Steps to Becoming a Truck Driver

Anyone desiring stable employment in an in-demand field and the freedom to travel and see the beautiful landscapes of our wonderful country should consider a career as a truck driver. Although driving a big rig does not require years of schooling and prior driving experience, there are certain steps that must be taken if someone has decided to hit the open road for a comfortable living.

Understanding Driving and Criminal History

Obviously, in order to become a trucking professional, a person must have a decent driving history. Due to strict insurance liabilities, trucking companies cannot hire anyone with a laundry list of traffic and criminal offenses. Becoming a driver is not difficult, but every company has their own unique background requirements and qualifications that must be met. Therefore, it is a wise idea for someone to obtain a copy of their Motor Vehicle Record and an accurate report of any criminal activity that might be on their record as well.

That being said, here are some things that will automatically disqualify anyone from being able to drive for most companies:

-Criminal History: Felonies that are less than five years old can make it nearly impossible to find job placement in the trucking industry. In fact, most companies require felonies to be at least ten years old before they will consider a candidate. Some felonies, such as theft or certain violent crimes, will automatically disqualify an individual from employment with some companies, regardless of the date of the offenses. However, each company has their own criminal history qualifications, so people should talk directly to recruiters for companies that they may be interested in driving for.

-Alcohol Related Violations: Alcohol related violations, such as DUIs, must be at least five years old in order to drive for most companies. Some companies require the offense to be at least ten years old. More than one DUI or DWI will automatically disqualify a person from beginning their truck driving career.

-Drug and Alcohol Testing: The trucking industry takes drug and alcohol abuse very seriously. Anyone with a history of drug or alcohol abuse will more than likely be denied placement. If a trucking company does consider such a person for employment, they will need to achieve an "approved" status from a Substance Abuse Professional, commonly called a SAP. Without meeting with a SAP, job placement can be very difficult. All truck driving students are tested before their enrollment in a truck driving school, and while in school, they are placed in a random drug testing pool. After someone graduates and gains employment with a company, they will be placed in another random testing pool and will likely have to submit to random drug tests for the remainder of their career.

-Driving Record: Most companies require people to have no moving violations on their driving record in the last three years. Also, a higher than average number of speeding and other moving violations dating back six years will also make placement difficult. Therefore, it is necessary for individuals to get a copy of their MVR in order to accurately report any violations on their employment applications.

Enroll in Truck Driving School

After securing a copy of their MVR and ensuring that they meet the minimum driving and criminal background criteria, the next step on the journey to becoming a truck driver is enrolling in an industry recognized truck driving school. Trucking schools train aspiring drivers on all aspects of the trucking profession. From logistics to driving and parking an 18-wheeler, students leave driving school with a sound knowledge of how to operate big rigs and the trucking profession as a whole. To do this, instruction takes place in a classroom setting as well as behind the wheel.

Classroom sessions typically cover trucking industry laws and regulations, such as backing safety procedures, hours of service, log books, vehicle inspections, and much more. Classroom instruction is great, but the real lessons come from behind the driver's seat. Sitting behind the wheel for the first time can be very intimidating. When a driving student first looks in the side mirror, the trailer looks like it is a mile long. However, after several hours of practice behind the wheel, most will graduate as a competent and confident trucking professional.

Testing and Exams

Before graduation from trucking school, an individual will have to pass a written exam and a road test. The school provides the vehicle and arranges the testing. Depending on a person's career aspirations, they are typically allowed to test for as many endorsements as they like. Just remember, the more endorsements someone has, the more job opportunities will be available to them. Some of the commercial license endorsements available are:

In order to obtain a hazardous material endorsement, drivers must now visit a TSA office to be fingerprinted and pay for a background check.

Starting a Career

Most trucking school graduates begin their careers as long-haul truckers, referred in the industry as over the road. Many trucking schools work directly with numerous trucking companies and offer job placement services. The first trucking job for many graduates will likely involve a three-day orientation where they will learn all about the company policies and operating procedures. They will then be assigned a driver trainee who will help develop their skills further, teach them the routes, and learn how to properly execute all of the required logs and paperwork. This training period varies from company to company, and afterwards, drivers will be required to pass a road test before the company assigns a driver their own truck.

Many local and regional trucking jobs require some level of previous experience. After gaining experience over the road, a vast array of trucking jobs become available that allow drivers to earn more pay and receive more home time. However, many enjoy the independence and freedom of the open road and choose to continue as long haul truckers. As professionals in an in-demand field, truck drivers have the opportunity to pick and choose nearly every option possible.