So you have successfully completed CDL School but you do not know what awaits you on the other side. To avoid disappointments, it is wise to have realistic expectations of the life of a truck driver. How much will you get paid? How are you paid? How long will you be on the road? How companies treat truck drivers? How often will you see your family? If you are a vivid CDL student, then you should be ahead of the others in knowing the commercial driving industry that you are so willing to venture. Fortunately, the homework has already been compiled for you.
- How much are truck driver paid? The average salary for truck drivers in America ranges between $35,000 to $55,000 depending on your experience. Usually, your paycheck will be less on your first year but it will likely increase on the second year and so forth.
- What determines your compensation? Most truck drivers do not know their annual salary until the end of the year. This is because most carrier companies calculate your paycheck depending on how many miles you have covered. Although, some companies pay their drivers by the hour while delivery drivers are not paid unless they have dropped their load.
- How does a trucker’s day begin? A truck driver can start his day at anytime depending on their schedule. Some truckers set off early in the morning while others drive off at night and take a rest during the day. On the other hand, OTR truck drivers do not follow a specific schedule per see unless they are reporting a dispatch after a break.
- How long are you on the road? It takes a lot of discipline to be a truck-driver. On a busy week, truck-drivers are on the road for up to 70 hours in a span of 8 days. However, you must follow the rules and after 70 working hours, you must not touch the steering wheel again until you take a rest for 34 hours. Most people get confused about the 11/14 hours regulation. What the rule simply states is that truck drivers cannot be on duty more than 14 hours a day and cannot drive more than 11 hours in a 24 hour window. Duty during the 14 hour period means activities such as unloading, loading, post-tripping, waiting time, pre-tripping, driving and bathroom breaks. To clarify, within that 14 hours of duty, truckers should not drive more than 11 hours. Once the driver is past the regulated work time, a 10 hour break is mandatory.
- How many miles do you cover per day? Most truckers cover at least 500 miles per day which equals to 2,500 miles a week and 125,000 miles per annum. That means you will enjoy a lot of sightseeing and go to places you have never been before. In fact, once in a while you might come across a load that needs to be shipped to Canada.
- How often will you see your family? It all depends on your company’s base of operations. For instance, if you are contracted by a local or regional carrier, most often you will be within a single state or a neighboring state which makes it easier to be around your family. However, if you are employed by a national fleet, then there are times you will not be at home for more than a month. In fact, there are national fleet carriers which are quite unpredictable running 48 states all the way to Canada but pays better than regional carriers.
- What course of action can land you in trouble? The legal alcohol limit for CDL holders is 0.04 which is basically half the limit for the rest of the guys on the road. That means you have to be very cautious of any drugs and alcohol you take before your assignment since drug tests are performed without notice. Any trace of illegal drug or excessive alcohol beyond the limit then you can kiss your job goodbye. Even a refusal to get drug tested can get you fired or suspended. Not to forget trucking companies will check out your tickets record to minimize future liability on their part. The more tickets you have, the lesser chances you have of getting hired. The same predicament applies to felony, DUI and evasion. Regardless, probably the worst mistake you can make when applying for a commercial driving job is to give out false information on your records. There are lots of commercial drivers in the industry who don’t have much of a clean record yet they were hired for their honesty.
- What happens the first days after you are hired? If you just got your CDL certificate and got hired immediately, expect to be oriented and enrolled in additional training by the carrier company. Although there are very few carrier companies that hand out freight assignments to newbies without the usual introduction. Probably for the best, most companies ask drivers fresh from CDL school to team up with another driver and learn how the business goes. Of course, CDL school will not to teach you everything about a trucking career but eventually, you will slowly learn how the game goes once you are trusted with your own truck.