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Hit the road for pay as a truck driver

CareerBuilder | April 13, 2020

Thinking about becoming a truck driver? Learn what experienced drivers say about the job.

Truck drivers gets to see the country, all while pulling in a steady paycheck

While truck driving may seem like a monotonous pursuit, it's a necessary facet of the supply chain—especially after the Coronavirus pandemic. "Truck drivers are on the road delivering commodities allowing everyone to live their lives. Almost everything you have at home, at one time or another, was on a truck."

What Is Truck Driving?

A truck driver is a professional driver who operates larger vehicles on the road, from vans to semi trucks. Some drivers work in a specific geographical region, often taking shorter trips, while others drive cross-country, sometimes covering 12,000 miles, and don't return home for several months at a time.

These professionals sometimes own their own rigs, but more often drive their employers' trucks. They must know the laws in any state through which they travel and follow federal guidelines for truck drivers. For instance, you can only drive for a certain number of hours in a stretch.

truck driver jobs

What Does a Truck Driver Do?

Truck drivers transport equipment, merchandise, and other products from one place to another. For instance, if you work for a company that contracts with a food-service business, you might haul produce or prepared meals from a food manufacturing plant to a warehouse, or from the warehouse to restaurants or supermarkets.

One driver interviewed cautions prospective truck drivers to "get ready for long hours and days away from your family." However, excellent income potential and the chance to travel on someone else's dime might make up for the extended periods away from home.

-- Professionals who have a sense of wanderlust might consider this career.

What's Training Like for Truck Drivers?

There are few barriers to entry for truck driving, which makes this an ideal career choice if you're aren't attending school or gaining extensive training. You'll need a "high school education, strong math skills and the ability to read and understand maps."

You must also take a commercial driver's license, or CDL course to learn how to drive large trucks. Training costs anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, and generally only last a few weeks. Some schools offer help with finding a job after you graduate and other perks.

Accordingly, you'll also need to learn software programs, such as "Microsoft Word, Excel, map [programs], and many others." You can learn on the job as you get exposed to helpful software and apps and explore their functions.

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

A Truck Driver's average salary is typically around $60,000 annually. Truck drivers with the most experience tend to earn the highest salaries in the industry. When you first start out, you might earn less, but you can increase your salary potential by performing your job well and meeting all your deadlines. Drivers in certain cities, such as Chicago and Denver, might command higher salaries than in other parts of the country.

You might also earn higher wages if you work for trucking companies in other capacities during your off days. Teaching others can further increase take-home pay and provide another career option.

What Are the Challenges and Rewards of Truck Driving?

As with all professions, truck drivers face daily challenges and rewards that keep their work interesting. Some drivers enjoy training new driver[s] so they can complete their duties safely, or take a terminal manager position, for example.

When asked about the most challenging aspect the, drivers struggle with "driving in big city traffic." Road congestion can increase stress levels and tension, especially on unfamiliar streets. It also slows down a truck driver's progress, which can interfere with delivery times and other deadlines.

"When I drive [OTR], I don't like that I'm gone all week away from my family. When I work in the office, I like being home every day.", said one driver interviewed. People with strong family and social ties might find long-distance trucking too stressful. This doesn't mean that you have to abandon your career aspirations, because many companies hire truck drivers for shorter runs within narrow regional boundaries.

If you're not careful, you can face health issues as a truck driver. For instance, sitting all day can promote obesity, especially if you rely on fast food restaurants for fuel. Focus on getting exercise when you're not behind the wheel and eating a healthy diet.

How Can Truck Drivers Advance?

If you want to maximize your earning potential, you can become an owner/operator instead of just an employee. This means you buy your own truck and other equipment and contract your services to companies in need. You can start your own business and bring other drivers into the fold. Some owner/operators have a fleet of vehicles in their operations.

If you don't want to buy your own rig, focus on long-distance trucking. You'll earn more money per mile and satisfy your travel bug at the same time. Additionally, some trucking jobs pay more than others. For greater salary potential, consider working in liquid hauling, specialty car hauling, or team driving. The most skilled drivers might want to haul oversized loads, which carries more risks but often includes better salaries.

Truck drivers enjoy an amazing sense of flexibility. They work unique schedules, which can mean long stretches of time off, and when you don't want to drive anymore, you can teach or work in dispatch. Start searching for a truck driving job today.

Look up salaries for any driving job and location with CareerBuilder's Salary Tool.

Other driving jobs to consider:

Get ahead earn your commercial drivers license