Long-haul truck driving is a fascinating occupation that might appeal to many people. To answer the first obvious question, the money can be decent, especially in today’s economy. It gives drivers the opportunity to get out of their towns and see the country. More than anything else, becoming a truck driver, a part of the OTR drivers gang, is a great way to hit the reset button on a life and get a fresh start.
Unlike many careers, becoming a truck driver doesn’t require a four-year degree. You don’t need three years of experience as a truck driver to become a truck driver. In many cases, you never even have to touch the cargo. However, there are a few requirements and steps before you can start your new life.
Minimum Age and Driving Record
There are only a couple things that can really hold you back if you want to be an over the road (OTR) driver. First, the minimum age is 21. There’s no getting around that; it’s the minimum age limit handed down by the Department of Transportation. Next, your driving record must be reasonably clean. Being rear-ended won’t raise any eyebrows, but a few accidents where you’re at fault will. A speeding ticket earned at a young age is fine, but a bunch of points on your license can certainly stand in your way. Better take that NY Defensive Driving course to get those points down if you want a career as a truck driver!
No college degree is required. For many trucking companies, a high school diploma isn’t required either, but it’s still definitely preferred. What companies do require is a valid CDL license.
Students will first need to obtain their CDL (commercial driver’s license) permit. That can be done through a written exam at their local DMV. They’d want to study the material first, then take and pass the permit test. After that, there are a couple of options open to them.
The first option is to pick a qualified, reputable truck-driving school. Most schools offer flexible schedules and can be completed in two weeks, if the student works hard. Schools will take the student all the way through obtaining the CDL, most even providing the truck necessary to take the road test. These schools require payment up front, which seems to be the only downside. On the other hand, many trucking companies offer tuition reimbursement, up to a certain amount. This is usually paid at a rate of $100-200 per month until the tuition is fully paid off.
The second option, which is better for those who don’t have much money saved up, is to go through paid training with their preferred trucking company. These programs are taught by many large trucking companies known for hiring (for lack of a better term) entry-level drivers. No experience is required. Most companies will provide transportation to the training facility for a stay of about two weeks. Room and board are also usually covered. During this paid training, students learn everything they need to know to become trainee truck drivers. Completion of the training also guarantees the new driver a job with the company. There is one drawback though. These programs cost nothing up front because the cost is usually applied to the driver’s paychecks for their first couple of years as a driver. New drivers end up paying much more than if they’d paid out of pocket for the first option.
On the Road Training
After completing the training and orientation for their chosen trucking companies, new drivers will be assigned a trainer. The trainer will take the trainee out on the road and teach them all the tips and tricks that simply can’t be learned elsewhere. Once the trainer and the company deem the new driver ready to drive solo, they are set free on the open road.