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Trucking for Newbies: What to Know Before You Become a Trucker

Trucking for Newbies-2

Listen - Trucking for Newbies: What to Know Before You Become a Trucker

It’s a lifestyle that requires adaptation, resilience, and a willingness to embrace the challenges of the open road. Transitioning into the world of trucking can be both exciting and daunting. From understanding the ins and outs of the job to ensuring your friends and family are ready for the change, there’s a lot to consider before hitting the highway.

I asked our drivers to give suggestions for those considering getting their CDL. Here's what they had to say!

1. Talk to Truckers

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard a CDL candidate say they want to be a trucker because they love driving, I wouldn't need to write blogs for a living! If only trucking were that simple! Enjoying your driving time is a great start, but the work of a truck driver is more than driving from Point A to Point B. It's a lifestyle that requires adaptability and thick skin. Which is why one of our first pieces of advice was to talk to current drivers. 

While YouTube tutorials and online forums can provide valuable insights, there’s no substitute for firsthand experiences from seasoned truck drivers. Take the time to connect with real drivers, whether it’s through industry events or online communities. Don't just take the word of a TikTok influencer, find real drivers without a platform to uphold. By tapping into their knowledge and expertise, you can gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day realities of life on the road.

"It will take a year or so worth of OTR driving to begin understanding that you don't even know what you don't know; so watch, listen, and don't be afraid to ask questions."

- Jeremy Teas, 7 years of experience on the road

2. Try it Out

"If you're thinking of going on the road, I would recommend taking a few trips first. With a truck driver is ideal, but even if you just take a trip yourself in your vehicle. Treat it like a job and take it seriously. Stay away from home for a while and see how you feel about it. A lot of people don't realize how hard it can be to be away from home and friends and family."

- Wendell Taylor, 44 years experience on the road

When you go over the road with a truck driver, pay special attention to their schedule: rest breaks, meal times, waking and sleeping times. Plenty of drivers leave the industry because they can't handle the schedule. 

3. Understand the Schedule

The potential to earn a good income appeals to many driver-hopefuls, but it is essential to consider the trade-offs with your schedule. Being an over-the-road truck driver is a lifestyle, not just a job. You will spend long hours behind the wheel, nights away from home and loved ones, and your schedule will often be at the mercy of others. This can take a toll on your well-being and personal life. Even the best trucking companies can't make lumpers unload you faster. 

3. Consider Your Relationships

Before you commit to this career, have conversations with loved ones about how life on the road will affect your relationships. While many K&J drivers have long-term successful romantic relationships, not all relationships can handle the strain of life on the road. Be sure you have your priorities in the right place and communicate. 

"If you are married and your spouse has no problem being alone, go for it. If your spouse cannot handle the loneliness, find a job that keeps you home. Your relationship with your spouse is more important than a job trucking."

- Robert Spitznagel, 37 years experience on the road

4. Understand Employment Agreements

If the company is willing to help you get your CDL and train you, there will always be strings attached. Most companies have an employment agreement that you must sign if you do CDL training or driver training. These agreements vary on the terms, but most frequently they require you to work for them for at least a year or pay back all or part of the cost of your training. 

There is nothing wrong with employment agreements, but you should understand what is at stake if you do not meet their terms. Working for a carrier that you don't enjoy in a job you dislike is miserable and turns many people off of the trucking industry altogether. 

If you want a little more freedom in your career, you may want to consider getting your CDL on your own rather than through an employer-related CDL program. 

"Get your CDL on your own, then find a company that will hire you. Do not go to a so-called 'training company' looking for a 'free' CDL. I was looking at all options before finding K&J. Even if I had ended up going to a mega-carrier, I was going to have my CDL in hand first."

- Marshall Jackson, 6+ years experience on the road. 

Just note, because of the expense and risk of on-the-job training for new drivers, some companies will still have job trainees sign an employment agreement even if they are not providing you with your CDL training. However, the terms are sometimes friendlier for those who come with their CDL in hand. 

5. Know Yourself

"Patience is a good thing to have in this profession. At receivers and shippers, no matter how long it takes, if you're working for the right company you are going to get paid, so don't worry about it. And traffic! You have to have patience in traffic or accidents happen. Be patient with dispatchers too. Treat them well and they will treat you well."

- Keith Harmon, 30 years experience on the road

If you are impatient, trucking can be a hard career, especially refrigerated trucking. We often joke that our daily challenge is to hurry up and wait! If you find downtime frustrating, even if you know you're getting compensated fairly, pay attention to that feeling. Select which sector of trucking you want to pursue based on your personality. This is where talking to drivers in different areas of trucking comes in handy. 

To Wrap Up

Transitioning into trucking requires careful consideration and preparation. For those who do the research and determine their perfect fit, trucking is an incredibly rewarding and lucrative career. In the words of one of our fleet operators, "Become a professional tourist and get paid to travel and see the country!" 

Become a professional tourist and get paid to travel and see the country!


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