Sunday, January 26, 2014

Truck Driving Career

 Are you thinking about a truck driving job?

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   Truck driving for a living is a life style choice, one that'll change the direction of your life. Just to be candid and up-front, I've never even driven a semi-truck, but I have studied the field enough to clue you in. If you are like me, you've gotten the truck driving bug, and now you are scouring the internet trying to figure out what this job is all about.

   The thought of driving a truck for a living never even sunk in, even though I had people even mention it to me as a way to make a living. I never did consider the job because to me it seemed too dangerous driving over the mountains. See, I live in Oregon, on the west side of the Cascade mountains, and I have traveled over the mountains to see family and friends many times over the years. I've traveled in summer and winter, snow and rain, and at times I feared for my life.

   Maybe you've had the same thought, it's too dangerous? Also, the thought of being in traffic in the city stopped me from thinking about the job. What if I took a turn too sharp and ended up blocking traffic for hours in a major city? These fearful thoughts kept me from considering this fantastic opportunity. Sometimes I wish I would have simply gotten my CDL when I was out of high school, and built a career driving a truck. 
That's not how it worked out for me, but I would be set up fairly nice about now.

   See, driving a truck is a progressive job, where you have to pay your dues. I want to share the information I picked up researching this opportunity for about three months. This article will be a place where you can get some answers, see helpful videos, and learn how to go about getting started if you decide to do this. Even if you already are a trucker, you may be able to enjoy my take on this career. Feel free to add your comments and insights. Let's begin.

Where to Begin?

   I began to get the truck driving bug when I saw an ad on craigslist, from a company called Central Refrigeration Service. It stated I didn't even have to have a CDL, but they would train me and even pay me to be trained! The pay it said I could make was $35k-$80k/year. Wow, I thought this was too good to be true. This seemed great, as I was struggling to make even $1700/month working my lawn care business I started just last year. My wife was tired of not making much money either, and so with her on board I started looking into the matter.

   Night and day I researched about this matter, finally being convinced I wanted to do this. Then I would think no, then yes.

   You may be a person that has never even driven or been in a semi-truck. This is the way I was and still am, even though I feel like I have after all the videos I've watched. You may be young, old, male, or female, well this is still for you if want. You have to ask yourself one question: are you willing to go over the road? What is over the road? Let's take a look.

Over the Road

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   Over the Road is how newbies to the field start off in most cases. This is where they have to pay their dues, working long hours away from home and not getting paid as much, while traveling across the country. On the other hand, this is the exciting part of the job as well, because you get to see the country, driving all across America, and even into Canada with some companies.

   If you look at most trucking job ad placements, you'll see they want you to have either one or two years over the road experience before they'll hire you. Now these are the better jobs, the ones you are working for the first year or two to attain. See, one has to be in this for the long haul-haha.

   Really though, this field does work for those who put their time in.

   The companies that are willing to hire you as an inexperienced driver are around of course (see list below), and these either will train you themselves through their CDL training schools, or will hire you out of a truck driving school that is independent. Over the road, will be the next step after you attain your CDL in one of these two main ways.

How much money can you make?

   Truck driving jobs usually pay by the mile, not by the hour. The keys to getting paid well, is getting the right amount of miles, and a high CPM (cents per mile). The rates starting out I've seen anywhere from .26 cpm - .31 cpm. These will increase over the first year by about .04 cpm, then each year they will increase by one or two cpm. There is also safety and on time bonuses, and paid per stop money you could earn as well.

   Generally what I came up with is after taxes, getting decent miles, you can make about $2100-2500/month net. This to start out with, and not counting paying into the medical or dental. Also have to factor in the costs of the school, whether you have a dog, and if your have a passenger (like wife ride-a-long). These factors costs more, and if add all them in there you could be looking at averaging $2000/month the first year, net pay.

   Now for basically working nearly all the time and living in a truck, this may not seem like such a great deal. Especially, when driving over mountains and risking your life. That's just part of paying your dues in this line of work. If you are looking at it for a career, then just think about how after about two years if you work it right, you could be making about $3500/month take home or even more. And if you want to own your own truck and contract it out, you may be able to even make up to about $8-9k/month. That's the potential, so now it seems pretty good right?

How long am I on the road?

   Most companies will keep you out at least 2 weeks at a time, before you can get just 2 days off. The general rule here is every week you work, you get one day off, and you can't take any time off until you work at least two to three weeks. If this sounds harsh cause you have a family, then this may be the deal breaker for you, it is the hardest part for people.

   This part of it may not be a big deal though, to a person who doesn't have a family, and sorta wants to get away from where he/she is at. So it just depends on who you are. You may be a family person, but are willing to go away for a year, coming home every two to three weeks. If you do this you can look to get a regional or local job after a years experience and be home at night and on the weekends, or at least every two to three days.

   If you go to a CDL school at one of these large companies which offers this, you will be contracted to work for them for a year, or have to pay a penalty. The penalty would be a couple thousand dollars or so, which is the price of the school. Other companies may hire you on with the other companies accreditation, or may not recognize it's validity.

Which CDL school do I go to?

   This depends on your situation, and what you can afford. If you have four thousand dollars, or good credit and one thousand, an independent trucking school would be a better choice.

   If you don't have very good credit or the money, then going to a trucking companies' CDL school is a good choice for you.

   If you go to an independent school you can have choices after graduation, as to which company you want to work for. Most companies that hire graduates from these schools, will pay them tuition reimbursement around 100/month. This will help pay the four thousand or so you spent to go.

   The independent CDL school I was looking at was ITTR in Creswell, OR. Because I have poor credit I was going to have to get a co-signer and pay about $1000 for a down payment and for the fees of getting the license and endorsements.

   Going to a companies trucking school you won't have to pay for much of anything, would have to bring about $200 dollars at least, because you won't get paid until about two weeks into it. The schools are faster pace and the training in the classroom will last two to three weeks. Then you are put in a truck with a trainer for a month or two, at that point you become a paid employee.

   Either way, the company school or independent, you will have to go over the road with a trainer for a month or two. You will be driving, and living with another person for this time. The pay during this time is less than when you get out on your own, averaging about $450/wk, gross.

   After this training period, if you make it out alive, you start driving on your own, or as a team with someone else. Depends on the company or your preference. This is when you start making better money.

   These company schools are fast paced, and likely treat you a little worse than an independent school. The companies will usually pay for your bus ticket to the location of the school, pay for your hotel, and even sometimes pay for the food. Sometimes they may require you to pay them back for these expenses out of your paychecks coming, and also may have you pay for your food. Trucking jobs pay weekly.

Why I chose not to be a trucker

   You might ask why I decided not to be a trucker. I'll try and answer that without spilling my whole life story. I did end up deciding to become a trucker and applied to Central Refrigeration Service online, after talking on the phone with one of their recruiters. The odd thing is they never gave a reply, they said they would reply either way with a phone call in 24 hours time. I never received that call, and at that point I wondered if God wasn't telling me something. See this company is always asking for drivers desperately, and there is no reason why they wouldn't hire me that I can tell. So I decided God had other plans for me. That's the simple answer, I have a lawn care business, and there are other factors. Maybe in the future, who knows.

   I went with Central Refrigeration Service because they allowed dogs with a deposit, and allowed my wife to ride a long with me. Also they were closer by in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they had a short training program consisting of 7-8 weeks total before I was on my own. I'm not going to go into extensive detail about all the companies, but there will be a list below on some of the ones I was looking at and know.

Companies with a CDL school:

- Swift Transportation
- Central Refrigeration Service
- Stevens Transportation
- Prime
- C.R. England
- Roehl
- Knight Transportation
- Pam Transport

Companies that'll hire recent graduates from an independent CDL school:

- Werner Enterprises
- May Trucking
- Schneider
- Watkins and Shepherd
- Garner
- Gordon Trucking
- USF Reddway
- Fed Ex Ground
- Conway
- Sysco

Give it some thought

   Hope this article helped inform you on some of the aspects of driving a truck for a living. For not ever driving a truck I am limited in telling you the actual facts about the day to day life, but as one who studied it night and day for months, I can give you a jump start on where to look and what to ask. Of course you'll inevitably have to research more on the subject before you can make your final decision.

   Truck driving is a good job that involves adventure, travel, and challenges. It pays well considering you'll have to pay your dues first. There aren't many careers one can get trained for free and after two years in the field make $50k/year. So if you like driving and want to travel, this could be the job for you. Best wishes and God bless your efforts.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for posting this. My husband and I were talking about doing this. It is just the 2 of us so we figured that we could just travel the country together and drive the truck and save up a little. It is just a thought so we will see but it sounds like it could be an adventure.

    Elna Avery @ Hansen & Adkins Auto Transport


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