For the vast majority of people, beginning a new job is nerve-wracking, and rightfully so. Being thrown into a brand new career full of unknowns can be scary, and it’s easy to second guess yourself by becoming consumed by “could've/would've/should've" thoughts.
Could’ve attended a different school.
Would’ve gotten a more localized route.
Should’ve taken a job with a higher paying company.
Eventually, these thoughts begin to wear on you, and as a result, you start questioning yourself, your decisions, and your ability to succeed in the industry. The fear of failure is normal, but you should not let it hinder your success as a truck driver.
Over the last 19 years in the truck driving industry, I’ve learned a thing or two about how drivers can ensure success during their first truck driving jobs. Today, we're going to take a look at 4 key things to avoid in order to get the make the most our of your first truck driving job.
1. Choosing the Wrong Trucking School
First and foremost: choose the right school! This can’t be stressed enough as your new career starts at school. You should look for an accredited truck driving school that will provide you with the classroom knowledge and driving skills necessary to qualify for an entry level truck driving job. There are a lot of choices out there and you’ll find many schools claiming to offer free CDL training or promising you’ll have a CDL in just one week. Remember it’s about the school that is going to best prepare you for the job, not about the school that’s free or quick. Starting your career with the right training program opens the door to better job opportunities in the future.
2. Local Truck Driving Job Obsession
This is something I see every day among truck drivers. Don't allow yourself to obsess over getting a local job. Yes, there’s something to be said for having more home time, but most of the time you find you’re just limiting yourself by creating tunnel vision. The best local truck driving jobs are generally only available to drivers with a year or two of OTR experience under their belt. Truck driving is no different than any other profession in that you’re going to have to “pay your dues” when you’re first getting started.
Your first year as a truck driver is the most important. This is where you’ll get the experience you need and learn so many things about the industry. Be patient - with time you'll become an experienced driver capable of choosing your own career path, whether it be a local driving route, an office/management position, or an OTR job with increased mileage pay. Starting off, your best bet is going to be an entry-level OTR driving job. It may be difficult at first, but don't allow yourself to suffer from the common "grass is greener" syndrome that many drivers experience. Many people dream of local trucking jobs for ages, only to become disappointed when they realize they net less income because the demand for OTR drivers is higher and they simply aren’t getting the same opportunities.
3. Getting Caught Up On Company Pay Rate
Don't allow trucking companies claiming to offer a higher mileage pay to sway your decision. There is usually some type of trade off here when it comes to entry level positions. Many times, drivers are offered a higher pay but aren't given enough miles to make the increased wage worth it. A higher wage per mile is great, but if your truck isn’t moving it just doesn’t make sense. There’s something to be said about going to work for a company like PAM Transport. They’ve specialized in working with entry level drivers for over 20 years and have the management experience it takes to get drivers the miles they need to make good money. Big numbers can look great on the surface, but take the time to understand what it all means by thinking things through.
4. Missing Out On the Big Picture
I am not here to tell you that your first year as an OTR truck driver will be easy. But I am here to tell you that beyond your first year or so are new opportunities which can lead to higher pay, more localized routes, or increased home time. The trucking industry is like any other - you must first get your feet wet before a better opportunity will present itself. Keep in mind that beginning your first truck driving job is opening the door to a new career that will hopefully last for many years to come. While I’ve focused a lot on the first year in this article, the trucking industry is unlike others in that there is always going to be a need for drivers and there is always going to be opportunities. Remember, a lot of learning takes place when you’re first getting started. By understanding this and having realistic expectations, you will make sure you don’t miss out on the big picture – making this a career.
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