Entry-Level Truck Driver Questions and Answers
We’ve connected thousands of aspiring truck drivers with CDL schools and current drivers with truck driving jobs, so we’ve heard most of the questions that a newbie might ask. Since we believe you can never be too prepared, we decided to compile some of the most frequently asked questions in this article.
Here are some of the most common entry-level trucker questions we’ve heard, from a trucker’s finances, to nutrition and comfort on the road.
Q: How long does CDL-A training take?
A: You can be career-ready anywhere between 3 weeks to about 3 months. For more in-depth information read How Long Does Truck Driver Training Take?
Q: How much can a truck driver expect to earn in his or her first year?
A: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2022, the lowest ten percent of truck drivers (which can generally be interpreted as entry-level drivers) earned an average pay of $35,300. Although this figure may refer to newer drivers, because drivers are typically paid by the mile, it can also mean those tallied drove less. The average annual pay for professional drivers in 2022 was $53,090. An entry-level position should pay somewhere between the lower and average annual rates.
For more about what you can make as you gain experience, read about the Highest Paying Truck Driving Jobs.
TIP: It’s important to remember that in your first year, your income will reflect closer to entry-level pay, but that’s okay! Think of it as your foundation — your time to learn, adapt, and gain accident-free miles and experience. Most seasoned drivers recommend sticking with one company for your first year even if your income is less than you would have expected. Once you have one year of experience under your belt, your earnings tend to increase significantly.
Q: How many hours a week can you expect to drive?
A: An entry-level driver can expect to work 40+ hours per week. Some experienced drivers recommend planning for a 70-hour work week. While a 70-hour week is unlikely for everyone, it’s still good to be mentally prepared for the long hours. At the end of the day, the more you drive, the more you earn.
TIP: Remember, the majority of drivers are paid by the mile, so driving longer (within FMCSA guidelines, of course) can lead to higer pay.
Q: What is it really like to sleep in a semi-truck sleeper?
A: Driving can be tiring. Usually, by the end of a long day, you’ll be ready to fall asleep regardless of your surroundings. Sleepers in a semi truck are rather comfortable, but it never hurts to purchase earplugs, a good pillow, and even a mattress topper to make your home away from home as comfortable and familiar as possible.
TIP: Try to avoid parking next to refrigerated trailers and livestock haulers during your overnight truck stop stays — these tend to be either somewhat noisy or smelly.
Q: Do you have to take the truck home with you?
A: Some companies allow their employees to take the truck home. If you are located close to the company’s terminal and have no parking available by your house, you’ll most likely have the option to park the truck at work.
TIP: Whether or not you park your truck at the terminal, always keep your truck as clean as possible, even if you share it with someone else. Treat it as your office.
Q: What about personal hygiene for truck drivers?
A: Most truck stops provide free showers when you buy fuel, and you should take advantage of that perk. Otherwise, most truck stops charge an average of $15 to use a shower. Showers are cleaned between uses, and the rooms are rather accommodating. Once you’ve reserved a shower (sometimes there’ll be a wait for one), you’ll be assigned a number. When it’s your turn, your number will be announced. Meanwhile, you can grab a bite, stock up on beverages, or even wash your laundry.
TIP: It’s always a good idea to have a traveling kit with all of your toiletries and wet wipes.
Q: What are good food and snack choices for a truck driver?
A: OTR truck drivers often struggle with maintaining a healthy diet. It’s tempting to grab a quick bite at a truck stop diner or fast food restaurant, but these quick-fix solutions usually lead to weight gain, health issues, and not to mention, a slimmer wallet.
The good news is that many OTR trucks are equipped with a mini fridge and a microwave to give you more options. Some drivers choose to pre-cook their meals at home and bring enough food for at least a week. Some travel with a crockpot and cook while on the road. Others shop at the local supermarkets along the way and get creative.
It’s always a smart idea to keep some non-perishables in your truck, such as canned soup, meat, veggies, and any other canned goods that have a long shelf life. Stock up on oatmeal, healthy cereal, and nutritious granola bars to enjoy in the morning.
Also, make sure to always have enough plates and silverware, along with a cutting board, a knife, napkins, salt, pepper, and other useful condiments in your vehicle.
Use your 30-minute break to fuel not just your truck, but also your body. Make sure to bring healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, berries, etc. to eat between meals. The longer you drive, the easier it becomes to plan ahead. Read: How To Eat Healthy As A Truck Driver
TIP: Don’t get hooked on energy drinks and soda as you start driving. It’s a money pit that comes with empty calories and tons of sugar. Get a medium-sized cooler, position it close to your seat, and fill it with flavored sparkling water or bottled water. Many drivers use flavored infusers, such as powder or concentrate, to add vitamins and flavor to their beverages. Give it a try!
Q: Would I be able to take my laptop and other devices with me?
A: Yes, you can take your devices with you, but be sure to follow all the rules of the road. Always avoid distracted driving. Most truck stops have Wi-Fi, but it can be expensive or you may have to be inside the store to use it. We recommend finding a way to use your phone as a hotspot to use the internet. Also, offline entertainment is another great option. You can bring a few books, magazines, or anything else that helps you unplug and have something to do.
TIP: Download a few movies to your laptop before you leave home. Or, upload a few audiobooks to stay entertained and keep your mind sharp as you drive.
Q: If you drive for a carrier, do you pay for diesel and repairs?
A: No. Trucking companies provide fuel and cover repair expenses for the company drivers. It is, however, a different story if you work for a company as an owner-operator — in that case, you’re considered a contractor, and you’ll be expected to pay for your fuel and repairs.
TIP: Save every receipt on the road. Not only will it come handy with your tax returns, but it is also very helpful with keeping track of your expenses and budget planning.
Q: Is the driver responsible for unloading the load of goods?
A: It depends on the company, type of freight, trailer, and other variables.
It’s generally a good idea to look for “No-Touch Freight” in any job description if you’re not willing to deal with loading and unloading your trailer. Aside from that, you can always double-check with your recruiter before taking the job.
You will always be responsible for physical activities such as opening and closing your trailer doors, sliding tandems, and hooking up to and dropping trailers.
Search CDL Job Now for truck driver job listings near you.
TIP: If you do unload your trailer, always make sure that the truck is parked on a level surface and the engine is off.
Q: Is working toward owning a truck a good idea?
A: If you want to be your own boss as an owner-operator, or lay the groundwork to start your own company, then yes. However, you have to take a few things into account before you make your decision:
- Your expenses, such as insurance, fuel, repairs, tires, tolls, license renewals, etc., are your responsibility.
- You must also understand business, and be very precise with your bookkeeping, expense tracking, maintenance, and planning ahead. You will be responsible for finding your own freight to haul to keep yourself in business.
TIP: If you become an owner-operator, consider hiring a bookkeeper who specializes in trucking. When it comes to taxes, the trucking industry has its own nuances that require specialized skills and knowledge.
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