With the shortage of drivers in the United States, now is a perfect time to apply to be a truck driver, but do not be fooled. Being a truck driver is no easy feat, and many people get into this industry not knowing they are not cut out to be a driver. This isn’t one of those “try and see” situations, so how do you know you actually have what it takes to be a truck driver?
There are many other characteristics that you should consider before you decide to start your truck driving career, but these are a good place to start:
First things first: You better love to drive – and safely, at that.
While this is super basic, it is a fundamental requirement. If you don’t like or aren’t comfortable driving long distances, how could you possibly lead a career in truck driving? If you get bored when driving short distances, or constantly need to stop every 45 minutes, you should consider a different career path.
Driving a truck is not the same as driving a really big car. These trucks are not the same trucks you played with in your living room as a kid. Trucks are large heavy pieces of equipment that need to be operated safely to maintain the safety of others, and yourself.
Driving is a waiting game
If you want to be a truck driver, you are going to need patience and a lot of it! Driving is a lot of waiting: waiting at truck stops, waiting at loading docks, waiting in bad traffic. If you find that you have a pretty serious case of road rage, or have trouble being patient, maybe you should consider another job.
Gratitude for solitude
Truck drivers spend tremendous amounts of time alone. Unless you are driving with a partner, you can expect to drive upwards of 500 miles a day by yourself. You will be spending hours by yourself. When you have a tough day, there isn’t necessarily going to be someone there to encourage you for tomorrow.
Of course you get to listen to the radio, and see our beautiful country in a way most people don’t, and never will, but if you cannot be by yourself for an extended period of time, truck driving is probably not for you.
A clean record
Crashes involving trucks are very expensive, and trucking companies want to do everything in their power to reduce that liability as much as possible. So even if you are able to get your CDL, you’re going to have a tough time finding a job if you have many tickets or violations; the more serious the offense, the less likely you will get a job.
CDL holders are held to a higher standard when it comes to the legal alcohol limit. The legal limit for a person with a CDL is 0.04%, compared to 0.08% non-CDL holders. In some states, if you are a commercial license holder, you are still held to that standard even if you are in your own car.
As part of your pre-employment and thereafter, you will be subject to random drug and alcohol tests. If you’re involved in a crash, even if it is not your fault, you will have to be tested for drugs and alcohol. Any amount of alcohol that is detected in your system while you’re driving a commercial vehicle, even if lower than 0.04%, will result in a 24-hour out of service order. If you refuse to test, it is the same as testing positive, and that is a “kiss of death” in the trucking industry.
If you have read through these and still think you’re cut out for a truck driving job, try and find someone who has been driving for a long time. Someone with years of experience can answer the questions that no driving school is ever going to tell you. Truck driving can be a successful and rewarding career path—but only if it fits your personality and lifestyle.