Most people think that the only way to achieve success and happiness in life is by getting a fancy job with a high salary, such as the likes of Doctors, Engineers, Professors, Lawyers and CEOs. It is a common conception that those who have impressive titles as their occupational designation are the ones looked up to by everyone in the society, and that they belong to an elite class of citizens, as only they can enjoy a healthy, wealthy and luxurious lifestyle. However, that is not the case. There are numerous examples of people who gave up high paying jobs and perfectly comfortable lives to follow their dreams of doing something else and still be successful and happy. Just ask Jack Gleeson – who played the character of King Joffrey in Game of Thrones. Or even Kevin Jonas of the Jonas Brothers – he quit the band in 2014 and launched a food searching app as well as working as a builder. In short, jobs which seem relatively simple and uninteresting to the general public can also lead to success and happiness, if done right. One such job is that of a truck driver.
Being a truck driver can be very exciting, adventurous and worthwhile. By definition, a truck driver is one who delivers goods to different cities – and even different states at times – by driving a truck weighing over 26,000 lbs. (almost 12,000 kg). Think of it like this – you get to drive a powerful and loud vehicle which is as big as a house, go on a long drive along the highway, and get paid for it!
But, of course, there is more to being a truck driver than what has been mentioned so far. As a truck driver you will be required to know all the traffic rules and regulations like the back of your hand, have a good sense of direction and knowledge regarding roads and highways (where roads lead, if trucks are allowed on the roads or not etc.) and adhere to the safety regulations in cases of carrying dangerous substances such as chemical waste. But before concerning yourself with all these matters, first you need to learn about how to officially become a trucker.
First and foremost, you need to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). In Tennessee, a CDL is required for those who operate one of the following:
• A vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more (with or without any external vehicles attached to it).
• A vehicle that is used for transporting hazardous materials regardless of the GVWR.
• A vehicle used to carry at least 16 passengers, including the driver.
There are two ways to obtain the CDL – you can either attend a truck driving school, or enroll in a company-sponsored program. In both cases, you will be given your CDL upon successful completion of the curriculum. During the courses you will be taught the handling of a truck – how to maneuver a truck on a highway or in a crowded street. You will also be made aware of the federal laws and regulations regarding trucking during this time. After successfully completing this program (which generally lasts from 3-6 months) you will be given a certificate of completion.
• Class A: Allows you to handle vehicles weighing in excess of 26,001 pounds with tow trailers or other attached vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
• Class B: Same as Class A, but the tow-trailers or other attached vehicles must be less than 10,000 pounds.
• Class C: Qualifies you to handle vehicles that can carry at least 16 people or transport hazardous materials.
In Tennessee, all CDL hopefuls must be at least 18 years old to be able to apply. Passing a vision test and obtaining a medical certificate will further qualify you to obtain the CDL. However, you have to be at least 21 years old to be able to drive a truck across states, as per the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations. You must then sit for a general knowledge exam and take a three-part skills test, which will include a pre-trip vehicle inspection, a basic controls test and a driving test which will evaluate your on-road driving abilities. You must make sure to apply for the specific class of CDL you are interested in – for example, you must test in Class A if you are looking forward to obtaining a Class A CDL.
You will also need endorsements for driving different types of trucks and/or carrying different types of cargo. For example, truckers transporting hazardous materials (HAZMAT) must get that particular endorsement (H). Other endorsements include those needed to drive trucks with air brakes, school buses, transporting people etc. Additional knowledge and background tests will be conducted while getting these endorsements.
Upon successful completion of the truck driving school programs, you will be offered chances to join a company, after which you will be given a training lasting up to 3 months to practice on-the-job driving, mentored by an experienced truck driver accompanying you. This will help you to get familiar with the kind of truck you will be operating, the kind of cargo you will be carrying and, most importantly, give you some valuable experience of your new job. This will also give you a chance to fine tune some of the most important qualities a trucker should have, such as:
• Visibility: You must be aware of your surroundings and be able to correctly identify the different colors in a traffic light.
• Coordination: You must be able to coordinate your vision and movement of your hands and legs to be able to properly handle the truck.
• Physical Health: You must be in good shape physically to be able to operate a truck. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) disallows people from becoming truck drivers if they suffer from physical disabilities, such as epilepsy, high blood pressure etc.
Truckers get paid well, which makes it a good carrier choice. In May 2015, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned more than $40,000 in median annual wages – more than every other occupation recognized by the U.S. Economy. The median annual wages in the trucking industry in the same month are as follows:
General freight truck drivers - $42,320
Specialized freight truck drivers - $40,840
Wholesale trade truck drivers - $39,500
In general, truckers get paid against the number of miles driven, with additional bonuses. So every trucker is required to keep records of their driving hours and distances. Payment per mile varies amongst different employers, and are also influenced by the nature of the cargo and the experience of the drivers. While an entry level driver earns up to $40,000 annually, a driver with good experience may earn around $65,000 per year. Some truckers even earn as high as $85,000 per year, which shows just how good the pay is in this line of work.
You will also be expected to fulfill some basic duties as a truck driver. For instance, truckers are expected to keep their truck clean and in working condition, report any mechanical problems to their authorities and communicate with a dispatcher regarding any issues or incidents which might take place along the drive.
One thing that sometimes becomes an issue of bother to aspiring truckers is whether or not they will get enough rest between long trips across states. This should not be a problem, as companies often use two drivers, so that one may rest while the other drives. Generally there will be room in the back of the truck so that one driver may get some rest before taking over for the other driver and giving him or her the chance to get some rest as well.
In short, it is not only Politicians, Pilots and Surgeons – among others – who live a life overflowing with success and happiness. Being something as ‘simple and uninteresting’ as a truck driver can also lead to a healthy and wealthy lifestyle. You can start small, and work your way up the industry to make a name for yourself. Eventually you may have enough capital saved up to buy a truck of your own, and become an owner-operator. Keep working hard, and you will have enough savings to buy a second truck. Keep working harder, so that you can buy a third truck of your own. Eventually, you can start a new business of your own with your own fleet of trucks. This can be just one of many possible scenarios of how to become happy and successful in life by working in the trucking industry.
If you need an additional incentive to take up truck driving – global superstars such as Sean Connery, Liam Neeson, James Cameron and the King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley all used to be truckers! Who knows, maybe you can follow in the footsteps of these great men and move on to become a global icon yourself.