There are many good reasons to consider getting into the trucking industry. Trucking is a stable career path because it’s always in demand; you’ll never have to worry about being out of work. It’s also an accessible path, and a potentially lucrative one; a dedicated individual can make a lot of money trucking, regardless of their past education and experience. And on top of that, trucking is flexible; you can work for a company, become an independent contractor, or even start a fleet of your own.
But long before you begin your journey as a trucker, there are some things you’ll need to have in place.
What You Need Before Becoming a Trucker
At minimum, you’ll need these things before beginning your career as a trucker:
- A long-term vision. First, you should have a vision for how you want your career to develop long-term. There are many options available to you as a trucker, and they all offer different advantages and disadvantages. For example, you could try to become a freelancer; this would provide you with a lot of flexibility, but it may also make your income less predictable and less consistent. You could also try to start a trucking business of your own, but this would require a lot of upfront capital and would expose you to additional risk.
- A clean background. If you want to apply for a CDL and eventually get hired as a truck driver, you’ll need to have a relatively clean background (especially since most employers run background checks before hiring). It’s not a huge deal if you have a parking ticket on your record from 10 years ago, but if you have multiple moving violations, or if you have any felonies on your record, it might work against you.
- A commercial driver’s license. A regular driver’s license isn’t enough to qualify you to operate a large vehicle for commercial purposes. If you want to drive a truck, you’ll need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Requirements vary by state and by vehicle type, so you may have to do some research before you move forward here.
- Education. There are no strict education requirements for becoming a truck driver. However, it’s usually a good idea to have a high school education or equivalent certification. You can also increase your chances of getting hired by taking vehicle safety courses and getting certified in other areas.
- A semi-truck. You can’t be a truck driver without a truck. Depending on your employment arrangement, you may be provided with a vehicle, but in most cases, truck drivers have their own semi-trucks. You can buy a semi-truck used for far less than a new one, which makes it easy to get started in this career.
- Experience. You’ll also need some experience before you can build a strong trucking career. Consider working a handful of small, local jobs first; these will be easier to get, and they’ll help you build your resume for more valuable career opportunities later on.
- Connections. Finally, consider building out your professional network. Getting to know other truckers, employers, and professionals in your area can help you learn as a newcomer and introduce you to major job opportunities later in your career.
Mentally Preparing for the Trucking Experience
In addition to having these things in place, you’ll want to mentally prepare for your trucking career.
- The time. As a full-time trucker, you’ll likely spend more than 40 hours per week working and on the road. It’s a demanding job, and you need to be prepared for that commitment.
- The stress. Additionally, driving a truck is stressful. You’ll often be forced to deal with high-risk situations, such as inclement weather and navigating tight spaces in the city. You’ll also be away from home for long periods of time, which can make it harder to relax and decompress, so you’ll need alternative strategies to manage your stress.
- The demands. Depending on the nature of your jobs, you may be required to drive across the country, being away from home for days, if not weeks at a time. This can make it exceptionally difficult to raise a family.
- Your personal enjoyment. Don’t forget the importance of personal enjoyment. You may love driving, but after being stuck sitting down in a truck for half-day stretches, you may find you don’t like it as much as you thought you did. Make sure this is something you truly want to do before moving forward.
Trucking isn’t the right career move for everyone, but it does have the power to change lives for the better. Review your options carefully, do your homework, and set yourself up for the best possible path forward as a trucker.