Driving a big truck for a living can be a wonderful career. You will probably make more money driving a truck than other jobs you may be qualified for, maybe not. Truck driving allows you to travel across the U.S. and see all the good and wonderful things you always heard about: the Grand Canyon, the St. Louis Arch, the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Gulf, America’s great mountain ranges as well as the wide open Great Plains. You will also meet some of the best people in the world in each tiny town and huge metropolis you get to visit, but best of all you are free on the open road.
How much money do you want to make a year? Truck driving can allow you to make that much money if you take driving seriously. You will need a good truck, one in good and safe condition that does not break down so you can deliver your load safely, without damage and on time. You will also need good paying freight or you are just wasting your time. And you will need someone to assist you, a dispatcher or manager, who can watch out for your interests as you watch out for other drivers, detours and weather.
Truck driving has a dirty little secret you may not have heard about. It’s called job hopping and it could cost you a fortune should you fall for its siren song. Job hopping is all about wanting more money, better loads, better treatment, better whatever (you fill in the blank). Job hopping is not about keeping more money, getting better loads and better treatment.
Let me give you some insight on how to not only make more money, but be a better driver which means you are in demand.
First, as soon as you decide to become a truck driver, start looking at the carriers across the county and find out all you can about them. Are they solvent, are they in debt, how old are their trucks, what is their driver turnover rate and what articles are in the news and Internet about those companies? This is going to be your future so take the time to educate yourself about your possible employer.
Second, make yourself as valuable as possible to your employer. How can you do that? Something simple should always be your guide — education about your job, your company and the rules, regulations and laws that control your every action as a truck driver.
Your company has written policies and procedures and to follow them you must know all about them, even better if you have a copy in your truck for reference.
DOT and law enforcement are the enforcers of the rules, regulations and laws. To protect yourself against the enforcers you must know every rule, regulation and law for every jurisdiction you pass through in your drive to deliver your load. OK, so you do not have to know all the laws, but remember every jurisdiction can and will have different laws and you will be responsible for following each and every one of them. Best advice here is to keep a copy of the FMCSA rules and regulations with you in the truck because your future will depend on your knowing and following them.
Third, something as simple as obeying the law will do several things. It will keep you as safe as possible since you will not be, for example, speeding then you will be less likely to be involved in an accident.
Obeying the law will also protect your CDL. Under the new CSA 2010 (2011?), every time you are stopped, inspected, receive a warning or citation, will show on your BASIC for CSA 2010. If you can keep your CDL and CSA 2010 BASIC clean, then you are exactly what every carrier is looking for.
Shortage of drivers and an increase in freight equals driver pay goes up to induce more people to become drivers. The only way to keep your job or get a better paying job is to keep your CDL clean so you must fight every thing the enforcers want to put on your CDL.
In order to make the money per year you want to make means you need to stay at your job at least 18 months to get the most benefits for you and your family.
Million Mile drivers are accident free, get the best loads, get just about everything they ask for because their accident free miles show up so well on the carriers CSA 2010 BASIC that not only does the insurance carrier give them a discount, but the shippers with the best paying loads are looking for carriers with great safety records.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the 48 states on both moving and nonmoving violations. He is also president of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at discounted rates. A former prosecutor, he is a lawyer who has focused on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking and life over-the-road and has his Commercial Drivers License.