Career Advice for Job Seekers

Truck driving jobs: Career tips, salary information and industry insight

Abby Langan is a driver for Schneider National that has two associates degrees and was about to attend a 4-year university when the road came calling. Photo courtesy of Schneider National.
Matt Krumrie AvatarMatt Krumrie
February 28, 2017


Looking for truck driving jobs? There’s plenty of opportunity.

The American Trucking Association reports a shortage of 48,000 drivers.

“The trucking industry is similar to other skilled trades that have difficulty attracting young men and women,” says Ellen Voie, President/CEO of The Women in Trucking Association, a non-profit organization with the mission to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry. “From electrician to welder to diesel technician, these jobs do not seem to be attractive to the next generation.”

Women in trucking

Truck driving jobs were attractive to Abby Langan, however. Langan made a successful career change and is now thriving as an over-the-road truck driver for Schneider, a transportation and logistics company that has a fleet of 10,000 trucks and delivers almost 19,400 loads of merchandise and materials per day. Its customers include two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies. Langan’s story is unique – and inspirational for both men and women seeking truck driving jobs – or a career change in general.

Langan has two associates degrees and was about to attend a four-year college when she landed a job as an internet marketing manager for an automotive dealership. She was highly successful – speaking at conferences, publishing articles and eventually landing a senior-level job that she thought was her dream job. But that life wasn’t for her.

“The fancy office, leather chair and large desk didn’t matter anymore,” said Langan. “I knew there had to be more to life than spending it inside the same four walls and talking to the same people every day.”

Langan has logged over 31,000 miles on the road in 14 months with Schneider.

“Being a truck driver allows you enjoy the freedom of the open road and the ability to see the country – and get paid for it,” said Mike Norder, Director of Marketing at Schneider. “The transportation industry plays a critical role in the economy. Truck drivers are in demand nationwide.”

In addition to a wide variety of truck driving jobs, women are also working in the industry in roles as dispatchers, managers and safety directors.

Truck driving salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean wage for a professional driver in 2015 was $42,500. The typical entry wage is just under $40,000 for a new driver, but drivers can make well over $120,000 annually after years of experience. Some of the top paying jobs are either union (Teamster) driving positions, or specialized hauling and private fleets – Walmart drivers start at over $80,000 annually, says Voie. A person could obtain training in as little as three weeks and then start with a trainer at a company before graduating to being a fully trained driver.

“Typically, a person decides to become a professional driver because of the pay and benefits,” says Voie, who serves on the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee which created a minimum standard that all truck driving schools must follow in the future. This will allow potential drivers to feel more secure in knowing their training will be sufficient, says Voie. The in-demand jobs right now are for professional drivers and diesel technicians.

Truck drivers love the independence and the freedom to work without someone looking over their shoulder. They also love the travel aspect of the job. “Drivers get to see some amazing sights,” says Voie. “Every day there is something new to see or experience.”

Like any profession, truck driving careers do have some drawbacks. Working nights, weekends and holidays is part of the industry (pending on type of job/company). Truck drivers deal with tough driving conditions (winter weather, summer storms), road construction and closure, traffic jams and congestion, and any other unforeseen elements. It’s a heavily-regulated industry and laws/compliance are strict – mistakes can cost jobs. But every job has its drawbacks and truck drivers who stay in the industry learn that the positives outweigh the negatives.

Where are the truck driving jobs?

Regional truck drivers are in high demand, says Hannah Miers, a Driver Recruiter for Indianapolis-based Venture Logistics, a full service trucking and logistics company providing services throughout the continental US, Canada, and Mexico.

“As the older generation of drivers retire, we do not have a large enough pipeline of new candidates wanting to get into trucking,” says Miers.

Miers, who has 11 years of experience in the trucking, transportation and logistics industry, says a regional truck driver that is home every other weekend averages a salary of about $75,000 per year. Working for a regional trucking company and being home every weekend will bring in about $55,000-$60,000 per year.

Those who want a truck driving career as owner/operator must understand that being an owner/operator is much like owning your own business, so basic bookkeeping and record retention skills are also part of the job.

Jeremy Reymer is Chief Executive Officer of Driving Ambition, Inc. a CDL driver staffing company serving Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. Driving Ambition dispatches more than 500 drivers per year to 700+ for-hire carriers and private fleet customers. Of these drivers, 95 percent are home every day. To obtain a job as a truck driver, one must be 21-years-old and have a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License).

Drivers that work through Driving Ambition are paid $17 per hour to start. However, with overtime the truck drivers Reymer hires are making up to $1,000 per week and are home every day, working five or six days a week. The top 20 percent of full-time drivers earned annual income in excess of $45,000, with a few of the top drivers exceeding $60,000.

“It’s a great industry – and a huge industry,” says Reymer. “But it has a very small feel to it. When people in the industry know you are one of them, you are typically considered as part of a fraternity. It’s an industry that never stops, 24/7/365. Once someone is in the industry, it is hard to escape. There’s a certain sense of pride that comes from it.”

Unfair stereotypes haunt trucking industry

Unfortunately, unfair stereotypes have hurt efforts to recruit truck drivers to the industry.

“I believe the biggest reason there is a shortage of professional drivers is due to the industry’s image,” says Voie. “People don’t understand the importance of those 18-wheelers alongside them on the road and how that truck correlates to the products they buy in a store. They think of diesel engines, smoke stacks, tires and a dirty truck.”

This is not the case, as the trucks are much cleaner, more environmentally efficient and have a great deal of technology inside.

Organizations like Women in Trucking are working hard to attract men and women to the industry, says Voie. The industry is comprised of 93 percent men – but employers and industry organizations are working hard to change that perception.

“Women are discovering that the job is not as physically demanding as they imagined,” says Voie.

Other industry stereotypes include:

  • People often think that driving a truck is something people do when they can’t do anything else. “That’s just not true, but the myth persists,” says Voie.
  • People also think drivers are fatigued and subject to drug use to stay awake. “This is false, as drivers are always prepared for a random drug test which is a requirement in the industry,” says Voie.
  • Drivers have some of the lowest drug test failures in any industry.
  • Most people think all truck drivers are men and are still surprised when a women gets out of the cab.

Today’s trucks have comfortable air ride seats, automatic transmissions, pneumatic devices to raise and lower the dollies used to load trucks, and the latest and greatest industry technology to make the job easier – and more efficient. Work-life balance is also important.

“Carriers are much more concerned about a driver’s home time and work life balance and strive to meet these challenges,” says Voie.

The American Trucking Association has created the Trucking Moves America Forward program, to establish a long-term industry-wide movement to create a positive image for the industry.

A day in the life of a truck driver

Typically, a driver will start out by loading the truck, completing a pre-trip inspection and then heading to the destination. With automated log books, truckers are limited in the amount of time they can spend driving (14 hours a day max), so they head to their destination while they have available hours to drive. As the end of their day nears, they will start looking for a place to stop for the night. Truck stops allow a driver to shower, eat and fuel in one location, so drivers are very focused on finding the time and the place to stop for these needs.

That being said, a typical day for a truck driver is hard to explain because they don’t have typical days, says Miers. Sometimes they may run early mornings, other times they may run at night. They do not have set hours for the day other than when their 14-hour clock starts they have 14 hours to work for that day.

“They don’t always have a destination in mind when starting their day,” says Miers. “Once dispatched, that is where the fun begins as they are off to their first destination.”

When driving, drivers must be sure to manage fuel levels, air pressure levels, time, mileage (which equates to money), taking the mandatory break at the eight hour mark, delivering freight on time, preparing for the next load, and doing it all over again, while thinking about when they will get back home.

“The trucking industry is very exciting and there is never a dull moment in the day,” says Miers. “The excitement will keep you coming back for more each day.”

Truck driving jobs: Inside the industry
Looking for a truck driving job? Follow these tips from Voie when deciding between a truck driving school, or applying for a truck driving job:

  • Do your homework.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Research schools and driver training opportunities, as some carries will provide “free” training but you must stay there for an extended period of time.
  • Be careful in choosing a carrier so you know what type of equipment you will be driving and what type of freight you will be hauling (refrigerated, tankers, dump trucks)
  • Ask about the culture of the company, such as how drivers are treated and if the management truly cares about their employees.
  • Find out what regions you’ll be driving in and if you will expected to deliver in inner cities (which can be challenging for new truck drivers not used to the congestion and tight driving areas).
  • Find out if they have “no touch” freight or if you’ll be expected to load or unload the trailer.
  • Check out the carrier’s safety rating on the U S DOT website.

“Once hired, take every load offered and don’t complain,” says Voie. “Don’t switch carriers every time your dispatcher makes you upset. Drivers who hop from carrier to carrier never develop a level of trust with the company and actually end up hurting themselves financially with all the time it takes to switch companies.”

One of the unique things about the trucking industry is a mandatory break, points out Miers. Drivers have to take a mandatory 34 hours off after 70 hours. “There are no other fields where it is mandatory for you to take a break from your job,” says Miers.

And remember – safety is of the upmost importance.

“Remember, you are responsible for the truck and load and for the safety of those around you,” says Voie. “Don’t let anyone push you to drive if you’re tired or if the roads are hazardous.”

Truck drivers are a close knit community and even though one may be on the road, they start to see familiar faces just like other business professionals.

“The unique and best part of the industry is that it is smaller than it seems and you will meet people again and again and become friends with many you meet along the way,” says Voie.

Truck driving jobs and truck driving careers are in demand. Follow these tips to travel down the road to success and start your career in the trucking industry today.

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