The movement of freight tonnage is the secret to the success of the American economy. Over 70% of all the tonnage moved across the United States goes on trucks. Without drivers and this industry, it would be impossible for families to have access to what they need every day.
Over 10.5 billion tons of freight goes across U.S. roads every year, with even more in Europe and the rest of the world. That means 3.6 million Class 8 heavy-duty trucks operate to serve this hauling needs. Each of those vehicles requires a driver to pick up goods and then deliver them to their intended destination.
The American Trucking Association expects an increase in tonnage of at least 25% in the United States by 2030. Indexes for the industry in 2019 surged nearly 7% higher than the year before for activities. If you are thinking about a new career or want to earn steady pay without much professional experience, then the pros and cons of being a truck driver are for you.
List of the Pros of Being a Truck Driver
1. Truck drivers typically earn a high salary right away.
The average starting pay for a truck driver with a CDL is $35,000 in the United States. That figure represents all routes and hauls that you might do. If you’re willing to drive across the country and only have weekends at home, you can earn double that amount in your first year. There are also opportunities to be owner-operators in the trucking industry that can also help you to earn a lot more.
It is one of the few industries today where you can earn a significant salary without even holding a high school diploma or a GED. Getting your CDL, keeping your driving record cleaning, and meeting your delivery deadlines will unlock your success.
2. There is a lot of job security in this industry.
Truck drivers are heavily in-demand right now. There is a worker shortage in the industry. That means you’re almost guaranteed to find a job if you earn your CDL. You’ll need to avoid illicit drugs and meet other personal conduct standards to maintain your position, but this job is one that you can enjoy for your entire career if you want. This market is secure even during times of recession, which means there is always a chance to bring home a paycheck. You can even invest in your own truck if you wish and call the open road your home if you prefer more of an independent lifestyle.
3. It doesn’t take much to get your CDL.
If you want to work as a truck driver, then you’ll need to know how to operate these vehicles. There are several different training programs available in the United States and around the world that will let you earn your CDL. The level of certification that you want to achieve will determine the final cost of your education in this area. Most programs cost between $3,000 to $7,000. Once you earn the license, you can begin working right away.
If you work for a company, there may be a program that lets you earn your CDL without cost in exchange for driving for the organization for a specific time period. Tri-County Training offers an 8-week course in Arizona to get licensed, and 90% of their graduates find work within two weeks of obtaining their credentials.
4. You get to earn the same benefits as most other workers.
Getting behind the wheel for an employer will get you plenty of benefits in addition to your salary. Like most full-time workers in the United States, that means you’ll qualify for medical insurance, dental, life, vision, and a retirement plan. Some agencies offer their drivers paid holidays and vacation time. It all depends on how you decide to structure your job and what type of hauling you want to do.
The benefits that you earn extend to your family, even if you are a new driver for most agencies. Because there is such a shortage of truck drivers in the United States, this advantage can begin on your first day of employment.
5. You will get paid to see some amazing things.
If you’re working as a truck driver, then you are going to be on the road full-time. You will become familiar with numerous cities across the country, getting to see lots of incredible things along the way. Even if you find that most of your time is on the highway, there is something about seeing the open road that creates a relaxing experience. You can speak with other drivers over the radio as well, which means the interstate gets to be your office.
This feeling of exploration is something that most jobs cannot offer. If you get stuck somewhere during a layover, then you have an even better chance to go look at stuff.
6. There is a lot of independence in the truck driving industry.
One of the primary benefits of being a truck driver is that you don’t have someone always looking over your shoulder. There are specific logs and reports you’ll need to track and file, but you get to be in control of what you do. Every job has expectations and deadlines, but the communication comes from miles away instead of sitting next to you in the cab. If you drive across the country, then your home is going with you the entire time. You’re the one planning routes, scheduling breaks, and controlling how your time gets used.
7. You can earn bonuses for taking certain routes.
Some truck drivers have the chance to earn bonuses when they decide to take specific loads that are not highly desired by others. There are opportunities to earn them for meeting specific distance ratings throughout the year. Some companies will provide extra money for loyalty to the company or for having an excellent safety record. This amount is in addition to your salary and whatever benefits you earn.
If you work in a team to create faster deliveries and meet other bonus goals, it is not unusual for an operator in their first five years to start clearing at least $100,000 annually in income. If you can balance the disadvantages that come with being on the road, then this job can provide you with an amazing experience.
8. You are making a difference in the lives of other people.
Truck drivers are sometimes written off by society because they embrace the wanderlust or live like a vagabond. If you take a look around at what people wear, the foods they eat, or the smartphones they stare into every day, those items got into their possession because of a delivery. It can be immensely satisfying to know that you’re playing such a critical role in today’s world. Don’t underestimate the satisfaction that you feel by downing that you’re making a difference. Most people don’t know who you are, but you know that you’re making their lives better by what you do.
9. You can use your CDL in other ways.
Having a CDL qualifies you to take on several different loads or driving options in the future. This flexibility is one of the best benefits that occur when you decide to pursue a career as a truck driver. Flatbed trucks are a popular option because the jobs tend to pay more, which means you will haul everything from sod to airplanes. Tanker trucks can carry hazardous materials. Reefer trailers will move refrigerated goods, while bull haulers are necessary for moving livestock.
You can even become an instructor or trainer with a CDL company based on your experiences on the road. If you decide that this line of work isn’t right for you after earning your license, then you can transition into delivery services for companies like UPS, FedEx, or even the U.S. Postal Service.
10. Driving a truck is easy on your body.
If your employment beats up your body on a daily basis, then you might want to consider becoming a truck driver. Sitting behind the wheel won’t leave you with the same aches and pains that construction work or other blue-collar jobs like to leave behind. It’s a chance to earn some money as a second career, and you can even lose weight or manage chronic conditions if you take care of yourself while you’re on the road.
11. You can embrace your love of driving.
If you enjoy getting behind the wheel, then being a truck driver is a natural career fit. Spending hours on the road is a day that some people love even with all of the challenges that come with such a position. There will always be risks with driving, but most trucks are the biggest vehicle on the road. If something happens, it’s usually going to be with the other guy.
List of the Cons of Being a Truck Driver
1. It can get lonely working as a truck driver.
You are going to spend long periods of time alone on the highway when you work as a truck driver. Even if you haul local loads only, you’re going to be on the road all day without much human contact. When you drive across the United States as part of your usual route, then there are periods when you might be spending more than 20 days in your vehicle before returning to your family.
Since there are a lot of things that you can see on the highway that will remind you of the people you love, the loneliness you experience in this career can be a significant disadvantage for some people.
2. There are high levels of stress that truck drivers must endure.
Stress is an inevitable component of the trucking industry. You face delays, deadlines, poor directions, and traffic constantly. Add in a couple of lazy consignees and some bad weather and you’ve got a recipe for a tremendous disadvantage. You are going to be dealing with people every day on the road. Some of them are not going to be the best drivers, but they will blame you for the problems they encounter. You can’t help how fast your truck can climb an incline, even if some people driving around you think that you’re a miracle worker.
3. Getting a good meal isn’t always easy.
When you work as a truck driver, then the meals you need aren’t as consistent as they ought to be. Your choices for food may be limited as well since your options tend to be restaurant fare or items picked up at a convenience store. Eating a sandwich at a rest stop is not the same experience as having a home-cooked meal. There are nutritional considerations that can become problematic for some people if they eat fast-food options as a way to meet their deadlines.
If you like to eat certain meals or struggle with a snacking habit, becoming a truck driver could be potentially dangerous to your health.
4. There is a lot of time spent away from home.
If you have a partner, spouse, or significant other in your life, then working as a truck driver means you won’t be seeing them regularly. Although some programs allow you to bring people with you, most professionals in this industry operate alone or with a co-driver. That’s why some of the most successful owner-operators are married couples since they can avoid this disadvantage.
The divorce rate in this industry is significantly higher than it is for many other careers. Most companies offer a 24-hour layover at home after spending 5-7 days on the road. Being home every weekend as a guarantee only means that they schedule you there before midnight Monday morning.
5. You must be exceptionally patient when driving.
If you are a self-starter who is independent and patient, then being a truck driver can be a successful experience. If you don’t have patience for delays, accidents, fueling needs, and problems at the dock, then this job is going to grind you down quickly. You’re only working when you’re on the road, so loading and unloading on the same day means putting in four hours of time where you get no compensation. Consignees and shippers will load you when it’s convenient for them, and there is much you can do about that issue.
6. Sleep can be a problem for some truck drivers.
There are several laws in the United States that govern where, how, and when you get to sleep during every 24-hour cycle of driving. Once you get behind the wheel, you’ll discover that some companies don’t follow those regulations by the book. Even when you do your best to follow the published guidelines, your work schedule and sleep patterns are almost always guaranteed to change. There will be days when you must rest when you don’t feel tired. You might need to drive when you are tired. These issues may be outside of your control in some circumstances. You’ll just need to be adaptable.
7. You are dealing with weather events on a regular basis.
If you decide to take a long haul route regularly, then you will face a bevy of different weather conditions. You might find yourself in a tropical heatwave one day and be on snow-packed roads the next. There are some truck drivers who struggle to adapt to rapid environmental changes. Allergies can be a significant problem with the climate differences you encounter as well. Getting behind the wheel might mean that you can to see a lot of new faces and places, but it also creates problems for your body.
8. Personal hygiene can be a problem as a truck driver.
The need to get from Point A to Point B by a specific time leads to the development of some habits that a lot of people find to be disgusting. Many truck drivers use bottles for their urine so that they don’t need to stop for the bathroom, which means stops often smell terrible as everyone throws their waste away. Showers for drivers can be hit-and-miss in their cleanliness. The bathrooms that you encounter can be even worse. If you do decide to get behind the wheel, then you’ll want to invest in a good pair of flip-flops to wear when you’re trying to get clean.
When examining the pros and cons of being a truck driver, it is clear that some people are ready for life on the road. There are others who can adapt to it because it’s their best option to earn some money. It all depends on who you are and what you expect out of life.
The open road can be a place where you can clear your head and think. If you love driving, then this job is an opportunity to bring a lot of happiness into your life.
It can also be a place that seems lonely and difficult. If these key points make it seem like earning a CDL is the right move to make, then there is no better time than now to start looking for a licensing program in your area.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.