As you reach your final days in training, you’ll soon become a trucker. However, even after your training program concludes, there’s still more to learn. You still have to pass your commercial driver’s license (CDL) exam and sign on with a company. As your trucking career progresses, you’ll have many opportunities for advancement by pursuing endorsements. Knowing what lies ahead will help you prepare for the future and ensure you have a long career as a truck driver.
What Happens After Your CDL Training?
Pass the CDL Exam
Once you complete your training, you’ll have to pass the Ohio CDL written exam.
The written general knowledge exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. If you get more than 10 wrong, you’ll fail the exam and have to take it again on another day.
Your CDL program will have you prepared for this exam, but you should always study Ohio’s CDL test manual beforehand.
Potential truck drivers will also have to pass a skills test that proves your ability to operate your rig. The test includes a pre-trip inspection that includes the engine, fuel tank, battery, and the coupling system, according to truckingtruth.com. The trailer will also be inspected, along with its lights and reflectors.
You’ll inspect the inside of the cab, ensuring that the seat belt is latched and secured properly. Your truck’s emergency equipment must be checked. This includes the fire extinguisher, the three red reflective triangles (and their location), along with the spare electrical fuses (and their location).
The air brake also factors into the test. If working properly, the brake won’t leak air or lose pressure. It will also alert you if air pressure drops too low.
During the test, an instructor will apply pressure to the brake. They'll test the warning light, buzzer, and the protection valve.
After the inspection, you’ll take a maneuverability and road test to prove you know how to handle your rig.
According to the Ohio BMV, the pre-trip inspection will take 30 minutes and the maneuverability test will take up to 40 minutes.
Sign With a Company
Once you pass the written and road tests, you’re free to sign up with a trucking company and begin your new career as a truck driver.
Driving schools provide job placement, making signing with a company much easier. However, before you decide on a company, there are factors you should consider. Different companies offer different benefits, including salary, tuition reimbursement, and opportunities for growth.
Since the trucking industry is experiencing a shortage, more companies are offering more benefits. Depending on the company, you might be offered a signing bonus or a new rig, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATAs). In some cases, they’ll even offer better routes. This could mean the opportunity to make more money on long trips or be home more often with your family.
Receive Company Training
Learning doesn’t end once your CDL program is over. Before you’re out on the road, your new company will have you take an advanced training course to help you adapt to their method of operating. This includes their policies and procedures, along with how you’re supposed to represent the company while you’re on the road.
They’ll introduce you to new driving techniques. They'll likely give you an employee handbook that will provide details about what it’s like working for the company. The book will also detail your duties and how to go about accomplishing them.
You’ll learn more about the company through the handbook. They’ll explain their benefits and what to expect from them as your employer.
Part of the company training involves learning to drive defensively. You already learned how to do it during driving school, but the company will give you advanced direction and improve your skills, so you’re ready for other drivers on the road.
You’ll Drive with a Trainer
Part of the company’s training is to send you out on the road alongside a seasoned driver. Being told how life on the road is and experiencing it for yourself are two different things.
The trainer will show you how the company receives and makes deliveries, along with how truck drivers adapt to being on the road.
You’ll Start Solo Driving
When your training is complete, you’ll drive on your own. Most new drivers begin as long-distance over-the-road (OTR) drivers, as reported by gda.edu. These routes usually take you across the country for weeks at a time. After approximately a year, you can change from OTR trucking to regional or local routes.
Due to trucking’s opportunities for growth, you can also take advantage of its many career advancement prospects.
What Can You Do as Your Trucking Career Progresses?
You’ll Establish New Patterns
Since trucking is a unique career path, you’ll have to make changes to your normal day-to-day schedule, including:
- Logging Hours: The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates how many hours you can drive per shift. This keeps drivers rested, alert, and safe while on the road. As reported by The Balance, truck drivers are allowed to be on duty for 14 hours but can only spend 11 of those hours driving. By the eighth hour of your shift, you must take a 30-minute break.
- Staying Fit: You can use your half-hour breaks to stay fit. While you passed a DOT physical in order to get your CDL, ustruck.com reports that truck drivers must retake the physical every two years to maintain their license. Preparing healthy meals before going out on your route will help. While on the road, choose fruits as snacks instead of candy bars. While you may not always be close to a gym, there are apps and fitness programs that can keep you healthy while you’re on the road. Kettlebells and folding bicycles can easily fit in your rig, and the popular HIIT workout regimen takes only 12 minutes to complete.
- Keeping in Touch With Family: Modern technology has made the road less lonely. With a hands-free device, you can call them on your cellphone. While you’re on a break, you can use apps like Skype®, FaceTime®, WhatsApp®, and Messenger® to talk with them face to face. Modern rigs are also more spacious than before, allowing you to bring family members along as passengers.
Obtaining endorsements makes you a more appealing truck driver. They require some extra training and testing but increase both your opportunities and your earning capability. These are the most lucrative endorsements, according to CDL.com and ZipRecruiter.com.
1. Hazmat (Type H)
With a standard CDL, you’ll transport a variety of retail goods and materials, but not liquids. To transport hazardous materials, including flammable liquids, you’ll need a Type H endorsement. In Ohio, hazmat drivers make approximately $53,687.
2. Tanker (Type N)
Type N endorsements will allow you to transport liquids and gases. Tanker drivers, on average, earn $70,000.
Many drivers choose to pursue both Type H and Type N endorsements considering their similarities and the increasing number of jobs you can take on. If you decide to pursue both at the same time, you’ll receive a Type X endorsement.
3. Trailer (Type T)
Heavier loads require two or three trailers to transport safely. Transporting oversized loads makes you eligible for specialized jobs while also increasing your earning potential. You can earn between $50,000 and $90,000 each year.
Take CDL Refresher Courses
Trucking regulations will change as time goes on. In the last few years, they’ve made changes to drug testing and modernized the industry with electronic logging devices (ELDs). A refresher course can help you understand how these devices work and let you keep up with the changes in the field.
After your first year as an OTR driver, you may decide to switch to regional or local trucking routes. Rather than the highway, you’ll be driving on more streets, requiring more shifting and backing up.
By taking a CDL refresher course, you’ll practice shifting and reversing, allowing you to remain safe on the road.
Since 1980, Hamrick School has prepared potential truck drivers by providing both classroom and road experience. Their dedicated instructors teach in small classes, so you get the attention you need. Once you graduate, they’ll also help you find your first trucking job. If you’re in the area of Medina, OH, reach out to them at (330) 239-2229 for their 2020 schedule of day and night classes. For more information about their financial aid and services for veterans, visit their website.
- OH Reg. #2057
- ODPS License #1439-2369