A Misunderstood Profession
The Trucking Industry is viewed many ways by the general public. Some find the trucker a not too bright individual who took one of the only jobs they could get. Others think it is some kind of adventure. Still others just see the truck they are stuck behind and wish everything was shipped magically by rail or some other way.
The nation defends on Trucking. In simple terms, if it is a tangible object and you bought it, at some point it moved on a truck. Think on that. Every item at the local Wal-Mart came to the store on a truck. The car you drove there in came on a truck. The gas in the car came on a truck. Shopping at Amazon? They now have their own fleet. Big or small, at some point in the chain, a truck moved it. In fact, 75% of America communities depend solely on trucks to deliver needed items. 1 in 14 American workers are in some part of the Trucking Industry, of course not all are drivers.
You do not need a college degree to drive. You cannot be a screw-up type, though. At 53′ long and weighing 40 tons, lives are in your hands. That is just for a “van” which is the common truck you see on the road. Haul gasoline and you now have a flammable load. This is not the kind of thing to take lightly. I tried my hand at the training but some personal issues made me drop out. I can say the training class had all kinds in it. A few fellow middle age guys who needed a solid career change. A few “edge of life” types. These were easy to spot, one even wore a wifebeater-T t0 class–who does that?! Another got pulled from class, in tears, for failing the drug screen. Some others were younger folks who you could see had the dream of “Driving the Big Rigs” as the commercials offered. No need to worry if you will fit in, you will find folks like you in your training class.
Most trainings will take 30-60 days. First step is the classroom training. This is for both that you have to learn how to drive, it is more complex than your car, and taking the CDL Test. CDL means “Commercial Drivers License.” Years ago, anyone could just train and drive. In the 1980s, the Feds stepped in and made states make it more professional. No need to worry here, if you pay attention and study, you will pass. It will be a big help if you understand how drum brakes work, when I took it there was a huge correlation between guys who worked on drum brakes on their own cars and understanding how the air brake systems worked.
You will then move to driving around the grounds of the training school. Most of it will be about backing up. It is easy to pull a trailer, backing up is another matter. There will be 2-4 “backs” you will need to learn and practice at. And practice. And practice. Then lunch, after which you practice. It will be helpful if you backed up a boat or similar trailer.
Finally, they will take you on the real road. Practice. Then your test. Then probably on the real road with a mentor driver training you. One day, You are on your own.
Adventure vs. Reality
The 1970s was a decade in which the trucker was a modern cowboy, right down to the hat. Movies and TV shows like “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Convoy,” and “BJ and the Bear” made the industry seem a never ending adventure. As I shwoed in “TV vs. Reality,” do not expect what you see on TV to be how it is.
On the downside, your life is driving. You might start at $0.30 per mile and be expected to drive 2-3,000 miles per week. That will get you around $700 per week. You will have to buy many meals on the road. You could be at a place that keeps you on the road for a month or more at a time. As a Bachelor Pad Bum, you have a leg up as married guys wives generally do not put up with the on the road time. One quit a job working for me and had just 2 nights a week on the road. Within a few months his wife made him quit. Suck it up during this period and see the nation. While not on vacation, you will at least get an idea what part of the nation you like better than others.
As time goes by you may change employers. You probably should change as the break-in outfits are break-in for a reason. Trucking has various certifications that I will not go into right here and now. Suffice to say, you get paid more for hauling gasoline than dry goods in the aforesaid van. You get more for an oversize load. Hauling gasoline from tank farm to gas station gives more stability, keeps you closer to home. A few years doing Over The Road work and you can work your way to better pay and close to home stability.