Advice for Starting in the Truck Driving Industry
Now is the best time to enter the transportation industry. The industry is expanding, companies are growing, and the demand for drivers is high. Yet most companies are having a hard time filling all their available positions. This shortage of drivers has created a demand that works in your favor, resulting in better pay and benefits for entry-level positions.
Here’s how you can get started in the truck driving industry:
Which comes first – CDL or a Job?
A common question from those starting out in the industry is whether they need to have a Commercial Driver’s License before they get hired, or if they should get a job first and then get their CDL. The answer: it depends.
Option 1: Get Hired First
Many truck driving companies will hire candidates for entry-level positions who do not have their CDL. Sometimes called pre-hired or a hiring decision, this employment is contingent on you receiving your CDL. The company will then pay for the candidate’s CDL training – either at their own school or at a private or public CDL school. With these positions, drivers are usually required to sign on for a certain period of time (one or more years) at a reduced pay scale to recoup the cost of training.
Option 2: Get Your CDL First
Another way to enter the workforce is to receive your CDL at a truck driving school first, and then get hired by a company. The benefits of this method include that you can be hired to a better entry-level position because you already have your CDL. Graduates from top-tier driving schools can have their pick of jobs and routes, with some companies throwing in a signing bonus as a way to recruit you.
The downside to getting your CDL first is that you have to pay for the school yourself. While there are loans and tuition reduction programs available, it may be too much of a burden for some drivers.
Tips on Finding the Right Company
As you look for your first truck driving job, you’ll want to do some research into your potential employers. Not all transportation companies are equal: some treat drivers as commodities, while others place greater emphasis on supporting and encouraging their drivers. Some companies are open and honest, while others withhold information or do not stick to their word. You’ll want to find a company who will be a good fit with your personal and professional goals.
Local vs. National Carrier
One of the first things you’ll want to decide is whether you will work for a local or a national carrier. Local and regional carriers mean you’ll be home more frequently, while national carriers may offer better pay and more routes.
Learn More About the Company Before You Get Hired
A great way to learn more about a truck driving company is to ask questions. Talk to the recruiter and ask them about the company. Find past and current drivers and ask them about how the company treats their drivers.
Here are some basic questions to ask your potential employer:
- What home time options are available?
- How much will I get paid?
- What locations do you hire out of?
- Is there a sign-on or referral bonus?
- Do you provide on-going training?
- How are pay increases handled? What are they based on?
- Do you offer safety and performance bonuses?
- What additional benefits do you offer?
What Can I Expect from an Entry Level Driving Job?
It is important to face the truth: when you get hired for an entry-level truck driving job, you start as the lowest person in the company’s driver list. That means you may get less desirable routes, odd schedules, and plenty of ribbing.
The best way to advance in the truck driving industry is to invest in a company. View your first year as a way to hone your skills and experience, learn more about the company and their values, and begin to prove your value to your company. By becoming a trusted, valuable driver to your company, you will be able to secure better routes and better pay.