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Truck Driver (CDL) Career Guide

A truck driving career requires no college education yet it can still offer great employment opportunities and earning potential. As truck drivers contribute to society by moving goods around and helping supply chains, as long as the economy continues to thrive and grow, so will the demand for skilled and dedicated truck drivers.

 

There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive

B.C. Forbes

Truck Driver (CDL) Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Truck Driver (CDL) Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Truck Driver (CDL) field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33910 Truck Driver Female 69 $24,000 Saint Augustine, FL 01/01/2010
33725 Owner/ Operator Female 35 $75,000 richmond, KY 01/01/2010
33449 Truck Driver Male 50 $45,000 chickamauga, GA 01/01/2010
33023 Truck Driver Male 58 $60,000 racine, WI 01/01/2010

Overview

What a truck driver actually does

A truck driver is someone who makes a living transporting goods and materials over land in (yep you guessed it)… a  truck. There are different types of truck drivers, from delivery vans to dump trucks to the huge big 18 wheelers you see on the highways. Truck drivers can work locally, where they only take short trips and journey. Or, they can work regionally, where they will drive and deliver goods and materials to one particular area of country. Finally, over-the-road (OTR) drivers are those who criss cross between the 50 states and typically spend longer on the road.

Regardless of the size of the truck driven or the length of the journey, a truck drivers typical daily duties and responsibilities include:

  • Planning routes to meet delivery schedules
  • Transporting goods and materials to and from manufacturing plants or retail and distribution centres
  • Regularly inspecting their vehicle for mechanical faults and safety issues
  • Maintaining their vehicle to a high standard and resolving any issues that may occur with the vehicle
  • Complying with all truck driving rules and regulations (e.g., speed, size, weight restrictions and break periods)
  • Complying with company policies and procedures
  • Following delivery instructions
  • Parking trucks so that it can be loaded or unloaded with ease
  • Reporting any accidents or violations to the relevant people

Why they are needed

Trucking dominates the transportation industry, with 83.7% of the revenue. In short, truck drivers are an essential service to any industrialized society. They move billions of tons of freight each year, and without them we would have to rely on local resources to thrive and survive. Without truck drivers, it is impossible for the economy to continue to grow as drivers are the backbone of the supply chain, helping businesses to move materials from manufacturing plants, to distribution points, to warehouses and then directly to the customers door.

Pros and cons of a career as a truck driver

Pros:

  • Truck drivers receive a high entry level pay
  • There is little education required to becoming a truck driver
  • You get paid to travel and to see different parts of the country/world
  • There is a lot of job security in the industry as truck drivers are heavily in-demand and there is a worker shortage
  • It is a job that is relatively easy to keep. As long as you drive safely and follow guidelines, there is no reason that a company will not keep you on (unless of course they face financial difficulty)
  • There is a lot of independence as you work alone and therefore won’t have someone constantly looking over your shoulder
  • It is a rewarding career as you are making a positive difference to the lives of others by helping to get materials and products to them

Cons:

  • Getting a CDL (a commercial drivers license, which is the license needed to become a truck driver) can be costly
  • It requires serious commitment. Truck drivers may often be required to work for days at a time, meaning you will not be at home much
  • Life on the road can be lonely, especially if you are someone who likes social interaction and to be surrounded by people all the time
  • As there will always be delays, deadlines, poor directions and traffic, being a truck driver can be stressful
  • There is a lot of responsibility when driving a large truck as you need to ensure the safety of others
  • Things like finding a meal, getting enough sleep, staying physically fit and personal hygiene can be tough for truck drivers

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the overall employment of truck drivers and driver/sales workers is projected to grow 2% from 2018 to 2028, which is slower than the average for all occupations. However, the employment of light truck or delivery service drivers is projected to grow 4% from 2018 to 2028, which is about as fast as the average rate. Similarly, the employment rate for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is project to grow 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As the economy depends hugely on truck drivers to keep supply chains moving and to transport goods across the world, there is likely to be an increase in demand for truck drivers as the economy continues to grow. In general, the job prospects for truck drivers with proper training and a clean driving record are good because many companies have trouble finding and retaining qualified drivers, in particular long-haul drivers.

Career paths

One of the most obvious benefits to becoming a truck driver is that the career path is very accessible. You will firstly need to have achieved a high school diploma or equivalent. After this, you will need to attend a professional truck driving school, where you will learn how to drive trucks safely, the federal law surrounding trucking and the rules and regulations governing interstate truck driving.

After attending truck school, you must then achieve a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Qualifications for achieving this vary by state, but generally include passing both a knowledge and a driving test and can take as little as 7 weeks.

After attending a truck driving schools and getting your CDL, you are all good to start looking for jobs. Once hired, truck drivers will receive the relevant training from their employer and many truck drivers will continue to work as employees for larger businesses.

However, those looking for a little more freedom (and to make some more money), may want to consider becoming a self-employed truck driver after a few years experience in the field. The way to do this varies country to country and state to state. However, generally speaking you will need to apply for an Operator’s License, which shows that you have clear funds to start off as an owner truck driver. Once your license has been accepted, which can take a while, you will need to either rent a truck from someone, or buy yourself your own truck and then get the correct insurance. After all this, you should network like your life depends on it to gain access to thousands of different jobs and start earning.

Example Job Titles for Truck Driver (CDL)

Below is a list of common job titles in the Truck Driver (CDL) field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average salary of a delivery truck driver in the United States is $32,020 per year and the median average salary for heavy truck drivers is $45,260 per year as of 2019. Truck drivers who are employed by someone else tend to receive attractive benefits, such as meals provided whilst on the job, health insurance, disability insurance, vision insurance, dental insurance and fuel discount.

However, Indeed collected data from 34,300 salaries and concluded that the average salary for an owner operator driver (e.g., those who are self-employed) in the United States is $188,670.

Autonomy and Flexibility

Overall, there is a lot of autonomy, with many drivers saying that they love the job as it offers them independence and freedom. As long as the goods and materials get delivered on time, truck drivers are free to rest, eat and sleep when they want (within the state regulations).

As truck drivers tend to work away from home, and have to follow strict deadlines, there is less flexibility in their work.

Locations and commute

Truck driver jobs are available in most locations, meaning that the commute to work is often short. What is more, is that as a self-employed driver or owner, you can decide where you keep your trucks and therefore how far you have to commute to get to work.

Work environment

Truck drivers tend to work independently, operating only from the cabin of their truck. As an over-the-road or regional driver, you may often have to be away from home for a long period of time and have to work many days in a row, making it a lifestyle choice as well as a career.

The job can also be quite physically demanding as you may have to load and unload trucks (more so for delivery drivers opposed to heavy truck drivers).

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Truck Driver (CDL) careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Truck Driver (CDL) career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Truck Driver (CDL).

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

The exact personality types that make a successful truck driver have not been explored. However, it is reasonable to assume that, due to the emotionally draining nature of the job and the responsibility that comes with driving large trucks, successful truck drivers will have high emotional stability. They will also need to follow state rules and regulations surrounding trucking, which means that successful truck drivers will most likely score highly on conscientiousness.

To be a successful truck driver, you will need t0 be a responsible driver and therefore have minimal road traffic accidents. One study found that excitement seeking and aggression had an impact on the number of road traffic accidents due to the driving behaviours they cause. These results imply that to be a successful truck driver, you should display low excitement seeking and low aggression. On a similar note, drivers without driving violations express a higher need for personal control, are significantly less risk-taking in their behaviour, are more conforming and inclined to avoid novel sensations as well as socially-stimulating situations than those with driving violations. Based on the results of this study, drivers who have less accidents, therefore making them more successful truck drivers, are likely to show personal control, less risk-taking behaviour and will most likely be introverted.

Accomplishment and mastery

The sense of accomplishment and mastery can be very high in a truck driving career. The skills and education required are not particularly difficult to obtain, but once qualified you get a lot of responsibility and independence so there is a sense of accomplishing something and mastering a new skill.

Meaning and contribution

As mentioned previously, truck drivers play a crucial role in society and help keep the economy afloat. Due to this, there is a high sense of meaning and contribution that comes from being a truck driver. Checkout this video to find out why truck drivers love their jobs so much.

Life fit

Being a truck driver can prove difficult to the life fit of many. Often, truck drivers will work away from home for days at a time, meaning that they will miss out on certain aspects of family life. On top of this, life on the road as a trucker is not as glamorous as life on the road as a rockstar. It can be hard to find ways to exercise and stay fit, finding meals may sometimes be an issue and finding places to keep personal hygiene in check can be tricky.

Who will thrive in this career?

The reoccurring theme when its comes to being a successful truck driver is that it is what you make of it. So, in order to thrive and be successful, truck drivers need to work hard and think positive.

You will thrive in this career if you are organized and can plan ahead, taking into account the likelihood of unforeseen circumstances such as traffic or delays.  Those who like to work independently and are good at managing themselves will also thrive, and will most likely end up loving the job for its self-dependent nature.

Who will struggle in this career

It goes without saying that those who like to work in teams, or like to be constantly surrounded by other people, will struggle in this career due to the solo and independent nature of the work. On top of this, those who are incredibly family oriented might find the career too difficult and will miss being away from home.

Those who are naturally spontaneous, excitement seeking and do not follow rules may also struggle in this career as these behaviours can lead to reckless driving behaviour, which will cause more accidents.

Requirements

Skills and talents

The typical skills and talents required for a truck driver include:

  • Problem-solving skills, as truck drivers will be faced with new problems everyday (e.g., traffic, delays, road closures or faults with the truck itself) and will have to find efficient ways to resolve these issues
  • Customer-service skills are key for delivery truck drivers as they will be interacting with customers when delivering parcels and therefore must leave a good impression
  • Hand-eye coordination is essential as truck drivers must be able to use their legs, hands and eyes to safely drive a truck in all kinds of conditions
  • Visual ability is an obvious essential as truck drivers must be able to see the road ahead of them. Federal regulations require a driver to have at least 20/40 vision with a 70-degree field of vision in each eye and the ability to distinguish the colour on a traffic light
  • Hearing ability is key as federal regulations require that a driver must be able to hear a forced whisper in one ear at 5 feet away
  • Physical health is also important as federal regulations do not allow people to become truck drivers if they have a medical condition that will interfere with their ability to operate a truck

Education

To become a truck driver, you will more often than not need a high school diploma or equivalent and a driving license. After this, truck drivers should attend a professional truck driving school, where they take training courses to learn how to drive large vehicles and learn the federal laws and regulations governing interstate truck driving.

Upon completing truck-driving school and then being hired by an employer, truck drivers normally receive several weeks of on-the-job training where they will drive accompanied by a mentor-driver.

Certifications

All long-haul truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Qualifications for obtaining a CDL vary state by state, but generally include passing both a knowledge test and a driving test. This can be complete in as little as seven weeks.

How to Become

Summary

A career as a truck driver offers an independent and rewarding career in a demanding and fast-growing industry. As society relies so much on truck drivers to keep the economy afloat, it is thought that there will always be a demand for drivers. On top of this, businesses are struggling to source and retain drivers, meaning that there are a lot of opportunities available. As a career that requires no college education, a career in trucking certainly offers an abundance of career opportunities and ways to make a good living.

Immediate action (so what can you do)

If after reading this career guide becoming a truck driver is something that really appeals to you then great! What we recommend doing is doing some research and finding the best truck driving schools in your state. Here is a list of truck driving schools to aid you in your search.

Education and learning

To become a truck driver, you will need a clean drivers license, a high school diploma or equivalent, to complete a professional truck driving school programme and to have received your CDL. Once you have done all this, can then start applying for jobs. Once you have found a job, you can expect to be trained by the employer for the first few weeks.

Skill development

To gather the skills needed to be a successful truck driver, you could practice driving your car for long periods of time and in new areas. This will improve your coordination and problem solving ability. Before diving into the necessary training, it may be responsible to check that your physical health, eyesight and hearing ability matched the federal requirements.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Truck Driver (CDL) careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33910 Truck Driver Female 69 $24,000 Saint Augustine, FL 01/01/2010
33725 Owner/ Operator Female 35 $75,000 richmond, KY 01/01/2010
33449 Truck Driver Male 50 $45,000 chickamauga, GA 01/01/2010
33023 Truck Driver Male 58 $60,000 racine, WI 01/01/2010

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