Everyone knows that the shipping industry is facing a driver shortage and that it’s currently easier than ever for qualified individuals to get jobs as truckers. However, that doesn’t mean you should rush out and attend CDL classes in Ontario to get a professional commercial driver’s license. Truck driving can be a fantastic career, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
Here at 5th Wheel, we want to help people prepare for and succeed in a new career as truckers or heavy equipment operators… but we also don’t want you signing up without understanding what the job entails. These are some of the most important things to consider before you commit to attending CDL classes to become a trucker.
What You Need to Know Before Becoming a Licensed Truck Driver
1 – The unspoken requirements
On paper, getting a CDL is pretty easy. You need to be at least 18 years old and have a grade 10 level English from highschool, hold a valid non-learners driver’s license for four-wheeled vehicles, pass some vision and medical tests, and attend CDL classes. However, that’s just the requirement to get the license. Actually, becoming employed can be a bit trickier.
Realistically, you also need:
- A reasonably clean driving record. The occasional minor ticket can be an issue for smaller companies, or if you’ve been in accidents or if you’ve ever received a DUI conviction, getting hired will be a significant challenge. Any violations in the last 2-3 years will be closely scrutinized.
- A reasonably clean criminal record. Individual employers’ standards will vary, but the more crimes a person has committed, the harder it will be to convince a shipping company to hire them. Anyone with theft or fraud in their history shouldn’t even bother.
- A clean drug record. Even some legal prescriptions can be a challenge to employment if they might impair your driving ability. Expect drug tests before and after being hired.
- Work history. It’s possible to get a job as a trucker straight out of high school, but otherwise, employers will want evidence that you’re a reliable worker.
Also, there’s the matter of education. You don’t need a high school degree or GED to get hired, but it will absolutely help. Having some college-level business or management classes under your belt will also look good since it means you have management potential.
2 – Medical Issues
Truck driving is a physically intensive job. While the majority of your time will be spent in the cab, you will still be called on to help with loading and unloading during the course of the job. You may also need to make truck repairs if something should go wrong on the road.
So you need to be reasonably fit, especially when you’re just starting.
This also means you can’t have any medical conditions which could potentially impair you on the road. It’s unfortunate, but given how genuinely dangerous a fully-loaded truck can be, companies can’t take any risks in this area. Neurological conditions, in particular, can be dealbreakers. A history of heart problems will also greatly hurt your employment chances.
Plus, as mentioned above, some legal prescriptions may also cause problems. Medicinal marijuana may be legal in many areas, but you may not be allowed to drive if you smoke. Likewise, prescription opiates or even some psychiatric medications may be a problem.
3 – Being away from home for long periods
If you become a truck driver carrying mid- or long-hauls, you will be away from home for long periods at a time. Potentially weeks. And your busy schedule often won’t allow you to be home for more than a day or two before you’re back on the road.
For this reason, many of the most successful truckers don’t have families or other obligations at home. If you are married or in a committed relationship, you must have the support – and the trust – of your partner. Along the same lines, if you have small children, the life of a trucker probably isn’t the right choice for you or for them.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of picking up a DZ license with CDL classes, rather than an AZ license. DZ licenses are for smaller cargo vehicles, as well as municipal vehicles like garbage trucks, snowplows, and fire trucks. This can be a much better option for people who don’t want to be away from home, since you’ll still get most of the financial benefits of trucking, while always staying near your family.
4 – The reality of life on the road
Movies and TV tend to romanticize the life of the trucker. They leave out the parts where you’re stuck in traffic for hours, or can’t unload because of a shortage of dock workers. They don’t show how unpleasant it can be driving through heavy rains or snow for hours at a time, especially if you need a bathroom break. They don’t talk about the health problems that can come from eating fast food every day. They don’t address how mentally wearying it can be for some people to be completely alone for days on end.
(Of course, if you’re an introvert or loner, that last one might be a perk of the job.)
Like all jobs, truck driving is a mix of highs and lows. Being stuck in an hours-long traffic jam is miserable, but seeing the sunrise over the mountains as you barrel down the highway can be glorious. If possible, do some reading or watch some videos about what the actual day-to-day reality of trucking is like, and ask yourself if you’d be willing to put up with the problems for the sake of the rewards.
Start Your CDL Classes Now
However, if you’ve done your research and you think the life of a truck driver really is for you, then the 5th Wheel Training Institute is here to provide top-quality CDL classes. We’re one of the oldest and most respected heavy vehicle training schools in Ontario, and our students have a long track record of success.