You have probably seen a truck driver on the road, but what do they do? Truck drivers transport goods and products across the country. Truckers are responsible for driving large vehicles, such as tractor-trailers or 18-wheelers, that need to be loaded with cargo. They also might have to stop at different places along the way to pick up more cargo. It’s not easy to become a truck driver, but with work and training, you can do it. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider a career as a truck driver.
You need a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)
To become a truck driver, you need to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). To obtain one, you will have to pass a written test and obtain a doctor’s certificate as well as meet vision and physical requirements. You will have to learn about road signs, on-highway vehicle operation, and safety regulations to pass the test.
Your employer can help you get your CDL. If you work for a trucking company or another type of transportation firm, they can help you obtain your CDL. They often provide training programs and pay some or all of your costs if they don’t directly employ you.
What if you want to start your own trucking business?
If you want to start your own trucking business, you will still need a CDL if you still plan on driving yourself. You can work for a trucking company, but companies will often hire independent contractors to drive their trucks. You can also get a CDL if you are self-employed and want to drive your own truck.
Trucking Authority / Operating Authority
In addition, you will need to get a trucking authority which is permission from the Government, for you to be paid to move freight. There are different types of operating authority depending on the type of cargo you plan to move.
How long does it take to get authority?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handles applications for trucking authority. It usually takes around 20-25 working days unless a period is added for further review.
Register your trucking company
In addition to the authority, you will need to register your company in the state where you plan to operate. You will also need to decide on the company structure.
Get an EIN
Depending on your business structure, you may need to get an EIN number. These are issued by the IRS to limited liability companies (LLC). If you are an owner-operator and have chosen a sole proprietorship, you don’t need an EIN.
Get a USDOT number
It is a requirement for all trucking companies to have a USDOT number. It will be your company identifier number and includes cargo, vehicle type, and compliance details. Shippers and brokers access this information for all trucking companies they work with.
Request an MC number
An MC number allows you to conduct business across states. The governing body is the FMCSA – they will issue the number. However, you will also need to complete BOC-3 and get an insurance policy for it to become active.
This may seem that there are a lot of steps to starting a trucking business. These are in place to ensure that the roads are kept safe from inexperienced new drivers, and that freight is transported securely.
Finding loads to transport
If you are self-employed and want to be paid to drive trucks, you will need to find cargo to transport. You can contact freight brokers who will help you find loads. They may have a variety of different clients who need loads of freight to be transported. If you are just starting out, you will need to build relationships with brokers to get work. That may sound like a catch-22 position to be in, and you don’t have the relationship, so you may find it hard to get work. So where else can you find work?
What are Load boards?
Shipping companies and freight brokers use load boards for advertising available loads. Truckers can search the board for loads that they are interested in delivering and quote for completing the work. The best load boards are generally subscription-based – this means the information is going to be up to date, and the platform is user-friendly.
Benefits of using load boards
There are multiple reasons why you should use load boards when looking for freight.
It keeps everything professional – the trucker and broker agree in advance of the work on what is expected as well as how much it will pay.
The platforms are user-friendly, which means you can find work quickly and easily.
There are also loads for smaller trucks, unlike some brokers who only advertise for 18-wheelers.
Online load boards make it easier to build relationships with brokers and companies rather than having to travel to visit them in person. They also act as an impartial way of finding commercial trucking jobs that aren’t biased by personal connections, making them ideal for companies just starting out.
You may not be the only one looking for work on the load boards. Be aware of the competition – you will want to look for loads that are going to be easy for you to complete. You also need to factor in how long it will take you to do the work or how far away it is from your base.
Other ways of finding freight
Other ways of finding freight include contacting shippers directly, checking local newspapers, and asking around at your local trucking company if they have any available work.
There are plenty of reasons to start driving a freight truck. If you want to earn money, load boards are a great way to find work and build your business. It also doesn’t cost you anything to get started, so it is a realistic alternative if you don’t have the money for new equipment or training for new drivers.
The landscape of transportation in America has completely changed over the last few decades, from cargo that was simply carried by rail to fully automated freight transport, and now self-driving trucks are on the future horizon.