The Life of a Truck Driver: What It's Like Living on the Road

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jul 13, 2018

Jul 13, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

If you hanker after a life on the open road, a career as a truck driver may be the right choice for you. A heavy vehicle truck driver can earn as much as $49,000 a year.

Truck drivers play a key role in the freight shipping process. Almost everything you buy has spent at least some of its journey in the back of a truck.

Learn more about the life of a truck driver to find out if this job is the right match for you.

A Day in the Life of a Truck Driver

So, what's it like being a truck driver? It depends.

Some truck drivers work for large firms such as Wall Mart and have fairly regular hours. Others work for contractors and need to hit the road as required.

There are plenty of other variables in a truck driver's day too. Their duties depend on:

  • when the item needs to be at its destination
  • the type of freight
  • time of year
  • the distance to your destination

Most truck drivers spend about 11 hours a day behind the wheel. This is the maximum allowed according to the FMCSA.

The Perks of a Truck Driving Life

Apart from earning a good steady income, being a truck driver means that you can earn bonuses for safety and retention too.

Depending on which trucking company you work for, you could receive several on-the-job benefits too. These could include:

  • Retirement plans
  • Health insurance
  • Paid vacations
  • Life insurance
  • Regular pay raises

There is currently a shortage of truck drivers in the US, so there are plenty of jobs to go around. You can work anywhere in the world when you know how to drive a truck.

Driving a truck gives you an opportunity to see parts of the country that you may never have dreamed of visiting. Being out on the open road can be a scenic experience, and you get paid for enjoying it.

Today's trucks give you a comfortable seat from which to admire the passing scenes. No two days are the same when you're on the road. You don't have to spend your days in the same office environment, trawling through emails and answering the phone all day.

As a truck driver, you get to experience a strong sense of camaraderie and community with your fellows.

Although spending hours at a time on the road can get tiresome, there are a host of gadgets for traveling long distances to make it easier for you.

Drawbacks of the Trucking Lifestyle

Is truck driving hard? It can be. A career as a long-haul trucker means that you'll have to spend a lot of your time away from family and friends.

There's always the risk of losing your bearings and getting lost, even with GPS. Also, your GPS could send you in a direction along roads that were never meant for trucks.

Often, shady characters frequent truck stops trying to make a quick buck off lonely truckers.

When you're in a new place, it can be difficult to figure out where the next gas station is.

Bad drivers are a curse, even if you're driving a sedan. Imagine what it's like when you're behind the wheel of several tons of metal. Especially if it's filled with hazardous flammable substances.

Still interested in a truck driving career? Read on to find out how you can.

How to Become a Truck Driver

You don't need a college degree to become a truck driver. That means no hefty study loans to pay off.

You can't just hop aboard a truck and press the pedal to the metal though. Everyone who drives a commercial vehicle must have a commercial driver's license (CDL).

To start training for this sought-after license, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be 21 years of age or older in most states
  • You need to able to work legally in the USA and the applicable state
  • You'll need a spotless driving record

To get your CDL, you can apply to a truck driving school. Some companies offer on the job training for their drivers.

A CDL entitles you to drive semi-trucks. You can also study towards a combination vehicle endorsement. These are available for school buses, air brake trucks, tanks, double and triple trailers as well as for transporting hazardous materials.

The course includes all the relevant truck driving laws and safety regulations. You will also undergo practical sessions driving commercial vehicles.

Once you have completed your training, you will need to take a competency test before you can drive a truck. This includes a written paper on all legal aspects of truck driving as well as a practical test.

Before you get permission to transport hazardous materials, you will have to submit to a background check.

After all that, you still have to pass the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) exam. This includes vision and hearing tests. You need to pass these latter tests at least every 2 years to continue truck driving as a career.

Finding a Job as a Truck Driver

Most often, your truck driving school will offer a job placement service. If you take advantage of this service, you could find yourself employed within 30 to 60 days.

Otherwise, you will need to keep an eye on job ads in your local newspaper or online. You can also inquire directly with trucking companies to see if they have any openings.

It is important to keep your experience in mind when applying for a job as a truck driver. It is easy to become overwhelmed if you overestimate your capabilities.

You will have plenty of time to gain experience on the road and your salary will increase along with your years behind the wheel.

Keep on Truckin'

If the life of a truck driver isn't for you, you may find something else that suits your style on our career pages.

Check in regularly to check for updated career openings or set up an alert with the criteria for your ideal job.