A Beginner’s Guide to Commercial Driving

0 0
Read Time:5 Minute, 39 Second

Driving a commercial vehicle can lead to job security and help you earn a competitive hourly wage. But getting behind the wheel of a large trailer, truck or van isn’t the same as taking your personal vehicle for a spin or working for a ride-share company like Lyft or Uber. You need to learn how to handle big rigs and use diesel products while on the highway and in tight working conditions, manage your inventory and potentially leave home for days, if not weeks, at a time. Find out what life is really like as a commercial driver and what it takes to become one.

What Is a Commercial Driver?

A commercial driver transports a vehicle designated for commercial purposes from one location to another, including any cargo or passengers on board. You may be driving an 18-wheeler, school bus or tractor-trailer. The duration and frequency of the trip ranges from a few hours to several weeks if you find yourself driving across the country or over the border. Around half of all commercial drivers work more than 40 hours per week.

In addition to driving, your duties and responsibilities depend on the job description and organization, but they often include:

  • Loading and unloading cargo
  • Verifying the authenticity and accuracy of the materials slated for transport
  • Providing a safe environment for you and your co-workers
  • Performing vehicle maintenance and reporting safety issues to management
  • Responding to health emergencies according to company policy

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are currently 3.5 million commercial truck drivers in the U.S., 90% of whom are male. The workforce is also older than the general population, with a median age of 47. The trucking industry has become more diverse recently as more women and people of color join the ranks. Workers under age 35 are more likely to be female, Hispanic and have a college degree than those over 55.

What should a truck driver know

Source: adriaticfoto/Shutterstock.com

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, drivers earn a median of $54,320 per year or $26.12 per hour.

How to Become a Commercial Driver

If you love driving and are eager to learn about the heavy-duty vehicles that power the supply chain, follow these steps to join one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.

  • Get a CDL

You need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to work. Research your state’s CDL manual to learn about the qualification requirements. You will also need a clean driving record for the last ten years. Some states and types of CDLs require a Department of Transportation medical card, which includes a physical.

  • Choose Your Specialty

Consider what type of vehicle you want to drive. Each type of vehicle requires a specific endorsement, including:

  • (N) Tank vehicle endorsement
  • (H) Hazardous materials endorsement
  • (X) Tanker/HazMat combination endorsement
  • (T) Doubles/triples endorsement
  • (P) Passenger transport endorsement
  • (S) School bus endorsement

Sign up for a paid CDL training program to get certified. These classes usually last several weeks to a month. Passing includes a driving portion and a written skills test. Your instructor will give you a commercial learner’s permit to practice.

  • Know Your Equipment

Getting a CDL won’t test your knowledge of the vehicle itself. Understanding how these machines work will help you stand out when applying for jobs. Most commercial vehicles run on diesel engines, which use highly pressured air and fuel to trigger combustion. Efficiency depends on the psi and the injection timing. Diesels also use exhaust treatment systems to reduce harmful emissions.

How to stay safe as a truck driver

Source: Jaroslav Pachy sr/Shutterstock.com

Part of your responsibility includes checking the fluid levels often to prevent long-term wear and tear. If the vehicle is overheating or clogged, the business could be fined for violating the state’s emissions laws. Change the oil every 5,000 to 10,000 miles to increase lubrication in the fuel injectors. If your mpg rating drops, replace the diesel fuel injectors to improve efficiency. Learn how to use Xtreme Diesel Performance products to maintain the engine and how they affect vehicle performance.

Work on a used diesel engine to practice checking for clogs, leaks, rust and other signs of damage. Replace aging components with new diesel parts based on the make and model. Even if you aren’t repairing vehicles as part of your job, you will save the company time and money diagnosing issues as they occur.

What to Expect from Commercial Driving

Being a truck driver allows you to choose how and when you work. You don’t have to be alone for months at a time.

  • Life on the Road

You can get lonely when it’s just you behind the wheel. Most drivers work alone, which can affect your mental health. If you’d rather be social, consider completing shorter trips or transporting people instead of cargo. Even if there’s no one around, you should be able to contact a coworker or supervisor for help if you’re unsure what to do.

Prioritize your health to avoid burning out. Stretch whenever you can, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and aim for at least seven hours of sleep. Driving long-distance often means sleeping in tight spaces without the comfort of home.

What is a commercial driver's license in the US

Source: Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock.com

  • Work/Life Balance

You may be asked to work overtime, especially as a new driver. States set limits for how long drivers can work in a day, but you could be on a job for days. You shouldn’t be asked to work more than 70 hours over eight days, but emergencies and co-worker absences can increase your workload, so it’s usually best to stay flexible.

If you prefer a regular 9-to-5 job, look for a position that keeps you close to home so you can clock out at the end of each day. Make the most of your days off by exercising, spending time in nature and visiting with your loved ones to make up for lost time.

  • Career Prospects

The industry should keep you employed for years to come. Demand for shipping and transportation will only increase as the population ages and consumers shop more online. The BLS projects a 4% growth rate over the next ten years. Many older drivers will retire soon, which bodes well for anyone looking to sign up.

Commercial driving isn’t for everyone, but it can be a rewarding career if you are passionate about transportation. It’s all about getting to your destination safely with the cargo intact. Learning about the vehicle will help you handle any mechanical issues that could arise. Monitor your fuel efficiency and check your fluids regularly to treat your vehicle with care.

0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %

You May Also Like

More From Author

Average Rating

5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.