How to Become a Truck Driver: Essential Steps for Launching Your Trucking Career

The trucking industry is a major part of the global logistics movement of goods across continents and in supplying local communities. From long-haul driving to local delivery of goods, the job of truck driving offers abundant career opportunities to people looking for life on the road. If you have a desire to become a truck driver and don't know where to start, you have found the right place. This is a guide to what you'll need and what you should know to finally start your journey as a professional truck driver.

Trucker Behind the Wheel


Contents:

  1. What a Trucker Does?
  2. How to Become a Commercial Truck Driver?
  3. How Long Does It Take to Become a Truck Driver?
  4. How to Become an Owner Operator?
  5. How to Become an OTR Truck Driver?
  6. How to Become a Local Truck Driver?
  7. How to Become a Flatbed Truck Driver?
  8. Conclusion

What a Trucker Does?

Before delving into the steps to become a truck driver, ensure you understand the essence of this occupation. A trucker's role is quite diverse, as he or she may be required to deliver loads from one area to another via road. The work entails planning the route, securing and unsecuring cargo as may be applicable, and ensuring that proper log and compliance for transport and maintenance of the vehicle are kept.

Truck drivers also have to understand about driving vehicles under safety measures in different conditions. For example, drivers have to know how to navigate the steep grade so that the brakes don't overheat, or how to make sure loads don't shift when sharp turns are negotiated.

Although truckers do live an abnormal lifestyle with very long hours and little home time, it also awards them unusual freedom and flexibility that few other jobs or careers could ever provide. On average, the drivers of commercial trucks get pretty decent pay. We have talked about truckers' pay in a relevant article.

Let's delve into the process of becoming a commercial truck driver, exploring the challenges involved and the timeline for obtaining your Class A CDL and commencing your successful career as a trucker.

How to Become a Commercial Truck Driver?

If you're strongly committed to becoming a semi-truck driver, there are a few steps that you will have to pass for entry into a commercial truck driving career. Let’s delve into basic requirements and find out ёyou need to become a truck driver:

  • Education: Not every company will require a GED or a high school diploma, but many will. Keep this in mind as you enter into your job search.
  • Age: You have to be at least 18 years to be able to get a CDL and drive within your state (intrastate). For crossing state lines (interstate), the age requirement goes up to 21 years.
  • Driving Record: Understanding how to become a truck driver involves meeting specific requirements such as maintaining a spotless driving record. To pursue a career as a truck driver, it's essential to have a clean driving record, as this is a prerequisite for obtaining a CDL.
  • US DOT medical card: A major component to getting and keeping your CDL is to pass a physical exam allowing you to be rated as fit to drive out on the road. It is a requirement that your physical be conducted by a certified medical examiner through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). To view the FMCSA registry, click here.
  • Drug tests and background checks: Your CDL will not need a drug test or background check to get one, but many companies will need you to take a drug test and provide them with a background check if you want to drive for them. Some employers would require, from time to time, drug tests; or some would add additional one-time tests in the event of an accident or when an employee has come back from a long holiday.
  • Non-commercial driver's license: Before starting the training to be in a position of being issued with a CDL, the trainee should have been in possession of a valid non-commercial driver's license.
  • Proof of identity and residency: Much like a regular driver's license, getting a CDL will require proof of identity. This includes proof of residence, such as utility bills or payment slips of mortgages, and social security number with a copy of a birth certificate. Check locally for needed documents.
  • As such, the process is very easy and does not require very great effort if becoming a truck driver is one of your dreams. In this way, you need to have a good reputation and also to pass a background check to ensure you are reliable and dedicated to safe driving.

How to Become a Commercial Truck Driver

How Long Does It Take to Become a Truck Driver?

Becoming a truck driver doesn't take long, and that fact attracts many job seekers. Most of the truck drivers should train for weeks if not months. Aspiring drivers are expected to first get the commercial driving license (CDL) by taking written and practical testing. The licensing standards also depend on the duration that the students take and the particular specialization that the license holds. Accelerated driving schools can help you to earn a CDL in around eight weeks.

The testing exam for CDL will be a final test, which you need to pass with several tests including a pre-trip inspection along with a road test. In case you're planning to handle any specialty cargo, like hazmat, at this point, you'll also be testing for extra endorsements.

So you will be able to start a trucking career in quite a short term and earn steadily. What is more important is more experience in trucking: running thousands of miles safely, you will be a precious worker for any carrier. Months and years of relevant experience will have a positive impact on your earnings.

Truck Driver with Smartphone

How to Become an Owner Operator?

While many drivers feel more than happy working for a company without the need of running a business for themselves, many others just feel the experience and later become owner-operators to earn more income.

Experience as a truck driver is very much important in understanding the industry before one becomes an owner-operator. After having acquired the experience, one can then buy or lease a big rig and procure the required business licenses, plus getting proper insurance. Being a good financial manager and an expert in contracts are some of the requirements needed for success as an owner-operator.

Owner operators have the flexibility of time, are their bosses, and gain the experience of operating a business. As with any sole-proprietorship, being an owner-operator comes with a lot of responsibilities. We have outlined the benefits and challenges of being an owner-operator in a related article on our blog.

How to Become an OTR Truck Driver?

There are various kinds of truckers and Over-The-Road (OTR) trucking is one of the most popular. OTR is the general term used to describe long-haul truck drivers. Long-haul truckers are those who are carrying loads between more than one state, or even more than one country. A trucker is classified as a long-haul driver when he cannot complete his trip within one day. The trips can require over a week on the road. However, those who usually take long-distance trips do appreciate the travel. The long OTR trips may even require two drivers to share a cab and take turns driving to both reach a destination in a shorter period of time. For most drivers, Over-The-Road (OTR) trucking offers vast earning potential, but it also means being far from home for long periods of time, sometimes measured in weeks. So, if you still wonder how to become an OTR truck driver, do some good research for programs and get your commercial driver's license.

How to Become an OTR Truck Driver

How to Become a Local Truck Driver?

Local truck drivers are responsible for carrying freight within a day's drive of home, so every day it's possible to get back home. Local drivers are CDL certified and have full knowledge of all local routes, as well as the law concerning traffic. Very often local truck driving requires great skills of maneuvering tight spaces and narrow streets. Also, backing 18-wheelers in docks happens every day for local truck drivers. This kind of truckers drive less miles in a month, so, in general, they earn less than long-haul truckers. But for the majority of local truckers this is not a disadvantage. Their work schedule implies regular routines and minimum time away from home and is thus considered more attractive.

You may have wondered how to become a local truck driver. Start at local driving schools, and get your commercial driver's license (CDL).

How to Become a Local Truck Driver

How to Become a Flatbed Truck Driver?

Flatbed trucking often means flatbed trailers with strapping-secured loads. The demand for flatbed drivers being so high, the pay is more competitive compared to other driving jobs. The demand for skilled flatbed drivers comes directly from the physicality and attention to detail it takes in securing loads to the bed, quite the opposite of the set-it-and-forget-it nature of dry van or reefer jobs. It is very important for flatbed drivers to secure their load, as this cannot be done in an enclosed space. Properly loading techniques are using ties and restraints up to code and constant monitoring to avoid movement. The flatbed drivers need a CDL and special training in load security, with improved safety training because the cargo is not contained. Normally, trucking companies provide a mix of in-house and on-the-job training for new flatbed drivers. Quality training greatly emphasizes that securing techniques for loads is paramount, particularly in flatbed safety. Learning how to become a flatbed truck driver would involve learning to secure a variety of loads and specialize in driving skills.

Flatbed Truck Driver

Conclusion

From wishing you could travel the country in an OTR haul to running a local delivery route, truck driving opens countless paths to some of the most rewarding career prospects available today. With proper training and dedication, a fulfilling and productive career in truck driving is within reach. If you're curious about how to become a truck driver, it begins by taking the initial steps to train the necessary skills and acquire the required licenses and certifications.

If you possess a CDL and are in search of a trucking job with a reputable company that considers its drivers part of the family and knows them by name, then be part of HMD Trucking. We value our drivers, and that's why we offer competitive pay, first-class, well-maintained trucks, and as many driving miles as they want to have. It all begins with just filling out the lead form below; you will hear from a recruiter in no time. Be part of a team that really takes care of its own.

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