The Lifestyle of a Truck Driver
Many Americans relate being a tough driver to harsh conditions, a stressful life, and the habits of a bachelor. Truck drivers often spend weeks away from home, delivering cargo in state after state. For some, this nomadic lifestyle seems alluring. Truck drivers get to see the country and meet all kinds of people on a regular basis. For others, trucking is simply a good way to pay the bills. With all the stereotyping surrounding the experience of driving trucks for a living or the kind of person who chooses such a unique lifestyle, it's hard to decipher what it truly means to live life on the road.
Believe it or not, there is currently a high demand for trucking. With new stores and restaurants opening all the time as rural areas are built up and developed, the field of cargo delivery is also growing. For every new Walmart store or Applebee's that opens in a small community, dozens of truckers must make weekly deliveries to keep shelves stocked and kitchens full of food. Despite the demand, however, many aspiring truckers cannot find jobs right away. Working in trucking is competitive and takes dedicated and able men and women to handle the lifestyle. As many recruiters and employers know, not all individuals are suited for a life in transit.
To seek a job in trucking, many people start by visiting a trucking headhunter or recruiter. These individuals are trained in matching prospective employees to companies in need based on experience, age, certifications and geographic preferences. When working with a recruiter to find a job in trucking, always be honest. Companies put a lot of trust in their drivers and are looking for dependable, responsible individuals. Be upfront about wage requirements, hours, locations and the previous experience. If there was a lapse in employment history for a period greater than a year, a recruiter or employer may want to know why so be prepared to discuss a resume in detail.
Obtaining a commercial driver's license, better known as a CDL, is the first step in working with a recruiter. No cargo company can hire a driver without a CDL so obtaining this qualification is imperative for all interested individuals. Many recruiters and employers will also need any other licensing information and a driving record to determine eligibility. Homeland Security often requires background checks for truckers, especially for positions related to hazardous or sensitive materials so a criminal record must be clean. When running a background check, all employers will require a copy of a prospective employee's DAC, or Drive-A-Check record. A DAC is a comprehensive trucking work history record that details accidents, problems with customers, problems with employers or any illegal or unsanctioned behavior. This record is an employer's first view of a potential new trucker so it is generally of great importance in the industry.
If offered an interview, be prepared to discuss work history, job successes and struggles, and qualifications. Most trucking companies are also interested in medical history, to ensure drivers are physically able to sit in a truck seat for hours on end with no threat of health problems. If medical history is worrying, providing a doctor's note stating good health and trucking capabilities is an option. Additionally, companies will almost always require a drug test upon interviewing to make sure employees can safe and responsible with cargo. Most companies also require a road test as part of the interview process as well. These steps might seem tedious and time-consuming but proving worth to a company is paramount to getting a good position and earning great wages.
Due to the long hours, truckers are often paid good wages for their hard work. Rather than working as a salaried employee or earning hourly wages, most truck drivers are paid by the mile. New drivers can expect to start out making 25 to 30 cents per mile while more experienced drivers can make as much as 40 cents per mile. Based on an average speed of 60 miles per hour, this is roughly $15.00 to $24.00 per hour, a wage double to over triple the federal minimum. On average, truck drivers make between $800 and $1000 per week, although this amount can be more or less. Despite physical capabilities, laws restrict drivers to the number of hours they can spend on the road. For example, only 11 hours out of 14 hours working can be spent driving. Many companies put GPS or other tracking devices in their trucks to monitor time spent. Truckers are usually reimbursed for gas.
Truckers generally travel for several days and get 34 hours off between trips, a time period known as a restart. In theory, drivers can spend this time home with family but this is not common. Due to pick up and drop off locations, most truckers spend their time between trips at rest stops or in hotels. Often, drivers will be granted a restart at an area hundreds of miles away from where they began a trip. It is not unusual for truckers to sleep in their trucks rather than trying to drive home for several hours or paying what can often be a day's wages for a hotel or motel room. Conventional truckers are often home two to four days in an average month. This lifestyle is challenging for parents with families but for the reliable money and opportunity to travel, it can acceptable to many individuals.
Truck driving is not a career for everyone due to the long hours spent driving, the monotony of the highway and the possible health risks of eating regularly at rest stops and sitting for long periods of time. For others, the thrill of the drive, the hours spent alone and the satisfactory pay can make a life of pick ups and deliveries well worth it. Truck drivers are highly respected by their employers for the time spent away from home and family and for their integral role in helping companies operate successfully. Despite the challenges, many people find trucking to be a satisfying and rewarding occupation.