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How to Become a Truck Driver

The American economy depends on truck drivers as they transfer goods from place to place, forming supply chains that keep businesses running. With the total number of truck driving positions projected to increase by 5% by 2028, there are many job opportunities that you can take advantage of, especially since you don’t have to spend years learning how to become a truck driver.

What are the General Requirements for Becoming a Truck Driver?

Educational Requirements

Truck drivers are generally required to have a high school diploma or something equivalent like the GED. Berks Technical Institute will admit students without a high school diploma or GED on an ability to benefit basis. It is also recommended to attend a professional driving school that prepares future operators on how to effectively maneuver large vehicles and to obtains a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Prospective drivers can choose between attending a private driving school or attending a CDL training course at a nearby technical school.

Licenses and Certifications

All truck drivers are required to have a CDL license. The requirements for this license will vary from state to state, but generally, applicants will need to pass both a knowledge test and a driving test.

Drivers can also receive additional endorsements that will allow them to operate specialized vehicles. For example, to transport hazardous materials legally, you’ll need a hazardous materials endorsement. Each additional endorsement will have its own knowledge test, and many will include background checks.

Physical Requirements

Federal regulations require truck drivers to be in good physical condition. All drivers are required to pass a physical every two years, which includes vision and hearing tests. Certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, will disqualify you from being a truck driver.

Drivers are also subject to random drug and alcohol tests which, if failed, can be cause for suspension.

What Is It Like to Be a Truck Driver?

Truck driving requires a major lifestyle change for those working in the profession. This lifestyle change can bring with it many benefits and potential drawbacks. So what is it like to be a truck driver?

Benefits

Truck drivers can enjoy many benefits including:

  • lucrative pay
  • a flexible lifestyle
  • ability to travel and see the country
  • opportunity to become an entrepreneur, or work for an established trucking business

The appeal of driving for yourself is that you won’t have to share profits and you will be able to make your own schedule. Having flexibility in your schedule is a major incentive that many truck drivers value. However, running a business also comes with logistical and operational responsibilities, such as dispatching, negotiating contracts, and keeping a record of financial expenses for tax purposes.

Driving for an established trucking business can be just as beneficial as driving on your own because it tends to be more stable. Long-standing relationships have already been established, so there will be a steady flow of deliveries. If you’re not a fan of the logistical aspect of running your own business, you won’t have to worry about that when working for a company. This will already be taken care of for you! However, running your own business tends to be more lucrative.

Overall, the general pay is a particular selling point. The annual pay for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers can range anywhere from $28,000 to $65,000. This is a great opportunity to earn a healthy living given the low educational requirements and attending a driving program for several weeks.

Drivers also enjoy plenty of independence while working, as there is no supervisor looking over their shoulder telling them how they should do their work. For the most part, drivers are able to choose when they begin working, so long as they meet shipment deadlines. They also travel much of the country, getting to see parts of the country that most citizens won’t get a chance to in their lifetime.

Potential Drawbacks

As with any profession, there are potential drawbacks when becoming a truck driver:

  • Initial expenses (CDL)
  • Away from home for long periods of time
  • Loneliness
  • Work long shifts (including weekends and holidays)

The process to obtaining a CDL license can be expensive especially when considering the cost of a truck driving school program, whose costs will vary depending on how many endorsements you are seeking.

Truck drivers are required to be from home for long periods of time which can be quite lonely for some. However, you can choose to drive alongside a partner which can make trucking driving a more enjoyable experience.

In addition, drivers work long shifts while they are on a route. While federal regulations prohibit drivers from driving for more than 11 hours a day and 14 hours in a single shift, the job can be physically demanding. They also usually work weekends and holidays.

How Often Do Truck Drivers Come Home?

The question of how often truck drivers come home is one that both applicants and their families have at the forefront of their minds. The answer depends on a number of factors:

  • Years of experience
  • The company you work for
  • Whether you work for yourself (more flexible)
  • If you are a local or OTR (over the road) driver

Local routes can send a driver to a different location within the same city or a nearby major city, which can allow them to be home almost every night. However, most truck driving jobs are OTR, meaning that a driver can be away up to three weeks at a time before coming home.

That being said, some companies allow their senior drivers to select their own routes, meaning they often can come home after only a week or two, leaving the more remote routes to newer drivers.

Say Yes to Truck Driving, Enroll in a CDL Training Course Near You!

As with any career, there are both benefits and some less favorable aspects. However, if you value creating your own schedule, enjoy your personal time, and are a punctual, reliable individual, give truck driving a try!

For details on how to become a truck driver, contact an admissions representative at Berks Technical Institute today. They will answer your questions about our CDL Training Program in Wyomissing, PA. Learn valuable skills that may open the door for a lucrative career with many added benefits!