Earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL) is the first step to entering the trucking industry. After graduation, there are many different paths available to you. There are several choices you will make as you start your trucking career and throughout your time as a driver. You have the ability to select a job that matches your desired lifestyle and goals. While you can always change course later, it’s helpful to consider the options before you hit the road so you can get started with the best possible foundation.
Some choices you’ll make as a trucker include:
Local, Regional, or OTR?
Local jobs allow drivers to come home every night, over-the-road (OTR) driving involves being on the road for weeks at a time, and regional trucking is somewhere in between. If you prefer a stable schedule, a local driving career may be a good fit. However, if you love the freedom of the open road and want to see the country, you’ll probably prefer OTR. Regional is a middle ground and offers some elements of OTR, but with more frequent home time.
What Type of Freight to Haul
Most truckers start out driving a dry van, which is a semi-truck with a standard trailer. However, this is not your only option. You could drive a refrigerated truck (reefer), haul hazardous materials (hazmat), or even transport livestock. Some types of freight require additional endorsements and you may end up needing some experience before moving into more specialized varieties of trucking.
Solo or Team?
Team driving keeps the truck moving more efficiently, which often translates into higher earning potential. If you already know someone else with a CDL, you can team up with them and spend time together while earning competitive pay. Husband-and-wife trucking teams are relatively common, for example. Many companies also offer team matching if you don’t already have a driving partner in mind. On the other hand, some drivers prefer to go solo and have more control over their schedule and how to set up their truck.
Which Company to Work For
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of trucking you are interested in, it’s time to look at which motor carriers are hiring for these roles. You should consider pay, benefits, and company culture when making a decision. Try to talk to current and former drivers from the trucking companies you are interested in as well as researching them online. Keep in mind that opinions are going to vary and that at the end of the day, every motor carrier will have some benefits and some drawbacks.
After you’ve spent some time in the trucking industry, you’ll be able to choose how you want to advance in your career. You may be interested in saving up for a truck and becoming an owner-operator, or maybe you want to teach the next generation of truckers as a CDL school instructor.
Choose a High-Quality Trucking School
Students at HDS Truck Driving Institute (HDS truck driving school) learn the skills they need to succeed in the trucking industry. Our accelerated program can get you on the road and earning in as little as four weeks.