Making the Decision To Become a Truck Driver
Checklist to Make the Decision to be a Truck Driver
1. Can you be away from home for extended periods of time up to 2 months? Yes___ No___ If you cannot be away from home for extended periods, you have to understand that you will have to find another trucking job away from over the road. While some companies do offer regional or local positions, usually at first you will have to go with a trainer over the road thru your training period then wait for an opening to come up in your region or area unless it is just a local company to start with; you may not get home as often as you would like. This would be something to consider when searching for a company to work with.
2. Can you repeatedly lift up to 75#? Yes___ No___ Many companies require their drivers to load or unload freight and to pass strength tests. If you answer no, then you should make sure you check with any prospective company about what lifting requirements they have.
3. Do you have any felony convictions for drugs or DUI? Yes___ No___ If the convictions are older than 10 years, you may be able to still drive commercially though it will be hard to find a company that will hire you. You cannot go to Canada with a felony conviction anywhere in your past.
4. Can you sit for long periods of time? Yes___ No___ Truck driving is a sitting job. You will be sitting in the seat for up to 11+ hours a day.
5. Do you have small children still at home? Yes___ No___ See #1. Make sure that there is someone you can totally trust their care with and that they understand that you will not be available for many of the occasions important to yourself or them.
6. Does your spouse drive truck or is planning on driving with you? Yes___ No___ If no, then you need to make sure that they understand the job and its parameters as far as hometime etc will be. Make sure that they are in agreement with your being gone for extended lengths of time.
7. Can you follow directions on how to get somewhere? Yes___ No___ If no, you will have to work on this skill and learn how to follow directions…you will be navigating all over the country in towns, cities and thru the countryside.
8. Can you work without constant supervision? Yes___ No___ While many companies have satellite communications for the most part, you will have to do your own time management. If you cannot work without being constantly told what to do by a supervisor, you may want to rethink driving for a living.
9. Is your health Good___ Fair___ Poor___ Trucking is a high stress/sedentary job. If your health is poor, you may not be able to pass the required federal DOT physical. Talk to your doctor before making your decision to drive commercially.
10. How do you deal with stress? Well___ OK___ Cry___ Get Depressed ___ If you cannot deal with stress well to where it affects your ability to work, you may need to rethink your decision to drive truck. Trucking is a high stress job.
11. Do you like to be alone most of the time? Yes___ No___ Truck drivers are isolated from family and friends for extended periods of time if they drive solo. If you answered No, then you perhaps need to consider running team at a company or finding a more local or reional company to work for.
12. What are your responsibilities to your family? Elderly Parents___ Small Children___ Minor___ No Family Responsibilities___ If you have many family responsibilities to where you need to be home often, then only go to work for a company that can get you home often or has a flexible hometime schedule. Make sure that you have other people who can help out at home if you cannot get home.
13. Are you married or in a relationship? Yes___ No___ Make sure your spouse/SO understands what the job entails and is in agreement with you decisions to be a trucker.
14. Why do you want to become a truck driver? Money___ Travel___ Sightseeing___ Find a Partner___ No Other Work in My Area___ Sounds Exciting___ Party___ Trucking is a dangerous serious job and while you will be traveling while getting paid to do so, there is little time for actual sightseeing; therefore, if you answered that you were wanting to become a trucker for sightseeing, finding a partner, party or just because it sounds exciting…you may want to rethink your decision to drive truck.
15. How is your hand/eye coordination (can you judge distance and use your hands without watching them)? Excellent___ Good___ Fair___ Poor___ You will have to run a 8 foot wide truck and trailer down 12 foot lanes of traffic and back into 9 foot spaces or less…If you cannot answer Excellent, Good or Fair to this question, truck driving is not for you.
16. How well do you work with others? Good___ Fair___ Not at All___ While solo truckers work alone, they do have to deal with others in doing their job and as a trainee, you will have to run with a trainer for a period of time and then perhaps a co driver for awhile. If you answered Not at All…rethink your decision or work on this skill.
17. In your car, can you handle rush hour traffic? Yes___ No___ You will have no option as to when you drive as far as traffic goes. If you just cannot deal with heavy traffic…rethink your decision to become a trucker or work on this skill.
18. Can you drive in bad weather? Yes___ No___ Again, you will have little option in when you drive other than when it becomes too unsafe to drive. If you cannot drive in all weather conditions and/or are scared to do so and cannot
overcome it…you should not drive truck.
19. Do you have tickets on your record? Yes___ No___ One ticket most likely will not stop you from getting hired…more than one and you will find it difficult in finding a job until your MVR clears.
20. Do you use any controlled substance or take any prescription medication regularly? Yes___ No___ You will be subject to random drug testing and pre-employment testing, if you use illegal drugs, you may not drive truck by law
and you will get caught. There are some prescription drugs that are prohibited by law for use by commercial drivers even with a doctor’s prescription. Do the research and make this a question to ask a prospective company if you decide to become a trucker. If the medication you take is prohibited by the FMCSA regulations or by a prospective company, ask your doctor to change you to another medication or you will not be allowed to become a trucker.
21. Are you good with detail? Yes___ No___ Truckers deal with details all of the time. We have to make sure that aperwork is done, phone calls are made and check in with our dispatchers on time. If you are not good with detail, work on this skill.
22. Are you good at arithmetic? Yes___ No___ Truckers use math all of the time. We have to keep track of our hours that we work, sleep or are off duty, figure miles and distance, our pay and fuel mileage along with weights and axle weights. If you are not good with math, then work on this skill.
23. Do you have any legal issues such as child support or felony convictions? Yes___ No___ You will not be able to run Canada, so if you decide to become a trucker, make sure any company you choose does not run into Canada. Many companies do not hire people with felonies.
24. Are you usually on time for things? Yes___ No___ Truckers have to be on time to pick up and deliver freight. If you cannot gain this skill…rethink your decision to drive truck.
25. Do you have a disability? Yes___ No___ Some disabilities are not prohibitive to one driving truck; some are. Find an occupational clinic and have a complete DOT physical done before making your decision.
26. Do you have to go to church every Sunday? Yes___ No___ While many truck stops have trucker’s chapels on-site, there will be times when there are no churches available for you to attend. Think about this issue.
27. Can you tell a mechanic what is wrong with your car? Yes___ No___ A trucker does not need to be a mechanic, but a trucker does have to be able to describe what is going on with his/her truck if a problem occurs. Work on this skill before making your decision or at least be aware of it so you can take steps to learn.
28. Can you take orders from someone? Yes___ No___ While truckers mostly work without direct supervision, we do have to take orders from shippers/receivers/law enforcement and our dispatchers and brokers. If you answered no…work on this skill.
29. Do you get carsick? Yes___ No___ You will be riding in a truck at least with your trainer and perhaps a co driver for some period of time. Talk to your doctor for medication to help with this problem, make sure that your doctor understands what you will be doing.
30. How do you work with the opposite gender? Good___ Prefer Not To___ No way to avoid it. Adjust your thinking. If you cannot, rethink your decision to drive truck.
31. Can you read a map and find a route to where you want to go? Yes___ No___ You will have to be able to do this. Learn this skill.
32. How well do you express yourself verbally? Good___ Ok___ Poor___ You will be communicating with dispatchers/brokers/shippers/receivers and law
enforcement along with mechanics that you will have to be clear with verbally. Work on this skill.
33. Can you understand laws and regulations? Yes___ No___ Trucking is one of the most regulated industry around and the laws vary from state to state in some instances and then there are federal laws and regulations too. Work on this skill.
34. How many accidents have you had? None___ 1___ 2___ 3+___ If you have had 2 accidents in the last 5-10 years, it will be difficult to find a company to hire you…make sure that you ask if this will affect you in talking to prospective companies.
35. Are you an aggressive driver? Yes___ No___ Aggression behind the wheel is a very bad thing for a trucker to have. If you cannot overcome being an aggressive driver, rethink becoming a trucker.
36. What are your income expectations? $25K a year___ $30K a year___ $45K a year___ $50K a year___ $50K+ a year___ In the current (2009-2010) economy, your starting pay will be between $25-30K a year. If you need more than hat, rethink your decision to drive truck until the economy comes back and even then, it may not be possible to make that much. Keep your expectations lower.
37. Can you budget money? Yes___ No___ Many truckers especially starting out do not understand how to budget their money wisely on the road and end up hurting their families at home financially. Work on this skill.
38. Can you handle paperwork? Yes___ No___ Not only do truckers have to document their hours they work, sleep and/or are off duty daily, but also have to keep track of bills of lading, load documentation, hazardous material
documents and company required trip sheets. Along with that, a driver has to be able to keep track of their own expenses and receipts for tax purposes. Work on this skill and decide how to overcome the problem if you answer no.
39. Can you do physical labor? Yes___ No___ Some companies require drivers to load and unload freight. Also, there are things that a driver has to do such as climbing in and out of a trailer without steps provided, adjusting axle weights on the trailer, climbing in and out of the truck, perhaps climbing the engine to change a clearance light on the tractor, dropping and hooking to and from trailers, and other minor things that require some physical labor. If you cannot do some physical labor due to disability, you may still be able to drive truck if you find a niche that allows for less or adaptability to your disability…if you are just out of shape, then start an exercise program to correct the problem.
40. Have you talked to other drivers about the job and lifestyle of trucking? Yes___ No___ If you have answered No to this question, then you really need to learn about all aspects of trucking before making a decision to become a driver. Trucking is not just a job, but a lifestyle and is not for everyone. You can look on-line for trucking groups or trade publications to assist you in learning about trucking, go down to the closest truck stop and talk to drivers (do not get into anyone’s truck though or walk around the parking areas alone), or go to the library and see if they have any books about
the trucking industry. Do your homework thoroughly or you may find out after spending a lot of money for school that you cannot deal with the many aspects of the job.
If you do decide to become a driver, be safe!