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Let us be the first to say congratulations on obtaining your CDL license and your first truck driving job. Driving an 18-wheeler can be a great way to see the country while making some decent money. It can also be a little intimidating the first time you climb behind the wheel by yourself. What should you expect in in your first year of truck driving?
Truck driving is one of the most demanding jobs in the world, namely because of the schedule. You will likely be away from home for anywhere from two to three weeks at a time, making deliveries nearly anywhere in the country. It will take some time to get used to your schedule, to sleeping in your truck’s cabin on your downtime, and to being away from home for so long. Give yourself a break if it takes a while for you to get used to it.
One of the hardest things to learn as a new truck driver is your routes and how to keep to your delivery schedule. We get it – sometimes a car accident or bad traffic can slow you down, but it’s up to you to make sure you get your cargo to its destination as close to your delivery window as possible.
There’s a reason it’s called a delivery window though – everyone knows that traffic can be fickle – but there’s a huge difference between showing up 20 minutes late and showing up 6 hours late, and that difference can cost both you and the company money.
Nearly every destination that you deliver to is going to be a little different. You might have tricky parking lots to navigate, locations to find that are well off the beaten path, or destinations that have higher security that you have to deal with. This often happens for companies that are hauling hazmat cargo or locations that are receiving lots of deliveries of high ticket items. It may take some time to learn the ins and outs of each delivery location, so expect to be a little slow in the beginning.
Things doing always go the way that they’re supposed to, even in trucking. It’s a great job to learn how to roll with the punches. If your truck breaks down, chances are the company will put you up in a hotel room while they repair it. If a customer makes you wait a long time to get loaded up, take the time to enjoy some extra sleep. When you’re hauling 80,000 pounds of cargo, a little hiccup can quickly become a big one, so you just learn to roll with the punches and take things as they come.
One thing that brings a lot of people to trucking is the paycheck – for good reason. Depending on the company, you can expect to make between $35,000 and $40,000 a year as a first-year driver. The pay will increase gradually as you gain more experience and more miles, but for a first-year driver, that’s not too shabby at all. Many companies even offer tuition reimbursement to help you repay any loans that you may have taken out to go to school to get your CDL.
Many veteran truck drivers believe that their first year behind the wheel was probably their hardest but if you can make it through your first year as a truck driver, you’re setting yourself up for a long and lucrative career.