What to Expect Your First Year Being a Truck Driver

Truck driver sits in a truck and looks over the road

Starting out as an OTR truck driver is the beginning of a new and rewarding career. You will be a part of the heart and soul of what makes this country great. Keep in mind that without the trucking industry, most stores in the USA would have empty shelves and auto dealer lots would be empty.

The first step is to remember you’re a rookie. If you get into the driver’s seat assuming you know everything, you’ll make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to listen to other drivers.

Be honest with those offering to help. Be open to suggestions, ideas, tips, and the experiences of other OTR truck drivers. That way, you’ll learn a lot more a whole lot faster and settle into the lifestyle much quicker. Listen and learn. There’s camaraderie between truck drivers, and you’ll learn far more by listening than by talking.

You Will Experience a Brand-New Life.

Being a truck driver, you’re going to have to accept a completely new style of living and a whole new set of habits. Being an OTR truck driver is not an 8-to-5 job. There’s no more taking the kids to school or bridge clubs or dinner with the in-laws. Gone are the nights sleeping in a king-sized bed and eating meals on a regular schedule.

Keep in touch with family and friends while you’re on the road. Get a good hands-free headset, and whatever you do, don’t even think of texting while you’re driving!

You Will Get On-the-Job Training.

You usually start out as a rookie with a driver-trainer for a few weeks. Listen to what he or she has to say. If you pass all the tests and possess all the driving skills necessary, they cut you loose and you’ll be on your own.

You May Not Get the Best Freight .

There’s no telling what your first solo loads might be like, so take whatever the trucking company assigns you.

Unloading freight from a truck
You may not get the most desirable freight at first.

You might get the loads most drivers don’t care for.

These undesirable loads can mean any of the following: the region/route (such as the major metro areas, because of the traffic), the weight of the load, a disliked consignee/receiver, or even if it’s a HAZMAT load.

Take it all in stride. Consider your company’s point of view; do I send my rookies out with a load valued at several hundred thousand dollars, or do I send them out with loads that are not quite as valuable until the driver proves themselves?

As with any job, you are paying your dues and learning skills to build for a better future.  Take this on as a challenge.

You May Be Assigned as a Team.

As a rookie, you might start out team driving. Not all companies start you out as a team driver. A lot depends on what your driver/trainer said about you during training. And lots depends on the company. If you don’t like the thought of team driving, be sure to clarify this with your prospective employer before you sign on.

You Will Get Lost.

Expect to get lost a few times. This may come as a shock, but it’s the truth. No matter what GPS or road maps you’ve got, you’ll get lost. Big cities can be the worst!

Road exit on the highway
Exits can confuse GPS. Expect to get lost.

Occasionally, the GPS will tell you to “turn here” and you know there’s no way in the world you’ll get a 53-foot trailer around that corner.

So… you do the smart thing and don’t try to make that turn, and you’re now officially lost!

With any luck, you’ll be able to get on the CB radio and find another OTR driver nearby that’s been where you need to go and can give you directions.

It doesn’t happen very often, but a GPS might just ask you to turn into a one-way street. Be sure to save any destination you’ve been to in your GPS. You might be going back there in a month or two!  And make sure to carry a trucker’s atlas for a second opinion.

You Will Develop People Skills.

Great advice for first-year truckers: polish up on your people skills. You’ll be working with your fleet manager or dispatcher or whatever your company calls the folks that assign the loads. You’ll also be working with shipping agents, receiving agents, dock workers, fork lift drivers, contractors, mechanics, the safety department, and many others.

Being an OTR truck driver isn’t just about driving, it’s also about being able to work with all the other folks in the trucking industry. Any of these people can make your life miserable if they want to, so be nice! On the other hand, developing good relationships can get you the miles, money, and freight that you want.

Don’t be afraid to take on an undesirable load for your dispatcher. They’ll remember the drivers that are willing to help them out when needed, and they’ll also remember those that don’t. The same goes for dock workers. If you start screaming that it’s taking too long to get unloaded, it’ll probably take even longer.

The people you work with can be crucial to a rookie’s success as a truck driver.

You Will Take On an Exciting Challenge.

Without a doubt, the biggest challenge you’ll have your first year is overcoming your frustrations. You’ll have to deal with road construction, traffic delays, bad weather, missed appointment times, breakdowns, etc. No matter where you go there’ll be discourteous drivers cutting you off, tailgating, not letting you turn into a lane and more.

Just let it all slide by and go with the flow. Your first year of being an OTR truck driver will take you far across the country, and if you take on this exciting challenge with the right attitude, it can take you far in your career. 

Eventually, you will get better loads, more miles, and more money. Truck driving can be very rewarding, and what other job lets you look out your office window and get a scenery change every day?


About The Author
Contributor: Jay Barrett (Experienced technical writer for 40+ years with a background in trucking).