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Intro To Truckin' 101

From:  "Driver's ABC's - Surviving the First Year".


Deciding to make a major career decision is obviously difficult.  Too bad there isn't a way to make it an easier one.  This site probably won't make up your mind -- but will hopefully provide you with far more information than you might have had otherwise so that you can make an informed choice.


What's this trucking life like?  Trucking is unlike any other profession... One day it's the greatest job on the planet and the next can be the toughest day you've ever had.   (For a more or less typical look at "A Day in the Life" of a Driver, you may enjoy reading "A Driver's Journal


Everything changes - there are few, if any, constants.  This makes trucking a job that doesn't easily become boring -- but on the other hand, even good change does produce stress.  Bad change simply generates a lot of stress!  If you're "stuck" in a job that bores you to death, that makes you feel "tied down", that you dread going to every single day, trucking could be a very liberating and exciting choice for you.  If you're into stability and like a set and predictable schedule (say you have pottery class on Thursday night at 7:00, you meet the boys at the bar on Mondays for football, etc) you may be disappointed when your activities become cut back or eliminated altogether because you can't make it home.


What a difference a few years make.  At least now -- in the virtual 2000's, you can find out so much information online, in the comfort of home.  You can do many of your job applications right on the Internet.  You can get an idea what people are saying about different carriers through Online Forums and message boards.  This should be your starting point.  Learn all you can about the opportunities available to you.  Since the CDL came into effect, the number of available drivers compared to the number of trucks on the road has lessened -- resulting in a huge demand for drivers.


Carriers that never would have accepted a trainee are now doing so -- some are finding they just can't get enough drivers if they don't.  Carriers that used to demand a driver stay gone from home for several weeks on end have shortened those requirements -- making their companies more attractive.  More and more local jobs are popping up for new drivers, as well as regional and dedicated fleets.  Yet other companies are coming up with strategies like "truck sharing"  to get as many as possible in a truck if those people are good, qualified, well-trained drivers.


With some work on your part to do the required homework and research, there's few reasons why you can't find a job that "fits" in the trucking industry.  This site will help you in this regard.  The more informed you are about what you're getting into, the better choice you'll make.  If you enter this industry blind, you may be shocked and disappointed when it doesn't conform to the wandering cowboy image that it's often portrayed as being in the movies. 


The truth is, the transportation industry can be a downright tough and cruel place... cut throat.  It's all about money -- underbidding other companies, the games played to get drivers, the games played to keep drivers.  It's about schedules and loads and who can haul the most.  The shipper does not care one iota that you have a family at home.  Mother Nature will not stop her terrible temper tantrums because your child has a birthday.  The receiver does not take your load off of the trailer any faster because there's a semi-emergency at home.  It's about freight.  Moving it, loading it, unloading it, making the dough.  This may seem extreme - even overstated - but allow me to assure you, it's the absolute truth.  


You can still be happy & content as a driver even as these little games are playing out around you.  Do you punch a time clock?  No more of that crap.  Have you worked the same schedule for years on end?  That's gone, too.  When's the last time you took an afternoon nap?  I'll bet it's been awhile.  What did you think of the last time you saw the mountains at sunrise or sunset?  Maybe you've never seen that.  Chances are good you will as a driver.  The changing of the fall colors in New England is a sight no one should miss.  Even the big cities can be beautiful, even if they aren't always fun to drive in.  There are definite positives -- as well as negatives -- that can be said for a career in trucking.


So, what now?  I might suggest that you start by researching carriers.  Do this before you research schools.  You may find a carrier that offers a tuition reimbursement program - but only through one school.  You may find the carrier you decide you like only accepts trainees from accredited schools.  With the huge number of carriers that are online, this research is time consuming, but easy.





Decide Priorities

What do you really want / need ?


Find It in a Carrier

Questions To Ask

The Carrier List


 School Search

Questions To Ask

Truck Driving Schools

Driving School Tips

CDL Mills



Making A Living



D.O.T. Physical Requirements

(Fed Reg 391.41)


Q:  Where Does This Site Come From?

A: This site is made & maintained by an OTR driver who has been and who has done what you're thinking of doing.  Unfortunately, I was not nearly as informed and felt like I got in way over my head.... Since then I've decided that it shouldn't have to be that traumatic just to change careers.


The site is supported by the sale of the book entitled,

Driver's ABC's

This book has been written for new drivers who are thinking about entering - are just entering the industry - or are in their first year on the road.  It is intended to be "real world" so you don't have to be the moron that I was!!




Before you start your carrier research, though, you have to know what it is you want and how that differs from what you need.  Is home time important?  Money?  What?  They all offer different packages & deals.  Make sure you know what is available and what matters to you.


Once you've decided what you're looking for, start the serious carrier search.  Do as much online as possible -- it's just easier.


Start the school search and be diligent.  There are many resources available to you.  One of those resources is the good ole fashioned Sunday paper Classifieds Job Section.  Find out about the community colleges in your state -- many are developing or have developed, truck driving courses. 


Learn as much as you can!!!!  This cannot be stressed enough!  Visit the many trucking sites -- and read as many of the articles as possible on this site.  Visit Online Forums for Newbies.  (Be careful about believing everything you hear, though.)


Can you still drive a truck if your driving record is less than ideal?  Usually, yes but this definitely depends on what you consider "ideal"!  Companies are more or less bound by what their insurance carriers will accept UNLESS they are self-insured.  If they are self-insured, they have more leeway, but that doesn't necessarily mean they won't be as strict as any other carrier.  What is "death" to a driving career?

  • DUI / DWI or any other "Driving Under the Influence" classification.  Companies frown upon drunk driving convictions!  As they well should!  Companies often break it down as follows:

    • If you've EVER had a drunk driving conviction, they won't hire you.

    • If you've had one in the past ten years...

    • If you've had one in the past 5 years...

    • If you've had more than one in a lifetime, but it must be at least xx years old...

  • Large number of tickets in (relatively) short time... As a general indicator, any more than 2 to 3 moving violations in three years may make it difficult to find someone to hire you - particularly the large carriers.

  • A felony on your criminal record

  • Unstable work history.

If you find yourself in the above situation(s), be warned that your job search will be harder and you will have less options of carriers to go with.  You'll probably have to go with a very small carrier, or a local or private carrier.




This article is an excerpt from "Driver's ABC's, Surviving the First Year," modified for the Web. 

This article may appear in more detail or in a different format in the book version. 

Copyright 2000-2007, Creative Curriculum FTTI, All Rights Reserved, no reprint without permission.




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