- What Does a Truck Driver Do?
- Types of Truck Drivers
- What Skills Do I Need to Become a Truck Driver?
- 8 Steps to Become a Truck Driver
- Is Truck Driving Right for Me?
- Is it Hard to Become a Semi-Truck Driver?
The demand for truck drivers is high and only increasing. Thousands of truck drivers will retire soon, opening a window for younger, eager workers to help close the shortage. Truck driving is a viable career and offers many benefits — you may be wondering how to become a semi-truck driver.
Luckily, the process is relatively straightforward, and with some time and effort, you could be making your first delivery soon.
What Does a Truck Driver Do?
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to think that truck driving is as simple as sitting back with your hands on the wheel, your foot on the pedal and your eyes on the road. But it’s a much more involved job than that. You’ll need focus to stay alert for hours at a time, communication skills to relay crucial delivery information, decision-making abilities to navigate bad weather, excellent driving skills, and many other attributes. You’ll pick up some of these skills with experience, while you might gain others in driving school or have the abilities ingrained in you already.
Why Become a Truck Driver?
As a truck driver, your job is integral to the functioning of the national and even global supply chain. Customers and businesses expect to receive their shipments on time, and they’re relying on you to stay efficient on the roads. You’ll be carrying a lot of accountability. Along with this responsibility, truck driving also offers various benefits:
- Unique experience: Truck driving is a unique job — every day is different. Instead of a cubicle, your office will be in constant motion and your view will be the entire country. Depending on where your work takes you, you could be watching sunsets sinking over a dramatic desert landscape one day and rising over the ocean another. You’ll meet hundreds, maybe thousands, of new people from all walks of life, see beautiful landscapes, and admire towering cities. Professional truck drivers get a perspective of the world that many couldn’t dream of.
- Good pay: For those without college degrees, truck driving offers a way to make good money. The median annual wage for truck drivers was $47,130 in 2020. With companies growing more eager to get drivers, this number may rise. You’ll also have a degree of control over your earnings, as the amount of time you spend on the roads will correlate with your pay.
- Purpose: As mentioned earlier, truck driving is an essential part of the supply chain. The demand for drivers is expanding. The country needs smart and focused people to fill that gap and ensure deliveries arrive on time. From medical supplies to food, you’ll be the one responsible for getting people what they need. It’s a job that gives you a concrete goal and purpose.
Types of Truck Drivers
The term “truck driving” covers a broad range of occupations, all of which you can split up into more specific categories. Based on your skillset and goals, it can be beneficial to target one primary type of driving to get a clearer idea of what you’re aiming for.
For flexible career options, you can target a Class A certification, which will allow you to drive a broad range of vehicles, such as semi-trucks and big rigs.
What Skills Do I Need to Become a Truck Driver?
You may have no problem narrowing down the concrete actions you must take for becoming a semi-truck driver. The challenging part could be figuring out if you have the inherent requirements to become a semi-truck driver. Here are some qualities to have.
- Excellent driving skills: Being a cautious, respectful driver will set you up for success from the beginning of your career. Simple attributes like staying focused and knowing when to stop in inclement weather will keep you safer on the job. Your driving abilities will allow you to maintain a clean record and make all your deliveries on time.
- Focus: One of the most crucial aspects of the job is to constantly be aware of what’s happening around you — the cars in other lanes and your role on the road. Sometimes you’ll be traveling through the night or driving through a rainstorm — these situations will call for the utmost attention.
- Independence: Truck drivers spend hours at a time alone. You can strike up conversations at restaurants and diners or call family and friends. But mostly, you’ll be by yourself on the road. This solitude is a challenge for some and ideal for others, depending on your personality and adaptability. It helps to be inherently independent as a truck driver, but you can also find it out on the roads, growing your sense of self and becoming comfortable in your skin.
8 Steps to Become a Truck Driver
How do I become a semi-truck driver? Becoming a big-rig truck driver involves following a straightforward path, which makes it appealing to many people. Here are eight actionable steps you can take to become a truck driver.
1. Pass a Driving Test
You’ll need to pass a standard driving test and receive a valid driver’s license to start your journey to becoming a truck driver. Along with a license, here are some fundamentals you’ll need to become a big-rig truck driver:
- Clean driving record
- Age 21 or older
- Background check
At this stage, you’ll also want to check your state requirements. Each state is slightly different, so make sure you know what you’ll need. Do some research online, talk to people in your area and make a checklist of the basics to get you started.
2. Complete High School or GED
After you get the bare necessities, you’ll want to look at education. Most companies will require completion of high school or a GED. Usually, you can complete a GED in a few months at a low cost.
3. Pass Physical and Written Tests
To become a truck driver, you’ll likely need to pass a physical and some basic written tests to qualify you for the job.
4. Find a Truck Driving School
Once you get the baseline education, you can start looking at trucking schools. You’ll need this specified schooling to qualify for a commercial driver’s license. For this step, you’ll have various options to choose from.
- Community colleges: Community college is an affordable option for people who want to get an education closer to home. Some schools may even offer a related truck-driving certificate or degree. That isn’t an essential qualification, but it could help you gain some knowledge of the industry and set you up for success early in your career.
- Private schools: This option may be a bit more expensive, but it could provide excellent training and a straightforward path toward getting a job. Since these schools’ curricula specifically focus on truck driving, you’ll likely get a more relevant education on how to become a semi-truck driver.
- Training programs: You could also look for company-sponsored programs — this is a fantastic way to target your training for a specific employer. Sometimes, companies will even pay you to complete the training.
If you’re looking for a way to cover tuition, seek state grants, scholarships and paid company training to help you through the process.
5. Attend Driving School
Once you’ve settled on the right school for you, enroll. Depending on the kind of schooling you choose, it could last anywhere from several weeks to over a year. Company-sponsored programs usually take less time to complete than community college or private schools.
The secret is to find a good school for your needs, with experienced teachers who can show you how to become a big-rig truck driver.
6. Pass Exams and Obtain CDL
After getting the relevant schooling, you’ll be eligible to obtain a CDL. To earn this, you’ll usually need to complete a skills test and a written exam. The skills test may remind you of your first driver’s test, though this time it will be in a massive vehicle. As for the written exam, each state will have a slightly different version, but you should prepare for various questions about the job in question.
There are three types of classes for truck drivers — A, B, and C. These vary by state, but usually depend on the maximum weight a vehicle will handle. Becoming a Class A truck driver will offer you the most flexibility, as this covers the max weight. The requirements to become a class A truck driver may vary slightly, so be sure to check what you’ll need to achieve this.
After you determine how to become a class A truck driver, pass your exams, and obtain your CDL, you’re on your way to starting your first day as a certified truck driver.
7. Get Relevant Licenses and Certifications
You can add specific licenses and certifications to your CDL for a particular job. For example, you can add a hazardous materials endorsement or other certifications for handling sensitive or more involved deliveries. These endorsements might require additional background checks, but they’ll help you enhance your CDL and open up your possibilities for jobs.
8. Find a Job
You’ve got your education, finished the training and obtained your CDL. What’s next? It’s time to find a trucking job.
If you’re in a company-sponsored program, you’ll likely have a job already set for you. Schools might help place you in a job or provide contacts for you to reach. Once you find a company, you might have to complete a finishing program that introduces you to the vehicles and specific operations.
Is Truck Driving Right for Me?
It’s helpful to know the various steps it takes to become a truck driver. With an actionable guide and the steps laid out in front of you, you can start to craft a plan for your career as a driver.
However, aside from the various steps, you should also ask yourself whether truck driving is the right route for you. As with any career, it’s crucial to examine the daily life of the job and see if it matches your goals.
Talk to a Truck Driver
If you’re lucky, you might know a truck driver — maybe someone in your family is a current or former driver. Sitting down and talking with them about the day-to-day tasks of a truck driver is one of the best ways to learn more about the job. They can give you a firsthand account, providing an unbiased glimpse into its challenges and benefits.
The internet is full of great information about truck drivers’ daily lives. Watching videos and reading stories from people who have spent their careers in trucking will give you a knowledge base about the job, the industry, and some perspective to help you figure out if this career is right for you.
Consider Your Lifestyle
Becoming a truck driver is a lifestyle change. With the constant travel and irregular hours, it will take some adaptability and a specific type of person to do the work. If you’re seeking out some of these aspects in a job, you might be the perfect fit for truck driving.
- Adventure: Driving across the country offers the kind of adventure most other jobs can’t provide. You’ll likely navigate snowy mountains, traverse endless plains and witness breathtaking sights weekly. You’ll meet fascinating people and have stories to tell when you come back home. After all, the U.S. is a beautiful country, and depending on your work, you could see a significant amount of the geographical diversity it has to offer.
- Challenge: You’ll have to find a way to focus for long periods and navigate the weather to get your deliveries to destinations on time. Each day might be a little different, offering new challenges to solve and put great responsibility on your shoulders.
- Self-reflection: Truck driving is primarily a solitary career — you’ll be on the road for long periods by yourself. This career offers a chance for introspection and learning to be alone without feeling lonely.
- Satisfaction: Truck driving can be fulfilling. Each delivery provides a sense of accomplishment, and you may start to feel like part of something bigger than yourself, helping contribute to a national supply chain that — at its core — relies on essential workers like you.
Is It Hard to Become a Semi-Truck Driver?
The road to becoming a truck driver may be more challenging for some people. But as you now know, the path is straightforward, with several steps you can take to help get you there. One of the most challenging parts of the process can be finding the right company.
Apply to Become a Truck Driver Today
Holt of California is the perfect company for those looking for a truck driving job. We offer competitive pay, excellent benefits and the training you need to grow and advance in your field. Learn more about our truck driving jobs and apply online today!