Making a career switch to a CDL truck driver isn’t a quick process, because it requires specialized training. But at a time when qualified CDL drivers are in high demand, this is a great time to think about getting into the industry.
1) Know the minimum truck driver hiring requirements
After you’ve researched truck driving school (but before you commit to one), make sure the amount you’ll pay for a program is in line with the driving positions that will be available to you upon graduation.
Many trucking companies have higher standards for their drivers than just having a CDL. Many firms will not hire drivers who are less than 22 years old. It’s also common for trucking companies to only hire drivers who have at least two years (or even more) of verifiable driving experience. Other companies require annual physical examinations.
Before you make your final decision about which driving school to choose, consider how quickly you’ll be able to find a job after graduation. This will help you decide how much student debt you’re able to take on while you earn your CDL.
2) Find a truck driving school
Finding the right CDL driving school is the biggest step toward making a career change into the industry. Here are the top tips for choosing a driving school:
- Choose a school with accreditation.
- Inquire about graduation rates and alumni salaries.
- Find out how many hours of behind-the-wheel training you’ll get.
- Look for a program that will teach both automatic and manual transmission driving.
3) Research how to pay for truck driving school
One way to finance truck driving school is through a paid CDL training program. Another is to take advantage of financial aid.
Some trucking companies offer students paid CDL training in exchange for working for the company upon completion of driving school. But before you sign up for paid CDL training, make sure you carefully read and understand what your contractual obligations will be once you graduate.
Financial aid is also available to CDL driving students. Aid may be in the form of scholarships, private or federal grants, or VA Education Benefits.
4) Get advice from experienced drivers
While you’re earning your CDL, seek out advice from drivers who have a lot of experience in the industry. They’ll be able to give you tips on what to do and what not to do while job hunting. They’ll also be able to provide insight on skills that hiring managers are looking for (above and beyond just having a CDL).
A Google search will help you find the dozens of message boards and social media pages dedicated to truck drivers. You can also connect by visiting truck stops and talking with experienced drivers in person.
5) Prepare for trucking job interviews
Whether you’re a recent graduate of a CDL driving school or an experienced truck driver, having a professional resume will give you the best chance of landing a job.
(Check out Spec On The Job’s resume guide for truck driving and other logistics-industry jobs.)
Because of stringent DOT and FMCSA requirements, you will need to provide hiring managers with paperwork to prove that you meet the company’s driver requirements.
Before you attend any job interview, bring the following with you:
- A copy of your CDL
- Official copies of your birth certificate, social security card, and truck driving school certificate
- A copy of your MVR
- A copy of your most recent DOT physical
Also go online and research questions an interviewer is likely to ask, such as, “Tell me why you want to work here.” You should also be ready to answer questions about driver logs, violations, and safety.
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