For graduates across all specialties, graduation is an exciting time; however, it can be intimidating too. Truck drivers especially face a lot of decisions once they earn their CDL. Truck driving is a growing industry with plenty of opportunities for recent grads and the first thing you should do is research. There are many potential career paths for you to embark on but taking the extra time to find your best match can lead to a healthy and successful career. Here are a few things to explore once you graduate:
Determine the Type of Routes You Want
It’s important to decide what type of operation best fits your lifestyle. Factors like the amount of time you’re home and the type of freight you carry can vary based on the employer you choose.
Here are a few examples:
- Less Than Truckload Freight (LTL): The type of freight that you carry and companies you drive for will vary.
- Tanker: A tanker is a truck that transports liquids or gases. Drivers who opted for certain endorsements such as tanker and/or hazardous material may decide to drive tankers to carry gases.
- Flatbed: A flatbed truck is an open-body truck. The freight you haul may be abnormally sized and larger than other truckers’.
- Over-The-Road (OTR): Over-The-Road drivers drive the furthest distance. These types of drivers enjoy driving for long periods of time. Home time isn’t as frequent but some drivers don’t mind that.
- Dedicated: Dedicated trucking is the best balance of freight and daily home time. It is very consistent when it comes to schedules, miles, and loads. With dedicated trucking, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with local routes and often stay close to home.
- Team: A team truck driving situation is where you and another person share a truck and take turns alternating who drives. You and another person can apply to a company together or the company can place you with another driver.
- Regional: Regional drivers stays fairly close to their home. They become very familiar with the area and the people that they work with. Many of these drivers are home on a weekly basis.
- Intermodal: Intermodal trucking is a combination of consistency and flexibility by hauling to and from rail yards.
Another thing to determine is how the freight will be unloaded. One option is to have no-touch freight where you do not handle the freight at all in the process of loading and unloading. Some operations, usually for private fleets, include loading and unloading as part of the driver’s responsibilities.
One of the first things recent grads check is job boards and the internet to see who’s hiring drivers. It’s important to understand the company and what is has to offer. For instance, what type of benefits do they offer drivers? Benefits such as home time, health insurance, and training programs can really make a difference in your personal and professional lives.
Another thing to consider is company culture. You can get an idea of what the company’s culture is like by seeing what other drivers have to say. In addition to talking to other drivers, visiting a company’s social media platforms can be an excellent indicator of what it’d be like to be on of their employees. A lot of times you can see input from employees as well as get an idea of the company’s environment. Make sure to look through the posts from employees to look for any red flags such as complaints about benefits or communication barriers.
There are opportunities for truckers to grow within a company. You should look for a place that offers tenure and increase pay with experience and time. Another form of advancement would be to become a driver trainer to future grads. Some companies also offer opportunities to transition or advance if you become interested in a position outside of driving.
A majority of companies offer some type of training when you sign-on. The more experience you have, the better off you will be. Embrace the training since many of the people you will be shadowing have experience not only with the type of trucking you are pursuing but with the company as well. Shorter isn’t always better in these situations, view training as a marathon instead of a sprint.
Know What to Expect When Applying
Many companies ask for the same type of information when applying: your schooling credentials, any experience, endorsements, and proof that you have your license. Keep yourself organized to make the application process simple. Aside from that, a drug test and a physical will be mandatory for all drivers so be prepared to schedule these as well.
Conducting research will lead you to finding the best position that matches your wants and needs. Remember to take your time and evaluate all the options as you move forward to a successful driving career.