How do you become a truck driver?

Excellent question, title that I just wrote. I can’t speak for all companies or even for all types of trucking because I don’t haven the experience yet. Since I’m going to be an over-the-road (OTR) trucker, that’s what I can tell you about. For the company training center that I’m going with, I basically needed to have a clean driving record and pass a background check. That’s about it. If I was an experienced driver and didn’t want or need to enroll in classes to obtain my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), there would be more requirements. But since I’m completely inexperienced, they basically just need a warm body.

That’s not to say that any schmuck off the street will make it in trucking, though. Even though trucking is sort of idealized as being by yourself, doing what you want, when you want, that just isn’t true. According to the, frankly, terrifying number of articles I have read in the last month or so, people skills are a must. If you can’t get along with your dispatcher or your trainer or anyone, you’re either fired or locked out. I am going to be the very last person in a very, very long line of people moving cargo from one place to another.

If I don’t get along with my trainer, they can fail me.

If I don’t get along with my dispatcher, they can refuse to give me loads.

If I don’t get along with the security guards at dropyards, they can force me to be late.

So, beyond qualifications or personality traits, in order to become a trucker, you need to get your Class A CDL. There are Class A, B, and C, I believe and Class A is the most broad and allows you to transport the most varied (and dangerous) cargo. There are also endorsements such as Hazmat (for transporting hazardous materials), tanker (for transporting liquids), and doubles and triples (for driving double and triple trailers). In Ohio, the plain CDL A is $23. Each endorsement is $43. Which is kind of steep since you’re just taking a written test to get your permit. Since we’re so low on funds, I’m just going to get my plain CDL A and get endorsements later.

Something else you need to get, often before you even get to whatever training school you decide to go to, is a DOT physical. It is a little more involved than an average physical because they need to make sure you can bend and lift a certain amount. It’s also usually NOT covered by insurance, but the average rate is about $60, so it’s not too bad. I’ll write more about it next week because that’s when mine is scheduled.

I’m going to try to blog daily, but since there won’t be much going on until I get my physical and my permit, posts might be a bit sparce for the week. In the mean time, I will be studying and trying to keep my blood pressure low by cutting out pop and watching salt. I’m not too worried since the cut off is 140/90 and my bp has never been higher than 135/86 and I had been running to get to that appointment, but it’s something I should do anyway.

Hope to have you along for the ride.

~Catherine

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