Once you earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL), you have the key to a career on the road. However, getting hired at top trucking companies can be challenging, so we conducted an interview with some of the coveted companies to work for in trucking in order to give you the insider’s tips.
The trucking industry is growing in line with the economy and expected to add up to 100,000 jobs in the coming decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you have the necessary qualifications to join the industry, there is sure to be a job appeal to your temperament and circumstances.
- 1 Trucking Employers that Shared their Hiring Tips
- 2 A People-oriented Industry with Many Regulations
- 3 Factors that Drive the Trucking Business
- 4 What Do Trucking Companies Need From You?
- 5 Tips From Trucking Employers to Trucker Candidates
We surveyed some of the top trucking employers in the United States:
- Crete Carrier
- B. Hunt
- Old Dominion Freight
- Southeastern Freight Line
- Arkansas Best
We asked them three questions:
- What are the top 3 things you look for in a driver?
- What are the best ways to apply for a job in your company?
- How do drivers move up in the enterprise?
The most surprising outcome was how similar the expectations and requirements companies have for truck-driving candidates, and also the tips that they have for applicants.
Also, the answers gave an insight into the values that employers have regarding the people that they hire and employ in truck driving positions.
A People-oriented Industry with Many Regulations
North America’s top trucking firms have several features that they broadly hold in common. They treat drivers with respect; they hire veterans and value the service of veterans to the country.
They are also under similar regulatory regimes, so it is logical perhaps that they are looking for similar traits in drivers. The top of that list is the common-sense desire for safety.
Freight distribution and hauling companies need to get the payload to the customer efficiently and safely.
All trucking companies want the same from driver candidates:
- Documented safe driving history
- Minimum age requirements of between 20 and 23 years
- No DUIs in the last five years in all cases
- Motivated to get out on the road as a professional driver
Factors that Drive the Trucking Business
Trucking companies have a broad range of concerns in their daily business operations, some of which have nothing to do with drivers and others where the trucking team members play a critical role.
Companies determine success by:
- The income they earn from customers;
- That revenue depends on having enough clients who purchase goods and services at a profit, and
- When they meet customers, truck drivers are the most visible representatives of the brand
In trucking, that boils down to having enough buyers that pay to have their goods moved from one point to another; the load might be measured by the truckload, by the pallet (think less-than-truckload) or by the package.
In any case, the customer is concerned to get the right result, without losses or accidents, and at a reasonable cost. The one way that drivers impact their employers the most is the value they add by doing their jobs efficiently and representing the company positively.
What Do Trucking Companies Need From You?
The trucking companies that achieve those simple objectives get the business consistently. So, they need competent drivers who treat the job with respect, who understand that they are the face of the company when they arrive at a terminal to pick up or drop off.
Truckers tend to have friendly personalities, but they also need to have the traits that make them good corporate representatives as well. That means approaching shipping offices with a friendly demeanor and having a well-groomed physical appearance.
Experience is the first thing that companies seek in job candidates. The next thing is the sign of good character, for their purposes, this means all of the issues that will turn up on a driving record or a background report, such as reckless driving and driving under the influence.
You will also have to take a medical examination or have a current DOT medical card; after all, health is a vital safety concern when you get behind the wheel of a forty-ton truck.
In all cases, you will be under pressure to get the goods to the destination on time and safely.
There is a high degree of isolation if you drive OTR for extended periods and delivery drivers have the added pressure of racing the clock while maneuvering city streets, often with 53’ trailers in tow. Before you choose a truck driving career, sit down and think carefully about how you feel about these factors.
Tips From Trucking Employers to Trucker Candidates
1. Employers value safety and sobriety highly
Of all of the top employers we spoke with everyone had approximately the same requirements for driving candidates. You need a clean driving record and no DUI in the last five years. In fact, if you do have a more recent DUI you may have a tough time getting your next truck-driving job. The transportation industry values current experience and safety. So if you have a recent DUI, it is a deal breaker and if you don’t have one, make sure that it stays that way.
2. Experience counts even in small amounts
Experience is a few recent months on the road in the last year or on the road full time for the last four months; driving hours in the current year are worth more than a few years ago. However, it also means that drivers that stick around usually earn higher pay or additional benefits for doing so.
You are going to get paid by the mile (CPM) as a trucker, so you are making money when you are moving and don’t when you are not. The best companies appreciate this, and they pay you higher CPM for more experience and extras on things like wait time at depots while you pick up and drop off. Wait time may sound like a minor thing, but it will become a big frustrating deal if you are sitting parked every day, it adds up to time that could have earned you hundreds of miles worth of CPM each week.
3. Moving up means moving out of driving
If there comes a point when you get tired of life on the road, your employers will most likely have positions in the back office and in the depot that come up from time to time. Companies try to make trucking as comfortable and enjoyable as possible to make up for the lack of direct promotion possibilities. However, it is not for everyone long-term, especially if you need to be at home more than once or twice a week.
Alternative positions include training, recruiting and dispatch jobs, as well as paths into company management for suitable candidates. The available jobs for companies like Crete Carriers also depend on your location as they may only be offered at the headquarters locations, whereas drivers might live throughout the country.
4. Trucking companies are hiring
Whether they expect you to fill out a form on the Web like Southeastern Freight Lines, or they have recruiters waiting to talk to you, like J.B. Hunt, trucking companies are actively hiring, and you will find that they are friendly and welcoming.
5. Bonus Tip – You Get a CDL Job With a Felon Conviction
You can get a trucking job with a felony record. Always be honest about your history when you apply because Federal regulations require that trucking employers have to check your background thoroughly before they hire you, and they will reject your application based on any undisclosed negative information.
Businesses that hire drivers with felony convictions either have time limits or make case-by-case hiring decisions. For example, J.B. Hunt and Crete Carriers will accept drivers with convictions from more than ten years ago. In most cases, misdemeanors will have no impact on hiring decisions.
Trucking is a heavily regulated industry. So, perhaps it is not surprising that hiring departments see things in very similar ways. Also, trucking jobs might vary by how much time you spend away from home, but you still play the same role whether you are driving a rig across the nation or hustling through a daily delivery route, but the requirements and skills involved are common to all. So, once you start to gain experience you can find the right role and settle in for the long haul.
Trucking is a great career, even when the requirements are demanding, and the pressure is on to perform, it is still an excellent way to make a living. Hopefully, these tips show you that, once you get your trucking career on the right track, you will have all of the satisfaction that you want out of it on a daily basis.
Geoff is a freelance writer with 20+ years of experience in driving trucks and buses, dispatching, supervising, and training commercial driving teams. His expertise is writing topics on the transportation and trucking industry, and information technology trends.