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Helping you succeed as a professional truck driver.

TRUCKING: A LUCRATIVE CAREER

Oct 16, 2017

Most people have wondered what it’s like to be a trucker, especially a long-haul trucker regularly crossing the country. Considering the long hours, the varying conditions, the difficulties of traffic, and the pressure of keeping to schedule, it sometimes seems difficult that people engage in the work.

Yet trucking is a strong, viable career. Over 3.5 million people make their living driving trucks, and approximately 8.7 million make a living in the industry. And the country has a shortage of truckers, even in an atmosphere in which a great deal of growth is expected in the next few years. This shortage will continue to support high pay for truckers, especially those who are trained for their CDL at a quality school, in Washington state or wherever they’re from.

Trucking is also an excellent gateway to the middle class for people who don’t have a college degree. The opportunities in this industry are strong in 2017 and will remain strong for the next few decades.

The Basics

The gateway to trucking is obtaining your Commercial Driver’s License (the CDL). For the most flexibility as a trucker in Washington State, you will want to consider getting a Class A CDL—which will allow you to drive almost all vehicles. You can add selected endorsements, including the following—
  • T—you can drive double- or triple-trailers.
  • N—you can drive tank trucks.
  • H—you can drive trucks carrying hazardous materials, provided you pass a Federal background check.
  • X—you can drive both tank trucks and carry hazardous material.
Your CLD training school in Washington State should provide you will all the training you need to pass all the written and road tests the state requires. Most CDL courses last for four-five weeks, combining some classroom time and a lot of behind the wheel time. New truckers, as can be expected, receive lower salaries than more experienced truckers. Many companies do take on new truckers, but your first year should be regarded as a training year. Starting salaries run from $30 – $45,000 per year, however, which for a person with little experience is a strong start.

Advancing in Your Career

The key to getting more and better work is demonstrating your skill and reliability. Make sure that you deliver safely and on-time, and you will advance in salary. Be aware of the several ways to make money in the industry

Regional and local truckers generally get paid by the hour. As part of these jobs, you will probably be closely involved in the loading and unloading, so know what you can handle physically. Regional jobs, which allow you more time at home, generally go to more experienced drivers.

Most trucking positions are paid by the mile, although the miles paid don’t necessarily reflect the miles driven. The companies determine the shortest legal route from origin to destination. That determination may or may not include any construction detours, and it certain does not account for the driver taking an alternate route because of accidents.

Drivers can earn additional pay in several ways. Most companies have sign-on bonuses. Many will also provide breakdown pay for when the truck breaks down, or detention pay for when the trucker is waiting for the truck to be loaded or unloaded.

Some carriers will pay extra for driving in New York City, or for demonstrating fuel-efficient driving. Driving in Canada can be a source of extra pay, as well as helping with unloading. Truckers can find ways to get ahead as they build their careers.

Making the Most of It

Truckers based in Washington state generally earn more than the national average. Given the shipping needs from Washington, this is not surprising. Having a hazmat or tank driving endorsement on your CDL can add up to $10,000 to your salary.

With experience, you may be able to find a job with some of the gold standard trucking companies. Walmart, for example, pays an average annual salary of around $80,000, while UPS and Fed-Ex freight are not far behind. These jobs may be hard-to-come by, but if you demonstrate your ability, safety, and reliability, you will be able to find one soon enough.

 

Owner/Operator

Becoming an owner/operator may give you the opportunity to make the most money in trucking. While being an OO is not for everyone—because you’re running your own business, not just driving—for the entrepreneurial type it can be the way to becoming comfortable.
One key decision to make in becoming an OO is the decision to lease with a carrier or to operate under your own authority. Leasing with a carrier is a bit safer, because the company then finds you the loads, and many will cover costs including fuel, repairs, and insurance.

Obtaining your own authority provides you with independence, but also requires you to do the work of finding loads. You also bear all the expenses yourself. That said, OOs operating under their own authority find that they can make up to $3 per mile. As you develop in your driving career, thinking about the possibility of being an OO should be the back of your mind.

 

Your Trucking Career

Your trucking career starts when you train for your CDL at a trucking school in Washington State. While the initial expense may be scary, you will soon realize that the expense is worth it. The outlook in Washington state is strong for the next few years.

As we’ve discussed, trucking provides access to excellent salaries, early in your career, and the benefits only grow as you develop experience.Trucking is the career for you!