It’s human nature to be apprehensive when entering a new career. Whether it’s your first career or it’s a career move that you are considering, it’s important to understand the pro’s and con’s of the decision. Making the decision to become a commercial truck driver is no different. Getting yourself ready to hit the road will take a commitment of both time and money, so it’s perfectly normal to ensure you have done all the research possible to verify that you are making the correct career move.
In this article, we will explore the many benefits to becoming a commercial truck driver. Many people that decide to make driving their profession end up making it a lifelong career.
Before we cover the primary benefits of becoming a commercial driver, it’s important to have a basic understanding as to what CDL entitles you do to. I’ll also touch on a basic outline of how to get started with getting your license and certification.
Heavy commercial vehicles pose a considerably different challenge regarding mechanics and driving as compared to your average family ride. The same way earthmovers and other industrial machinery need specialized training, and you need a set minimum level of skill to safely drive a truck or other form of heavy commercial vehicle. In 1986, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act established the requirements for issuance of a CDL (Commercial Driving License).
There are three classes of CDLs, with each setting limits for the type of vehicles one is permitted to drive. All commercial vehicles are subject to varying laws in each state, so make sure you understand the traffic laws in the states you pass through or operate in. All rules demand keen observation, as any violations result in fines or worse, depending on the situation.
These are the classes of commercial driving licenses in the United States:
Class A – this class allows the license holder to operate trucks or combinations of vehicles with GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) or GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Ratio) of 26,001 pounds or more. This requirement is applicable only if the GVW or GVWR of the towed weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
Class B – this license is for the operation of single vehicles with a GCWR or GVW of equal to or greater than 26,001 or more, but with trailers that don’t exceed a GVWR of 10,000 pounds.
Class C – this class permits the licensee to operate any vehicle or vehicle combination that goes beyond the definitions of both Class A and B, but carries a total of 16 passengers or more with the driver included. All trucks that ferry hazardous material or requires a placard fall in this category as well.
The Benefits of Getting a CDL
There are some established upsides to having proper documentation when on the road, and a valid license proves this point. Here are some of the benefits of having a valid commercial driver’s license when on the road:
- Open Road
When you ask a seasoned truck driver why they chose it as their career option, the first answer you are likely to get will be related to the getting paid to travel or not being stuck behind a desk or in a factory all day. This is absolutely what pulled me into driving. I love being out on the road each day and exploring our country. It would be near impossible for me to change careers and move into a job that forces me to be indoors or in one spot all day.
Being out on the road isn’t for everyone, especially if you have a family. Fortunately, though, there are options available for everyone. If being home each night is important to you, then the trucking industry offers the flexibility of finding local or regional routes that where you are home each night.
The overall outlook for the trucking industry is excellent. The global market has seen a rise in employee cutbacks on the advent of machine-learning capability and mass automation. The trucking business, however, remains vastly unaffected.
It is estimated that there are more than 4 million commercial truck drivers in the United States. Estimations by the ATA (American Trucking Association) put the shortage of drivers at a whopping 200,000 at the decade’s closing.
Many professions demand competence backed by a four-year degree. However, commercial drivers only need a relatively short training program. Subsequently, one then undergoes some additional on-the-job training after that before hitting the road.
- The Money
Time and effort demand a monetary reward. The average annual pay for a licensed trucker is about 41,000 dollars. It is essential to remember that payment remains dependent on experience and the employer. However, this is a pretty respectable sum.
Beginners usually bring in an amount in the region of 30,000 dollars a year, excluding benefits. Progression in a trucker’s career is constant as well, with experienced drivers raking in up to 50,000 dollars each year. With trucking companies offering sizeable sign-on bonuses, this is a line of work worth considering.
On many occasions, a new job needs a change of address. This relocation is in itself an expense, and work schedules make it impossible to reside too far from your office. Commercial vehicle drivers, however, have no such restrictions. May trucking companies don’t have residency requirements, meaning that working in the field avails a unique level of flexibility. The distance from your house to the office is not an issue as your schedule doesn’t run on fixed hours each day. Another freedom comes in the form of drivers having the opportunity to choose between part-time, full-time, seasonal, local, or long-haul jobs.
- Scenic Travel
Jobs in the trucking business will take you across state lines, with some fantastic sights and sounds along the way. The monotony of office walls no longer remains a concern. The open roads bring about a rare attraction, some unique beauty present in the course of your work. Trucking is a job that takes you from that restrictive workstation, exposing you to new places. On your stops, interactions bring you new friends and a chance to network. Driving a commercial vehicle across this scenic country is essentially getting paid to travel.
- Job Security
The shortage of drivers translates to added appreciation for existing personnel. With competence, your job is secure. On many occasions, new companies are looking to expand and bring new drivers on board. This vast field in the transport industry presents opportunity after opportunity, meaning that you will have little or no problems securing a position.
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of drivers in the US, are approximately 55 years of age. This statistic is quite remarkable for two reasons. First, it shows that people who choose to be a driver, remain in the career for much of their life. Many times, a low average age within an established industry indicates a less than desirable career path because people within the field will leave as soon as they find a suitable exit.
The other thing that the age factor shows, is how there will be a significant shortfall of drivers in the coming years. The United States, already has a shortfall of drivers. As population grows and commerce expands, the need for truckers will continue to rise. As the older drivers begin to retire, the job market will become even more favorable as new drivers will be needed to replace them.
- Team Bonuses
Faster deliveries attract bonuses. As a sole driver, you have to make scheduled stops and catch a few winks. This routine means that the truck remains within the physical abilities of one individual. Companies give bonuses for early deliveries as an incentive so that drivers speed up deliveries. Considering that focus diminishes with fatigue, stops remain inevitable.
With a team, one driver keeps going when the other sleeps. This continuous run sees early delivery, with groups known to clock earnings of up to 100,000 dollars annually. Teams also avail a varied set of skills. As always, the mood is much better with more than one person in the vehicle.
- Steady growth
Many professions can have you stuck on the same position for years, with the paycheck not reflecting the benefits experience should bring. Trucking, however, is different. The more years you spend on the road driving commercial vehicles, the more your paycheck grows. Experience is a significant factor in the trucking industries.
A smart way of making years on the road rewarding is to find tenure in a good company. For truckers, time and experience pays very well. Choosing a career with guaranteed growth remains a tricky proposition, but trucking offers a clear option with a steady paycheck, benefits and definite increment over time.
- An Early Career Start
Most careers tend to kick off properly after campus, so after high school, that’s another four years. For truckers, however, licensed work can start as early as at 18 years. At 18, you can quickly get a commercial driver’s license and make all sorts of trips within your state.
At 21, your commercial driving permit gets you across state lines. All this comes at the youngest possible legal working age. Considering the benefits that truckers enjoy as the years tally on the job, this early start is a huge incentive. Working at a relatively young age gives one’s life some structure, good work ethic, and a proper foundation for the future.
- Other Financial Advantages
Debt impedes the advancement of American youth. The initial stages of this hurdle set in on the onset of student loans taken in a bid to secure higher education. This situation has been worsened by the need of a college degree to secure proper employment. However, truckers can have a steady paycheck at 18, and increase the average beginner’s salary estimated at 30,000 dollars over time.
By the age of thirty, one will have earned a sizeable amount and set up well for the future. This career offers a more straightforward path with a minimal financial burden.
How to Secure a Commercial Driver’s License
These are the simple steps to follow to secure your CDL:
- Check the laws regulating the issuance of the license in your state. The conditions vary from state to state
- Different classes of vehicles require different categories of commercial driving licenses, the type you pick will determine if you opt for a class A, B or C license.
- Get a copy of the CDL manual applicable in your state. The exam before you get your CDL involves a knowledge test. You can get this from the DMV, while some regions have downloadable versions.
After you have studied:
- Fill out your CDL application. This form may also be downloaded from a state website portal. Additional documentation remains a necessity for the completion of this step.
- After turning in your application with all other requirements satisfied, you will need to pass a written test. You may then practice with an authorized supervisor and undergo any additional training necessary. You will pursue classes that suit your license type on an advisory from the DMV.
- Your CDL skills test comes next, and scheduling it is your next assignment. Some states may require you to operate with a temporary permit for some time before assessment for a full license. In such situations, hours on the road are critical.
- You have to sit and pass a CDL skills test, under the invigilation of a licensed examiner. Passing this critical test earns you a commercial driver’s license.
The decision to be a commercial vehicle driver is one of the smartest choices one can make at an early age. This career path guarantees growth as you clock years in the profession, with a steady check, grows annually. On the job, you stand to earn attractive bonuses and benefits. This comparatively easy career gives an avenue that negates the need for additional financial burdens such as student loans. Trucking is indeed a gratifying profession.