Trucking has the potential to be a great opportunity for many individuals. After earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and getting some experience, you have multiple options to tailor your career to your preferences. When you are first getting started, it’s worth thinking about what your long-term goals are so you can work toward finding your trucking niche and building a rewarding career.
Here are some tips for finding out what type of trucking is best for you:
1. Realize You’ll Probably Start with OTR
Although there are multiple options in trucking for different route lengths and specialty freight, most drivers start with an over-the-road (OTR) job. This means you’ll spend a few weeks at a time on the road and complete hauls to any combination of regions within the contiguous United States.
Most entry-level trucking jobs will also be dry van hauls, meaning you will transport material in a standard tractor-trailer that doesn’t require refrigeration or transport liquids. Some entry-level jobs are available for refrigerated trucks (reefers), but this often depends on the region and the specific company.
Many truckers prefer to stay within this niche of the trucking industry for the duration of their careers, as it offers excellent pay and benefits. Additionally, this is the type of driving that is most consistent with the idea of the “trucking lifestyle” and the freedom of the open road. However, other truckers may prefer to transition to a different type of driving later on. If you believe this will be the case for you, still try to approach your time OTR with an open mind. Take note of what you like and don’t like, as this can help you refine your career options later. Focus on building your skills and staying accident-free while you build your experience.
2. Think About The Type of Driving You Like
As you spend more time behind the wheel, you’ll get a feel for what kinds of driving you like, and which you prefer to avoid. For example, you may find that driving at night with fewer cars on the road and less competition for parking is comfortable for you. In this case, a reefer job or a less-than-truckload (LTL) position may be a good fit, since night driving is more common. Otherwise, you may prefer to stay with dry van OTR or a local job that drives during the day, so you can either make your own daily schedule or have a set schedule that minimizes night driving. You can also think about how you handle city driving, which is typically more common in local and regional jobs.
3. Determine Your Home Time Preferences
Home time considerations are usually a major factor in the length of route a driver prefers. For example, if you want to be home every night, a local job can allow you to do this. OTR jobs, on the other hand, involve staying on the road for a few weeks at once. Regional jobs are somewhere in the middle. Specific home time policies vary based on the company, but these general guidelines can help you determine which type of trucking is most aligned with your home time goals. Keep in mind, however, that OTR jobs typically pay more, so you’ll want to consider both pay and home time when making a decision on where to work.
Earn Your CDL
At HDS Truck Driving Institute (HDS truck driving school), we can help you earn your commercial license in as little as four weeks, and offer job placement assistance. Whether you’re interested in a dry van job or transitioning into a more specialized form of trucking down the line, getting your CDL is the first step to a rewarding driving career.