Truck drivers can make a decent living without having to get a degree. According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for U.S. truck drivers is $77,334. On the low end, trucking salaries are $48,562, and on the high end, they’re $123,151!
If you’re interested in that kind of money and becoming part of a $700 billion industry, this article is for you. In it, we’ll go over exactly what you need to do to become a truck driver in the U.S.
Prerequisites to becoming a truck driver
Before we dive into the four steps of becoming a truck driver, there are some prerequisites that you must meet:
- You must have a high school diploma or GED certificate.
- You must be 21 years old. That’s the age at which you can legally operate a commercial truck. However, you can obtain a learner’s permit as early as 18 years old.
- You must have a regular driver’s license. You won’t be allowed to drive big commercial trucks until you’re licensed to drive regular passenger vehicles.
- You must have a clean (driving) record. Most trucking companies perform background checks before hiring you. Many also perform drug tests and look at your job history.
If you meet all the prerequisite requirements, you can move on to the next steps:
1. Enroll in a commercial truck training program
You first need to enroll in a commercial truck training program. This will teach you how to drive a commercial truck and help you get your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), the requirements for which vary by state (so check with your DMV or BMV to be sure what they are).
Commercial truck training programs are offered by community colleges, private truck driving schools, and trucking companies. They can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year, and the cost typically ranges from $3,000 to $10,000, though there are many financial aid opportunities.
For example, some company-sponsored programs offer discounts, financing, or even full reimbursement if you stay on with the company for a certain amount of time afterward.
Search for reputable trucking schools in your area, and choose one that fits your needs.
2. Earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL)
Once you’ve completed a commercial trucking program, you’re ready to earn your commercial driver’s license (aka CDL). This is the bare minimum requirement for becoming a truck driver.
The CDL comes in three classifications:
- Class A is for driving heavy-duty vehicles like semi trucks. It’s the most versatile and common option.
- Class B is for driving within the city, as with school buses, public transit vehicles, and garbage trucks.
- Class C is for driving smaller vehicles that carry passengers or light loads.
You may also need to get an additional endorsement if you plan to drive specialty trucks like tankers or hydrovacs. It all depends on what type of trucking job you are after.
The regular CDL license fee is usually somewhere between $20 to $120.
3. Find a trucking job
At this point, you’re ready to start looking for a trucking job. You can search local job boards or on the internet. It’s also a good idea to ask for help from your trucking school or truck-driving associations. They may have some good tips on where to apply.
Brush up on your job interview skills and don’t give up!
4. Complete in-house training
Once you’re hired, you’ll usually need to complete an in-house training program, often called a driver finishing program.
This is to solidify your skills as a truck driver and to introduce you to the trucks and equipment you will be using.
Most driver finishing programs last a few weeks and involve supervised driving. You may start driving a commercial truck owned by the company or one they lease from a commercial truck provider.
Becoming a commercial truck driver isn’t hard, but it’s not a walk in the park either. Stick to the four steps above, and you’re bound to land a great trucking job in no time!