YOUR FIRST YEAR AS A TRUCK DRIVER IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY
There are a lot of things you will have to learn during your first year, and many drivers remember their first year as the most challenging part of their truck driving careers. Your first year will test you, but experienced drivers encourage first-year truckers to push through. It gets better! Driving a truck is like any other job; you have to pay your dues and gain experience to get where you want to be.
YOU HAVE TO COMPLETE CDL TRAINING FIRST
ou will start your first year with CDL courses and training. CDL training can take a couple of months to complete, and a lot of your time will be spent taking tests and spending time over the road with a driving trainer.
One thing a lot of truck drivers remember about their training is the awkwardness of spending so much time with a complete stranger in such a tight space. Some truck drivers remember liking their driving trainer, but some did not get along at all. Either way, truck drivers remember this experience as a rite of passage toward going solo.
Another thing drivers who have been through CDL training remember is that it doesn’t pay very well at first. You want to make sure that you have a financial plan in place as you get through this part of your first year.
The CDL training experience is very intense, but once you have completed it, you will have the knowledge you need to tackle your first year over the road. You may not make a lot of money your first year as you gain experience, but in the trucking business, more experience means more money.
YOU WILL HAVE TO ADJUST TO A LOT OF LIFESTYLE CHANGES
Most truckers spend their first year over the road for weeks on end. This is another trial a driver must endure to gain the experience they need to become a safe and reliable trucker. You can expect to encounter physical and psychological changes as you adjust to this new lifestyle.
Being out on the road for weeks at a time is a difficult adjustment, especially if you are in a relationship or have a family. It is crucial that you discuss how you are going to deal with the distance between you and your loved ones. Drivers who have made it through the first year suggest that you get a good cell phone plan so that you can keep in touch with friends and family as much as possible. A quick FaceTime with a friend will do a lot to help alleviate the loneliness of traveling by yourself for a long time.
You also get minimal downtime in your first year. You will probably struggle to adjust to erratic sleep patterns. Sometimes you will be able to get a good night’s sleep, but other times you will have to plan naps strategically throughout your day. It is crucial that you plan a daily schedule with rests and work breaks.
These lifestyle changes require a bit of adjustment, but eventually, you will get better at planning your daily sleep schedule, and you will find ways to keep in touch with friends and family.
YOU WILL LEARN TO MAKE SAFE DRIVING A PRIORITY
Many first-year drivers are prone to accidents out on the road. You need to do everything you can to avoid them because an accident will result in a stain on your DAC report and your CVOR. Experienced truckers advise that you focus on safe driving instead of worrying about logging the most miles in your first year. A clear driving record is the most important thing to a truck driver because it means better loads and better pay as you progress in your career.
During your first year, you still have a long way to go to prove yourself as a reliable truck driver, which results in lower pay and undesirable loads, unfavorable locations, and tight delivery/pickup schedules. Just keep in mind that as long as you continue to keep a clean driving record and show yourself to be someone to count on, you will eventually get the kind of loads you want to the places you want to go.
YOU WILL COME TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
According to experienced truck drivers, you learn to look for a silver lining in all things when you are out on the road. Don’t sweat the small stuff. In other words, don’t let yourself blow your top when someone cuts you off. The unexpected is going to happen when you are out for long periods during your first year: DOT checks, breakdowns, traffic jams, and bad weather. Just keep in mind that everything that happens to you is a learning experience, and the more you advance, the more you will be prepared for in the future.
YOU WILL REALIZE THAT YOU ARE NEVER REALLY ALONE
Many first-year drivers aren’t prepared for how much their every move is monitored. Someone is always watching you. The Department of Transportation and law enforcement will be keeping an eye on you while you are on the road, and your employer will probably be keeping track of your speed, RPM, location, idle time, and sleep time. You are under a great deal of scrutiny, but you get used to it, and you may even come to appreciate that you aren’t entirely alone out there.
YOU WILL DISCOVER THAT IT GETS BETTER!
Everything gets easier after the first year. You will have a better understanding of how your truck works, how to navigate tricky areas, and you will have adjusted to the lifestyle. Just keep in mind that after you get through the trials and tribulations of the first year, you will find yourself in a very profitable career.
At J&M Tank Lines, we hire drivers with 18 months of experience, and we offer more benefits and more home time than many other trucking companies. We know that your first year out there is challenging, but it gets better, especially if you become a member of our trucking family.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO BECOME PART OF THE J&M TANKLINES FAMILY
J&M Tank Lines has been a leader in transportation for 70 years in the Southeast with terminals in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, South Carolina, and Texas. We provide high-caliber truck driving solutions locally and nationally and partner with SmartWay, American Trucking Association (ATA) and many more! Contact us or call us at 205-798-9988 to learn more today.