How To Land Your First Job As A Truck Driver
What Do Truck Drivers Do?
Researching Commercial Truck Driving Schools?
Been searching for a Commercial Truck Driving School? Before you get started on your career path as a truck driver – or any career, for that matter, research. It’s important to research the field and make sure that it’s the one for you. Otherwise, you could end up having invested several months and a lot of money into a career path that you end up realizing you don’t enjoy.
Truck Driving Rewards
Luckily, truck driving is a fun and rewarding career with a lot of flexibility. Breaking it down as simply as possible, commercial truck drivers – are the people who are responsible for bringing every item you purchase to a store near you. They do this in massive vehicles. The most well-known versions of these are known as 18-wheelers. Truck drivers can also refer to people driving fire trucks, snowplows, and the like.
As a commercial truck driver in Toronto or any large North American area, you’ll be working long hours behind the wheel. You will find yourself making deliveries, carrying loads and transporting goods across the city or across the country. Depending on your license and employer, you may even end up making international deliveries between Canada and the US.
How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?
Salary within the trucking industry can be a little tricky to pin down. It varies greatly depending on how often you work, how much experience you have and where you received your training. In general, first-year drivers make somewhere between $45,000 and $65,000 a year.
This is a pretty good salary. You can go from having zero driving experience to being behind the wheel of a semi for the first time in under three months. It’s also relatively easy to improve your standing in the truck driving industry and increase your pay, depending on how you decide to pursue your career.
Some drivers will be paid per hour, while most will be paid by the mile. If you want the best bang for the distance you drive, then you’ll need to go through a truck driving program. Get the best license possible. Prove to your employers that you are willing and able to handle even the most demanding of tasks.
How To Land Your First Job As A Truck Driver
1. Know The Requirements to join a Commercial Truck Diving School
Obtain a standard driver’s license
First and foremost, you’re going to need a Full Ontario G license. This should be pretty self-explanatory. If you’re considering a career in truck driving before you are even able to drive a standard economy car, plan ahead. You might just be putting the cart before the horse – or the trailer before the cab, so to speak.
If you don’t have a driver’s license yet, it’s not difficult to obtain one as an adult. We recommend getting it taken care of as quickly as possible. The more time you can spend behind the wheel before you start your truck driving career, the more confident you’ll be once you start driving commercial vehicles.
If you previously had a driver’s license but lost it due to infractions, you may find that a career in truck driving just isn’t for you.
Clean driving record
Which brings us to our next point. You have to have a clean driving record. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your record will need to be absolutely squeaky clean, but it doesn’t take much to damage your chances of entering the trucking industry either.
This is required for several reasons, which are likely pretty obvious. For instance, anyone with a history of driving under the influence will likely not be able to obtain a driving job. Unless they have know a trucking company that will pay to cover the cost of insurance it’s a major liability. This is because when you’re operating a large, commercial vehicle, like a semi-truck, you may wreak havoc on the roads.
Commercial trucks stop slower, are less maneuverable, and are much deadlier in accidents than standard consumer vehicles. Trucking companies, schools, and the department of transportation all want to make sure that the drivers behind these vehicles are as competent, safe, and responsible as possible.
Be at least 18 years old
This is the one requirement that isn’t really in your control. If you are under 18, you’re just going to have to wait to get your career as a truck driver started. It’s also worth noting that even if you are over 18, you could still have a difficult time landing a job as a truck driver in Toronto.
Most trucking companies prefer drivers who are at least 21 years of age. Drivers 25 years or older will likely have the easiest time within this industry. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for younger drivers to land jobs, so you should definitely still give it your all.
If you’re under 18 but feel certain that a career in truck driving is for you, start taking auto shop classes. If they’re available at your school, familiarize yourself with mechanics, and start gaining exposure to the kinds of things you’ll encounter in this field. This will put you ahead of your peers and bring you more respect as a younger person in the truck driving sector.
High school education or GED
Having a high school education or GED equivalent is a requirement of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities for anyone entering vocational training. You must have a minimum of their grade 10 English before enrolling in a truck driving program. It’s not unheard of that someone can enter the truck driving industry without a high school degree, but it’s certainly an uphill battle.
Having your basic education in place will keep you from being overlooked and make your journey as a truck driver significantly easier. Not to mention that there are several other areas of your life where having your high school education or equivalent will keep you from being held back.
So if you don’t have your high school education yet, consider investing the extra time into obtaining it before you begin your career. And if you’re still in high school, stay in school!
Ministry of Transportation Medical
Another thing to consider is that you will to need to pass the Ministry of Transportation’s medical and vision tests. In order to be permitted to get behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle you need to get these approved. The reasoning behind these tests is actually pretty similar to the logic behind having a clean driving record.
You’re going to spend several hours a day behind the wheel ofa several ton vehicle in your career as a truck driver. Officials want to ensure that you’re going to have as little of a chance of causing damage on the roadways as possible.
This not only includes being able to drive safely but also being less likely to have health or vision issues that impair your ability to drive. There is an online form you can bring to your physician that they’ll fill out for a fee. The Ministry of Transportation will use it to determine if you are eligible to drive.
Pass a drug and alcohol test
For fairly obvious reasons drug and alcohol testing is going to be a regular part of your truck driving career. This is to ensure that you’re never getting behind the wheel in an unfit state of mind.
Lots of employers within the commercial truck driving industry require you to take a drug test before hiring you. Most will perform random drug tests throughout your career—usually once a year, at least. You’ll also have to pass a drug and alcohol test after an accident, even if you’re not the driver at fault.
While it may seem like a nuisance, it’s one of the many safety precautions that you’re going to need to get used to as a truck driver. It can be a dangerous profession if you aren’t careful, so rules, testing, and restrictions go hand in hand with this career path.
2. Choose A Commercial Truck Driving School
Once you meet all of the requirements to start your truck driving career, it’s time to choose a truck driving program. Choose one where you’ll learn the basics of truck driving and earn all of the certificates and licenses required to be ready to drive.
This training is mandatory in Ontario, so there’s no avoiding it if you want to start your career off right. Additionally, having access to a truck driving courses and a curriculum would be a must for most individuals, since not too many people have commercial vehicles on hand to train and practice with.
Choosing the right program is important and will help land you better jobs and higher salaries. You’ll want to go with an accredited institution with years of experience, fair prices, and a solid reputation in the truck driving industry.
5th Wheel Institute’s Truck Driving Courses
At 5th Wheel Training Institute, we provide truck driving training with a curriculum that ensures you understand the rules and regulations of the industry as well as give you the expertise to operate any vehicle you may encounter along your career.
We offer courses for the various commercial driver’s licenses available. No matter what kind of career path you’re considering, 5th Wheel can set you up for success. If you’re interested in our training, you can reach out to our team online. You can also visit us at our truck driving school admissions offices to learn more.
3. Earn Your Commercial Driver’s License
And that brings us to step three, which is earning your commercial driver’s license. Your commercial driver’s license – or CDL – is what will give you the ability to get behind the wheel of larger, commercial vehicles.
It’s distinct from your standard driver’s license, and it’s largely the reason why you’re required to attend a truck driving training school. Without formal education on the subject, it would be very difficult to get the necessary training to prepare for this career.
Each level of the commercial driver’s license permits you to drive different vehicles. These licenses are separated by things like vehicle weight and type. The higher the weight limit you qualify for, the more vehicles you’ll be able to drive, and by extension, the more career options you’ll have.
Class A License
The Class A license is the best license you can get as a commercial truck driver. It has the least restrictions, meaning you can operate just about any commercial vehicle out there. This license also allows you to operate trucks internationally, so you’ll be able to make trucking trips across the border.
Not every truck driver will need to drive internationally, though, nor will every truck driver need to be able to drive vehicles of any weight class. So, while the Class A license will give you the most flexibility in your career, it can also be a bit of overkill for a lot of drivers.
Not to mention that earning your Class A license is harder than earning any other kind of commercial driver’s license. It’s the most expensive as well, so you’ll need to be sure that it’s the right move for your career. In general, Class A licenses are better suited to those who have already been in the industry for a while and are looking to improve their standing within their field.
Just a note, there is also a Class C license for those who plan on driving smaller commercial vehicles like a coach.
This license isn’t a bad way to enter the truck driving industry by any means. It’s limitations mean that you’re going to start off your career with fewer options than a Class A license.
Class D License
The Class D license is the next best option for those who want to be a commercial driver but aren’t quite ready for the commitment that the Class A license requires. Unlike the Class A license, the Class D has some weight restrictions. It allows you to drive any truck and motor vehicle combination with a weight of over 11,000kg.
However, the portion being towed may not exceed 4,600 kg. A Class D license also gives you the ability to drive Class G vehicles, so it doubles as a standard driver’s license. Class D licenses do not give you the ability to transport passengers. It’s strictly intended for use within the commercial driving industry.
Because of Class D license weight restrictions, it’s not the best option for those looking to tow a trailer. Instead, the Class D license is a solid option for those who want to drive bigger, single-piece trucks – like fire trucks, for example – or for those just getting started in the industry. It’s easier and more affordable to get than a Class A license, so if you’re working your way into the field, this is more than likely the license for you.
Class AZ License
Another license you can get that will yield more options than the Class A license is the Class AZ license.
The Class AZ license is a variation of the Class A license and includes a perk. You can still drive commercial vehicles with very few restrictions. The “Z” portion—known as the Z endorsement—gives you a little extra freedom, though.
The Z means that you can operate vehicles that use air brakes rather than traditional brakes. Air brakes are used in large commercial vehicles due to their extreme reliability. Most vehicles that have more than two axles use air brakes. Even if you don’t want a Class A license, earning your Z endorsement would still be in your best interest.
Pass your knowledge tests
Now that you’ve attended a truck driving program, you know what kind of license you want to obtain and you’re ready to get your career started, it’s time to pass your knowledge tests. Much like your standard driver’s license test, these are the tests that will determine if you are qualified to earn your truck driving license.
There are two kinds of tests that you’ll need to pass. The first is a written knowledge test. This is a multiple choice exam that covers the technicalities of truck driving, numbers, regulations, laws—that kind of thing.
Once you pass your written knowledge test, you’ll have road and practical tests. During these tests, you’ll be driving a vehicle that matches the license your attempting to earn with a test evaluator. They’ll have you drive a short route and ask you to accomplish certain tasks. They make sure that you are able to meet all of these requests safely and accurately.
4. Landing Your First Job
Now that you have your education behind you, it’s time to land your first job as a commercial truck driver! This is what it’s all been building up to.
Everyone will have a different experience when it comes to landing their first job as a truck driver. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like it’s taking longer than it should. Sometimes certain businesses simply don’t have an opening during certain times of the year—so be patient.
Fortunately for you, there is a shortage of truck drivers throughout Canada. This means that employers will be more accepting of new blood in the industry. Not to mention that you have greater job prospects and negotiating power.
And don’t worry if your first job as a truck driver isn’t the position you were hoping for. Truck driving is one of those industries where you don’t always start off in the most favorable position. As time goes on and you you’ll work your way to the top.
Start as a temp driver
To earn experience before getting your first “real” job as a truck driver, consider working as a temp driver. Often, companies need more workers in certain seasons than in others. Temporary work might be the way to get some credentials under your belt.
You can also serve as a fill-in driver. This means when a driver is sick, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable, you’ll be the person they call. After enough times of being called in, you’ll have the experience and clout to negotiate for a full-time spot.
With that said, temp work can be challenging. You usually won’t know your hours in advance. Planning your budget can also be stressful. But this is a solid way to get your foot in the door. You just have to approach it with the mindset that it will be a temporary part of your career.
Just like any career, when you’re just starting out, you need to be willing to be flexible. This doesn’t necessarily mean selling yourself short. You just need to remember anyone offering you a job when you don’t have industry experience is taking a chance .
So be willing to compromise on certain aspects of the job with the knowledge that this is just the first step in your career. You’re likely going to be working unfavorable hauls, awkward hours, and picking up odd jobs around your workplace.
This is pretty normal, as truck driving is an industry that definitely favors the more experienced. As time goes on, though, soon enough you’ll be the one watching the new guy trying to work his way up. So long as you show initiative and a drive to be at the workplace, you’ll quickly climb the ladder.
Your work history matters
In the beginning of your career as a truck driver, working odd jobs and moving to a few different companies isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, if this continues into the third and fourth years of your career, you may end up turning off a lot of the better employers out there.
Like any job where you’re trying to move to the top, it can be tempting to climb the ladder as quickly as possible by jumping from company to the company. While this is acceptable early in your career, it may come across as being unreliable to future employers.
Never quit without notice and don’t burn bridges with old employers. They will be the ones helping you earn positions with new employers. When first applying to jobs, make sure you include any other past employment or education that will improve your status in the eyes of potential employers.
Is A Career In Truck Driving Right For You?
If you’ve made it this far and still feel truck driving is a career for you, it probably it is. It’s not for everyone, but it’s not a bad career by any means.
The Benefits Of Being A Truck Driver
One of the biggest benefits of becoming a truck driver is the ample job security it comes with. Truck drivers are in high demand throughout Canada due to a shortage of qualified drivers. This means that your job prospects are going to be pretty good, as will your job security.
It’s also not difficult to stand out among your peers. The more willing you are to accept extra work, the more responsibly you drive, and the more reliable you are in general, the less likely you are to run into issues with your employer.
There are so many jobs available to Canadian truck drivers now. It’s really only a matter of where and how much you want to work. Unlike other careers where the market is oversaturated with overqualified employees, truck drivers hold most of the negotiation power in this field.
Flexible career path
Truck drivers also have an extremely flexible career path compared to other industries. You can start off at the bottom with a Class D license, picking up odd jobs here and there, and eventually make your way into a Class A role, driving huge hauls across the country.
You can drive locally or internationally, work anywhere in the country, and join any truck driving company with pretty similar chances of being hired. As you gain more experience, you can be promoted into higher paying positions—even becoming a supervisor who never gets behind the wheel.
And if you feel an entrepreneurial tug, you can even begin your own trucking company which will turn that small investment in truck driving school into an incredibly lucrative business. It’s all up to how you leverage your position and value your experience.
Lastly, independence, the benefit that draws hordes of people into the field. You will have an extremely high level of independence as a truck driver. Not just in terms of how you move your career forward, but on the day-to-day job as well.
When you get behind the wheel and get started on a trip, it’s just you and the road. There’s no supervisor breathing down your neck, customers you have to interact with, or coworkers to compete with. So long as you drive safely and stick to your schedule, you’ll have a very high level of independence as a truck driver.
If you’re someone who’s always felt turned off by desk jobs, having to answer to superiors, and just generally prefer having time to yourself, truck driving will remedy all of those pain points for you.
The Drawbacks Of Being A Truck Driver
Time away from family
While there are plenty of benefits, there are also some drawbacks to being a truck driver that are unique to this field. The first being lots of time away from your family. The independence you gain as a truck driver comes at the cost of being able to spend time at home.
You’ll work long hours in different areas throughout the country. You may even travel internationally on certain hauls. All of this can put a strain on your home life and leave you feeling lonely on the longer drives.
Like anything in life, this is one of those things that you’ll get used to over time. It can be a shocking adjustment if you’re not used to spending time alone. If you’re worried about how this aspect of the job might affect you, consider going on a couple of long road trips by yourself before starting this career, just to see how it sits with you.
When you’re a truck driver, breaks are few and far in between, and the hours are long. Even when you’re on break, it will likely be in a town you’ve never been to before at a truck stop or diner. So even your time off will feel like you’re still on the clock.
Not to mention that when you’re on the road for several hours, it can be easy to get bored or feel like you’re losing focus. This, however, is the last thing you want to do, as it can endanger your life and the lives of those around you.
You’ll need to learn how to entertain yourself on long drives. Podcasts and music can be great for this, as they give your brain something to latch onto when the miles are really adding up.
Landing your first job as a truck driver in Toronto requires dedication and focus. If you read everything in this article and still feel like it’s the career for you, consider reaching out to 5th Wheel Training Institute. We are ready for any questions you have. Visit our admissions offices to learn more about how to start your truck driving journey.
Heavy equipment operating is one of the most rewarding career paths out there. The industry is booming, so there are plenty of heavy equipment operator jobs available to dedicated, hard-working individuals. If you’re interested in getting prepared through a professional training institute, check out our courses and consider registering.