Over the past few decades, truckers have become the backbone of American goods transportation. Truck drivers are responsible for hauling the everyday necessities many Americans rely on such as food, medicine, and automobiles. Truck drivers have quickly become the most valued part of supply chains across America. Thanks to the increasing demand for goods transportation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 2 million truck drivers in 2020 earned an average salary of $48,710.
Becoming a truck driver takes just a couple of months and requires little training beforehand. If you are 21 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED, you can be well on your way to receiving your CDL and beginning your career as a truck driver.
There are many routes available to receive your CDL, including directly through the transportation company you will be working with, or private driving schools like Commercial Driving Academy. Throughout your course to earn your Class A or Class B CDL, you’ll learn everything you need to pass both the written and driving parts of your CDL exam, how to plan and manage every step of your future loads safely, and how to utilize customer service skills to aide you in communication with dispatchers and future customers.
While you must be 21 years old to obtain your CDL and become a truck driver, there are pilot programs through the FMCSA that allow people that are 18 years old to obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit and potentially begin working.
How to Become a Trucker
The first step in becoming a trucker is to pass the regular driver’s license exam in the state you reside in. A current valid driver’s license is required in your state of residence before you can begin to earn your commercial driver’s license. Each state has different educational requirements for earning your DL. On average, obtaining a driver’s license in the United States costs between $20 and $90, depending on which state you reside in.
After you obtain your DL, the next step towards earning your CDL is receiving your high school diploma or passing the GED. While possessing your HSD or GED is not a requirement to attend trucking school or receive your CDL, it is typically required by many larger trucking companies for employment.
The next step towards becoming a trucker is to start professional training with a private truck driving school like Commercial Driving Academy, or with a company that offers trucking programs that will prepare you to take the CDL exam. Every state has different requirements for obtaining your CDL, so you must ensure you attend an accredited program within your state. The cost of school to obtain your CDL can range from $1200 to $10,000. It is vital to research different programs to select which will be the best for you. Public community colleges often provide financial aid to students in their trucking programs. Private trucking schools will cost more but often move at a faster pace, getting you to your end goal of obtaining your CDL much quicker.
After attending driving school, you’ll be required to take your CDL exam and obtain any classifications that will be required for the type of truck you desire to drive. There are three different classifications of a CDL license you can earn: Class A, Class B, and Class C. The Class A license offers versatility to drivers as it allows for larger volumes of freight.
Once you receive your class, you also need to test for any endorsement codes you need on your CDL. These codes allow for the transport of different goods such as Hazmat, School Bus, Passenger, etc. A complete list of offered endorsement codes is broken down by the FMCSA.
After you’ve obtained your CDL and endorsements, it’s time to find your first job! Many private trucking schools help with placement when you complete their program. There are also many associations that can help you land your first job. A few of these associations include the ATA, TIDA, OOIDA, NASTC, NAIT, and WIT. Through these associations, you can be quickly connected with your first trucking company.