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How to Become a Truck Driver

How to become a truck driver is not as daunting as you may think. You will need to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in your state.

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ABCO Transportation
September 9, 2020
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How to become a truck driver in today’s economy? It’s a popular search. Becoming a truck driver is easier than you might think. For many companies, the bottom line is signing up the newest and best drivers they can find. Freight is a huge industry and companies of all industries need to have their products delivered to warehouses, docks, ports, industrial plants, production facilities and to the front door of enterprises themselves. The work is out there in abundance. But since it's a very important job, as your haul or ‘load’ could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, you need to have the right training and mindset.

How to become a truck driver is not as daunting as you may think. First, you need to be able to drive a commercial motor vehicle or (CMV). This is pretty much the standard way of entering into the industry. You need to show that you have the skill to drive large and very complex vehicles, on the open road. You will need to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) which can be done by passing the tests through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You need to do this in your state. 

Truck Driver Requirements

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In order to earn your CDL, you must go to a certified truck driving school. Each school has its own program and style of teaching. They all have their own standards and they require their students to drive a certain way. One day you will be joking and laughing, comparing how you were taught with another group of drivers. The bottom line is they will all teach you up to the standard that is required, but there are many different styles of teaching, driving, awareness on the road and so forth.

Attending a truck driving school

Try a truck driving school near you, or contact your local community college if you can’t find a trucking school. They will not only teach you about driving but they will educate you about the trucking industry. This will alert you to such things as driving standards in different states, countries and continents. You'll also learn about standards and practices within different industries. You will also need to learn how to handle different materials. You might also learn about trucking unions and social groups for truckers to keep in touch with each other and learn from each other. 

You will also need to have a clean history. Although it may not be a hindrance in some job applications, having no criminal history, and a good working track record will be important for some jobs. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) you need to be over 21 years in age in order to apply for a CDL. As you would expect, you need to pass a drug exam and physical test. You have to be sober, without any drug abuse or addiction problems and generally physically fit in order to operate a heavy freight vehicle.

How to Become a Truck Driver with No Experience

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As previously mentioned, you have to attain your CDL license. This is the key that opens all other doors. When you are authorized to be able to drive commercial vehicles, you can be trained to drive numerous different machines. You need a CDL to drive a forklift, dump truck, crane and/or a truck. You will also need to train how to be able to handle hazardous materials as many companies will not take on a driver that is not able to do so. Why? Well, they will sometimes need to shift some potentially hazardous material, whether it be to a production plant or to a landfill and they need drivers that are able to avoid contaminating the local environment, while they are on their journey. It's also because they don’t want to be taken to court due to a driver being injured or suffering from some kind of illness or injury, due to their own negligence or lack of education. 

Most trucking companies will also have in their requirements to become a truck driver the need for their employees to have a good temperament. We all know how stressful driving can be in a car, let alone an 18-wheeler. Therefore you need to have a good attitude and be able to keep your cool while those around you are not behaving as they should. If you have no experience, but you can show that you are willing to focus on the job, and have high levels of concentration for long periods of time, these attributes of yours will make you a very attractive potential employee. Truck driver apps are also helpful.

Is Now a Good Time to Become a Truck Driver? 

The economy is in recession and you may be double-thinking your aim to become a truck driver at this time. As with any recession, during the recovery, logistical industries will always be needed. Businesses will want to hire as many truck drivers as they can, so enterprises can once again, begin to deliver products to their customers. Not just that, but warehouses and production plants need to have delivered large components, materials and pieces that allow for them to keep running and working. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the evidence shows that the trucking industry is hiring at an alarming rate. In May, there were 1.432 million truckers on the roads. In June, there were 1.437 million, an additional 5,000. In July it was 1.439 million, an increase of 2,000. But in August it was 1.449 million, an overall addition of 17,000 new hires in the span of just 4 months. Obviously, this means that there is plenty of opportunity and if you’re considering making a career change or developing your career in the trucking industry, now is the perfect time to start training and looking for a job. 

How to Become a Truck Driver in Texas

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You need to have a CDL so you can drive vehicles in the class in which the truck you are given is able to be used. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the regulatory agency which is used for Career Schools in colleges as well as commercial truck driving schools in the state. The programs which the TWC regulate, must adhere to the strict guidelines that promote the aims of the best standards of safe and skilled truck driving. The Texas Department of Public Safety also has a lot of useful information on their website. They go into more detail about what they expect of truck drivers and how they should behave on the roads and highways. They demand the utmost in cld training, and they elevate certain training programs above others. 

Passing your CDL exam is the most important thing, as this will allow you to choose the type of trucking you want to do. If you want to do short haul rather than long haul or vice versa, you can always choose, once you have become a certified commercial vehicle driver.

CDL classes in Texas

In Texas, there are 3 classes of truck driving. 

  • Class A CDL. You will be able to drive a number of vehicles. If the vehicles have a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,000 pounds or more, you could drive any type of vehicle in this weight range. This is the top level of CDL classes and gives you the most options.
  • Class B. You can drive a single or perhaps a combination of vehicles that are 26,000 lbs or more. However, you cannot pull a vehicle that is heavier than 10,000 lbs unlike class A.
  • Class C. You can drive any single or combination of vehicles, designed for 16 passengers or more. It also allows you to drive a vehicle that specializes in the transportation of hazardous materials.

If you want higher paying trucking jobs, it's best to achieve a Class A. You will face more rigiour skills tests

You’ll also need to pass the practical tests of operating the vehicle.

  • Basic controls knowledge. You need to know what button, lever and control does in the vehicle. Just like you would in a car, show you know how to operate the gears, flashlights, brakes and other things for semi trucks, such as hydraulic pressure gauges, magnetic attachment equipment, radio buttons, etc.
  • General knowledge test. Do you know how long you can drive, before you legally have to pull over at a truck stop, to get some rest? Even if you feel fine, by law, you need to rest and can no longer be on the road until you have had a few hours of sleep and rest.
  • Can you safely operate the air brakes? This is a very powerful tool that trucks have. The heavy loads you carry, will need to be controlled safely, through winding hillside roads and on steep mountains and city roads. The air brake is complex and you have to show you can use it safely.
  • Can you take in the situation on the highway and react appropriately? You will be tested on your situational awareness and ability to take the right course of action while remaining in full control. Composure and alertness, reading the road and reacting properly to other driver’s behavior, are all things you need to display.
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How to Become a Truck Driver in Florida

In Florida, one could argue that to become a truck driver is a little easier or simpler. Firstly, you need to have a CDL. You must possess a commercial driver license and you should be at least 18 years old instead of 21, which is the norm for many other states. However, if you are under 21, you will not be allowed to make intrastate operations. Therefore, you will be restricted to truck driving jobs that involve, delivering loads to locations just inside the state of Florida. 

Before you can apply for a Florida CDL, you will need to apply for a Conditional Learner’s Permit. This allows you to start driving full stop. The CDL training will involve learning how to drive but if you’re not cleared for a learner’s permit then you cannot proceed. The CLP will see if you have any vision concerns, any drug or alcohol concerns and if you are legally allowed to be on the roads, such as a legal citizen, no driving bans or revoked licenses, etc. 

You will also need to pass a few other things, such as…

  • Do you have a Florida driver’s license?
  • Can you pass a vision test?
  • Pass the knowledge exam, such as road signs, behavioral obligations i.e. how many hours of driving need to be met, with how many hours of rest? Etc.
  • Pass a medical exam, done by the Division of Driver Licenses. 
  • Pass the driving record review. You need to have a good record for the past decade. If you have no record and are learning for the first time, that is okay.
  • Prove your identity and residency. You need to show where you live and who you are, in order to proceed.

How to Become a Truck Driver in California

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California is one of the most attractive truck driving locations because of how much work is available. It's a huge state, with a large population and a very large economy. Therefore, the amount of work available to truckers is in abundance and it's only growing. Many companies choose to set up their headquarters in California. The tech giants are in the state because of the sheer talent pool and the facilities that make it so easy to hire, employ and sustain their workforce. 

But for those of you that are seeking to become truck drivers in the state, there are some basic eligibility hurdles you need to jump over. Passing your CDL at the California DMV is where it all begins. The DMV will do a basic control skills test, vehicle inspection test, road tests and practice tests. Seeing ahead, shifting gears, communicating and controlling your speed and space are all things that will be tested and examined. 

One of the most significant areas of testing will be driving emergencies. This will look at your ability to spot accidents, while they are happening. Your skill to steer away from them and avoid damaging your truck is important but being able to control the truck and not damage the load is paramount. As many trucks are top-heavy, you will need to learn how to control the weight under speed and sudden steering inputs. 

You will also be tested on your ability to stop safely and quickly. Using the brakes and not ‘stab braking’ is imperative. If you jolt onto the brakes, the tires will lock and skid, not slowing you down as effectively as a controlled pressure braking technique would. Just like in a car, if you stamp on the brakes, it will take you longer to stop, potentially cause you to hit something because you didn’t stop and cause damage to the truck. 

Be prepared to be tested on brake failures, such as when you have a loss of brake fluid or brake fade on long sloping hills. Tire failure is also a big test. It's not uncommon for trucks to have a blowout on the highway. You need to learn how to control this, not panic and slow the truck down to a safe stop. This involves learning about physics and keeping a cool head under intense stress. 

  • You must have a basic education level of high school diploma or GED.
  • You must be willing to take and pass periodic drug tests.
  • You must have a good driving record. Preferably, no strikes on your driver’s license.
  • Make sure that you are able to pass a basic medical exam.
  • You must have a Class D license, which you have held for at least 1 year and is in relevantly good standing.
  • You need to pass a 10-year background check. This is not just regarding a criminal history or lack thereof, but your professional employment history too. 
  • You also need to be at least 18 years old to drive in the state.
  • However, you need to be 21 to drive in and out of state, i.e. state-to-state haulage.
  • You also need to have a social security card
  • Make sure you can show proof of insurance
  • You also need to be a resident of California

The last one catches many people out. Yes, you need to be an actual citizen of the state, in order to be accepted for driving jobs that emanate from within California. You may not want to make this kind of move, but the state is very attractive because of how large and busy it is, all year round.

The other things you will be tested on are similar to other states and driving schools. You need to be able to perform a vehicle inspection test. Look for things that don’t look right or could be threats to another person, such as a fellow driver or pedestrian. Look for oil leaks and other leaks such as hydraulic fluid of the attachment equipment and brake fluid, etc. You should be able to operate the basic equipment used for most jobs, which is why the truck driving school of the state will show you how to do.

Truck Driving School Tips

truck-driving-school-tips

How to become a truck driver on your first attempt? Well, in order to pass all your tests first time, you need to learn about the commercial truck industry. What kind of things do customers require and need from someone like you?

  • Trucking is a great and rewarding career choice. The money is usually above average, regarding the national salary medium and you also have a lot of freedom to take on various jobs, as and when they come. However, you need to study hard and learn the basics. You need to know the rules of the CDL process and what you need to do. Learn about what it takes to be an owner-operator. Most truckers will lease a truck and that means, they can instantly begin trucking and delivering loads. But they need to make payments to the company they have leased the truck from and they are also liable for it, should anything go wrong. But, those that own their own trucks, have a relatively cheaper lifestyle, as all they usually pay for, is the gas. They can also make modifications to their truck, which could allow them to take on more jobs and be a more versatile operator.
  • It's a good idea to learn the CDL manual of the state you are attempting to take the exam. You will need to brush up all the latest rules, regulations and laws. Pour a lot of time into the research process. The more information you can absorb right from the get-go, the less time you will waste when you are attempting to pass the CDL test.
  • Choose whether you want to go to a private training school or paid training programs. The difference is, with a private training school, you are learning from a center that specializes in training new truck drivers. They have their own standards and training regimen. It's usually linked to the state or some kind of national body or organization. A paid training program is usually done by a company that has a fleet. If a company has its own fleet, they usually have apprenticeships in trucking, and you could learn this way. For example, the US Postal service often delivers its own bulk haulage to warehouses, etc. Large companies such as FedEx and UPS have their own truck driving courses. You will be learning on the job as it were, and this can be good or bad, depending on the type of person you are. If you would rather earn a nationally recognized certification, then go with a school. If you would rather jump into the industry and start working while learning, then go with paid programs.
  • Inquire about any local training programs via job placements. Sometimes, companies that want drivers, will come to schools and colleges. If you’re in education and would like to become a truck driver, inquire via the careers office or speak with any representative of a company that comes to your school. They will usually direct you to their on the job training programs. They could give you a tester, whereby you pair with a current driver on their payroll. He or she will show you the ropes. They will take you on a few of their trips and jobs, showing you the basics and allowing you to take on greater responsibility as time goes on. If you’re in the process of earning your CDL, you can get some great tips from the drivers you are helping and this could mean you have a higher chance of passing your tests.
  • Mentally prepare yourself. You are entering into a whole new world. Many myths surround the trucking world and not all of them are true. You will be ‘alone’ on the road, but with modern technology, you will never be too far from anyone you are friends with. There are in-built networks into every truck, which allow you to communicate with other trucks, call home, speak with the managers and also, maintain a good family life via video calls etc. Far from being ‘on the road’ all the time, you can take holidays and rest just like any other working man or woman. Of course, this is on your time and dime, so don’t expect jobs to stay as they are while you’re away. It is a very competitive industry after all. Many companies will also work out your transport needs, such as plane tickets and cab fares, so you can find accommodation to sleep in, travel home safely and on time as well as help you take care of yourself. However, having said all of that, you will be traveling long distances. You need to be prepared to concentrate for long hours and make sure you have your wits about you, avoiding accidents and potentially very dangerous situations.

Learn About Customs Laws

Of course every single trucker needs to know the law of the land he or she is driving in and into. Therefore you should be familiar with Form 7501, which is for customs and border protection of the US government. Knowing what this form is about, how to fill it in and why it's important is very critical to your job as a truck driver. For one thing, you would put your employer into hot water if you didn’t get the forms right and the company was punished by receiving a fine. If you don’t know this type of legal requirement, you would be limited in your role and employers wouldn’t give you jobs whereby you are entering into another state or country. For example, you need to know the customs laws of the US and Canada, if you are to make day trips to Canada and return the same day. 

How to Become a Truck Driver In a Non-Civilian Role?

The US Army designates a transport truck driver as an 88M operator. This job entails delivering items and loads for the US Armed forces, but mostly the Army. your job description is as follows.

You provide motor transport in the wheeled vehicles, transport personnel and cargo sectors of the army. You will be supporting the national guard with all their sustainable structure needs, and moving equipment around the battlefield is need be. As you can imagine it's not the safest of all jobs but it's also quite rewarding. You are working with the men and women that keep the country safe and you’re in the middle of the logistics challenges they face every day. As you can also imagine, you get to travel a lot and you can be called to provide your skills and services, overseas and drive in foreign countries. However, you will need to be prepared to do the following things.

  • Oversee and check the loading of cargo onto vehicles and trailers. It's very important that sensitive and potentially dangerous equipment is loaded carefully.
  • You should also be comfortable being able to drive in a tight convoy. Of course, the army life is fraught with danger, and needing to stick to tight and rehearsed tactics is essential. Therefore you will need to drive with caution and skill, making sure that you stick in a tight formation and use skill and focus to get to the objective.
  • Identify and report the deficiencies in the vehicle. If there is something wrong with the vehicle you are driving, you must be able to spot it and alert your superior so you can get it fixed as soon as possible.
  • You should also be prepared to load things onto a ship, train or other heavy-duty industrial vehicle. Manage to load and unload your haul, safely and efficiently.
  • Most importantly, you must be able to drive in any type of terrain. Whether it's desert, jungle, muddy, or cold snowy climates, you must be able to drive through anything and get to the objective.

US Army trucking is really perhaps the most intense kind of trucking there is. However it's very exciting, will sharpen your skills and only the best of the best manage to make it. It's a badge of honor which you can wear and you can always take what you have learned into the civilian world. Doing this would net you high-paying jobs thanks to your experience and skill. 

Get a Trucking Job with ABCO Transportation

We recommend that you do your own research, but contact us for any further questions you might have. We have a wealth of knowledge within the industry and our training is second to none. 

We pride ourselves on providing modern trucking jobs that have incredible future prospects, job progression and opportunities that you won’t get anywhere else. Don’t hesitate, contact us today and let’s start a conversation about your desires in the trucking profession.


Fill out our trucking job application today to learn more, even about truck driving jobs in Modesta, CA. We have OTR, Regional and limited local truck driving jobs. Connect with us today at 866-980-2710 and enjoy a new cab with a new company.

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