Get Your CDL

When I sat down to write this area of the site I had a preconceived notion that it was going to be easy. I may have had a similar idea when I started driving in 1991 but in both cases, I was wrong. There are so many variables in the process of becoming a fully qualified, professional truck driver that I was quickly mired in what seemed more like a cloverleaf in an L.A. rush hour. My truck was filled with sticky notes, my PDA memory was overwhelmed and headache pills were becoming part of my diet.

What appears in these pages is the result of my research with some experience thrown in for good measure. The intent is to reduce the uncertainty felt by 'would-be' truckers and answer some of the questions most applicants have when considering such a step. Don't expect to be taken by the hand and led down the path to your CDL; that isn't going to help you, or the industry. Trucking needs people who can work unsupervised and accept responsibility. I will show you the road but you have to drive along it.

  • Consider Your Decision

    So you are considering a life on the road. These few words will answer a question or two but certainly not all. At ConwayDrivers.com we try to answer questions quickly and accurately. There is a wealth of knowledge to be found here.

    When I first came to this industry few had the answers I sought and the Internet was still young. Today information abounds. Here you will find answers to some of your questions, others you can ask in the Forums.

    Consider carefully before you decide if trucking is for you. We work hard to make life better for our families but we are rarely home too enjoy the benefits. Drivers whose children recognize them more as an Uncle than a Father are common on the big road. Are you ready for that?

    Be very careful when choosing Trucking as a possible career. This is not an industry where you can expect someone to be there, holding your hand all the time. For the most part you will spend your days alone in your rig with nobody to talk to. Okay, there is the CB radio, if you buy one but this isn't Smokey and the Bandit, this is the reality of hours behind the wheel in all weather and traffic conditions. This is sharing the superslab with car drivers whose only consideration is the twenty feet of road in front of them or the newspaper they are reading on the way to work.

    Trucking is not a job for someone who just wants to get out there and make money. Those people often run too hard and too long, dismiss the law and are a danger to themselves and everyone around them. Trucking is a job for anyone who can work unsupervised, someone who enjoys a little solitude and is not easily rattled. Just remember this is work that you will either love or hate; there is no grey area and if you just spent thousands of dollars on a license, only to learn that you fall into the rattled category, your ability to stay calm will be severely tested.

    If that sounds gloomy don't worry unduly, just remember that I don't plan to pull the wool over your eyes. Trucking is interesting and it can be fun but it really isn't for everyone. You can make a very good living on the road but as with every undertaking, good planning and a question or two in the right ear will bring rewards.

    Size no longer restricts who can drive a truck. It's true that these rigs are pretty big but trust me; if I can do it anyone can. Maneuvering a rig on tight city streets becomes easier with practice and it can all be done with one hand. It is not unusual to meet a petite lady working for a trucking company who dreams of a paycheck as large as those she sees cross her desk weekly. She has no idea how simple this is for the right person.

    Technology is making life on the road easier and more comfortable. The days of the "rough trucking life" are behind us. I enjoy the conveniences of Internet access, satellite radio, television and a microwave oven all in the comfort of my cab. Tedious hours behind the wheel are made easier by cruise control and air ride suspension that makes some trucks as smooth as a Cadillac ... okay, maybe a Volkswagen but you get the idea, right?

    This is a good life but it's not a life that everyone can live. If you spend some time at a truck stop talking to drivers you will get a really good idea of where you would like to go and what kind of trucking you want to try. Most drivers will give you straight, no nonsense answers while others will try to impart their philosophy of the road, for better or worse. So think carefully and consult your family along the way because your decision will affect them too.

    You are making decisions that will change your life. You may be spending a large amount of money and the best advice I can give you is to think very carefully. As I have said there is no grey area in trucking, you will either like it or you will hate it. There is no tolerating it so get it right.

    The biggest consideration is your family; you may be spending long periods away from home and while the adage, "Away for longer makes the heart grow stronger," might work for infrequent separations it doesn't necessarily work for truckers. Ask your wife and kids what they think about your ideas. The kind of trucking you will do should be based on how much time you need to spend at home

    Now think about some other responsibilities; "I didn't get a bill!" doesn't work when talking to the phone company. Your bills will come due whether you are at home or on the road, so think about how your bills will be paid even though you are not at home to take care of them as they arrive. Personally, I collect mail about once every three months but all of my bills are either paid on line, or are regular enough that I can schedule reminders in my computer. Running team with my wife we have scheduled bills to be paid directly from the bank for example.

    While local and regional driving work will see you at home most of the time, Over The Road (OTR) driving is considered a lifestyle. 

    Are you ready for a new lifestyle? It's your decision; just make it the right one.

  • Truck Driver Training

    Depending on the kind of trucking you choose, a different CDL will be necessary. Some schools will charge more or less depending on the number of endorsements you want. If you plan to drive for a company that doesn't require a Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) endoresement then there is no need to get one. Hazmat is a heavy subject that will take additional hours of study and that's time you could devote to more relevant subjects.

    Additionally, in this climate of concern over terrorism, the Government wants to know who is hauling hazardous material along our roads. A background investigation will be conducted on anyone applying for or renewing their Hazmat endorsement. It is expensive and time consuming.

    If you decide against a particular endorsement today it is not hard to add it later but it is harder to study for it while you are trying to make a living.

    Some options for a CDL include endorsements for Hazmat, Tankers, Double and Triple Trailers and Passenger Vehicles. Consider what you will need and accept training accordingly. Of all the tests you will face, Hazmat is the most difficult. I said difficult, not impossible. Most companies haul some hazardous material so if you want to drive for those companies you will probably need the endorsement. In the past, if Joe's Trucking, Inc. hauls Hazmat you had to have a Hazmat endorsement or they would not hire you. Today some companies will make an exception, given the time and expense in licensing. Check with the company you plan to drive for before you make a decision regarding the endorsements you will need.

    The higher class CDL allows you to drive vehicles in any of the lower classes provided you have the correct endorsement. For example, if you have a Class 'A' license but you don't have an endorsement for passenger vehicles then you can't drive a busload of passengers on their summer vacation to 'Vegas.

    Okay, if you want to drive the big rigs you will be after a Class 'A' license and for the purposes of this site, that is where we are going.

    You should consider what kind of driving you are going to do.

    • Local Driving: For the most part you will be busy around town loading and unloading at local businesses. You can expect to work between eight and ten hours daily and be paid hourly. The biggest advantage is that you will be home every night.
    • Short Haul: Pay may be by the mile or hourly, depending on the company. This may involve terminal-to-terminal freight and for the most part you will be away from home for one or two nights at a time. You may have seen those UPS rigs on the road; most often they are on a short haul run.
    • Over the Road: Driving through and delivering to all 48 States and Canada. You can expect to be paid by the mile. Regional work can also be considered over the road. Regions might include the southeastern States or the Northwestern States as an individual region. OTR drivers can expect to be on the road for 1-4 weeks at a time.

    Strong suggestion: Once you have decided which trucking school your are going to attend, get a copy of their CDL book. Alternatively you could get a CDL study guide from your local DPS office. Read it! There is a lot of information in there and it's all useful stuff. Knowing a few things before you get to school is always a good idea.

    Truckers carry certain things with them on the road. When you are planning to hit the road consider a check list of things you will need. Some items of your road list should be included in a 'required' list for school, these few items are suggested for inclusion:

    • A Pen (Truckers always have a pen)
    • Work Gloves (To protect your fingies)
    • Road Atlas (Rand McNally is good)
    • Coveralls (For working around a greasy truck)
    • Stout shoes or boots. (No flip-flops)
  • A Little about your Driver's License

    From time to time I hear drivers talking about their CDL and the fact that when they are taking time off and receive a ticket in their car, it has a detrimental effect on their CDL.

    The complaint has no basis because the CDL is really just an endorsement on your original license and that is something drivers tend to forget.

    The first license we get is a foundation that we build upon!

    My first license allowed me to drive a motorcycle. Later, after passing a test to drive a car, an endorsement was added. When I decided upon trucking as a career I applied for and received a permit to learn and then upon passing my CDL other endorsements were added. Disturb the foundation and the building will crumble. Get a ticket while in your car and it will adversely affect the commercial part of your license. Get too many points on the private part of your license and your CDL will be suspended along with your car license and now, except at the discretion of the judge, you can't make a living or pay your bills.

    Take care of your license. Keeping it clean is not that hard and is worth the effort.

    If you are a few points away from suspension, considering a driving career might not be such a good idea right now. First of all if your point score is high you can be considered unsafe in the eyes of a trucking company. I, for one, do not want to see you in a truck stop, sitting at a table across from me in the area reserved for professional drivers. Secondly, if you are stopped for a simple violation the first time you are out and your license is suspended as a result, you are going to feel pretty dumb aren't you?The better idea in this case, is to keep your desire to drive a big rig and wait until the points on your license drop off. While you are waiting you can spend time working on your driving habits. Slow down and be a little more careful. Just because that guy cut you off doesn't mean you have to do anything about it, just laugh at the other guy who is too stupid to know any better.

    Your new CDL will be a huge responsibility, it can feed your family and put you on the road to a secure future but like any responsibility you have to tend it.

  • CDL School

    1. There are different ways to get your CDL and the expense can vary considerably so do your homework.
    2. Are you a Veteran? Your Veteran status may allow you to seek training under the GI Bill. The Government will pay for your training.
    3. Are you unemployed? Speak to a representative at your State unemployment office. There may be government funds available to pay for all or part of your training.
    4. Call your local Vocational Technical Colleges. If they offer a Truck Driver Training program it will often cost far less than some of the Truck Driving Schools.
    5. Contact Truck Driving Schools in your State and in surrounding States and request information.
    6. Call trucking companies and ask if they offer training.

    Cost of training is usually the biggest consideration for anyone embarking on a new career. These costs can be offset in your taxes at the end of the year but you have to come up with the money in the first place so choose wisely. Most truck Driver Training Schools offer financing programs which take care of everything until you get a job; then you begin repaying your obligation. Remember though that there is a lot to be said for beginning something new with as little debt as possible.

    You shouldn't be fooled into thinking that the more you pay the better your training will be. There is no correlation between cost and quality and taking time to visit different schools will save you money.

    Don't be surprised to learn that training can cost of ,000.00! You are about to enter a line of work that pays very well but the cost of admission can be high. Search out a better deal and you will benefit greatly. Some vocational Technical Colleges offer Driver Training Programs that cost less than 352,000.00. The training in each case is the same and the Commercial Driver's License you will earn is identical.

    Note! Some companies limit the schools from which applicants will be accepted so, if you already know what company you want to drive for, ask them to recommend a school.

    By far the cheapest way to get a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) is to go to a trucking company that has it's own training program. There are drawbacks but remember the benefits; beginning a new career without having to promise a large part of your paycheck to a finance company is a good thing.

    In some cases a company will offer tuition reimbursement. A driver with no experience and no CDL can go to that company, receive training and then go on the road with a finisher (final trainer), earning a few hundred bucks a week. The trainee would then return to the terminal for a road test before being assigned a truck, possible with another student, for a few weeks. How easy is that? The company would hold the note for the cost of your training and will repay it for you while you are employed. It's a good deal but if you leave before the note is paid, in some cases you are responsible for the balance, or you may have obligated yourself when you signed up to pay the FULL amount. Be careful what you sign! Read everything!

    Before you begin training you will be subjected to a Physical examination. You must meet federal medical requirements (see Federal rule 49 CFR, part 391 of the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation, rules to operate a commercial motor vehicle for more information). For most regular healthy people, the physical is not a barrier to trucking.

    Part of the physical examination is a drug screen. If you are taking drugs, don't. Also, if you think you can take them and continue on to a carrer in trucking, you have a shock coming. You can and will be tested regularly without notice. Additionally, if you are involved in an accident you will be tested immediately.

    Scenario: Another vehicle crosses the median and hits you! Not your fault right? Take the subsequent drug test and fail and the accident becomes completely YOUR fault! Think about it!

    In addition to a physical you will have to get a permit. You can't just hop into a big rig and start learning how it all works. First you have to obtain a permit to go along with your regular driver's license. The school you will attend will give you all the information you need to get your very own instruction permit. Okay, you want to show everyone that you are self motivating, that's good but I caution you not to get the permit prematurely. Permits expire quite quickly, usually in only 6 months. It would be embarrassing to have your permit expire half way through your course, wouldn't it? Ask the school you select what you should have with you when you show up for the first day.

    Your training will include classroom work as well as instruction around the school's trucks. You will learn how to conduct a thorough inspection of the equipment (Pretrip) so you can be assured it is safe to operate: the DOT will conduct a methodical inspection of your equipment once in a while too, so knowing how to avoid a failed inspection will pay dividends in the long run.

    The logbook is most important to your future and instruction in these regulations will be extensive and intense. The log is a record of the amount of time you spend behind the wheel or otherwise engaged in work about your truck or sleeping. Keeping it up to date is important and getting caught without an accurate account of your day will cost you a lot of money. Learn these lessons well.

    It should be noted that many companies are changing to "e-logs", an electronic tracking system that reports your miles, locations, stops, etc. without much in the way of input from the driver. Even so, all drivers have to know how to fill out a logbook. Not all companies are using e-logs and even if they were, it is electronic and when it fails there has to be a paper backup.

    Time in the school's vehicles will be shared with the others in your class so use that time to your advantage. Driving forward is easy, a newborn could do it - with a stop or two for a diaper change. Driving backwards is not so easy - or is it? Spend as much time as you can learning to drive backwards. Learn how to back up to a dock and practice backing into a parking spot. You would be surprised how many drivers go to trucking companies and fail their driving tests because they can't back up.

    Free Tip! While backing up, put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. Move your hand to the left and the trailer will move to your left. Move your hand to the right and your trailer will move to the right.

    Studying hard is important - do it! While some of your classmates will want to go out at night remember that you are learning to drive. Going out is okay but drinking is not! In a commercial vehicle there is no tolerance. Zero is the law. Car drivers are allowed a certain amount of alcohol in their blood before the law says they can't drive but for a trucker they will take away your life if they find ANY amount of alcohol in your system.

  • What About Your Family

    While you are sitting in a truck stop talking to drivers, try asking if they are married. Ask them how their wives/husbands deal with them being away from home so much. They will all tell you that being married to a Trucker takes a special kind of person.

    When you hit the road, your spouse will become totally responsible for the family you leave behind. While you might be available on the phone, your spouse will not have that immediate attention and comfort he or she is used to. if you don't think that will put a strain on your relationship then you need to think again.

    If you have children they will be denied the closeness of a parent that is already missing in so many families today. You are doing something to improve your families lifestyle but you may be denying them something more important.

    Once you have discussed your plans with those you love and found them supportive, you still have to take steps to support them.

    Plan to stay in touch with your family!

    Most phone companies have plans that will help minimize the impact of your absence. Obviously finding the best deal is important so I encourage you to call every service provider. No doubt you already have a cellphone but you should be sure your plan will cover all calls from all locations. Additionally ask your CPA about tax allowances for staying in touch with your family. Uncle Sam recognized this problem and the IRS allows a deduction for those phone calls. Just make sure you have it all straight before running up those bills.

    I mentioned a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). True, your spouse could take care of that in your absence but he/she will have enough to do without you adding extra responsibilities. Additionally a CPA who is familiar with the IRS regulations as they pertain to the Trucking Industry will be more beneficial to you and yours down the road.

    Most Trucking Companies have a 'rider program'. Recognizing the stress put on their drivers by family separation, they allow 'spouses' to travel with their employees. The authorities might have a problem if you leave the kids home alone but it's a good option for those who don't yet have children. You may also find that your spouse enjoys life on the road enough to become interested in a license of their own and teams do very well.

    Remember that your most important asset in life is your family. Whatever you do is important to them too, so include your family in your plans.

  • Company Interview

    There are many trucking companies and they will all want your abilities. Most companies have to work hard to recruit and then keep their drivers. Turnover is a real headache in our industry but those who do their homework will find a good home and stay.

    Turnover causes instability in Trucking so try to make your first choice the right one, it will save you a lot of heartache down the road and it makes our industry stronger.

    Whether sitting in a truck stop over coffee or on the CB radio, drivers talk. Any company will tell you that their drivers are the first point of contact for new recruits and drivers always talk about their company and how they are being treated. In many cases they exaggerate or embellish to enhance the story but it remains a great source of information nevertheless. Spend some time at a truck stop, ask questions and listen to the answers.

    Attractive bonuses are available for drivers who are successful recruiters; so take that into consideration while listening to them. I am not saying that drivers lie but when it comes to telling stories, some are right up there with Heinlein and Asimov.

    As President Ronald Reagan said, "Trust but Verify."

    Flatbed drivers will tell you how much time they spend spreading tarpaulins (tarps) on their loads. That can be hard work - especially in extreme weather. A van driver will report how awkward that load of furniture was and how it hurt his back dragging it to the tailgate. Frozen liquid in a hose kept that tanker driver waiting for hours and he will be happy to tell you about it. Don't be surprised if each story becomes successively worse, just note that each will begin, "That's nothing, listen to this ...."

    What you are looking for is the answer to the question, "How well are you treated by your company?"

    While you are enjoying a cup of "good" truck stop coffee and a stimulating conversation, pick up a magazine or two. Trucking magazines, which are usually free, are filled with advertising for companies interested in your new skills .... and 'free' should make up for the coffee.

    As in any other job you will be interviewed. In many cases this will take place on the phone so if you are dressed in pajamas and your favorite bunny slippers, it will not matter but eventually you will go to the company and meet those who are trying to recruit you. Despite what you think, having seen some Truckers dressed for work, jeans and an oil stained T-shirt is not appropriate. A three piece suit is a little over the top but remember you are representing yourself and being decently turned out goes a long way in setting the tone for your future with your chosen company.

    According to some experts, recent changes to the industries "Hours of Service" regulations will force the hiring of an additional 250,000 drivers over the next few years. If that is the case you can expect a driving position to be available when you are ready. The recently depressed economy did little to help our industry which depends on a strong manufacturing industry producing what we haul. Strong, well managed, companies have survived the 'depression' and are beginning to show expansion. There is according to those experts, going to be a driver shortage! Good news for you right? I would argue that there is only a shortage of good drivers. This being the case if you are a good driver with a good work ethic, any company with wheels rolling will fall over themselves trying to hire you, but they will look closely at you.

    At this point in your career you don't have a record behind you but the first thing a company will do is put you in a truck and let you demonstrate what you have learned. Along with an experience driver or member of the company's safety team, you will drive around for an hour doing what you are told to do. This is your chance to show what you are made of but let's keep it cool and just do what you are told, nothing more. Right now the company is getting it's first look at you and what it wants to see is someone that is safe and who can take care of their equipment, so just drive the truck.

    A clean license and experience is your ticket to the best jobs with the best companies. For now, as a raw recruit, you will be expected to work hard and show your metal. Eventually, with enough experience you will be the most sought after person on the big road. Opportunities will open to you, but first it's up to you.

    Your chosen Trucking Company will conduct an interview to make sure you are the driver they want. The interview might be on the phone, in person or both. You are asking to hold a very responsible position within the organization and they need to know that hiring you is not a mistake. While they are making up their minds if you are right for them, you should be thinking, "Are they right for me?" So while they are conducting their interview you should be conducting one of your own.

    I am sure you have a list of questions to ask the company but here are a few you might not have thought of.

    1. How much will you be paid?
    Remember that what you see is not always what you get. Just because a company pays 34 cents a mile doesn't mean that it is the best deal. Medical and 401k can make a big difference. Remember to ask how quickly your pay will rise. You might start low but with more experience your services become more valuable.

    2. How often will you be paid?
    Most Companies pay their drivers every two weeks although some pay weekly.

    3. How many miles can you reasonably expect to drive each week?
    It doesn't matter how much you are being paid per mile if you are not driving many miles.

    4. What does (company) offer that most other companies don't?
    The person you are talking to is a recruiter. Most will ask questions displayed on their computer screen while entering your responses. Letting them know that you want to drive for their company is good but they need to be reminded that you have other options.

    5. What benefits do they offer?
    Ask about 401k plans. Medical and Dental are important too. If you have dependents ask about coverage for them.

    6. How often will you be able to go home?
    This is perhaps the most important question of all. Nobody likes being away from home for too long. One week out usually means one day off earned. Spend a month away and go home for four days. Drivers are usually paid per mile so don't expect that these will be paid days; and as long as we are on the subject, ask what paid holidays the company offers.

    7. If your license is not clean ask about the infractions you have.
    Don't be tempted to omit an infraction. The company probably has a direct link to the database where your mistakes are listed. At some time an omission will be uncovered and it will cost you your job if you lied. When you are asked to tell them about your record they probably have a copy of it right there in front of them. Tell the truth and remember they have heard just about every story in the book.

    8. Ask about the kind of vehicle you will be driving.
    You will be spending most of your time living in a truck. If you want a comfortable ride that information is important. If the recruiter says it's a "cabover' junker with a bad oil leak and the smell of something burning in the cab, politely excuse yourself and go somewhere else.

    9. Do they have a Rider Program?
    Some companies allow their drivers to take someone on the road with them. This can do much to relieve the pressures of separation. Your spouse might like to take a week or two on the road with you and your kids might develop a better appreciation for what you do if they can see you do it. There are often age restrictions, so ask.

    10. How will I be accommodated during orientation?
    Most companies accommodate their recruits in local hotels during the first few days of their employment. Make sure that all arrangements are going to be made for you. Getting to orientation and learning that all the local hotels are full can put a damper on your new adventure.

    11. If you break down on the road, how will they take care of you and their equipment?
    Most modern companies have a communication system that is used to relay load information to and from the truck. It can also be used to call for help when you need it. Something mechanical will break from time to time. When it happens you don't want to be sitting on the side of the road for too long; it's dangerous and very boring. If you have to be towed to a repair facility will the company accommodate you in an hotel while the repair is affected?

    12. When you need money on the road, how will they get it to you?
    There are a number of reasons you might need money on the road. Paying for repairs at a shop where your company doesn't have an account, for example.

    13. Do they pay all tolls and if you have a reimbursable expense, how long can you be expected to wait before it is repaid?
    Would you believe that some companies would not reimburse tolls that are incurred on the road by their drivers? Seriously. You will encounter toll roads and they have to be paid for. The easiest way to pay for tolls is with EZ-Pass or Pike Pass or some such service. If you have to pay out of your own pocket you should be reimbursed for the expense. I have personally shelled out over 0.00 of reimbursable tolls on one run. The problem is that I have to cover the cost until that money is returned to me. Knowing how long reimbursements might take is important to your budget.

    14. Do they haul hazardous material?
    Remember the license question? Good, you are paying attention. If the company hauls hazardous material you will need a Hazmat endorsement on your license.

    15. How much driving experience does their operations department have?
    Have you ever had a boss who had no idea how to do your job? He or she doesn't understand the problems you face every day; the only concern was that you did what was necessary to make some quota and make the boss look good. Trucking can be the same. It is easy to explain a problem to, and receive understanding from, someone who has been there and done it.

    16. Do they pay layover?
    Layover pay is given to a driver who has to sit for an excessive period. Most often layover is paid after 24 hours. In some cases layover is awarded after 48 hours to include a period that began after the first twenty four. .00 - 0.00 a day is normal.

    17. Do they pay for Lumpers?
    Most often found at grocery warehouses, Lumpers make a living from drivers who do not want to unload a trailer themselves. If you have just arrived at a dock after driving 600 miles you might not feel like unloading it yourself so you can hire a Lumper. Additionally unloading a trailer takes time and that will cost you on your logbook, so a Lumper is a good idea. Doing a comparison between what a company will pay YOU for unloading a trailer versus hiring a Lumper might reveal an avenue of profit. Be sure that if a Lumper is hired you know who is paying the bill.

    18. Does your company pay detention?
    Once you arrive at a dock you should expect someone to begin work on your trailer. In a perfect world that is how it would be but if you sit for an excessive length of time your company will often bill the customer for the delay. You should receive some or all of that revenue, which is called detention.

    19. What is their shower policy?
    Drivers receive free showers when they buy fuel in a truck stop. If you don't need fuel and don't have a shower left from a previous visit you will have to pay for your shower yourself. Ask the company if they reimburse shower expenses. You should get some change from a ten dollar bill for a shower but not much.

    20. Do they allow the use of Payback Cards?
    Most companies allow their drivers to obtain Payback Cards from fuel stops. These are useful because they record the number of showers you have available and credit for store purchases are added as you buy fuel or other services along the road. If you stop at a Pilot Truckstop for fuel you will slide your fuel payment card in the pump and then your Payback Card. If you are getting a 1 cent per gallon payback and buy 150 gallons, that's money in your pocket and a free shower. Not all companies allow their drivers to receive the Payback so ask. I know any number of folks who have allowed their payback money to add up until they could pay for CB Radios, GPS units and more. In today's economy every penny counts.

    21. Where are their terminals located?
    If you live in Jacksonville, Florida and the nearest terminal is in Houston, Texas, you might consider another company. Getting home regularly might be awkward if that is the case. Some companies will allow you to take their truck to your home but they will want to know that their equipment is secured properly. Of course there is an advantage to family life if you can be home occasionally, if you have time and are passing by, not having to ask for time off is a plus.

    22. How many States will you be driving?
    Some drivers would rather not drive in the northeast. I am one of them but that doesn't mean that I wont, I would just rather not, thanks. Some drivers don't want to go into Canada. Most OTR companies run though 48 States and Canada.

  • Learning New Trucking Stuff

    Welcome to your new company. Someone in this outfit has decided that you are going to be given a chance to show your stuff but school isn't over yet, you have more training to do. Ahead of the training is learning how your new boss wants things done and the process of teaching you about your new company and it's procedures is called Orientation.

    Different companies conduct orientation in different ways. Once accepted a smaller company will, in most cases, leave your orientation completely in your trainer's hands. You will be assigned to an experience driver who knows very well how the company works. Your trainer will answer your questions and in a short time, provide you with all the protocols of the organization of which you are now a part.

    A larger company will approach orientation differently. It's back to the classroom gang! Different speakers will address you and your class, teaching you everything you need to be part of the company. Of course you are going to remember everything right? Wrong! You might remember some and what you forgot might be in the notes you took but the answers to everything else are available on the phone or from your trainer. Don't hesitate to ask questions.

    The length of your orientation will vary depending on the company you choose. You may find yourself included in a group of recruits along with drivers who have many years experience. The experienced drivers may have years on the road with other companies but every company does things a little differently so everyone goes through the orientation process. Those with more experience may leave sooner than you but eventually you will all go your separate ways and meet again in a truck stop somewhere along the big road.

    As a new driver, you will be joining your trainer for time on the road under his or her supervision.

    While some companies pay you for each mile driven under the watchful eye of your trainer, some will pay you a salary. The trainer will be getting paid for your miles as well as his own and if that sounds lucrative to you, get your training finished, gain some experience and apply for a training position of your own.

    You will have to study from books as well as practice driving the truck. Your trainer will watch as you back into docks and critique you from time to time giving you the benefit of his experience. As you improve and gain more experience, you will be given more to do until eventually he will report your training complete.

  • Your New Trucking Company

    When you sign up to do a job you should do the job that you signed up to do. Unfortunately too many people think that the world owes them a living, and an agreement made with their employer is meaningless.

    Welcome to the world of Trucking. You are about to be given 0,000+ worth of equipment so that you can haul someone's valuable product to their customers. You will be representing your employer and the shipper but most importantly you will be representing yourself and your industry.

    You were not expected to know everything when you arrived, you were just expected to be willing to learn and learn you have. Your training is complete, your trainer has released you and someone just gave you the keys to one of the company's trucks. It's a good feeling isn't it? Congratulations driver!

    Now what? Well, if you think the learning is over you are sadly mistaken. Every day is another school day and you will, or should, learn something new daily. This is, as they say, the first day of the rest of your life. You have seen much while you have been learning and you have learned what it takes to get that rig into places you wouldn't have thought it would fit. Now it's up to you to get out there and put what you have learned into practice.

    Two things can happen now. You might be about to hit the road on your own or you might have to spend some time running the truck as one half of a team with someone else who has just been released from training. Some companies do that for a short time while the drivers get used to doing it 'on their own'. Having someone to watch while you back up is helpful, especially in a tight spot.

    If you have a team mate, work with them when you are maneuvering in tight places. It's much easier to say "Thanks for the help," than, "Here's my insurance information." If you don't have another person in the truck you can always ask someone who is walking by in a truck stop or at a customer's warehouse. I have never met anyone who refused to help in such a situation, just remember that ultimately it is you who are responsible if you bump something, even if someone is watching out for you.

    If you get a chance to practice your art, take the opportunity. If someone looks at you strangely don't worry about it. The benefits of practice are all yours and trust me when I tell you that while one person might be looking at you strangely, there are plenty of others looking at you approvingly.

    Your company has expectations of you and while some of these pertain to the care, maintenance and safety of their equipment they will also expect you to help them to meet their customers expectations. When your company promises their customer that the freight will be picked up and delivered on time, it's up to you to fulfill that promise. Don't misunderstand me here; if your company expects you to do something illegal then you are driving for the wrong company.

    You will hear people say the most important person in the trucking company is the driver! As a driver myself it would be very easy to agree with the sentiment but in reality, without someone answering the phones, someone booking the loads and someone taking care of the myriad jobs that go on in a company office from day to day, there would be little reason to employ a driver to sit in a truck and go nowhere. Yes, the driver is very important in a trucking company but it must be argued that the driver is only one part of a larger team.

    Maturity, integrity and trustworthiness; three words that convey what your company is looking for in you. Another word is competence: a building contractor can't say, "I got most of your wall straight, what's the problem?" Or how about an air traffic controller who says, "I got most of the planes safely to their destinations. Isn't that good enough?" The ability to get some of your freight delivered on time once in a while is definitely not good enough. Your company depends on your to perform consistently, every time, all the time. When a driver, or any member of the team, performs inconsistently, they let down the team, damage it's foundation and put it in jeopardy. Consistency is rewarded by your customers faith in the ability of your company to get the job done and that will keep your trailer full.

    Don't, not even for one moment, forget that you have a huge responsibility. Not only to your company but to the road users around you, yourself and your family. That's okay though, you can handle it - you are a Trucker! At this point in your new career you should feel confident of your future. To get this far on your own and to be accepted by your new company you have done well, you have a right to feel proud of your accomplishments.

    Again, my congratulations Truck Driver. I look forward to meeting you somewhere down the road.

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