is uncomfortable or irritating. If you go stir crazy when alone, then you need to seriously consider if truck driving is for you.
There is another option. If your spouse or significant other is willing to travel with you, then you can both enjoy time together on the road. You may even decide to be team drivers to keep the truck moving and keep earning money.
If your partner doesn’t want to join you, then maybe you have a close relative or friend that wants to team with you.
Truck drivers also commonly take their pets on the road. You just have to make sure you sign up with a trucking company that allows pets.
5. Are you okay using public facilities for showers, bathrooms, etc.?
Public facilities are a normal, everyday part of life as a truck driver. On the road, there are plenty of truck stops that have bathrooms and showers for you to use. These stops and plazas are necessary to relax and take care of your hygienic needs.
However, you can only relax if you are content with your surroundings. This isn’t the best job for a germaphobe. If you’re not comfortable using public facilities, then every day will be an unpleasant one.
Showers do cost money on the road. You have to pay for them, but many of the most common truck stops offer shower tickets that are good for a free shower. If you fuel up often and fill up your card, then you get to shower at that stop for free.
6. Does traveling the country and living on the road sound like an adventure or a burden?
Getting paid to travel the country sounds like a dream come true, and for many truck drivers it is. Drivers see different parts of the country, talk to different people from different walks of life, and get a paycheck to do it. This is the right career if you want that experience.
If you easily get homesick or miss your loved ones, you should think long and hard about truck driving. If you dread sitting in a vehicle for long stretches of time, then this is not be the path for you. You will be on the road a lot.
7. Are you committed to new, different challenges every day or do you prefer a routine schedule that stays the same?
We all have preferences when it comes to our work schedule. For many truckers, especially those that start out as long-haul drivers, truck driving brings new challenges every day. The routes, the schedule, the weather, the scenery, the traffic, and more are always changing.
Other truck drivers may drive dedicated routes, which stay the same. But even with these dedicated routes, there are many of the above variables and changing factors. Truck driving is not the same as going into an office with a 9-to-5 routine.
8. Do you have the patience to stand by when needed?
Logistics is not a perfect world. The schedules can get out of sync for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes when delivering a load to a consignee, you will be forced to wait before your trailer can get unloaded. Once you’re done waiting, there’s even more waiting as the freight is removed.
You may even have to wait in your truck in a process called a “live unload.” This can wear on your patience, especially because you will only get paid when the truck is moving.
That means you don’t get paid to sit and wait. But you can’t be rude to the dock workers either. If you are, they might make you wait even longer!
Some people just don’t have the personality to put up with the waiting or the stop-and-go nature of the trucking business. Truck driving requires a lot of patience, so it’s an important trait to have.
9. Are you willing to team up for a month of training on the road with another instructor driver?
Teaming up with an instructor driver is an important part to becoming a truck driver. This is an important aspect of experiencing the life on the road while learning important details about truck driving. Almost all trucking companies will start you off with an instructor driver if you are a rookie.
You need to be comfortable living in closed quarters with this person. You will be living with a relative stranger during this period of time. This is definitely something you need to consider because trucking companies require this from new drivers.
There is nothing like hands-on learning, and this experience provides just that. Driving with an instructor will give you valuable lessons, and training is a great time to ask all of the questions you have. Despite the benefits though, you must be okay with the training period before getting out on your own.
I’ve read the questions. Now what?
As you think about your answers to these questions, read on in this section to hear about the first deliveries from real truck drivers. Then continue reading to hear many of these same drivers talk about what it takes to be successful in trucking.
These sections will help you decide if this is the best career for you.