Is it Hard to Be a Truck Driver? Requirements and Challenges

Is it hard to be a truck driver? It depends on who you ask. Driving a semi truck requires specific training. Trucking requires certain lifestyle adjustments other jobs do

By

Joe Weaver
October 4, 2023
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Is it hard to be a truck driver? It depends on who you ask. Driving a semi truck requires specific training. Trucking requires certain lifestyle adjustments other jobs don’t. Days and weeks away from friends and family can be tough on some potential truckers. For others who don’t mind the travel and solitude, it can be the best job ever. 

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) states that truck driving requires specific skills and lifestyle adaptations. Is it hard to be a truck driver? On one hand, it involves rigorous training and licenses, starting with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). On the other, it offers more flexibility and freedom than a typical 9 to 5 job does.

This article highlights the requirements of being a trucker, including what you need to learn and what to expect from life on the road. 

Is it Hard to Be a Truck Driver? Education and Training

Is it hard to be a truck driver? The man sitting in the driver's seat of a semi truck in this picture doesn't think so.

While being a truck driver doesn’t require an extensive (and expensive) college education like some careers, there’s plenty to learn about operating a semi truck safely. With knowledge of the skills and qualifications expected from a semi truck driver, you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right career for you.

How to Become a Truck Driver: Educational Requirements

Before you start moving shipments across the highways of the United States, you’ll need to meet some educational requirements. 

These are the minimum standards trucking companies look for.

  • High School Diploma or GED: A high school diploma or GED is the first requirement you’ll need to meet. From there, you’ll be able to move on to more specialized training.
  • Vocational Schools and Trucking Schools: After you have your high school diploma or GED, consider enrolling in a vocational school or a specialized trucking school. These schools offer courses designed to give you the foundational skills you need in trucking.
  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL): You must have a CDL to drive a semi truck in the U.S. To get this license, you’ll have to pass written and driving tests that are administered by your state’s Department of Transportation.
  • Endorsements: Sometimes, specific types of trucking jobs require additional certifications or endorsements. For example, you’ll need a hazmat endorsement if you’re hauling materials that have been deemed hazardous.
  • Medical Examination: You must also pass a medical exam, which assesses whether you are physically fit to be a truck driver. The examination will test your vision, hearing, and check for any disqualifying conditions like high blood pressure.
  • Background Check: A criminal background check is standard procedure in the industry. Employers need to be certain they’re hiring responsible drivers.

Is it hard to become a truck driver? It depends on how you view that list.  It does have its challenges, much like any career, but there are positives. High demand for truck drivers means plenty of truck driving schools opening across the United States that are able to help you meet those requirements.  

Truck Driver Training

Let’s assume you meet the basic requirements and have graduated with a high school in good health. Maybe you even completed some vocational training while in school. Enrolling in a program where you can get in-depth training to qualify for a CDL is next.

Here’s what you can expect during the training process for new truck drivers.

  • Supervised Driving: Initially, you’ll spend a lot of time driving under the supervision of an experienced truck driver. They will guide you, correct your mistakes, and help you get comfortable with the vehicle.
  • Skill Assessments: As part of the training, you’ll go through a series of assessments to gauge your driving skills. This includes everything from parking and backing up the truck to navigating through tight spots.
  • Logistics Training: Beyond just driving, you’ll be trained in managing paperwork, ensuring the goods you’ transport are secure, and understanding how to properly load and unload freight.
  • Road Rules and Regulations: You’ll receive in-depth training on federal and state-specific road laws. Understanding speed limits, weight limits, and other regulatory aspects is crucial.
  • Safety Training: You’ll be educated on best practices for ensuring not just your safety, but also the safety of others on the road. This includes fatigue management and proper vehicle maintenance.
  • Emergency Response: Knowing how to respond during emergencies is an important part of trucking. Training will cover topics like what to do in case of an accident, how to handle hazardous materials spills, and how to use fire extinguishers.
  • GPS and Tech Training: The days of paper maps and road atlases are behind us. You’ll learn how to use modern technology to find and reach your destination.

Training doesn’t stop once you’re on the road. Continuous learning is a part of the job, helping you to become a more skilled and safer driver as you gain more experience.

Is it Hard to Drive a Semi-Truck?

A truck driver wearing a safety vest standing next to a flatbed trailer.

Let’s review some of the unique systems found on semi-trucks and strategies for safe driving.

Being a Truck Driver: Skills and Strategies

It’s vital to be  aware of just how large your vehicle is and the blind spots that result from this.  That means you’ll need to develop skills in operating the following features of a semi truck.

Most large, commercial vehicles are equipped with:

  • Multiple Gears: Semi-trucks often have as many as 18 gears, compared to the 4 to 6 gears in a regular car. 
  • Air Brakes: Most semi-trucks use air brakes rather than the hydraulic brakes in passenger cars. 
  • Engine Brake: Also known as a ‘Jake Brake,’ this engine braking system assists in slowing down the truck, particularly when going downhill. Fifth Wheel: This is the coupling point between the truck and its trailer. 

Depending on the truck and trailer, you may encounter other systems such as refrigeration. Knowing how to use these systems is mandatory, but it’s also beneficial to know how they work. Being able to make repairs on your own (within reason) will save you a lot of headaches on the road. 

Driving a Semi Truck: Tips and Technology

Driving a semi-truck effectively and safely involves a mixture of skills, best practices, and the use of modern technology. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced driver, there are some tips and tech tools you should use to make sure your time on the road goes smoothly.

Some general tips for safe operation of a semi truck include: 

  • Always Pre-Check: Look for any issues with the tires, lights, brakes, and fluids.
  • Mind Your Speed: Semi trucks can’t stop as quickly as smaller vehicles. Always keep your speed in check.
  • Use Signals Early: Because of their size, semi-trucks need more time to make maneuvers. 
  • Keep a Safe Following Distance: Always keep several car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you to maximize reaction time.
  • Rest Regularly: Driver fatigue is a significant cause of road accidents. Take regular 30-minute breaks and get adequate sleep before long-haul drives.
  • Weather Awareness: If severe storms or heavy snow are in your path, you may need to delay or re-route your trip.

In addition to the aforementioned practices, make sure you familiarize yourself with the following technological solutions.

  • Advanced GPS Systems: Modern GPS systems designed for trucks provide real-time traffic updates and road conditions. They can also guide you to routes suitable for large vehicles.
  • Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs): These devices make it easier to keep track of your driving hours, ensuring you comply with regulations, while also helping you manage fatigue.
  • Collision Avoidance Systems: These systems use sensors to alert you if you’re too close to another vehicle or object, making it easier to avoid accidents.
  • Lane Departure Warning Systems: These alert you if you’re drifting out of your lane.
  • Dash Cams: Not only can these provide evidence in the case of an accident, but they can also offer real-time feedback on your driving, helping you improve.

By following these general tips and taking advantage of modern technology, you can make your day to day experience driving a semi-truck safer and easier.

Life of a Truck Driver

A semi truck's reflection in a rearview mirror.

So far, we’ve addressed the potential difficulties of becoming a trucker and some  duties associated with the job. However, there is also a personal cost in terms of a work and life balance. This is often the issue the question, ‘is being a truck driver hard?’, actually asking.  

Trucking has a significant impact on the lifestyle of those in the profession. They are good or bad depending on perspective. It’s part of  understanding the challenges and rewards a career in trucking presents.

How Long Are Truck Drivers Away From Home?

Depending on the type of trucking job you have, your time away from home will vary. Sometimes it could be days or weeks at a time. Other times, you might complete your round trip in time to go home and sleep in your own bed.

Long-haul trucking and regional trucking have different schedules and demands, each with its own impact on your family and personal life.

Long-Haul Trucking vs Regional Trucking

Long-haul trucking often involves hauling cargo across vast distances. The longer the distance, the more time away from home.

You can expect the following conditions.

  • Usually away for weeks at a time
  • Covers distances that can span multiple states or even countries
  • Requires adaptability to various road conditions and regional regulations
  • Generally pays more than shorter, regional trucking jobs

Regional trucking implies that the driver is going to stay with a specific area. Region sizes can vary, and there may be exceptions made for some jobs. 

Regional driving conditions include:

  • Being home on weekends or even nightly
  • Covers a specific region, often within a radius of a few hundred miles
  • More predictable road conditions and regulations
  • May pay less, but allows for more regular home time

When people speak of the difficulties of the trucker lifestyle, they’re usually referring to long haul trucking. To be blunt, a day in the life of a long haul trucker can be a lonely one. Let’s look at some of the challenges truck drivers endure.

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Challenges of Being a Truck Driver

If you’re thinking of becoming a trucker, keep in mind that your first year will likely be spent on the long haul. Well-paid regional positions are limited, and even after the first year, finding one is not easy. Many drivers work long-haul their entire career.  The amount of time spent on the road requires truckers to make several lifestyle adjustments.

These are the most common challenges that stem from extended time away from home.

  • Missed Milestones: Being on the road means you might miss important family events like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. For many, this is the hardest part about being a truck driver.
  • Limited Social Life: When you’re often away, maintaining a social life becomes challenging. In some circumstances, this can make truckers feel isolated. This is less of an issue for team drivers.
  • Health Impact: Irregular schedules can affect your eating and sleeping habits, leading to potential health problems over time. Pack healthy snacks and avoid overeating at truck stop restaurants to preserve your health and your paycheck.
  • Childcare Challenges: For parents, being away often complicates childcare arrangements and can put added pressure on the spouse at home.
  • Strained Relationships: Days and weeks away from home can strain relationships with your family and friends. It’s important for long-haul truck drivers to make the most of time at home with family.

It’s worth noting that the social challenges listed above may not apply to single, solitary individuals, which makes them a non-issue. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for couples to become team truckers if children aren’t in the picture.

While the job can be rewarding, it’s important to take these factors into account when deciding if trucking is for you. Another factor to take into consideration is how much money you can expect to make on the road.

Is Truck Driving Worth the Money?

An overhead view of two semi trucks on a desert highway.

One of the first concerns potential truckers have is a financial one. Is the job lucrative enough to make up for its previously mentioned challenges?

Salaries and wages for truck drivers vary widely, not just from state to state, but from one company to another. To gain some insight, consider the following average truck driver pay rates from the five most populous states in the U.S.

StateAverage Truck Driver Pay
California$28.31 per hour
Texas$24.98 per hour
Florida$25.66 per hour
New York$36.22 per hour
Pennsylvania$30.66 per hour

Source: ziprecruiter.com

Keep in mind that these wages are averages, and are likely to increase as you accumulate years of experience.

So, is truck driving worth the money? The answer largely depends on your lifestyle and financial needs. The job can be lucrative, especially if you manage your time well. The potential for high earnings and the added benefit of seeing the country are just two advantages of this unique job.

What is the Best Part of Being a Truck Driver?

A side view of a semi truck driving in cloudy weather.

While a truck driving job comes with challenges, it also offers rewards that are appealing to many people. 

If you’re contemplating a career on the road, here are some of the best parts about being a truck driver:

  • Independence on the Road: Even if you’re working for a logistics company, you have a level of autonomy not found in an office job. Many truckers find that this leads to less stress and a more peaceful state of mind.
  • Job Stability and Demand: Truck drivers are always in demand, so job security is generally high. 
  • Financial Rewards and Benefits: The pay is often above average, especially compared to other  jobs that don’t require a college degree. Retirement plans, health insurance, and other benefits packages are standard among trucking companies.
  • Unique Experiences:You’ll see sights many Americans only see in travel blogs as you crisscross the country.
  • Skill Development: You’ll learn valuable skills that are transferable to other roles, such as time management and problem-solving.
  • Flexibility: Some trucking jobs offer flexible schedules, allowing for a better work-life balance compared to traditional 9 to 5 jobs.
  • Personal Time: Although you might be away from home, you’ll have personal time to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or enjoy your favorite music while driving.

From financial gains to the freedom of the open road, trucking can be an appealing career choice for many individuals.

Become a Truck Driver with Truck Driver Jobs

How hard is it to be a truck driver? Becoming a trucker and adapting to the unique lifestyle the job demands can be a challenge. However, many Americans find that it’s a chance to make a great living with relatively little training. 

At ABCO Transportation, we know the importance of offering a good work/life balance to the men and women driving our trucks. Join our team and you can look forward to:

  • Competitive pay
  • Free stays at resorts owned by ABCO
  • And more!

Check out our available jobs and apply online to join the ABCO family, or give us a call at (866) 980-2710 and take the next turn in your life on the road.

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