How to Get Started as a Truck Driver With a Class A CDL

Over the years I have personally spoken with thousands of truck drivers and thousands more aspiring truck drivers.

There are some common things that come up again and again, and some very common challenges and experiences that will occur repeatedly.

The better you know what is likely to be encountered the more likely you are to be able to prepare for it and make it through all the early challenges you must conquer to become a successful truck driver.

Gather Your Trucking Information First

One of the big mistakes so many people make when beginning a trucking career is just jumping in without bothering to do any real research and find out much if anything about trucking.

Contrary to internet hype – there are NO SECRETS that trucking companies don’t want you to know!

That is just marketing hype for articles, books, and other content at best – and clueless banter from people who know nothing much about how trucking really operates.

Everything you can imagine – and much more that you can’t yet envision, has already been written, codified, published, and is all out there just waiting for you to find it and read it all.

But there are a few challenges.

The first is you have to know where to look and then be able to tell the good content from the garbage – and that is hard to do when you are just thinking about getting started.

Everybody Has an Agenda.

Always remember that. And yes that includes me too – and my agenda is that I want to do two things primarily. The first is to give you free information and content that adds value and helps you make more informed decisions.

The reason is not just because I am a nice guy (Which I am by the way!), but it is also to establish a relationship with you over time so you get to know me, hopefully like my information and content – and then choose to buy some of my products, such as my courses, books, ebooks, and other related things – and maybe some of my merch (hats, T-Shirts, and other things). I also have many other products available as an affiliate marketer that truckers, entrepreneurs, and other people need and want.

Then if you enjoy what you buy from me you will refer others you know to me who will all do the same, and many of whom will become long term customers along with you. Hopefully, that leads to business relationships that will last a lifetime. So there you have it – that is my agenda.

When you talk to a recruiter at a trucking company he or she has an agenda too. Specifically, they have an empty driver’s seat they need to fill and they want to see if you are qualified and if so they want to put you in that seat as fast as possible!

Truck driving schools have agendas too. They also have empty classroom seats they need and want to fill. They want you to sign up and enroll in their course so they can collect the tuition they are going to charge you. Regardless of whether that is paid in cash, with a loan, by an employer, or by some government program (Workforce and others), in the end, YOU pay it by your work when you get a job and start driving.

Anyone selling anything – wants to sell you what they are selling. And everyone is selling something, even when they say they are not!

Just always remember that.

Next, keep in mind that when people try to sell you stuff more often than not most will engage in puffery. They exaggerate benefits and then at the same time minimize or omit the bad stuff.

All that can lead newbies (and others who should know better but don’t!) into making the wrong decisions.

Key Decisions in Trucking You Need to Consider

There are lots of things you need to think about and then decide how to proceed.

Let’s cover just a few;

1. Is trucking the right career for you right now or not?

2. Do you know enough about trucking to answer number 1 or not?

3. Are you OK with the money you will be earning your first three, six, and nine months to one year in trucking as a new entry-level truck driver?

4. Are you interested in and can you handle the LIFESTYLE of being a trucker?

5. Can your family handle you being gone?

7. Do you deal with stress well?

8. Do you have the necessary base skills to learn to become a safe and a good truck driver?

9. Are you even eligible, meaning are you old enough and can you pass all the regulatory and hiring requirements?

10. Do you have a specific plan for your trucking career or are you just going to wing it like many do, and just hope for the best?

11. Do you have a source of reliable accurate information and training you can access as you build your career?

12. Do you have or know where to find a mentor/coach to be able to get help and support as you need it – and encouragement all along your route of building your own trucking career?

These are just a few of the very important key things you need to get the answers to and do some serious soul searching on all of it – and do it BEFORE  you head off to truck driving school and your first trucking job!

Trucking Career Startup Information at a Glance

Gather your information and make your decision on whether to get your CDL and start your trucking career or not. Once you decide to start then here is what you are looking at in general, and keep in mind this does vary – and is just to give you an idea. You still need to do your own homework!

You need a CDL which stands for Commercial Drivers License. Many drivers and others erroneously say “CDL’s) as in I have my CDL’s” which is wrong and annoying to me because it is a C D L – one license per person period. Just a pet peeve, but now you know and hopefully you won’t make that mistake – and if you do at least you will be doing it on purpose and not out of ignorance!

But anyway – I digress. Back to the point, you have to get your CDL, and to do that you will need to go to a Truck Driver Training School of some kind. Tuition is typically about $4500 to $7000 in general -depending on where the school is and other factors.

You may find an inhouse school at a trucking company where they will train you – or where they have an apprentice training program of some kind that serves the same purpose. Be aware though that these programs can be good, but more often than not they have problems.

A typical trucking school is going to take anywhere from about 4 weeks to as many as 12 weeks to complete. The average for a good school right now is 4 to 6 weeks.  That is also a good time frame based on my experience. Anything shorter is too short to teach all you need to know to get your CDL and have the fundamental skills to build on – and anything longer more often than not is just wasting time (and trying to follow a college semester) which is unnecessary.

So count on 4 – 6 weeks of full-time training.

Then you get a job – search and apply online – complete their pre-hiring process and get scheduled for their own orientation, and their own training right after you finish truck driving school and have your CDL.

The orientation will probably be 2 to 4 days or more. Then they will have you do some training of their own. They will probably start with a road test just to make sure you learned the basics at school and that you follow instructions in a way they feel like they can train you.

From there it varies more by the company. Some will have you do a few more days of training on their yard backing and close maneuvering. They may also have to do some road driving – typically within a 50 mile or less radius of their terminal.

You will most likely sleep in a motel at night while doing this phase of training (which they pay for). It may be decent, or it may be a crap hole roach infested dump. Do your homework first and find out before you wake up covered in bugs!

Others will immediately pair you up with a trainer. Some call these people road trainers/trainers/instructors or some other such title, such as Training Engineer or Driver Training Specialist, etc. The title doesn’t matter to you. What they all are is ROAD TRAINERS. That means they are there to get you some real-world experience under direct supervision so you hopefully won’t tear anything up and so they are there to help you as needed.

The competence or lack thereof of these people is all over the board.

Some are master trainers and very good at their craft. Others are adequate but barely and nothing more. Some are also terrible in every way, and many are other Rookies with less than a year of driving experience and no particular specialized training of their own. Megacarriers are notorious or that approach because they have so many seats to fill – some will even start hounding YOU to become a trainer while you are still in orientation as a TRAINEE yourself! Crazy but true.

What does it mean to you? It means you need to know who you are getting in that truck with if you want to keep living, to begin with – and then if you want better training. That means again doing your homework and choosing the right company for you based on informed decision making.

OK, now you are in the truck. You should be doing most of the driving and most of the work – with a good trainer. You are there to learn and to refine your own skills and you can only do that by doing the work – not watching.  This phase of training will last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Once the trainer is ready to sign off on you that you have completed road training and he or she (by the way they will put opposite sex trainers and trainees together too at many companies!) sign a certification/form and provide it to the company which is basically saying that in their opinion you re ready to go on your own – as a solo truck driver.

Then you will get your own truck assignment, move your stuff aboard, and begin working as a trucker. Congratulations – this is where the fun really starts!

It is bittersweet – while it is what you have been working toward since you first started off to trucking school – now that you have it – you are both captain and crew of your own ship, and there is no longer anyone in that right seat to help you. Sink or swim. It’s all on you now.

If you have had adequate training and if you follow sound driving and safety principles you should be fine – but it is still going to take more time to get better and you will be stressed often until then. Just remember that and give yourself time – until the end of your first year for most – to start feeling really comfortable in almost all situations you will routinely be in.

As you put in the weeks and months you will continue to hone your own skills and learn more about trucking.

What you know and how you use that information makes a huge difference in your career, your income, and your home time. All of that affects your happiness and whether you even stay in trucking o not long term.

There are things that can help you make more money, drive better trucks for better companies, and even get home more too – if you know what to do and then do it.

Start With My Udemy Courses on Trucking

Udemy courses are cheap and very valuable for the time and cost. Most courses can be purchased on sale for less than $20 and some times for half or less than half of that. So for a few bucks and a couple of hours of your time you can get a ton of information that will help you.

You can also keep reading this blog (and my other blogs which you can find access to them all from my author/instructor site www.ldsewell.com) and posts, articles, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, and lots of other content I publish is FREE.

Take the course, read the articles, use the free resources, and learn about trucking before just jumping in.

Then make the decision – Is trucking right for you right now or not?

If it is (and I hope it is!) then go ahead and continue gathering your information on the specific things you need to research and then decide what truck driving school you want, and get started applying there.

At the same time begin looking into what trucking company you want to go to work for as your first trucking company. I have a few suggestions, so get in touch and I will share my thoughts. Take a course or simply send me an email (be sure to put Trucking Career Questions in the message heading or I will likely just toss it as spam).

Some companies are far better (and safer) with their training programs than others. You need better information to choose the right one for you.

Then you need to have specific goals and plans to get through your first year in trucking. Year one is mainly a year of learning and skills development, but there are also ways you can dramatically increase your income from the beginning and throughout that first year too – if you know-how. While it is NOT Secret – the fact is most drivers do not know how to do this, and I can show you how.

Simple and Short But Also Very Valuable Trucking Information

This is not a particularly long post nor is it complicated. But it does contain a wealth of trucking information – if you are ready for it and comprehend what it says. Read it again and let it sink in.

By planning better and then getting specialized information products and using them all to your advantage you can do far better in trucking than is ever going to be even possible any other way.

Specialized trucking information, training, and support can save you years of frustration and failure and at the same time can help you make tens f thousands of dollars more even during your very first year and every year from then on in trucking as a professional truck driver.

You can find my course on Udemy HERE and get in touch from the contact or email info on my author/instructor site www.ldewell.com