What It’s Like to Drive a Commercial Truck

tractor trailer on the interstate

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If you drive a commercial truck for a living, you know the ins and outs of the cultural niche America has carved out for trucking kind. While shows like “Ice Road Truckers” and other reality programming have in some ways helped to illustrate the virtues of this rough-and-tumble profession, what makes its way to TV isn’t always an exact model of what you expect if you’re new to the job.

The life of a commercial truck driver is relentless and fraught with challenges. While some rare jobs offer drivers the prospect of returning home to see family every evening, your typical “long-haul” trucker can be on the road for weeks at a time, moving between truck stops as they link together different jobs that are available.

Becoming Breaker 1-9

If you’ve ever looked at a semi and thought to yourself, “That looks hard to drive,” you were right. Despite unfair stigmas that exist about truck drivers being unintelligent, it takes more than a little brain power to operate a full-sized rig and carry out the various tasks that are required to get the job done.

Just getting rolling requires a commercial-class driver’s license, which means spending between three and five thousand dollars to learn how to operate a truck. In addition, you’ll need to know how to calculate your cost-per-mile correctly, keep logs of your drive time and monitor important metrics about your performance.

As a first-year trucker, you can expect to receive some of the toughest or most remote jobs. You’ll quickly become familiar with the lay of the country, and with different perks or downsides of work available. For example, some employers pay by “practical miles” (recorded on the odometer), while others pay by “paid miles,” which is more like drawing a straight line on the map.

Life in the Driver’s Seat

Days in the trucking world are long, and weeks can often entail over 70 hours of work. If you’re not a morning person, this probably isn’t the job for you. Getting up early to rendezvous with a client or hit the road in time to reach a far-off destination is part of what’s involved, and that’s assuming nothing goes wrong.

A tough day in the trucking world can be a real nightmare — just ask trucker JakeCat22. His battles have included, but are not limited to, running late for a drop-off appointment, suffering from mechanical issues with his truck, fighting for parking, driving long hours without meals and waiting half a day for repairs to finish, to the point where he has to sleep in the cab outside the repair shop.

So it’s not all unicorns and butterflies.

First-time truckers can make as little as $35,000 a year, but if you’re good and you stick with it, you might be able to go into a specialized corner of the trucking industry or train new drivers for a higher wage.

Could You Drive a Commerical Truck?

As one of the last blue-collar jobs around that doesn’t require a degree, being a truck driver is an important, if misunderstood, profession. Every day, the nation relies on the hard work of the unsung heroes at the wheel, but we rarely stop to think about just what that life is like.

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