Commercial truck drivers must have a clean driving record and hold a current CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). These are extremely important rules. In order to gain a CDL, one must complete a Truck Driver’s School in order to learn how to safely drive eighteen-wheeled trucks. Those holding valid CDLs will find that there is never a shortage of work to be done, but depending on the job one can be away from his or her family for an extended period of time.
Salaries vary greatly, but truck drivers who go on cross-county hauls can earn upwards of $100,000 a year. The currently popular show History Channel show, Ice Road Truckers, has brought truck driving to the limelight. Set in Canada, Ice Road Truckers showed a group of truck drivers who perform the most dangerous crossing in possibly all of North America, a trek across the frozen lakes in Yellowknife to bring equipment and supplies to the DeBeer’s Diamond Mine. Trucks fall through the ice regularly and tremendous skill is needed to drive on the winter roads and frozen lakes. The show demonstrated how the eight week span in which the lake is frozen enough for trucks to cross them can earn a person a year’s salary. While most truckers do not face these conditions, drivers in the northern sections of the U.S. do face winter blizzards, freezing rain, and high winds, all conditions that make driving a truck incredibly dangerous.
Minimum Requirements to Be a Truck Driver
Unlike many other vocational or college programs, gaining a CDL does not require a high school diploma or GED. Obviously, it is beneficial to have one in order to be considered for most jobs, but those who find themselves dropping out of high school for whatever reason can become employed as a truck driver. A typical CDL vocational course takes 160 hours of training over a two month span of time. There are things that one must consider before entering this field, however.
- Truck drivers are required by law to have 20/40 vision.
- Truck drivers must pass regular hearing tests.
- Truck drivers must be aged 18, only those 21 or older can drive outside of their home state.
- Truck drivers must speak fluent English.
- Truck drivers cannot drive if they have a suspension on their license. DUIs and other major traffic violations (failing to stop at a railroad crossing, leaving the scene of an accident, running stop signs, etc.) will lead to your CDL being revoked immediately.
- Truck drivers may only hold one CDL. Those who apply for a CDL in more than one state are fined up to $5,000 and must forfeit all other licenses.
- Yearly health exams are required in order to keep a CDL.
- Truck drivers must renew their CDL yearly at a fee of $50.
In order to get a CDL, a person must complete a driving program with an accredited CDL training school. Lessons include:
- Driver Safety
- Driving in Inclement Weather
- Gears (Shifting)
- Hazardous Materials
- Mountain Driving
- On-Road Driving
- Pre-Trip Inspections
- Pulling Trailers (Including Double or Triple Trailers)
- Railroad Crossings
- Road Hazards
- Speed Control
- Staying Alert/Awake
- Transporting Cargo or Passengers
- Understanding and Using Air Brakes
- Vehicle Control Systems
- Vehicle Inspection
After the course is complete, the student then spends plenty of time with an instructor driving an actual rig before taking both a written exam and a driving test to gain the CDL. The written test covers items like road sign meanings, road rules, and a vision and hearing test. During the driving test, a state examiner tests you on vehicle control, turns, backing up, and obeying traffic laws. If you complete this test successfully, your CDL is granted and you can begin work.
The Average Day of a Truck Driver
On an average truck driving assignment, your day starts by helping to load the cargo and ensuring it is strapped on or loaded correctly. You must then inspect your rig to ensure the brakes are working properly, all equipment is working, fluid levels are normal, and eliminate or fix any safety issue that may be present. Once these safety checks are complete, you leave on your delivery.
Along the way, road hazards, high winds, pouring rain, heavy snow, and other weather and physical conditions can delay your trip. It is important to stay alert at all times. Truck drivers who feel tired should never press on to keep a schedule because it puts all other drivers on the road at risk. Pulling over for a nap is a far better choice. Upon reaching the final destination, the truck driver then must help unload the cargo and ensure the proper paperwork is signed and the truck driver fuels up if needed. At this point, the truck driver moves on to his or her next assignment.
Deliveries can be local or across the country, so many rigs are designed to be the truck driver’s home away from home with a small sleeping area and often an appliance (microwave or toaster oven.) Driving is a profitable career, but it does involve long periods of sitting, so issues like hemorrhoids, leg cramps, and poor circulation are very common.
Are you interested in becoming a truck driver? Check out schools in Florida that offer truck driver training.