The trucking industry is big business. A multi-billion-dollar business, in fact. With over 15.5 million trucks on US roads and over half a million businesses using trucks in their business operations, the trucking industry is booming, to say the least!
In fact, 71% of all freight in the United States being moved by trucks and industry has no signs of slowing down.
Trucking everything from milk to motor vehicles, the country not only benefits from the industry in a number of ways, it’s also dependent on it to keep its economy thriving. It’s probably no surprise, then, that around 6% of all workers are employed in some way by this growing industry.
So, with the multitude of opportunities in this industry, coupled with the high earning potential, seizing a piece of the trucking pie is a wise career move indeed.
But with so much competition, how do you get your foot in the door of such a lucrative industry? Here are five of our top tips to get you started.
1) Level-up your industry knowledge
On the surface, a career in the trucking industry may seem like the perfect option. Many truck drivers earn in excess of $100,000 per year, they have the freedom of the open road and they get to see parts of the country that others don’t.
Sounds perfect, right?
That said, there’s another side of trucking that you need to consider before taking the plunge; endless weeks on the road means many nights spent away from home, sleeping in the cab of your truck. While this may be fine for some, it’s something those with young families may think twice about.
It’s not just the occupational hazards that you should be thinking about though. Although there are many positions for truck drivers to earn a great wage, it’s not the case for everyone.
In fact, in 2018, the Bureau of Labour Statistics revealed that on average truck drivers earn less than the median annual wage, so if you’re looking to get into truck driving for the high earning potential, be wary that not all avenues will prove lucrative.
2) Talk to Other Truck Drivers
Before you get too deep into your truck driving journey, talking to those with real industry experience might be a great way to help you decide whether this is the right career for you.
Truck drivers who have had industry experience can share the realities of your potential career path, warts and all.
Networking with truck drivers could also potentially open doors for you later down the track. You’re sure to have heard the saying it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and that certainly is true for this industry. Between introductions and recommendations, getting your name out there with the people who may be able to help you land a gig is something you should look at doing from the start of your journey, even before you get your commercial driver’s license (CDL).
3) Pick a niche
There are so many different niches in the trucking industry. Although it’s not imperative for you to narrow down your choice of niche at the start of your career, it’s wise that you understand your options and at least consider what you might like to do.
Perhaps the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to work for yourself, or someone else. While the latter means that you won’t be out of pocket for your truck’s maintenance, the benefits of running your own truck cannot be denied.
As with any business, being your own boss means more freedom to go in the direction you want and potentially higher earning potential. However, in spite of obvious benefits, the risks involved in running a business, potential stress and pressure of sourcing your own clients and contracts may present negatives which outweigh the positives.
In reality, knowing whether you want to be employed or self-employed is the only thing you need to really nail down in the initial stages of your trucking career; everything else is surplus, but it’s still important to know the options available to you.
Would you like to go short haul or long haul? What kinds of load would you like to carry, and does it matter to you? What kind of vehicle would you prefer to drive?
Don’t worry too much about solid decisions made at this early stage, generally they won’t pigeon-hole you, but they will focus you on your goals and help you get to where you want to go. You can always change your mind once you’re immersed in the industry, but the experience you gain along the way will undoubtedly help you find your next role.
3) Get your Commercial Driver’s Licence
Before you even start to look for jobs, you need to obtain your commercial driver’s license (CDL) so you can legally operate large and heavy vehicles. Since 1992, drivers have been required to have a CDL if they’re wanting to drive a vehicle which falls into Class A, B or C (the definition of which varies from state to state). In some states, a CDL is also required for buses, limousines and hire vehicles too.
There are many driving schools throughout the country so make sure you do your research and pick a reputable one. The cost of truck driving lessons isn’t cheap (on average between $3,000 and $7,000), neither is the test itself, so some schools offer payment plans.
CDL training will prepare you for the CDL knowledge and practical test but it’s also a good idea to make sure you keep your learning up in between lessons; you can sit CDL general knowledge practice tests online for free.
The CDL test you’ll take will be dependent on the license classification you want to obtain, in addition to the type of vehicle you’re looking to drive. In most states, you must be 21 or over to get your CDL but in some states, those aged between 18 and 20 can obtain a CDL which permits them to drive their heavy vehicle within the state they’re licensed.
4) Find your position
Then the job hunt begins! Although job hunting is never easy, the ever-expanding truck industry means more opportunities are opening for job seekers every single year.
In fact, the American Trucking Association claimed, in 2018, that 900,000 additional drivers are needed to meet the current demand of the industry. While that’s reassuring to know, you probably want to know where to look, right?
Some driving schools actually contract drivers to a certain amount of time after they’ve qualified, so you may pass your test already having a guaranteed job lined up. If you don’t, there are a number of job websites dedicated to driving roles. It’s essential, though, that you research your potential employers before applying for a position with them.
There’s a high turnover in the trucking industry; the expectations some businesses place on their employees amount to a huge deal of stress. Expense policies, benefit structures and the importance placed on work/life balance are also important considerations.
Trucking may not be the most glamorous career in the world, but it certainly can be rewarding for those willing to put the time, effort and hard work into achieving their goals. There are so many options for those wanting to drive for a living that you don’t need to worry too much about how you get your start – you just need to get a start!
Given the diversity of the industry, it’s difficult to get a true sense of what you want to do when you’re in the initial stages of exploring this as a career option. The good news is, after obtaining your license and some experience, you can begin to branch out into other areas.
As a novice driver, it’s also important to understand that you may not land your dream role immediately as many top jobs go to experienced candidates. Therefore, you’d be wise to assess what the employers you’d love to be hired by are looking for so you can take the right career steps to position yourself as the ideal candidate.