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What to think about before choosing a trucking career

If you're thinking about new career paths, it's a good idea to do some research and make sure that the new career you're considering is right for you. That's especially true for potential truck drivers. A trucking career can be very demanding, but it can let you see many parts of the United States and enjoy the open road. Here are some of the things you should think about before becoming a truck driver.

The responsibilities of a truck driver

Many truck drivers start their days early so that they can spend most of their time driving in daylight. Others drive at night to avoid traffic. Truck driving responsibilities include:

  • Transporting finished goods or raw materials
  • Maintaining a truck and consulting a mechanic when necessary
  • Finishing deliveries on time
  • Helping load and unload cargo
  • Keeping detailed records of miles driven and expenses such as tolls and fuel
  • Recording vehicle maintenance and state-mandated inspections
  • Keeping your commercial driver's license (CDL) current
  • Completing delivery paperwork
  • Driving safely and moving trailers into docking bays for loading and unloading
  • Complying with Federal and state laws and reporting violations to the proper authorities
  • Interacting with clients
  • Planning the fastest delivery routes

Truck driving regulations

Over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers don't usually have set starting hours, and they can keep whatever schedule they prefer, as long as it meets driving safety regulations. Many companies expect truck drivers to work up to 70 hours over eight days. After that, they can't drive again until they take 34 hours off duty. Truck drivers also can't drive for more than 11 hours in one day, and they must conclude their hours of service with a 10-hour break.

What truck driver training is like

The educational requirements for truck drivers depend on the position, but most are similar. Truck drivers usually need a CDL to haul cargo that weighs 26,001 pounds or more. Hauling hazardous materials like gasoline or propane often requires an endorsement or special certification, and the exact requirements can vary depending on the state.

Truck drivers usually need to be at least 21 years old, but they can start at 18 if they stay in states that allow it. There are three types of CDL available:

  • Class A is for vehicles with a combined weight of over 26,000 pounds, and it includes tow trucks that often pull other vehicles.
  • Class B covers a single vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds.
  • Class C is for vehicles that carry hazardous materials or more than 16 passengers.

After you get the training you need, you can find a job by uploading your resume to CareerBuilder.

Truck driver pay

As drivers gain experience, they can start working by themselves. Then, they often move larger shipments and drive longer distances in shorter times. Faster, more reliable, and more skilled drivers often get higher pay. In the United States, truck drivers make an average of $20.50 per hour or $42,500 per year.

With most truck driving jobs, how far you drive determines how much you earn. Some drivers receive hourly pay, but compensation is usually calculated by the mile. Some employers pay for practical miles or the number of miles driven while on the job. Others use paid miles, the distance in a straight line from one point to another. That means you get the same amount no matter which route you take. People who are trainers or willing to haul oversized cargo or hazardous materials often earn more than average. According to Statista, demand for truck drivers is likely to increase.

The challenges of being a truck driver

Truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road, and they often cover large distances. Many drivers cover 500 miles per day, and they spend a lot of time by themselves. They may also need to wait for staff members to load and unload their trucks before they get moving. This process can sometimes take three to four hours, and truck drivers who get paid by the mile don't earn any extra money for this time. Many truck drivers spend some nights away from home, sleeping in their vehicles. Since they don't have access to a kitchen, they may spend a lot of money on unhealthy fast food and snacks.

The benefits of being a truck driver

As a truck driver, you can explore the country and meet a wide variety of people. You can also drive a more local route. If you want some companionship, you can drive with someone else as a team. Most modern trucks are very comfortable and ergonomically designed, and some have a mini-fridge or an electric cooler. That way, you can carry a good selection of snacks and drinks with you, and you won't have to stop for food as frequently.

A trucking career can be very demanding, but it can let you see many parts of the United States and enjoy the open road.

Getting a CDL only takes about three or four weeks, making it easy to start a trucking career. Truck drivers are also in very high demand, making it simple to find a job. Many employers offer health insurance, dental insurance, and a 401(k) or other retirement benefits. With many companies, you can bring a pet along with you. Many truck drivers eventually become owner-operators who run their own businesses.

You can learn more about being a truck driver and many other jobs at CareerBuilder. We can help you find a great job that suits your needs.

Related reading: trucking careers

Learn about how much the United States economy needs truck drivers.

Here's how to make money as a truck driver without a college degree.

Here's some more information about what hitting the road as a truck driver is like.

If you think you're born to drive, highlight these skills on your resume.

Before you become a truck driver, you'll need a commercial driver's license or CDL.