Life of a Truck Driver: What to Expect from a Career on the Road
If you’ve ever driven on any interstate across America, you’ve undoubtedly seen your fair share of semi-trucks on the road. While these massive trucks might seem intimidating, they play an integral role in our economy and lives, hauling food, clothing, electronics, life-saving medicine and everything in between. You may see these big rigs and wonder about the life of a truck driver, or maybe you’ve considered becoming a professional driver. There is much more to this career than meets the eye, read on to see what truck driver jobs are really like.
What it’s like to be a Truck Driver
CDL license classes are broken into three classes: A, B and C. A CDL Class A license is what you need to drive tractor-trailers, tankers, livestock carriers and flatbeds. CDL Class B licenses are required to operate vehicles like straight trucks, city buses, tourist buses, school buses and dump trucks. A Class C license is required to drive double/triple trailers, buses and HazMat vehicles. Learn more about getting your CDL license on page about how long it takes to get a CDL.
On average, CDL A truckers drive about 500 miles per day, with team drivers covering up to 1,000. The experience of driving a truck for a living is also different depending on what kind of truck driver you are. For example, long haul over the road drivers are on the road for days or weeks at a time, dedicated drivers have a set schedule and lanes with a specific customer, and local drivers only work within the limits of a certain area. Additionally, there are varying types of freight that require different equipment such as dry van, temperature controlled, flat bed/heavy haul, intermodal container and more. A trucking career is great for people who don’t want a typical “nine to five” job and there’s almost certainly schedules and positions to suite everyone’s preferences in the trucking industry.
When you start a truck driving career, there will be a lot of scheduling options available to you. If you work for a company that has consistent dedicated routes, you’ll have the advantage of a regular schedule with the same days off every week. For example, ITS has a variety of original equipment manufacturing companies as customers, and the drivers who work on these accounts have very consistent, nightly delivery schedules. We also have some team drivers who are on the road from Monday – Friday and have weekends off, OTR drivers with consistent schedules, and local drivers who are home every night. There are a variety of scheduling options depending on the lane you work and whether it is dedicated business or not.
Time on the Road
The hours and time drivers spend on the road is heavily regulated by the Department of Transportation and the federal hours of service regulations. Drivers may be on duty for up to 14 hours with 11 hours of driving time, following 10 hours off duty. Additionally, they may work no more than 60 hours on duty over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight days. After this has been met, drivers must take a mandatory 34 hours off. Sometimes this is taken on the road, but a lot of companies, including ITS, make a concerted effort to get drivers back to their homes and families for these 34-hour breaks.
Driver pay differs between trucking companies, but there are common ways that this can be calculated. Many drivers are paid by the mile (cents per mile). For example, a company might pay drivers $.53 per mile. Some companies also pay an hourly rate when you are stuck in traffic or additional money for putting chains on when driving in inclement weather, as well as bonuses for fuel efficiency or safe driving. Most of the time, local or casual drivers are paid by the hour. With the recent truck driver shortage, some companies are exploring hourly, salary and daily flat pay options for all drivers. In order to avoid any surprises, make sure to ask how your pay will be calculated prior to accepting a trucking job.
Life as a Trucker on the Road
Life as a truck driver on the road really depends on several different factors, including those listed above. If you really want to know what your schedule could look like, here’s an example of what a day in the life of a trucker could be.
Starting the Day
For truck drivers, a typical day can start anywhere from 7 in the morning to 7 at night, and sometimes even at 2 in the morning. Regardless, at the beginning of your shift, you’ll interface with dispatch, pick up your load, and do a pre-trip inspection of your truck and trailer before getting underway. Planning ahead is key, as you are allowed to be on duty for 14 hours a day and only 11 of them can be spent driving.
The average trucker drives at least 500 miles a day, so it’s important to take a few breaks. In the middle of your day, or your lunch break (depending on the time of day), it’s good to take an hour break. During this time, you can grab a bite to eat, take a walk, get a quick workout in, or chat with your friends or family back home. There are plenty of restaurants on the road but if you plan ahead, you can bring healthy snacks and meals from home. Check in to ensure your load is still secure before getting back on the road.
Finishing a Shift
If you’re not delivering the load to its destination today, at the end of your 13-hour shift, you’ll need to find a truck stop or hotel to stay the night. Do your post-trip inspection, take a shower and have a meal. Most truck stops have free Wi-Fi so you can hang out in the bed of your sleeper cab, watch your favorite movie or TV show and catch some much-deserved rest.
Does the Lifestyle of a Truck Driver Appeal to You? Apply to be an ITS Logistics CDL Driver
We are always looking for qualified CDL A drivers to join the ITS team. We offer our drivers competitive benefits, a 401k options with company match, national healthcare coverage, generous home time, paid holidays, paid time off, and most importantly—respect. At ITS, you’re more than just a number, you’re part of our family.
Currently we have terminals in Nevada, Southern California and Arizona, but we hire for lanes across the country. Take a look at our jobs page to see our current openings and join our team today!