When you first start driving, you won't always be able to pick and choose your hiring company. Trucking companies have to pay insurance for all the drivers who haul their freight. An organization can keep their premiums low if they hire experienced drivers who have a proven safety record. Experienced drivers have also demonstrated that they are committed to trucking as a career, that they are reliable, and that they understand the demands and quirks of life on the road.
New drivers, however, are unknown quantities. You may have a CDL, but for the first year you are still a new driver and are at greater risk to have an accident. It's hard for hiring companies to predict how reliable and timely a new driver will be.
Many people go through the process of getting their license just to discover that they really don't like trucking at all, so they quit. All these factors combine to split freight companies generally into two camps: those that hire newbies and those that don't.
Companies that hire new drivers may do so because they prefer to train their own personnel in their way of business instead of having to retrain people from other companies. They may also like the fact that new drivers are less expensive than experienced ones.
There are a lot of wonderful trucking companies out there with a solid commitment to their employees, excellent earning potential, and a pleasant work environment. You might not always be able to find one of those companies on your very first job.
The First Year
The first year behind the wheel, your objective should be gathering experience and building a record of reliability. You don't want to work for a place that will treat you like an indentured servant, or where you will be forced to quit after three months and look for another job. As a commercial driver, your employment history follows you around, and if you change jobs too many times the first year, hiring managers may be reluctant to take a chance on you later.
Did you know:
- Many companies assign new recruits to work on a two-person team with a trainer for the first few months on the job.
- Rookie drivers might earn a lower training wage for the first few months on the job.
As you go through the recruitment process, it will be difficult to tell which companies will be like salt mines. The recruiters who do the hiring are often paid based on the number of seats they fill and are not always the best sources of honest information. Do your research: spend a few days at a truck stop and talk to people who are actually in the field. Do an Internet search on the names of the companies you're considering and find the scuttlebutt.
If at all possible, avoid signing any contract that requires you to pay back money for training if you don't finish 12 months of work. Look for firms that will reimburse you for your CDL training investment rather than companies that pay for your training up front, and then require you to pay them back with interest over the next year. If you do decide to do your CDL training through your future employer, make sure you understand how much you will be repaying them (versus what you would pay if you did your own training at an independent school) and what the penalties are if you quit before your contract is up.
Some people get lucky and their first driving job is the one they stick with. Not everyone is so fortunate. It may help to have realistic expectations: your first year is probably going to be the most difficult. You will be adjusting to a new job, a new company and a new way of life. For 12 months, focus on learning your job, staying safe and building positive relationships. If you chose to move on at the end of that year, you will have far more options available to you than if you job-shifted or burned bridges.
Truck Driving Companies
Over the past two decades, as profit margins in trucking have gotten smaller, larger hauling firms tended to buy out the smaller ones. There are several giant trucking firms and a handful of mid-size and family-owned companies. JobMonkey profiles most of the large companies and their opportunities:
There are advantages to each type of company. A large organization can offer you big-company benefits like health, life and vision insurance. You might get corporate discounts on your cell phone, and you will be able to carry different types of freight in different parts of the country. However, some people feel like a number at a big company and they prefer to work for smaller organizations.
Smaller and family-owned businesses can also be great places to work. If the organization only has 50 drivers, the odds are good that the dispatchers and managers know everyone on their staff. At a smaller firm, your hard work is more visible, and it's easier for the managers to help you reach your personal goals.
When job hunting, ask about the average age of the fleet and the type of trucks driven. Try to find a company that has a younger fleet so to reduce the time you spend in the repair shop.
- Some long-term work contracts can cost you thousands if you have to quit or are let go.
- Ask about the average age of the fleet, type of equipment and average number of miles per driver.
- Your first year on the job should be about building a record of safety and reliability.
- The trucking driving jobs section of JobMonkey profiles the top employers.