About 3.5 million people in the United States make their living bringing essential goods to market in the commercial trucking industry. Commercial trucking is the backbone of America’s supply chain, and the average truck driver can expect to cover over 100,000 miles in a year behind the wheel of a semi.
If you’ve made your peace with long hours behind the wheel and earned your commercial license, you’re well on your way to becoming a truck driver. What should those new to the business know? Here are a few things you can expect when you’re new to the commercial trucking way of life.
It’s Not a Nine to Five
Driving trucks is about delivering goods, and that means time is important. While you won’t always be bringing foodstuffs to grocery stores, even specialty items typically need to be delivered on deadline. That means you’ll be getting up early and working long days.
There are strict regulations to how long a driver can spend behind the wheel. Today most companies rely on electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track drive time instead of the outdated log book system. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association is making ELDs mandatory.
Still, you could be expected to drive as much as 70 hours in an eight-day period.
Practical vs. Paid Miles
Getting paid by the mile sounds simple, but not all employers who pay by the mile do it based on the number your truck’s odometer registers. Many use “paid miles,” which is like drawing a line on the map from point A to point B and calculating the miles covered. The other method is called “practical miles.”
Calculating how much money you will make in general can be difficult, and you may not know until the end of the year. Remember that your company doesn’t get paid immediately after you complete a job. Since you’re new, your compensation will be less than that of experienced drivers.
Relationships Will Be Strained
Some commercial trucking jobs allow you to remain in the same general vicinity, but better pay can be earned by taking on long-haul assignments. If you have a family that expects to see you frequently, it can be difficult to meet their needs while working as a truck driver.
According to one experienced driver, you can expect to sacrifice about $200 per week in pay to be home every night and have weekends off.
You Will Need to Work With a Trainer
Life as a truck driver begins with getting your CDL. Once you have the coveted license, your first job will begin with roughly one month paired up with a trainer. Not all drivers gel with their trainers immediately, but you should try and find some common ground or make friends if possible. You will spend a lot of time with your trainer and, ultimately, you want the trainer to report positive things back to your superiors.
It’s a Way of Life
You probably know this already, but the best way to approach entering the world of commercial trucking is to think of it as a lifestyle, not a job. It is different from the average American’s day-to-day, but for some people it’s heaven, and you’ll be fulfilling a very necessary role.