How To Be A Trucker May Be Your Answer to a Better Future



How to be a trucker has been on your mind for quite some time now as you watch the big rigs headed down the interstate headed out to who knows where.

The lure of adventure and wanting to see the country is very appealing to you.

Even more important is the possibility of making steady money and maybe even being the owner of your own truck where you can make even better money.

Big Rig Trucking may be ideal for you but it is not for everybody.

Trucking is a tough business that breaks many people who enter the business.

The hours are long and the annual average pay according too many truckers is not enough for the amount of hours required each week to make a living as a trucker.


Trucker's Tribute - Reflection On Dangers




With that said about the hours and pay and you're still interested in learning how to be a trucker, let’s look at the pros and cons of being a big rig driver before we discuss how to be a trucker.


The Positives:

  • What other profession allows a person with no or only a high school diploma enter a 2 week intensive training program that lets you start making an average of $35,000 working as a company driver the first year out with the possibility to make $50,000 a year or more after a few years of over the road experience. 

      "Is this good pay?"

According to many truckers, the annual pay examples are too low to be called "good pay" considering the large amount of hours you are required to work each week to make that annual amount of pay. Good pay according to one trucker who sent us comments would be making $75,000 or more a year. We can't disagree with his idea of what annual good pay would be to make a good living.

  • You have the potential to make over $100,000 a year as an owner operator once you get established?
  • Driver demand for the trucking industry is at an all time high 
  • Unlike construction; you will still get your hours and your paycheck even if the weather is bad. 
  • Everyday is a new adventure 
  • You are not stuck in a cubicle for the next 30 years with the boss watching you every minute of the work day. 
  • You can choose to see the continental United States even Canada and Mexico if you desire that destination. Where many people spend their life only dreaming about seeing the mountains, Grand Canyon, the oceans and many points in between; you can be out there living the dream everyday. 

 The Negatives About A Trucking Career

  • The annual average pay of $35K to $50K, according to truckers we have heard from, is too low considering the amount of hours required each week to make that annual average pay. 
  • Driving a truck means a big lifestyle change. No more being there for each little league game, school play, or hanging out with friends. Over the road means you will be out on the road for days at a time. Many individuals and families have adjusted well to the lifestyle change. Can You and Your Family Adjust? 
  • It can be lonely if you allow it to be that way. One driver we know uses his layover time to work on being the writer of the next best seller in addition to being a photographer capturing the beauty of the United States. 
  • One big surprise and definitely a big frustration many new drivers discover is the amount of hours you might have to spend on the dock waiting to get the load that still has to be delivered as scheduled. You have to stay visible and close on the dock to hear when they tell you the load is ready. The big frustration comes in because you know if the truck is not rolling you are not making money since you are paid by the mile. 
  • Expect to be away from home anywhere from one week to 4 weeks. Many companies trying to combat the driver turnover actually try to get you home for the weekend but few guarantee this possibility. 
  • Expect driving an average of 2500 miles a week. 
  • Expect to work 10 hour work periods. 

If You’re Still Reading at This Point:

You have the desire and potential to learn how to be a trucker to start making a steady paycheck.

"Is the Pay Good?"

You'll have to make that personal decision based on your needs.

You may decide the pay is good enough to get you off the unemployment line, out of an even lower paying job that doesn't make this much even with overtime, out of a dead end job you hate, or to give you a change in life.

Keep in mind that trucking is not just a career change. How you live your life now will be dramatically changed!

For whatever the reason; you’re here seriously trying to learn how to be a trucker. Big Rig wants to give you information below that can be helpful as you pursue a career in being a big rig trucker.


How To Be A Trucker


Truck Drivers Needed Memphis Tennessee Perimeter Transportation


You can have a trucker career one of three ways:

  • Choose to be a local driver who is usually paid by the hour, home every night and loads and unloads the product during the course of a typical 10 hour workday. An example would be a driver hauling concrete in a mixer truck. Expect the pay to be less than what you would make being a short haul or long haul trucker. 
  • Become a short haul big rig driver for companies that deliver LTL (less than truckload) goods for companies like Federal Express, UPS, and Roadway. 

Expect to be paid hourly or by the mile and definitely expect the competition and selection for these types of trucking jobs to be greater because you are usually only away from home one or two nights a week. Over the road (OTR) experience of at least one year will be required before you are even considered for a position.

  • Be an Over-the-Road (OTR) driver hauling freight in any of the 49 states, Canada and someday Mexico. You can be a coast to coast, regional or a dedicated big rig driver. 

Expect to be paid by the mile with driving an average of 2500 miles a week and to get delayed at freight docks at times.

Expect to adhere to U.S. federal transportation regulations that allow you to work a maximum of 70 hours in an 8 day period. In that eight day period, you can work /drive a maximum of ten hours each day before you have to take a mandatory 8 hour break. Note: Truckers for the most part dislike the intrusion of the federal government telling them when they can drive especially when they feel rested and ready to get back to work.


Meeting Certain Federal Requirements and Any State Requirements to Obtain Your Class A CDL License is Required

There are three levels of CDL license but you will need the Class A commercial license to drive big rigs.

While you can try to pass your knowledge and skill test to obtain a CDL license without attending school; you will need to have access to big rig trucks (i.e., a licensed CDL driver who helps you train after you get a permit). The skills test will have to be taken in a big rig. However, you will still need to take and pass a hazardous materials course at a 3rd party training (trucking schools) facility to get the endorsement on your CDL License.

You will want this endorsement because what might not be considered a hazardous material in a small quantity may be a designated as such in a larger quantity within a trailer. You don't want to be 2000 miles from home and have to deadhead home because you didn’t take the time to get the hazardous material endorsement.

If you don’t have access to a big rig truck and licensed CDL driver, you will need to attend a trucking school to learn how to be a trucker.

Basic qualifications of drivers for Class A CDL – Federal Requirements (Some but not all of the requirements)

(a) A person shall not drive a commercial motor vehicle unless he/she is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. Except as provided in §391.63, a motor carrier shall not require or permit a person to drive a commercial motor vehicle unless that person is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

(b) Except as provided in subpart G of this part, a person is qualified to drive a motor vehicle if he/she—

(1) Is at least 21 years old;

(2) Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records;

(3) Can, by reason of experience, training, or both, safely operate the type of commercial motor vehicle he/she drives;

(4) Is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with subpart E—Physical Qualifications and Examinations of this part – DOT Physical

(5) Has a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator's license issued only by one State or jurisdiction;

(6) Has prepared and furnished the motor carrier that employs him/her with the list of violations or the certificate as required by §391.27;

(7) Is not disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle under the rules in §391.15; and

(8) Has successfully completed a driver's road test and has been issued a certificate of driver's road test in accordance with §391.31, or has presented an operator's license or a certificate of road test which the motor carrier that employs him/her has accepted as equivalent to a road test in accordance with §391.33.

Additional Federal Endorsement Requirements:
An operator must obtain State-issued endorsements to his/her CDL to operate commercial motor vehicles which are: Note - The test could be a knowledge or skill test or both depending on your state.

(1) Double/triple trailers;

(2) Passenger vehicles;

(3) Tank vehicles;

(4) Used to transport hazardous materials. You must successfully complete a hazardous materials test or training that is given by a third party (recognized trucking school).

(5) School buses.

Air brake restrictions.

(a) If an applicant either fails the air brake component of the knowledge test, or performs the skills test in a vehicle not equipped with air brakes, the State shall indicate on the CDL, if issued, that the person is restricted from operating a CMV equipped with air brakes.

(b) For the purposes of the skills test and the restriction, air brakes shall include any braking system operating fully or partially on the air brake principle.

To Read the Entire Federal CDL Licensing Requirements:

Check out and go to section Title 49 – Transportation Section for the federal rules and regulations.

Each state may have additional rules but they are required to implement the federal rules and regulations into their CDL licensing state requirements.

Bottom line: Review your state requirements because we know all states usually have a few requirements of their own.


Driving Record

The requirements vary from company to company since their insurance companies at many of the trucking companies are now having the last word who they will insure to drive a big rig

Generally, Trucking Companies Require: Note - Some of the larger companies are more stringent that smaller companies.

  • Moving Violations: Typically no more than 3 moving violations (speeding, other moving violations, accidents, etc.) in the last three years 
  • DUI – It varies from company to company but the minimum we’ve seen for a first offense is no DUI in the last three years. Some companies say no DUI in the last five, seven and even ten years. Word of Caution: Some states now show DUI’s related to driving boats and wave runners on your driving record which could get you disqualified from driving a truck. 
  • Refusing to Take a DUI Test: Mandatory disqualification from getting a CDL License per the federal requirement from one to three years. Refusing testing while driving a hazardous load is an automatic 3 year disqualification. State penalties may vary. 




Criminal Record and Felonies

Some of the larger trucking companies are more stringent than smaller companies.

No felony on your record (This doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of luck but it does depend on the felony. Drugs or theft felony convictions are steep hills to climb but some trucking companies receive a tax write off for hiring a person with a felony as part of helping Department of Corrections with their re-entry into society program). You will need to do your homework on this one.

Do know federal requirements concerning an existing CDL License holder states this: (9) Using the vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance - Life disqualification-not eligible for 10-year reinstatement. They are referencing any vehicle not just big rigs so be careful.

If you do have a felony and are fortunate enough to become a big rig driver in the United States, you will have to get a Canadian Waiver to enter Canada. They will seize the tractor trailer and arrest you without the required waiver if you try to cross the border in your big rig.

You can see the federal penalty disqualification time frames for individuals already with CDL license who violate traffic and criminal laws at CDL Drivers Federal Penalties

This does not include state penalties that may be assessed if laws are broken.

We are not attorneys. As far as how any personal tickets or felonies impact your chances of being a big rig driver in your state, consult with an attorney before signing up and paying any money to a truck driver training school. Once the contract is signed; you may be required to pay for the training even if you can't get a CDL license.

Many schools will pre-qualify you for their program. It is your choice how to proceed.


Are you one of the lucky ones without major hills to climb and still ready to learn how to be a trucker but don’t have someone with a big rig to help you?

Check out our United States Tractor Trailer Training Page to locate a trucking training program near you.

Big Rig hopes we provided enough information to get you going on your mission to learn how to be a trucker.

Please use our "Contact Us" page if you have any comments or questions.