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. You may not have wanted to ask these questions for fear of sounding TOO new, but there’s nothing wrong with being prepared. 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: From 3 weeks to about 3 months. For more, 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: Bls.gov states that the bottom ten percent of truck drivers earned $29,130 in 2019. Usually, those in the lower percentiles are newer drivers, but because drivers are typically paid by the mile, it can also mean those tallied chose to drive less. The average annual pay for professional drivers in 2019 was $46,850. The highest 10 percent earned more than $66,840. An entry level position should pay somewhere between the low and average 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 entry level pay, but that’s OK! 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’d hoped. Once you have one year of experience under your belt, your earnings will 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 long hours. At the end of the day, the more you drive, the more you earn.
TIP: The majority of drivers are paid by the mile, so just think of each dotted white line as a dollar sign.
Q: What is it really like to sleep in a semi truck sleeper?
A: Driving can be an exhausting endeavor. 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 pretty 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—or better yet, your home.
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 line to grab 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, in case you want to take a waterless "shower" in your cabin.
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—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. Some 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. Don’t text and drive, don’t laptop and drive, don’t be distracted and drive. Most truck stops have Wi-Fi, but it’s either expensive or you have to be inside the store to use it, so find a way to use your phone as a hotspot to use the internet. Bring a few books, a few magazines, or any other offline source of entertainment to unplug and have something to do.
TIP: Download a few movies to your laptop before you leave home. Also, upload a few audiobooks to stay entertained and informed 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. Every single one. 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 really 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 the loading/unloading routine. 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 the 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:
- Your expenses, such as insurance, fuel, repairs, tires, tolls, license renewals, etc., are on you. Permanently.
- You must understand the business and be very precise with your bookkeeping, expense tracking, maintenance, and planning ahead for all things possible.
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 and hidden loopholes that require special skills and knowledge.
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