Whether you’re just starting out in your career or need a change from the daily 9-to-5 routine, a career in truck driving could really, ahem, take you places.
Not only are job prospects for truck drivers projected to be very good in the next few years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but the hours are flexible, the pay is good (the median salary for truck drivers was $45,260 in 2019), and it offers a unique opportunity to see and experience different areas of the country.
But getting a job as a truck driver isn’t as simple as having a good driving record and the desire to live a life on the open road.
Below is an overview of the requirements and common considerations before becoming a commercial truck driver.
Education and certification
Anyone hoping to become a commercial truck driver must obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL); however, specific qualifications to obtain a CDL vary by state. In most cases, one will have to pass both a skills test and a driving test. While some states may not require formal training to receive a CDL, it is highly recommended that one attends an accredited truck driving school or community college, where programs typically last between a month to six weeks.
Not only do many employers require it, but you will acquire the skills needed to obtain a CDL - including behind-the-wheel training - and learn the various state and federal guidelines for professional truckers. (The BLS recommends two resources for finding a truck driving school, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association and the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools.)
Keep in mind that some truck driving schools may require you to have a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) in advance of taking the program.
It should come as no surprise that truck drivers must have a clean driving record and good work history, so prospective truck drivers should be prepared to undergo a background check prior to being considered for a job.
Due to the physical demands of truck driving - from sitting for long periods of time to loading and unloading cargo - commercial truck drivers must be in good physical health. The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires commercial truck drivers to pass a physical, vision test, and drug test in order to prove they are fit enough to operate a heavy vehicle safely and for the protection of everyone on the road.
(The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration offers more specifics on health and physical requirements for truck drivers.)
One can obtain a CDL at the age of 18 or 21, depending on the state administering it. In order to drive across straight lines, however, the DOT requires professional truck drivers to be at least 21, and most trucking companies require licensed truck drivers to be at least 21 as well.
Experience needed may vary by the company you want to work for, and job prospects will open up as you log more hours on the road. Attending a truck driving program where you can train behind the wheel will give new truck drivers a leg up in their job search.
Other skills and considerations
While not a requirement, having a certain level of mechanical knowledge will come in handy for making small repairs and maintaining the vehicle. In terms of soft skills, truck drivers should be reliable, safety-oriented, and excellent communicators for when interacting with clients, colleagues and customers.
It’s also worth taking into consideration that trucking often means hours, days or even weeks on the road and away from family, so the ability to manage occasional loneliness is key.
At Centerline, we are always looking for safe, qualified drivers. Think you have what it takes? Apply to be a driver with Centerline Drivers today.