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Doing Your Homework

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Many people are looking to trucking in today’s economy to find work. Some are trying to realize a life-long dream of the ‘freedom of the road’; some just have no other options. Before making your final decision to enter the trucking industry, you have to do some serious homework.
Starting at the beginning

First you have to get beyond the image trucking has; it is not Smoky and the Bandit or Moving On. Learn as much about the industry and lifestyle as you can by reading trade publications, join groups online and talk to other drivers then sift thru the information to see if you will fit into trucking.

If you have small children, you have to recognize that for the first year or so, you may not be home often and will miss important things like birthdays and school activities. If you are a single parent, who will take care of the kids while you are gone. If you are
married, is your spouse prepared to live a long distance relationship. There are some areas of truck driving that may hire students to keep you local...these are local deliveries,
cement/construction etc. Most though will require at least one year of experience.

Look at yourself objectively and honestly. Realize that if you have a bad driving record, you most likely will not be able to be hired until it clears up. If you have criminal conviction issues, especially recent ones, finding a company to take a chance on you will
be harder, if possible at all. If you do any sort of controlled medication, you may not qualify to be a trucker. If you do any sort of illegal drugs, you will not be able to be hired or will be found out rather quickly.

Do you like to travel and can you deal with heavy traffic and/or bad road conditions? Can you stand long periods away from family and friends? Can you deal with stress? Can you handle being told when to be somewhere and how to get there? Can you read a map and follow directions? Do you work well with various types of people? Can you handle responsibility? Are you detail orientated? If the answer to any of the above questions is no, then you may not be able to handle being a trucker.

Second step...

Check your finances. You will have to decide if you want to pay your own tuition, which is what I advise, or have a company pay your tuition. Community college programs in your state of residency are some times cheaper than any other way to go. You will also need food money for the length of the school and money to carry you and your family, if you have one, through the first 4 to 6 months until you start drawing a regular driver's wage and learn the ropes.

Check training companies. Find companies that hire students that have terminals closest to where you live. Finding a company that is near your home makes getting home easier.
Call them up and talk to them yourself. Find out what their training program consists
of...starting pay while training and after. If you have tickets on your record or any convictions talk to them about them to make sure that it is not an issue. Ask them from what schools they hire.
Many sites have a list of questions to ask prospective companies.
Finding your school...

If the training company you have chosen has a list of schools they recommend or hire from, call them and talk to them. Again, if you find one closer to your home, it will make it easier both for you to get there and home again if it doesn’t work out or after the course is done.
Find the school with the longest training period you can...usually the longer the course, the more behind the wheel learning time you will get. If you are paying for it yourself, the school should be able to guide you to funding sources if you need it. Do not forget to check with your state agencies if you are unemployed, that there may be retraining funds available. In addition, if you are a military veteran, there may be money available for your training.

If someone tells you that a company has pre-hired you, call that company and verify it before you get started at the school. Read carefully anything that you sign, even to the point of having a lawyer go over it if there is something you do not understand...a
contract is a contract.
Trucking is not for everyone and it is much better to realize that before you jump into it than after. Learning about what the job really entails takes a little time, but like marriage if you do it in haste you will repent in leisure. Take the time to do your homework and make an educated decision if trucking is right for you.
Ya’ll be safe!

By Sandy Long

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