There is a process to follow to get into the truck driving job. In the next few articles, I’ll be explaining that process and questions you should ask as you proceed through the process. Let’s get started.
The first thing you must do is consider what sacrifices you will have to make if you plan on driving over the road, which is the term for long distance.
First thing, are you willing to sacrifice by not being home for some family events, like birthdays, or a child’s school activity? Are you willing to work whatever hours are necessary to do the job or do you want to work specific hours? Do you want to have to deal with unpredictable weather conditions? Do you want to live in the small spaces of a truck? These are just a few things to think about but they have to be considered. If you answer no to any of them then this job would not be for you.
Truck driving is a job but, even more, it is truly a lifestyle. Once you get settled in and understand how your company works, the job itself isn’t that hard. The lifestyle is what drives most new people out of the business. As a trainer, I saw how some of my trainees suffered from “culture shock” after a while. It was nothing like they imagined. But this is a topic schools and recruiters won’t discuss. Schools are only set up to teach only what you need to know to get your license, nothing more. Recruiters are there to get people into the company. I won’t say recruiters lie, per se, but they do tend to be vague and obfuscate. So you won’t find out about this until you’re actually hired and obligated to the company.
Trucking is an erratic business. You don’t work a steady schedule every day. One day you may deliver at 6:00 A.M. then the next load you get may deliver at 6:00 PM. Some loads, particularly frozen foods, tend to deliver around midnight. So you must consider if you are going to be able to work erratic hours.
Long hours are another consideration. Some days may be short, for example, you have a Monday morning delivery but Sunday you are 300 miles away so you drive 6 hours or so and park until Monday. Other days you may be using every minute of the 11 hours you are allowed to drive. Another example of the erratic nature of the business. Do you feel you could deal with that?
You may or may not have heard drivers talk about only working certain hours every day. Well, you can try that but the company may not like it, but even more important, you will be severely limiting the amount of money you can make. The smart thing to do is take every load you’re assigned, regardless of how it needs to be scheduled to run. Most of the drivers that complain about not making any money are doing something that is causing it then putting the blame on the company.
Healthy eating is hard to do. With the limited number of places you can take a truck, you are more or less captive to truck stop food. All the big chains have things like McDonald’s, Subway, Denny’s, Popeyes, and places like that. Not exactly conducive to healthy eating. Sometime when you’re out and about, take a look at how many truck stops are conveniently located someplace where there are no other eating establishments around. This is intentional. Many truck stops now do sell fruit and salad though the salad isn’t exactly fresh, but you won’t be able to eat healthy every day.
Other Things To Consider
Trucks that companies supply are equipped with Qualcomm or something similar. This is the communication center, where you receive your load information, communicate with the company, do your log, etc. However, it is also a way for the company to monitor you. Basically, you are being watched all the time. I never had a problem with that because they had no reason to be constantly nagging me. I just did my job and they left me alone. Driver’s who tend to slack off, are late for appointments frequently, etc., will be constantly receiving messages. After a while, those drivers will be out of work. But would you have a problem knowing you’re being monitored?
Do you suffer from road rage? If so, I can tell you now that you do not want to do this career. Automobiles will definitely do stupid things around trucks but you can’t get aggressive or try to play “payback”. Someone will get injured or killed, not to mention if the police catch you driving aggressively it could very possibly result in jail time.
When operating a truck you can not use the same bad habits you do in a car. For all intents and purposes, the truck and trailer have a big target on them for the police to see. Cars can get away with a lot more than a truck can. One prime example is the use of a cell phone. It is illegal for a person driving a commercial vehicle to be holding a cell phone. Here is how it’s stated by the FMCSA.
A new FMCSA rule restricts the use of all hand-held mobile devices by drivers of commercial motor vehicles.
- Using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone to make a call;
- Dialing a mobile phone by pressing more than a single button; or
- Reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires a driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt.
The fine for an individual who is caught the first time is $2,750 and, for the company, $11,000. Continued violations will result in being disqualified to drive. But you can bet if the company receives an $11,000 fine they will terminate you. If you are involved in an accident and it is discovered you were handling a cell phone, automatic prison time.
Most companies have a rule allowing the use of headsets to talk on the phone, but the FMCSA regulation also permits usage of headsets.
I mention this now because if you don’t feel you can drive without holding your phone then you do not want this career. Sooner or later you will get caught.
Radar detectors are illegal in commercial vehicles. Many scale houses now have detectors that tell them if you have a detector, even if it’s off.
Are your communication skills sufficient? You don’t need to be a Shakespeare, but your ability to communicate is important when dealing with the company and with customers. If you tend to have an aggressive approach, that will lead to nothing but trouble. The other thing is that you can not let people get to you and react to their attitude while you’re in their presence. I ran across a few customers that were downright nasty but my response was to keep my mouth shut and then say what I had to say to them once I got out in the truck. If necessary, I would let my driver manager know what happened. Customer service is a big thing with trucking companies so you can not take matters into your own hands.
I’ve seen some drivers react to situations with a customer but the customer’s reaction was to make them wait even longer. The customer determines how fast you get loaded or unloaded, so being a problem will only affect you. If you have another load you have to pick up, and you give a customer grief which results in you being delayed longer, you could very well lose the next load.
If you are the type of person who can deal with irritable people then you can handle this part of the job.
These are most of the really important things to consider before you decide to go further in the process. If any of these things are unacceptable then go no further.
If you feel this is something you really want to do I recommend reading the CDL Study Guide 2018.
If anyone can think of other things, feel free to comment.
The next article will be about truck driving schools, and what to watch out for.
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