With the cost of obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) as much as $5000 to $6000 PLUS "Credit Card" interest, you better know how to tell UP FRONT if a career in Truck Driving is "for you"!
First, it pays to understand the reality of what's actually involved in a Truck Driving career so you know what you're up against.
In truth, all that's required to get a Commercial Driver's License or CDL and technically become a "Truck Driver" in most states is
1) Pass a written test
2) Pass a driving test
3) Pass a "DOT" physical
But just because you can do these things DOESN'T mean you can get a job in the trucking industry.
The truck line's insurance carrier will determine who they can hire to drive! Period!
That's why Trucking Schools exist. They prepare drivers who not only have a Commerical Driver's License at the end of instruction, but who also meet certain standards that satisfy the insurance companies.
Going to a legitimate trucking school let's you get enough training to be trained by the trucking company that hires you for an additional 30 to 60 days depending on the carrier and your skill.
But before you go to this training, you should decide if a Truck Driving career is "for you".
Frankly, there are some people who should never try to get their Commercial Driver's License because they'll never get a Truck Driving job ANYWAY once they have one.
Who are these people?
A. People with recent felonies of any sort (i.e. in the last 10 years)
B. People with violent felonies
C. People with DUI's and lots of moving violations
D. People who have used illegal drugs in the last 6 months
E. People with insulin dependent diabetes
F. People on certain medications that are illegal for truckers to use
G. People with conditions that driver's tend to neglect which make them drowsy such as sleep apnea (this depends on the carrier and your willingness to use a C-PAP machine that controls your sleep apnea).
And this should go without saying, but also people under 21 - though I've known trucking schools to take 18 year olds who will never be hired and charge them $6000 plus interest knowing they could not get a job and that the class is considered valid for only 30 days not 3 years. (Remember, the representatives of commercial trucking schools are all on commission so some will do anything for that commission!).
Here's something else to consider. Many "DOT physicals" are, sadly, a joke. Just because you've passed one doesn't mean you're fit to drive. I've seen people with sleep apnea and on prescription meds that are forbidden for truck drivers pass DOT physicals because the examiner was sloppy, stupid, or just wanted a quick buck. Or sometimes it's because the patient misspelled the names of their medications or lied about a physical condition. Either way, if you get past your DOT physical when you know you shouldn't have, it will come back to haunt you and may even kill you or other innocent people later.
If you don't qualify for your CDL for any of these reasons, trying to fake your way through the system will mean you're wasting time and money. In other words, DON'T BOTHER!
Now that that's out of the way, here's another reason you will be wasting your money on getting a CDL if you don't understand what's "going on."
When you get a Commercial Driver's License, most companies will not hire you unless you have 2 years' experience in "Over The Road" ("OTR") driving. You cannot expect to finish a trucking school that lasts a few weeks and get a job that lets you come home every night. That's just not realistic.
When you first get your CDL, you can expect to be gone 30 to 45 days straight, driving with a trainer before you come back home for the first time! Some companies have a 3 week class room orientation on top of that!
Depending on the company, the loads they carry, and the flow of freight, you could be away 14 to 30 days at a time.
But most of us don't buy homes, get married, have children, etc. because we want to be away from home every night driving a truck. Most truckers don't find that "home every night" job that pays well until they have been driving for two or more years at least.
If you thought you could waltz out of class with your CDL and get one of them, it won't happen unless your Daddy owns the company that hires you - and even then his insurance company might not let him do that!
But many people sign financing contracts and go broke paying them because they imagined having a Commerical Driver's License would give them a future that just wasn't "reality".
So how do you use this information to tell if a Truck Driving Career is right for you?
1. Consider your Health. Truck driving can be the RIGHT choice for you if your health is truly good. You don't have to be able to run a marathon, but certain conditions will mean you are wasting your time and money to pursue a truck driving career.
2. Consider your History. You don't have to be a "saint" to be a truck driver, but you'll be wasting your time and money if you have current or certain felonies, DUI's or have a drug or alcohol problem. If you're clean and sober and don't have lots of traffic violations, Truck Driving can be the RIGHT choice for you.
3. Consider your Home life. If you're single, divorced, and especially don't have minor children you're responsible for, AND you don't mind being away from home most of the time, Truck Driving may be the RIGHT choice for you. If you can work 60 hours per week, there's good money to be made while you see the country - or at least some of it! Some married couples without minor children find this to be the ideal way to make a living - if BOTH have CDL's they can operate as a "team".
If your Health, History, and Home Life are all "in line" with the harsh realities of a Truck Driving career and you still want to pursue it, you may find it to be ideally suited as YOUR CAREER CHOICE!
Ok, I'll answer some follow up questions I've solicited from readers I've had visit the tutorial.
Shouldn't I get into trucking because I can make GREAT MONEY fast?
People's definitions of "great money" vary. Most truck driving schools - if they're honest - will tell you that $30,000 to $35,000 is realistic for your first year. There are many variables. But if you're working for a company that hires students just out of CDL class, you're going to get $300 to $400 per week while you're in training. Then as you travel more miles, you'll receive higher pay per mile.
After the first year you can earn more. But remember if you are working for a company that takes out your taxes, has health insurance and other benefits, you'll get "paid" less per mile than you will from a company that pays no benefits.