Are you a truck driving school graduate that has landed a CDL job? If so, you are well on the way to a career in trucking. With more CDL training and experience, courtesy of the trucking company that hires you, it will not be long before trainee status is lifted and you are on your own. So, just what have you gotten into?
Trucking Jobs Overview
Life as a truck driver will differ greatly depending on the type of driving job you take, the cargo hauled, and for which industry you pull those trailers. One of the benefits of trucking is the great volume of positions available to fit any lifestyle. Whether you are looking for the adventure of living on the road, or if you want to be home every evening for dinner, there is a place for you in the trucking business.
Once you have established yourself as an experienced driver with a clean CDL and steady work history you are in control of the course your career takes. By this time, you will understand the industry and the myriad of employment options available to you better. Do not worry about making the wrong choice. Transitioning from one type of driving job to another is not usually too difficult.
Most CDL jobs offer good wages, health insurance, paid holidays, paid vacations, 401K’s, and steady work. Truck driving is a skilled trade that is in high demand, and it will remain so for years to come. Working for the trucking industry, you will weather bad economies better than many other occupations because trucks are still the most efficient and cost effective way to move freight. Without truckers, store shelves would be empty and many businesses would have to close their doors.
Large trucking companies, and businesses with a few delivery trucks, are always looking for qualified drivers. The most important qualities employers want from an applicant is a good driving record, experience, a stable work history, and a professional manner.
Truckers also need to pass a routine Department of Transportation physical exam every two years, or more often in some cases. You must submit to random drug and alcohol screenings, undergo a federal background check if hauling hazardous materials, and abide by DOT regulations.
Unlike most jobs out there, truckers can begin their career as a small business owner by purchasing, or financing, their own truck; these drivers are known as owner operators. In exchange for taking on the financial responsibilities of insurance, fuel, maintenance, taxes, and any other costs to keep the wheels turning, you will earn a much higher rate per mile than a company driver does.
Most owner operators act as sub-contractors for trucking companies and freight brokers. Owning your own truck is a risk, but it does give you the highest potential earnings in the industry. Being an owner operator means that you are a small business owner on top of being a truck driver. Performing both jobs can be challenging, especially if you are often out of town. Most owner/operators use accounting firms, or sometimes spouses, to ease the business workload and focus on driving. Many successful owner operators choose to buy more trucks and hire outside drivers to operate them. This can be a path to owning your own trucking company.
Leasing a truck, or leasing to buy, is another route drivers can take to becoming their own boss and earning more money as they take on more of the financial and operational burdens. Many trucking companies offer lease programs that can lead to becoming an owner operator without a large down payment or excellent credit scores. Leases can be complicated and truckers should thoroughly understand the agreement before signing. Have all documents examined by an attorney skilled in contract law, and an accountant familiar with such agreements.
Other types of trucking agreements, for more specialized driving jobs – such as household goods (moving furniture) – are also available. Some of these company driver agreements can be very lucrative and allow drivers more freedom. Other than leasing or owning a truck, you will be what is called a company driver. These men and women are regular employees of a trucking company and paid either hourly or by the mile.
Different Types of CDL Jobs
Local, Over-the-Road, and More
- National, 48 states, long haul, cross-country, OTR – these terms all describe the same thing; truck driving jobs that require extensive travel. Expect to be away from home for at least one week at a time. Based on factors such as where you live, the location of your home terminal, and the types of accounts your company has, you may be on the road between two weeks and a month. The standard for home time is one-day at home for every seven on the road. Drivers are paid by the mile and receive good benefits. The adventurous type of person will fall in love with OTR driving and find it difficult to stay away.
- Regional truck drivers – companies define regions differently, but they are usually within a 500 to 1500 mile radius of your home terminal. Expect to stay out on the road for up to a week, or even two at a time. Some regional jobs will only require the occasional overnight run though. Good pay and benefits.
- Local truck driving jobs – home daily, shift work available. Hourly pay and benefits. Heavy labor, and long hours sometimes required. Pay, benefits, and working conditions can vary greatly from one company to another.
- Dedicated – These drivers run a set route servicing the same customers. Local, regional, and national positions are available. Dedicated driving job are highly sought after.
- LTL – This mysterious acronym actually stands for less-than-a-truckload. LTL companies specialize in distributing freight. Well paying positions are available. Several union companies are big in this industry. LTL drivers will need a HAZMAT, and triples endorsement on their CDL license.
- In-house truck drivers – businesses that regularly ship or receive products often hire their own drivers, and use outside companies too. This category covers a wide range of careers from delivering pianos, construction equipment, trees, or automobiles.
Some Examples of Truck Driving Jobs
- Freight Hauler – extensive travel.
- Refrigerated Goods (Reefer Driver) – products that need to remain a steady temperature. Local, regional, dedicated, and OTR positions available.
- Flatbed – for shipping items that are not easily loaded or unloaded using a box trailer. Large and heavy machinery, unwieldy items, and steel beams for instance.
- Heavy Equipment – flatbed specific industry hauling bulldozers, drilling equipment, and construction gear to name just a few.
- Machinery movers/rigging – moving factories, MRI machines, and large safes. This is a very specialized occupation that that will often use cranes, forklifts, and other methods to move extremely heavy and large items.
- Dump Trucks – mostly local, good pay.
- Street Sweeper – primarily local, but some travel may be required.
- Snow Plow – local and of course seasonal.
- Tankers – fuel, milk, orange juice, chemicals, or bulk amounts of any liquid. Local, regional, and national.
- Bus Drivers – local and long distance.
- Car Haulers – transporting cars and trucks. Local, regional, and OTR.
With so many types of trucking jobs, you are certain to find a position that will match your needs at every stage of your career.