Trucking has a lot of different opportunities for you – and there are a lot of different options for you to choose from all along the way.
The decisions you make and the actions you take will determine your fate and whether you are successful in trucking or not.
Getting the right information and making better decisions based on that information will help you in many ways to build a better trucking career and to be able to do it faster.
Here are 10 things for you to consider before you get your CDL and start your trucking career;
1. Get Informed – Trucking is not like other jobs, other careers or other businesses in many ways. It is unique and you need to learn about it before you just leap in and make serious mistakes because you lack specialized trucking business and trucking career information. This is a leading reason people fail and quit within the first few days, weeks and months – because they failed to understand what they were really getting themselves into and when it finally set it they realized it was incompatible with what they want in life.
2. Have a Plan – Often people wander into trucking without having any clearly defined plans at all. They see an ad somewhere, call a recruiter, wind up at orientation hundreds of miles from home and wait to be told what they need to do by other people. This will end poorly for most people most of the time. Your life, your trucking career and everything else that really matters is your responsibility. Do NOT leave it up to others and do not leave it up to chance. Figure out specifically what you want and research how to get it. Have written goals and plans before you start your trucking career. I suggest your initial plans cover your first 90 days and then your first full year in trucking. Keep in mind your major focus should be learning the business and building a solid foundation for your career during the first year.
3. Set Realistic Expectations – This is another problem for most people. Make sure you take the time to follow number 1 above and understand what you are going to encounter. Pay expectations are often very wrong – and when the reality fails to live up to the fantasy things go wrong quickly. Do your homework and have accurate information about how much you are really going to earn starting out and beyond, especially all throughout your first full year in trucking. Even then keep in mind it takes time to get through school, complete road training, start driving and learn enough to become efficient and consistent to stabilize your pay. In trucking your pay is based on your own productivity – so you have a huge impact on the amount of pay you earn. That’s one of the things I have always loved about it – trucking is different and it takes a different understanding to do well in this arena. Key things people get wrong include failing to understand how many hours working will be needed each day and how much time away from home will be required, then overestimating their initial net pay.
4. Realize Your First 90 Days are Critical – This is when you begin to develop the specialized skills which will become habits. It is very important to get it right. Once you begin to develop habits – good or bad – they will become more and more ingrained and will be reflected in everything that you do, they often seem like such little things. They are not little things at all because they have the power to dramatically affect everything about your career from your earnings to your safety – and even whether you survive or not. Take the time to learn the right things the right way and to be careful to develop sound fundamental habits from day one.
5. Know that Trucking Companies are Different – They are NOT all exactly alike despite trucker chatter to the contrary. How they treat you, train you, run you and pay you varies dramatically from company to company. Some are terrible, unsafe and should not be operating at all – but they are. For the time being anyway, and while they will probably eventually go under or be shut down by DOT – if you make the mistake of joining them before that time it will cost you dearly. Other companies have good programs, good pay, benefits, and systems in place and they will train you properly and treat you with respect. Even then know this – THERE ARE NO PERFECT TRUCKING COMPANIES! All have some failings and shortcomings and all make mistakes. So, find the best company you can – do the best job you can – and be patient with them and not so fast to quit at the first couple of little speed bumps.
6. Prepare for Departure – Before you start training get yourself and your family ready. Make sure they know what to expect. Make sure you have some money saved up and available for them to help cover expenses for the first few weeks to the first few months. You can do that in many different ways which I will talk about in future articles. Just make sure you have money available. You will also need some cash for yourself too. Have enough on you that you could get home on a bus at least or rent a car and drive home from anywhere in the country at any time you choose. That way you will never be trapped or stranded no matter what, and knowing that will increase your own confidence. Before you leave take the time to pack the items that you will need and the things you will want – and nothing more. I will cover this in a future article and in videos on our YouTube channel – but for now, ask the school and ask your trucking company once you choose one what to bring and start with that.
7. Understand Training Time Frames – You will have at least two major phases of training. First, you have to get your initial truck driver training to learn the fundamental driving skills and pass your skills test so you can get your CDL – or commercial driver’s license. That is typically done at a truck driver training school of some type, either private or part of a technical college or training program of some type. There are a few trucking companies that offer internal training schools or programs of their own. Others offer an apprenticeship training program where you are paired up with another driver/instructor who will teach you the basics and help you get ready to take and pass your skills test to get your CDL. Once you get your CDL then the next phase of training starts – you will complete on the road training. Typically this phase will be another week to four weeks or more. The school (the first phase) typically varies from about 4 weeks to as long as 12 weeks. Typically 4-6 weeks is common to get through school and another week to 4 weeks on the road training after that. Then you start running solo on your own or decide to team (Bad idea for most!) and this is the beginning of the time you start to take control of what you earn.
8. Communicate Effectively – How ell you communicate with other people will also dramatically affect everything you will ever accomplish in your career and in your life. It is a skill you need to actively work to improve and then keep improving from now on. The way you communicate with your family will impact their expectations about when you are going to be home, how long and also about how much pay you will be making all along your way in trucking. When they do not know what to expect – or when they are given wrong information – this drives up their stress and in turn, will drive up yours too! Beyond that, you must communicate with company personnel – especially the person or people who assign your loads. Your ability to do that will determine to a great extent your pay and your home time. There will be communications with customers, brokers, other staff members, DOT and law enforcement personnel and with other members of the general public. They all play parts that impact your career either in ways good or bad based upon how well you communicate with them all.
9. Develop Your Big Picture Goals and Plans – Knowing where you ultimately want to wind up will help you trip plan all the other smaller trips in between more effectively. It will improve your chances of success and the quality of your life all along the way. Figure out who you are, who you want to become and what you want out of life so that you can start aligning things in ways that will help you get there.
10. Trucking Success and Building a Better Life Both Require Continuous Learning – Make continuous learn a part of your life from now on and you will do far better in trucking and in life than you can even imagine right now!
I hope this helps you and at least gives you a few key things to think about. Trucking is a lifestyle and it can be a great one too – yet it has certain realities that need to be understood. It can be hard, and incompatible even for some people. Try to make sure it will be a good fit for you before you start – then if it is, pursue it with a driven purpose and you will be far more successful.