In It for the Long Haul: How to Get a Truck Driving Job

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Dec 19, 2018

Dec 19, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

There are an estimated 3.5 million truck drivers in the US who drive about 125,000 miles a year. That translates into about 3 million miles traveled over their careers. Truckers haul 10.5 billion tons of freight in the US in vehicles that weight over 20,000 pounds.

Needless to say, a truck driving job is not for wimps! If you think you're ready to handle this challenging career, check out this guide. It will show you how to get a truck driving job and get your new career "on the road" to success.

Job Trends/Outlook

The Occupational Handbook from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that truck drivers earned a median salary of $42,480, or $20.42 per hour in 2017. Jobs are projected to grow by 6 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Truck driving is a major lifestyle choice. Truckers spend over 200 nights away from home in any given year. They spend many hours alone out on the open road and have little interaction with others while they perform their duties.

Truck Driving Job Minimum Requirements

Truck driving candidates need to meet some basic legal qualifications before they can apply for a driving job. These qualifications include:

  • Be at least 21 years old;
  • Eligible to work within the country and the state where they live; and
  • Have a GED or high school diploma.

Most companies also want to see that their employees have clean driving records with their own personal vehicles. A history of reckless driving or DUI's will make it impossible for you to find driving jobs.

Attend Truck Driving School

Truck driving schools combine class time with on-the-road training. Classroom time will cover laws related to freight transportation. Students also learn practical vehicle maneuvering skills like shifting or coupling large trailers.

Truck driving training is available at accredited community colleges or private driving schools. Some programs last only 30 days. More in-depth programs may last an entire year.

Pass the Commercial Driver License (CDL) Exam

The federal government requires truck drivers to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL). The CDL has three classifications, Class A, B, and C. Each classification determines the type of vehicle the driver can operate, based on its weight.

Each state has its own CDL exam that includes both a written and a road skills exam. The written section evaluates the candidate's knowledge of laws and safety regulations. The road skills exam requires candidates to drive a commercial vehicle with a state licensed examiner.

Complete a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) Medical Exam

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues licenses to commercial vehicle drivers. The FMCSA requires all commercial drivers to have a certificate of good health from the Department of Transportation (DOT.) Drivers must pass a medical exam that tests your general health and mental fitness to do the job.

Most drivers are required to pass this medical exam. This also includes drivers who operate a motor vehicle that carries more than 15 people. Drivers who operate vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds must also pass this exam.

The National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners is a list of approved doctors who can administer your medical exam. These medical professionals are familiar with FMCSA regulations to verify if you're healthy enough to work. Drivers must pass the general health exam every two years.

Pass FMCSR Safety Regulation Exams

Drivers who want to operate hazardous material loads or tanker trucks must pass an FMCSR safety regulation exam. An FMCSR endorsement can make you a marketable job candidate for these specialized jobs.

This exam tests a driver's knowledge on federal traffic laws that apply to driving commercial motor vehicles. These regulations range from inspecting commercial vehicles to financial responsibilities for motor carriers. You can read more about the financial responsibilities drivers maintain to keep their business running.

Truck Driving School Job Placement Help

Some truck driving school career centers can be a resource to help drivers apply for truck driving jobs. Candidates can find job boards or career counseling to help them complete their driver job application.

Most career centers have connections with local trucking companies. They network with these companies often. They will be the first to hear about any companies that are hiring.

Truck driving professional associations and organizations also offer career mentoring for their members. Drivers can also use professional recruiting organizations to help them apply for truck driving jobs.

Collect Relevant References

Truck driving school instructors can be good references and help you make a good impression with potential employers. Building connections within trucking association contacts can also help establish your reputation. References can go a long way to help you secure the truck driving job of your dreams.

Study the Field

Find out what kind of drivers the employers in your area are looking to hire. If tanker endorsements are in high demand, start practicing for that FMCSR exam so you can add this endorsement to your resume. You can also learn more from trucking professional groups to discover the latest news and trends in the trucking industry.

Next Steps

Still not sure if you're ready to get a truck driving job? No worries. There are plenty of resources available to help you start your new career.

Research truck driving schools that focus on the fundamentals of your state's CDL exam. Consider pursuing FMCSR endorsements. Then you'll be eligible to operate specialized vehicles like semi-trucks or school vehicles.

Don't forget to check our blog to find out more on what the life of a truck driver really looks like. That dream driving job could be waiting for you right around the corner. Just follow these steps and "keep on truckin'!"