How to Become a Truck Driver
Truck Driver Careers & Degrees

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If you enjoy driving, and love seeing big rigs on the highway, then you might like to become a truck driver.

Truck drivers are responsible for hauling goods all across the country, and indeed around the world.

Currently there are over three million truck drivers in America.

To become a truck driver, you’ll need to be prepared to work long hours on the road, without a lot of company.

Of course, the other side of this coin is that many truckers meet a whole range of different people in their travels at truck stops and depots.

You’ll need to be a good driver with a clean record.

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Education Requirements to Become a Truck Driver

If you are interested in working as a truck driver, you’ll need to complete your high school diploma, or GED.

You’ll also need your driver’s license and a clean record without any driving offenses.

If you have a charge like a DUI, or an excessive amount of speeding offenses, then it’s unlikely you will be able to get your CDL.

The next step is to get your commercial driving license, or CDL.

Speak to your local DMV about the requirements in your state to attain this.

This gives you permission to drive larger trucks, as well as trucks that are carting dangerous goods such as fuel.
In some states, you will need to complete a short course to achieve your CDL.

In others you will simply take an exam and be granted the license.

There are several private schools that specialize in helping people to achieve their CDL, and they operate much the same way as driving schools.

After you finish your CDL, you may be required to participate in random drug and alcohol tests while you are on the job.

If you’re under 21, it’s likely that you will only be able to drive a truck within your own state.

After your 21st birthday you will be able to drive past state borders.

The American Trucking Association is a good source of career information in this area.

Truck Driver Job Description

A truck driver transports goods across the country.

They maneuver their vehicles through all kinds of conditions, from busy city roads, to lonely country highways.

They may work long hours, and spend little time working with others.
Truck drivers may also need to load and unload goods.

They may simply be carrying basic goods to a location or depot.

Some truck drivers transport goods that must be kept in hygienic conditions, and have special training in this area.

Others cart dangerous goods, like gas and fuel.

Keeping a log book of hours driven is required in most places.

Truck drivers must also maintain manifests and delivery dockets.

Here are some of the responsibilities of a truck driver:

  • Driving a truck
  • Loading and unloading goods
  • Special treatment of some goods
  • Keeping a log book of hours
  • Maintaining records of deliveries
  • Care and maintenance of a truck
  • Communicating with colleagues and clients

Truck Driver Salary and Career Path

When you become a truck driver, it’s likely you will begin your career with a lighter vehicle, smaller loads, and also smaller drive distances.

As you gain more experience with your truck, it’s likely that you employer will trust you with more responsibility.
Some truck drivers buy their own vehicle and work as a contractor, or start their own logistics company transporting goods.

Many may work in specialized areas, such as moving dangerous goods, or food products.

Some may move onto managerial positions within the transport industry.

Here are some similar roles to a truck driver:

  • Bus Driver
  • Taxi Driver
  • Postal Worker
  • Sales Representative
  • Warehouse Manager

The median salary of a truck driver is $35,000 a year.

Those who drive heavy vehicles, or work with specialized cargo, will attract a higher income.

If the thought of the open road gets you excited, then you may like to become a truck driver.

Truck driving can be a lonely occupation, but also one where you will experience things that everyday people only dream about.

Out on the road, you’ll meet people from all walks of life, but for the most part you will be on your own.

Employment opportunities in this industry are good, and for those that are interested in becoming self-employed, there is also the prospect of becoming a contractor, or perhaps even starting a company.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$46,850
$29K
$36K
$46K
$55K
$66K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$43,200
Alaska$59,840
Arizona$46,650
Arkansas$44,250
California$48,450
Colorado$49,980
Connecticut$50,940
Delaware$46,850
District of Columbia$53,200
Florida$42,700
Georgia$45,410
Hawaii$49,930
Idaho$43,680
Illinois$49,800
Indiana$46,320
Iowa$43,800
Kansas$47,660
Kentucky$46,620
Louisiana$42,220
Maine$41,870
Maryland$48,820
Massachusetts$52,230
Michigan$43,150
Minnesota$50,200
Mississippi$44,650
Missouri$46,360
Montana$48,110
Nebraska$45,550
Nevada$51,140
New Hampshire$47,270
New Jersey$49,770
New Mexico$43,650
New York$53,210
North Carolina$45,030
North Dakota$53,990
Ohio$46,760
Oklahoma$48,030
Oregon$47,930
Pennsylvania$48,060
Rhode Island$45,860
South Carolina$43,480
South Dakota$43,580
Tennessee$45,340
Texas$45,940
Utah$48,070
Vermont$46,140
Virginia$44,140
Washington$51,370
West Virginia$43,170
Wisconsin$47,520
Wyoming$52,600
Guam$28,800
Puerto Rico$20,480
Virgin Islands$38,010

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $59,840.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $59,840
North Dakota - $53,990
New York - $53,210
District of Columbia - $53,200
Wyoming - $52,600
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers, OCC Code 53-3032, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a truck driver?

A truck driver is a person who drives a commercial motor vehicle for a living.

Truck drivers transport raw materials and finished products to and from manufacturing plants, retail and distribution centers.

As a truck driver, you can own your own vehicle or work for a trucking company.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the hours of service of truck drivers.

Drives may not work more than 14 hours straight, comprising up to 11 hours of driving and 3 hours spent on additional duties, such as loading and unloading cargo.

As a truck driver, you have to maintain a logbook record that documents all your daily driving and rest periods.

You will need good hand-eye coordination, hearing and visual abilities and you must be in good physical condition.

As a truck driver, you can be away from home for days and weeks at a time and you will spend much of your time alone.

QuestionHow much does a truck driver make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $43,680 as of May 2018.

Payment in this field usually depends on how many miles the driver has driven and the rate-per-mile varies depending on the employer and the type of cargo.

As a truck driver, you can make anywhere between less than $30,000 and more than $65,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a truck driver?

The exact training requirements depend on the type of vehicle you will drive.

All truck drivers must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and most companies require truck drivers to possess a high school diploma or equivalent.

Trucking school can cost you anywhere between $3,000 and $7,000 in total, depending on the type of license you want.

Truckers who drive a vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight of $26,001 or more pounds or a truck that has a towed vehicle heavier than 10,000 pounds have a class A CDL license.

If the vehicle is under 26,000 pounds or has a detached towed cargo vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds, you will need a class B CDL license.

QuestionWhat is the demand for truck drivers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Truck drivers are essential to any economy because they transport materials and finished products thus keeping the supply chains moving.

As the demand for goods increases, more truck drivers will be needed to transport those goods to retail and distribution centers.

However, the demand for truck drivers depends on the economy and can vary year by year and region by region.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a truck driver?

As a truck driver, you will need a CDL driver’s license and a high school diploma or equivalent.

Truck driving training can typically be completed in as few as 3 weeks or can last as much as 6 months.

The exact duration depends on the type of license you need and on the way the program is structured.

In order to be allowed to drive the truck interstate, you must be at least 21 years of age.

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