Trucking is one of the most popular careers in the USA. There are currently approximately 3.5 million drivers working today. And people all over the country are looking into how to become a truck driver.
Trucking can be a lucrative career path, with the average truck driver salary at $47,130 a year. Many drivers significantly surpass that figure as they gain more experience in the industry.
But the trucking career and trucker lifestyle can be demanding. Not all trucking companies will give you the pay, the days off, or the hours you want. On top of that, truck driver health issues are caused by the physically demanding and mentally draining conditions of the job.
But many people choose this career for the salary, the freedom, and the adventure. So, whether you’re a seasoned trucker or you’re considering starting a career in trucking, read our guide to have a long and successful career in trucking.
1. Upskilling & CDL Endorsements
Before you begin driving a commercial vehicle, you will need your commercial driver’s license (CDL). The average cost of a CDL in California is $1,122, or you can apply to trucking companies that offer sponsored CDL training.
If you’re already working in the trucking industry, consider upskilling your CDL endorsements. Upskilling allows you to haul a wider variety of cargo. For example, if you add an H endorsement to your license, you can haul hazardous materials.
This will give you a larger variety of job options, and the more qualified you are, the higher your pay. Adding CDL endorsements is an excellent way to advance your career and explore new routes and cargo.
2. Research Trucking Companies
Many truckers make the mistake of choosing the first company that hires them. But this could leave you unhappy and dissatisfied with your trucking career.
When choosing a company to work for, you should define your needs and then do your research. Do you want a lot of home time, a good maternity leave plan, flexible home time, or high wages? Not all companies offer all these things, so decide what your priorities are and find a company that meets your needs.
If you’re a new driver, Schneider National or U.S. Express are good options. If you want to work for a high-paying company, consider Sysco or Walmart.
3. Set Your Salary Expectations
Truck driver salaries vary significantly from company to company and depending on a driver’s experience, qualifications, and years at the company. You’ll also want to consider how your company pays its drivers. Do you get paid a salary or by the mile? How you get paid and how much time you’ll spend on the road will affect your salary.
New drivers should keep in mind that an entry-level salary is often low, especially if you choose to do a CDL sponsorship. The more years you sink into your career, the more money you’ll make. Some drivers even make over $80,000 a year. But this is with years of experience, upskilling, and a long time spent with a trucking company.
If you’re an experienced trucker hoping to make more money, add endorsements to your license and do your research on the best-paying companies to work for.
4. Take Personal Safety Precautions
Trucking is an adventurous lifestyle. You’re on the road, working all hours of the day and night and living in your truck most days of the week. While most truckers can go their entire career without experiencing any safety concerns, it’s still important to take precautions.
Women drivers are often more aware of this, as they sometimes attract more attention than male drivers. But it’s important for everyone. Our number one safety tip is to always carry your phone with you and have it fully charged.
Avoid walking around at night, but if you must carry your keys in your hand so you can get into your vehicle as quickly as possible. You can also use your keys as personal protection if the worst happens.
Always stay alert, walk with purpose and confidence, and trust your instincts. If something feels unsafe, it probably is.
5. Get Lots of Sleep
An essential safety tip for truck drivers is to stay well-rested. Driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. In fact, 13% of truck accidents are caused by drowsy truck drivers.
We know that setting a regular sleep schedule as a trucker can be difficult. But there are many tips and tricks drivers use to manage their sleep, even on the road.
Always plan ahead, and know where you’ll be stopping to sleep. Try to pick a quiet parking spot, away from noise and lights. Use earplugs to muffle noise, and cover your windows to block out any light.
Develop a bedtime routine that you can follow before you go to sleep. A set bedtime routine will help your body realize that it’s time to sleep. And stay away from screens directly before bed, as their blue light can keep your body awake.
6. Take Care of Mental & Physical Health
Trucking can be a high-stress job, so taking care of your mental health is essential. After you set a bedtime routine to get enough sleep, you can use some other tactics to manage stress.
Meditate and practice breathing techniques. Meditation can be part of your bedtime routine and a great way to wind down for the day. And breathing techniques can help regulate stress, and you can even do them while you’re driving!
Stretch and exercise when you can. It might be unrealistic to exercise every day with the demanding schedule of a trucker, so set an attainable goal. Twice a week can make a big difference. And remember, stretching or working out for 10 minutes is better than not at all.
Even though you’re always on the move, trucking can be pretty sedentary. You might spend ten hours a day sitting in your truck. So having a lot of healthy snacks on hand is incredibly important in taking care of your physical health.
Healthy snacks you can grab and eat on the go include unsalted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, popcorn, cheese sticks, and greek yogurt.
7. Stay In Touch With Loved Ones
A great way to stay on top of your mental health is keeping in contact with friends and family. It’s hard to be on your own for long stretches, but luckily technology has made it easier than it ever was to talk to your loved ones from anywhere in the world.
There are a lot of apps that allow you to connect with friends and family in creative ways. For example, creating and listening to Spotify playlists together is a fun way to share music.
Invest in the tech bracelets Pillow Talk or Bond Touch Bracelets to hear your loved ones’ heartbeat or light up their bracelet by touching yours. Or keep it simple and talk, text, and share videos and photos on WhatsApp.
And if you need some company during your down time, Rave Watch Party lets you watch TV, movies, or even YouTube videos with others. And QuizUp generates fun trivia games to play with other users or your friends and family.
8. Choose A Great Truck Repair Shop
Our last tip in this article is to keep your truck maintained and repaired by a truck repair shop you can trust. Not only do you need someone on hand for repairs, but regular maintenance will help you avoid unexpected breakdowns.
Diesel trucks need regular maintenance for coolant, engine checks, fuel filters, water separators, and exhaust. Make a diesel maintenance checklist to keep track, and ask your mechanic any questions you have about truck maintenance.
An important factor in choosing a repair shop is choosing one that does all repairs in-house. This will save you time and money. No outsourcing, everything done in one shop as quickly as possible. Plus, a repair shop that does repairs in-house indicates that its mechanics are expertly trained and experienced to handle all types of repairs.
Finally, choose a repair shop that has roadside assistance. Because if you do experience an unexpected breakdown on the road, you’ll have a repair shop on hand that you trust.
Kelly’s Truck Repair
Follow these tips to have a long and successful career in trucking. And when it comes to choosing your repair shop, contact Kelly’s Truck.
At Kelly’s, we have over 50 years of experience in the industry. We do all our repairs in-house and offer roadside assistance. We understand that your time is your money, so we get your truck back on the road as fast as possible. And you can request a quote for any service online, so there are no surprise charges.
We have a large variety of parts on hand, and you can request a part online. Our expert mechanics are here to help, and we have a large resource library on our site to answer your career, lifestyle, and mechanical questions.
Contact Kelly’s Truck today at 1-800-793-9282, or stop by the shop at 495 Hester Street, San Leandro.