What Has Replaced the CB Radio?

Truck drivers 20 years ago entered a rite of passage when they started trucking thanks to the CB radio. As soon as you received your CDL, something that surprisingly was a new thing in 1992, you were searching for a CB handle. Whether you were called Butter Bean, Ghost Rider, Tiny or Big Mac, that became your alter ego as a truck driver. Now, flash forward to the 21st century where smartphones are filling every trucker’s front pocket. Where are CB radios fitting into this new way of communicating?

Importance of Connecting with Truckers

CB Radio

As you haul truck loads from one destination to the next, you encounter all sorts of situations.

  • The weather goes wild and snows you in at a truck stop.
  • You get caught up in a 10-mile delay due to a tragic multi-car pile-up.
  • Your big rig decides to pick today to freeze up or fall apart.

These are just three of the reasons why you need to be able to communicate with other truckers. In the past truck drivers would push the button on their CB mic and ask about pending weather or road conditions. They would ask other drivers about alternative routes for detours. CB radios would help truck drivers get out of jams. When truck drivers were lonely, they could reach out and chat, sing, cuss or quarrel with another truck driver within radio frequency.

Trucking Communication is Changed

Now we have smartphones that take up all of our free time, thanks to online gaming, texting, news channels, social media and Internet searches. You can even listen to music, podcasts or audio books on your smartphone. Apps allow you to do all of these things, and then some. Truck drivers use their smartphones to:

  • Connect with fellow truck drivers, dispatchers and customers
  • Check weather apps to see the local forecast
  • Download directions to destinations using GPS and map apps, such as Google Maps
  • Look up an alternate route in the case of a traffic jam or road construction
  • Get load information and important paperwork by email
  • Upload and print off pdf files including bill of lading, payroll statements, expense reports, dock receipts, health certificate, over-sized loads permits, rate confirmation sheets, etc.
  • Take a screenshot of important paperwork and submit it to the trucking company, dispatcher or customer
  • For entertainment purposes aka online games, streaming music and TV viewing

The list could literally go on and on. On top of these you have all sorts of apps that let you do everything from keeping up with your mileage and tracking your route. Rather than having a big, bulky CB radio attached to your dashboard, why not use your smartphone to connect with truckers?

The Trouble with Smartphones

There’s always a consequence to every change, and for the switch-over to smartphones, there are several. For starters, truck drivers cannot use their smartphones while operating a big rig due to legal and safety reasons. Tack on the fact that the entire trucking culture is based around connectivity. Truck drivers dress alike, talk alike with their own language, and have a similar mindset. This is encouraged through the use of CBs. While truckers are driving solo, save for those taking team trucking jobs, truck drivers do like to talk. Just ask one a question and you’ll find out soon enough. Being alone in the cab for hours on end does something to a person where they want to reach out and connect. CB radios allow this to happen. Sure, you can call or text another trucker, but that’s not the same.

Benefits of Using Your CB Radio

A CB radio only has a reach of so many miles, which places you in touch with truck drivers within your immediate area. Just as with chatting with truck drivers at truck stops, a CB gives truckers who don’t know each other a chance to connect. They can meet new truck drivers, make friends or share information with local truckers. Truckers who are looking for trucking jobs can hop on the radio and get the low down about trucking companies and job opportunities. This helps truckers, especially rookie drivers, weed through those that are too good to be true and the best paying trucking jobs.

Along with being a perfect channel for trucker communication, CB radios help truckers develop their own truck driving personalities. From being known by their CB handles, to being remembered by other truckers for their advice, wit, comedy or storytelling, CB radios are an important part of truck driver culture. So the next time you get a wild hair to throw your CB radio to the curb, remember why these communication devices are of such importance to the truck driving community. Rather than grabbing your smartphone and Googling for local information, pick up your CB mic and give a shout out to the local truckers in your area. Bust out of your trucker bubble and connect with other truck drivers using your CB radio.

Owner Operator VS. Company Driver

As a truck driver you have a few different options of the route to take your truck driving career. The most common trucking jobs are for trucking companies, like JB Hunt, Werner Transport or Crete Carrier. If you drive a truck for a trucking company, that makes you a company driver. On the other side of the road are owner operators. This is the route that the most confident and independent truckers take. Being an owner operator means you are a self employed small business owner. You own your tractor-trailer, or at least rent it, and are completely responsible for sourcing your own truck driving jobs. Each of these types of truck driving careers comes with its own perks and privileges, as well as difficulties and stresses. Before jumping in either seat, do your research to determine whether you would be best suited as a company driver or owner operator. Here are the basics to get you started.

Rookie Truck Drivers Starting Out

Truck driver front window view

If you are interested in getting your CDL and starting a truck driving career, your easiest way to get into the trucking industry is to be a company driver. As a rookie who’s just beginning, you can attend truck driving school through a trucking company. There are several benefits for doing this:

  • Most of the national trucking companies including Swift Trucking, CR England and CRST Trucking offer free or super cheap truck driving schools for truck drivers in training. Truck driving school can cost around $5,000 out of pocket if you choose a program on your own.
  • If you go through a truck driving school you can get a pre-hire letter from trucking companies that invites you to attend truck driver orientation with those companies. This is an advantage when searching for trucking jobs as you already have your hand on the wheel; it’s up to you to impress the trucking company reps at the orientation to ensure you get the job.
  • If you chose to go to truck driving school on your own accord, and then you are hired by a trucking company soon after graduating with your CDL, many of the national trucking companies offer a tuition reimbursement that pays you back for the cost you invested on truck driver training.

One thing to note about the use of truck driving schools under the guise of a trucking company. Once you have graduated from trucking school and have your CDL, you are typically obligated by a contract to work with that trucking company for a set period of time. If you fail to meet your obligations you will likely have to buy your way out by paying for the tuition to attend their program.

Furthermore, truck drivers will tell you that certain trucking companies choose to give rookie drivers the hardest, lowest paying loads. There’s some truth to that, in that you have to work your way up the ranks in terms of experience and haul types. As with any career you shouldn’t expect to be top dog when you first start out.

Owner Operator Pros and Cons

If you are an independent personality who wants to be a truck driver so you won’t have anyone looking over your shoulder, you are in the right career. As an owner operator you are wholly in charge of everything from choosing your big rig to picking your trucking jobs. You can set your own trucking schedule and determine how much money you want to make by working more or less. You are a self employed individual who answers to know one except your customers and associates. For all of these benefits, however, there are some issues that you want to note before you sign any dotted lines.

As an owner operator, you can make a lot of money. The average annual salary of owner operators is $140,000. However, you are also covering a lot of expenses. Here’s a short list of just some of the expenses of owner operators:

  • Truck and trailer lease or loan payments
  • Various forms of insurance including comprehensive, collision and accidental
  • Maintenance and repairs including truck washes, tires, oil changes, and fluids
  • Fuel expenses
  • Tax, tag, licenses, tolls and annual fees
  • Running costs including food, lodging, clothing, hygiene products, etc.
  • Communication costs including your phone, Sirius XM radio, CB radio and Wi-Fi

By the time you pay for everything that goes into the costs of running a trucking business, your income is shot full of holes. You are lucky if you are making much more than you would as a company driver. On top of all of that you are responsible for marketing your trucking business, finding trucking jobs, and dealing with dispatching your own loads. In the end, unless you have the vast experience of being a truck driver, you are better off starting out as a company driver where you have the opportunity to learn how to be a truck driver without risking your financial well being.

How to Get LCV Doubles and Triples Certification for CDL Drivers

LCV stands for long combination vehicle. As a commercial truck driver this involves pulling two or more trailers at one time, or hauling semi-trailers. A double is two trailers, while a triple includes three. According to the FMCSA regulations you have to have a certification stating you are trained to pull doubles and triples if the gross vehicle weight (GVW) is more than 80,000 pounds and you are driving on the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. You can find certified instructors and courses online or through your trucking company. While the cost for getting certified is about a hundred bucks, the certification never expires and will save you from getting a substantial fine if caught pulling a LCV without one by the DOT. Plus, you might be able to snag a reimbursement by your trucking employer; it never hurts to ask!

Special Training for LCV Certification

Endorsement stamp with red ink

For starters you need to complete a special training course specifically for pulling doubles and triples. This involves passing a truck driver training program that will teach you the skills and knowledge required to operate any LCV. In order to be accepted into a training program you have to find a certified LCV instructor, which is pretty simple to do. Start by checking with your trucking employer to see if they offer a certification opportunity. Other places offering courses include safety training programs online or through an OSHA-approved training service.

How can you tell if you are dealing with an LCV driver-instructor and training program that is legit? It is against the FMCSA regulations to permit, authorize or allow someone who is not certified to provide this training. The LCV driver-instructor must either contract a LCV driver-instructor and training program through a professional training institution, or they can hire someone under strict stipulations.

If you are attending a training program through your trucking company, the LCV driver-instructor must be accredited via the Department of Education. They must be qualified on the requirements of LCV, and they have to be compliant with state training school requirements. Paperwork documenting the legitimacy of the driver-instructor must be on file for FMCSA or DOT inspections. If the trucking company is caught providing non-authorized training, this would be cause for a hefty fine and serious legal trouble.

What to Expect During Certification Program

The FMCSA requires these programs to include certain types of instruction. Your certification program must include an orientation to the concept of hauling LCVs, basic operations of this type of haul, and safety practices. Furthermore, the program instructor must go over advanced operations and non-driving activities related to this trailer setup. The certification program will include behind-the-wheel instruction, as well as classroom material.

When you arrive for training you must show the LCV driver-instructor that you have your CDL before being allowed to train. It is the responsibility of the LCV driver-instructor to make sure you are up to snuff regarding your CDL. After you pass the training, both with a written exam and a behind-the-wheel skills test, you are provided with an LCV Driver Training Certificate. You will also be given a card that fits in your wallet stating that you are LCV certified. Keep this card with you at all times when on trucking jobs.

  • After you have successfully complete training for LCVs you will need to give your trucking employer a copy of your certification. They have to file this in their driver qualification file.

Importance of Being LCV Certified

If you are inspected by the DOT while pulling triples or doubles they may ask you to show verification of your certification. If you fail to show you have been certified you will be fined as a driver, and your employer will also be fined. Furthermore, you will be shut down until another, certified, driver arrives to pull your long load. As this certification is a one-time deal, and it allows you to pull a great variety of haul types, you really have no reason not to get certified.

Another latent reason for getting LCV certified as a truck driver is to protect yourself. When hauling one trailer the job can be dangerous, but pulling multiple trailers is downright risky. You have much less control over the rear trailer when hauling doubles or triples, and if you are unsure how to react in an emergency you’ll be caught in a major jam. Having training takes time out of your trucking schedule. However, the training is meant to provide you with the minimal level of skills and experience needed to handle LCVs. As you continue with your trucking career you will become more capable and confident when pulling doubles and triples. This will increase your trucking job opportunities, as well as making you a lot more valuable to your trucking employer.

SAD Truckers: Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder signDecember 22 was the shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice. This means we had the least amount of sunlight on this day here in the Northern Hemisphere. Until Spring Solstice in March we will continue to have the lowest levels of sunlight each day. If you are a truck driver with trucking jobs in the northern part of the US, then you are well aware of the total night sky by 5 pm. Fewer daylight hours also affect over-sized truck loads as you can’t drive before dawn and after dusk. It also means you are getting exposure to the least amount of sunlight. This brings us to Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

According to the Mayo Clinic Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that is directly connected to the changes of the seasons. As the days get shorter, we have less exposure to sunlight. The sun might get blamed for awful things, like skin cancer, but it’s also vital to healthy living. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, and you will find vitamin D in:

  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Sardines
  • Egg yolks
  • Some mushrooms exposed to sunlight when they are growing.

This vitamin is found in very few other foods, save for foods like breakfast cereal and milk that are supplemented with vitamins. Some people are less capable of absorbing vitamin D because of factors they may not be able to change or control on their own. These include:

  • Having darker skin that is less capable of absorbing light
  • Being obese
  • Having chronic kidney disease or digestive disease
  • Being over the age of 65

Why Vitamin D is Important

You have to have this vitamin to prevent rickets and bone loss. However, it also helps:

  • Reduce risk for multiple sclerosis
  • Decrease heart disease development
  • Decrease the chance you’ll contract the flu
  • Cognitive decline aka brain fog
  • Risk of diabetes
  • Risk of depression

These are lots of health risks associated with a lack of vitamin D, which is easiest to get via sunshine. So what happens during the winter months when we have shorter days? First of all, in the north part of the US the days aren’t just shorter. These states lie farthest enough from the equator that the sun’s rays during the day are too weak to do much good regarding vitamin D absorption.

  • You could literally stand naked outside in states like South Dakota or New York all day during wintertime, and you would still not get enough sun to effectively absorb the minimum requirement of vitamin D. Not saying you’d want to do this up north given the coldness but hypothetically.

In connection with SAD, if you have low levels of vitamin D, then you are susceptible to depression aka SAD. SAD is a type of depression that comes along with the shorter, colder days of winter. It leaves you feeling moody, overly tired, and depressed more than usual. You might be sleepier than normal, which is a huge problem for over the road trucking jobs. Due to the coldness and shorter days of northern routes, you will have fewer chances to get out and exercise or mingle with others, which can also relate to SAD.

Treating SAD Over the Road with Vitamin D

If you are concerned with depression that occurs during the winter months, there are ways to remedy this without having to take prescription medications. Consider supplementing your diet with more vitamin D sources of food. If you are a vegetarian truck driver, or vegan, and you don’t eat fish or eggs, then you’ll want to go a step further to eat foods supplemented with vitamin D:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Orange juice
  • Milk

You can also take vitamin D supplements. Keep in mind these are fat soluble so you’ll need to take them when eating a meal. How much should you take? Go with 800 to 2,000 IU according to the Mayo Clinic. You might also want to get tested by your physician to see what your vitamin D levels are to make sure this is the right route of treatment.

Light Boxes for SAD Treatment

Other treatments include light boxes, aka light therapy boxes or photo therapy boxes that are specifically for SAD treatment. These make you feel like you are sitting in the sun. You can buy these over the counter at pharmacies or get a recommendation by your doctor. Amazon has a nice selection. Your insurance isn’t likely to cover the cost, which ranges from $50 to $200. Here are some final tips regarding these light boxes:

  • You’ll want to use the light box for 30 minutes a day when you are alert. After all, you don’t want to fall asleep in front of one of these boxes and risk setting your rig on fire.
  • Check with your carrier to make sure the use of light boxes is not prohibited.

Breaking the Cultural Barrier in Trucking

Nippon Express TruckWhen you hear about demographics of truck drivers, you are apt to discuss ages of truckers. From the seasoned pros who have been in the business for decades to the up and coming rookie truckers who have a lot to learn, there’s quite the difference. Another demographic is gender, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the majority of truckers are males. In fact, 95 percent are men, while the number of female truckers is slowly increasing. There’s another demographic that doesn’t get discussed as often but is equally as important. Race and ethnicity.

Ethnic Backgrounds of Truckers

Depending on what part of the country you are a truck driver, you are bound to have some experience with drivers of various ethnic backgrounds. Take a look around. For instance, in the Midwest you are likely to meet truckers with Native American ancestry. Farther to the West there is a large percentage of Hispanic truck drivers handling truck driving jobs in California. In the Deep South, African American truckers are more common than they are in the Midwest, while the Northeast is home to more Italian and Arabic truck drivers. Of course, as a truck driver you see all different types of people throughout your route as you make your way from coast to coast with OTR trucking jobs. In order to successfully communicate and work with truck drivers of various ethnic backgrounds, you need to work on your cultural awareness.

Considerations of Other Cultures

There is a term related to people of other cultures who move to a new country. Acculturation is the act of keeping your heritage while taking on social expectations and norms of your new community. For example, say you have truck drivers who learned to drive a truck in India, Australia, the Caribbean or Southern Africa where they are used to driving on the left side of the road. When they come to the US they have to learn to drive on the right side. However, the other aspects of their job history that they learned in their home country are maintained as they continue to work as a trucker in the US.

That is one of the easier examples. More difficult are the acculturation into language, eating habits, clothing and social norms. For instance:

  • Truck drivers from India who are practicing Hindus whom refuse to take cattle hauling jobs because of their belief that cows are sacred.
  • For truckers who are Sikhs are going to wear turbans over their heads, which causes them to stand out in truck stops and loading docks.
  • Female truckers who are Arabic and Muslim will wear a hijab, which is a head scarf.
  • In India, Africa and Middle Eastern countries it is common practice to eat with your hands. The right hand is the eating hand since the left hand is reserved for wiping one’s backside after a bowel movement. If you meet someone who is from one of these countries and eat your meal together, don’t be offended if they refuse to use a fork. Furthermore, don’t shake or high-five their left hands out of respect and courtesy.
  • Orthodox Jewish truck drivers are only going to eat kosher foods, which can make eating at truck stops a real bugger.
  • Wearing a kippah, which is a small round hat, is common of individuals who are Jewish or Zionists.
  • Hand signals can mean very different things in various cultures. For example, the peace symbol of holding the pointer and middle finger up in a “V” also means “up yours” to Australians and Brits.

These cultural differences are all symbolic of a person’s heritage. To treat someone differently because they look differently, whether because they wear a “funny looking” hat or they have a different color of skin, is called discrimination. Racism against truck drivers is not cool. Unfortunately when people see something that they don’t understand they turn to treating the different person as an outsider. In addition to being a hateful way to be, discriminating against people because of their differences is a backwards way of thinking that is hurtful and downright rude to other human beings.

Changing the Trucker Culture

It’s the 21st century and we live in a global economy. Chances are highly likely that you will meet someone from a different background, either ethnically or culturally, by the time you complete your next trucking job. Rather than laughing at the racist jokes you hear on the CB radio, or joining in the rude conversation of truckers at truck stops who are making fun of minority drivers, be the better trucker. Take a stand and show that you are willing to stand up for the rights of truckers. After all, as the world of trucking becomes more intertwined with globalization, you never know when you will become the next minority as a truck driver working in America.

How to Put Together Your Truck Driver Emergency Kit

Trucker emergeny kitThe winter months, especially the coldest month of January, put truck driver survival front and center. If you are taking over the road trucking jobs, chances are likely that you’ll either drive through a snow storm or get shut down due to winter weather. As you are dealing with deadly cold and wintry mixes, the last thing you want to happen is to be involved in an accident or blown off the road due to blizzard conditions. But it happens every single day during winter in some part of the country. That’s why you have to be one step ahead of the storm by getting your truck driver emergency kit together. Take this checklist with you to help you create a survival kit that will help you brave any winter weather Mother Nature might throw at you.

Build a Trucker Emergency Kit

While you can go to Costco or Wal-Mart and get first aid kits, these aren’t geared at OTR truckers who might be stuck on the roadside during a snow storm. You need to elevate your kit to include more specific items. The Department of Homeland Security has a program called Ready that offers a slew of resources to help you prep for the winter ahead. However, to make things easier for you, here’s a list of the most essential items to include in your truck driver winter emergency kit:

  • Drinking water to last for 72 hours, or three gallons per person and/or pet
  • 3-day supply of nonperishable, shelf stable foods that can be eaten without heating them up:
    • Canned meats, poultry and/or fish, i.e. tuna pouches, diced chicken breast in a pop top can, Spam, meat sticks, jerkies
    • Canned fruits and vegetables, i.e. fruit cups, applesauce pouches, black olives, cranberry sauce, pasta sauce, diced tomatoes
    • Canned grains and beans, i.e. corn kernels, chickpeas, black beans, baked beans
    • Canned broths, such as vegetable broth, chicken broth or beef broth, or bouillon cubes that can dissolve in water for instant broth; use to drink or add to vegetables, grains and beans for a healthy cold soup
    • Hard crackers, such as the Wasa brand, that last much longer than soda crackers
    • Rolled oats, which can be eaten cold with or without liquids
    • Peanut butter
    • Nonfat dried milk
    • Instant mashed potatoes in flake form
    • A small sampling of seasonings including salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and cinnamon
    • Honey, use as a sweetener, will never spoil and can be used for medicinal purposes on cuts, scrapes and sore throats
    • Instant coffee, tea, fruit juice and sports drink mixes
    • Ramen noodles, which can be eaten without cooking for a crunchy, salty snack
    • A can opener
    • A set of dishes: one metal plate, one metal bowl, silverware and a drinking cup; use metal as it won’t melt like plastic or fall apart like paper
  • Medical supplies
    • Go with a first aid kit specifically for motorists to ensure you have a good selection of items; purchase a kit and then replace items if you use them, i.e. bandages, rubbing alcohol wipes, etc.
    • Moist towels aka baby wipes for preventing bacterial infections, etc.
  • Paperwork
    • A copy of your CDL
    • An official birth certificate or immigration record
    • A copy of your immunization record
    • A copy of your social security card
    • Your name, current home address, birth date and other important information written down on a sheet of paper
    • A notepad, pens and pencils to write down information you need or to share information with others in an emergency
    • Photos of yourself and your loved ones marked accordingly in case you need to be identified
    • Contact information to your nearest of kin and employer
  • Clothing
    • For winter conditions, have a complete set of winter-ready clothing in your bag
      • A pair of winter boots for walking, preferably waterproof and broken in
      • A pair of snow pants, insulated and fleece lined
      • A wool sweater
      • Winter gloves
      • Wool socks
      • Long underwear, wool, preferably merino wool that is less itchy, higher priced but worth it
      • A wool stocking cap
      • A rain coat to use as a waterproof layer if you have to walk in the snow
  • Tools
    • Hand cranked radio
    • Flashlight powered by shaking it, or a flashlight and extra batteries
    • Whistle for calling for help
    • Cell phone with calling card, one of those pre-paid deals
    • Solar charger to use with cell phone
    • A hatchet and a pocket knife, preferably one of those Swiss Army type knives
    • A plastic sheet, to use for a makeshift hut
    • Duct tape
  • A backpack, one of those backpacking deals that travelers use

For your emergency kit you need to have a backpack, preferably a camping backpack, which you can store all of the above items. Keep this in your cab and check it regularly. You’d hate to need it only to discover your water had leaked over everything, or your food supply was gone rancid. A little piece of mind, this emergency kit is easily amendable for the rest of the year. Just change up your clothing types for the various seasons.

What Items You Need to Have for New Truck Driver Orientation

Trucking driving down the roadIf you were fortunate enough to receive a pre-hire letter during truck driving school, the moment of reckoning has arrived. It’s time for you to cash that baby in and attend truck driver orientation. When you sent in your application for a trucking job to the company, they sent you the pre-hire letter that lets you move onto the next step. That next step is to attend orientation to see if you are going to be a good fit for the company. Your pre-hire letter showed that the company knows you have the truck driver training you need to do the job. The orientation process will show them that you have what it takes to do that job for their company. As you pack for trucker orientation, you want to make sure you have everything you need. Use this packing checklist to help you out.

Covering Your Clothing

Of course you’ll need to pack some clothes. However, what do you wear to trucker orientation? Avoid jogging pants, pajamas or running shorts; no flip flops either. Go for something more professional. You want to dress as you would if you were going to a job interview, as orientation is essentially that. Dress pants, nice denim, a collared shirt for the guys. Ladies, you don’t want to wear heels and a skirt as this is not going to work well when climbing into a big rig. Go for a sensible outfit that is classy yet easy to move in. Again, dress pants, nice denim without distressing holes, and a modest blouse should do the trick. You’ll need a change of clothing for every day. You also want to bring one dressy outfit, think Sunday best, for any dinners with the group and for the last day in case they take a group photo. In recap:

  • One casual-business outfit for each day of orientation
  • A stylish outfit, your Sunday best
  • Sensible shoes for orientation and a pair of dress-up shoes
  • Decent pajamas since you’ll likely share a hotel room
  • Clothes for exercising, lounging, and swimming if the hotel has a pool

Necessities Not to Forget

You need to bring money to purchase odd items including snacks, meals and unexpected costs. Even if the trucking company is paying for your food, chances are they are going to reimburse you of costs after training is over. Keep in mind that not all trucking companies pay for your food. Don’t get left without; take cash and jingly change for those snack machines. If you have a laptop, tablet, eReader or some other tech device in which to browse the web, bring it along. You’ll be able to do research after class, such as regarding the company you are becoming oriented with, as well as regarding things you learn in orientation regarding trucking. You might be required to set up some sort of accounts online, such as with payroll or communications systems, for the company. Having your own web-connected device lets you get these points covered asap. Here’s a review:

  • Cash money in bills and change for vending machines, along with a credit/debit card for emergency purchases
  • Tech gadgets that let you log onto the Internet
  • Paper and pencils/pens to take notes during orientation
  • A small ruler for doing log books, unless the company has already started using eLogs
  • Work gloves
  • Work boots
  • Hygiene stuff, like a toothbrush/toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, etc.
  • A laundry bag
  • Earplugs for snoring roommates
  • A backpack to hold your supplies for orientation
  • A folder or binder to contain all of the paperwork you’ll receive at orientation
  • Snacks and bottles of water to help you avoid spending too much at those vending machines
  • Photos of your family/friends to help you avoid getting homesick

Please Bring Your Paperwork

Paperwork is a big deal at orientations. For starters you’ll have to fill out a second application, which is compared to your first application in order to see if there are any discrepancies. That means you’ll need things like your CDL, birth certificate and social security card. If you have a family you will need their social security numbers, as well, so you can add them to health or life insurance plans. In a nutshell here are the items you’ll want to bring along:

  • Your pre-hire letter, just in case they’ve misplaced the fact that they gave you one
  • Your CDL
  • Your graduation certificate from truck driving school, if applicable
  • Social security cards or numbers for yourself and any members of your immediate family
  • Your official birth certificate or immigration papers if you are from another country of origin
  • A copy of your last tax refund
  • Discharge papers if you were in the military
  • Your resume
  • Any references you have including other pre-hire letters, if for nothing else than to give you a boost of self-confidence and a backup plan in case the orientation doesn’t pan out

Best Paying Cities and States for Truck Drivers

Red big rig truck hauling moneyIf you are on the hunt for the best paying truck driving jobs, you have a lot of variables to play around with. For starters, depending on your preferred haul type, i.e. reefer loads, tanker trucking jobs, and boat haulers, you will be able to increase your pay rate by choosing better paying trucking loads. The more variety and experience you have behind the wheel, the better you are as this gives you leverage and confidence to ask for raises and better paying trucking loads. But that’s not all. You can also move to a city or state where truckers are earning more money than their neighbors. Check out the top paying cities and states for truckers.

New York Trucking Jobs

In the state of New York, you will find jobs for truckers in the highest paying city in the US. Truckers hauling trucking loads in New York City earn more than $109,000 a year on average. This amount varies depending on your haul type, trucking company employer and experience. However, you stand to make more money as a truck driver in NYC than any other city in the US. Keep in mind the living expenses of New York City are outrageous, so if you plan on living in the city limits you’ll want to budget accordingly. Balance your expenses and income to determine if you are truly making more money as a trucker in New York. An option for most truckers is to live in the suburbs and outskirts of NYC so that you are in close proximity to these great paying trucking jobs, while maintaining a lower cost of living that helps you financially.

Chicago Trucking Jobs

The Windy City has historically been a great place to work for truck drivers. After all, this is one of the largest and busiest import and export hubs in the continental US. Between the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, consistently the busiest airport in the world, and having the largest number of US highways, Chicago is a hot spot for truckers. This city is also the leader in railroad freight, showing the strength of the city in terms of transporting goods. If you are a trucker here, you should have no problem finding truck driving jobs in Chicago.

Better yet, according to PayScale data, Chicago is experiencing a 19 percent increase in the amount of pay truck drivers earn compared to the median pay rate across the nation. If you want to earn 19 percent more money, while keeping yourself busy with trucking jobs, then consider relocating to Chicago. As the third largest metropolitan area in the US, second only to NYC and LA, you will have to contend with the high rates of crime and traffic. However, by choosing a home in the suburbs you are in a prime position to make more money than typical truck drivers in the US.

Seattle Trucking Jobs

Over in the Pacific Northwest, in another major port city, trucking jobs are paying well for truckers. Seattle, Washington is famous for being a fishing port and midway stop between California and Canada. It is also a huge tourist town, as well as bustling cultural capital. For truckers, though, the true attraction is the pay boost you’ll get when working on truck driving jobs in Seattle. Truck drivers here made 16 percent more than truck drivers on average in the rest of the US. If you are interested in hauling manufactured aircraft parts, consider driving for trucking companies hauling for Boeing, which is based in Seattle. The Emerald City is also huge among technology companies; after all, Amazon and Microsoft are headquartered here. Trucking jobs hauling tech products pay very well, so if you have a knack for tech goods, this could be a profitable niche for you to get into.

Houston Trucking Jobs

In the heart of Texas, you’ll find plenty of trucking jobs in Houston. Here you are closely connected to Galveston Bay, which is a major port in the lower part of the nation. Imported and exported goods regularly flood the bay area, offering you loads of opportunities for trucking loads. Houston is also near to the NASA astronaut training and flight control base, which provides trucking jobs in aviation and aeronautics. It’s not usual to see truckers hauling parts of rockets and space shuttles out of the Space Center Houston. So how much more do Houston truck drivers make compared to the rest of the country? You are looking at a 10 percent pay raise by being a Houston trucker. It’s worth looking into if you are interested in becoming a resident of the Lone Star State.

How Truckers Earn a Living: Per Diem, Straight Pay, Percentage and CPM

As you search for the best paying truck driving jobs, your top priority is to find the trucking company that will pay you the most money. Earning a living as a trucker involves driving to and from your destination in order to deliver loads of everything from pencils to pickled peaches. However, trucking companies have different routes for delivering paychecks for truckers. You can earn your pay through per diem, straight pay, percentage pay or cents per mile. Let’s break these down to figure out which one is better for you as a truck driver.

Per Diem Pay Rates

If you are a trucker who files your own taxes you’ve seen per diem regarding how many days you were on the road with OTR trucking jobs. Per diem is defined as “per day.” For tax purposes this rate includes reimbursements for lodging and meals while working as an OTR truck driver. For instance, in 2015 the per diem rate for food for truck drivers was $63 per day. This would be the amount you would report on your tax return in order to count it for a work-related expense.

However, when dealing with getting paid as a trucker, you need to look at per diem in a different light. For trucking companies that pay per diem for truck drivers, the most common method involves the following:

  • A truck driver is paid a lower cents per mile rate
  • Part of this pay is untaxed and listed as a separate item on the paycheck stub

If you are getting paid per diem by your trucking company, then you are not eligible to deduct the per diem rate on your tax return. You can’t have both per diems. The benefits of getting paid per diem by your trucking employer is that it reduces your gross income. This means you won’t have as much taxable income even though you will get a bigger paycheck. When should you avoid per diem pay:

  • If you hope to get a generous tax refund, then you would want to avoid per diem pay.

Another thing to note is that most trucking companies require you to pay a small fee for the ability to get a per diem pay rate.

Straight Pay for Truckers

For truck drivers receiving a gross pay rate each week or month, this is referred to as straight pay. You are given the same rate of pay each week no matter how many miles you run, or how many hours you are behind the wheel. Generally this is not applicable to over the road trucking jobs. However, for regional loads and dry van trucking loads that are drop and hooks, you will be able to make good money with straight pay.

After all, with these trucking hauls you are moving from Point A to Point B and then back to Point A, never having to deal with loads or new customers. You are home every night, which is much different than the life of an OTR trucker. However, if you want to make more money or have a greater control over your ability to get ahead, straight pay for truck drivers isn’t the best idea.

Percentage Pay in Trucking

Each load you haul as a trucker comes with a price tag. This is negotiated by the trucking company and the customer. In general, each trucking job has a different pay rate. Some may pay a gross of $5,000, for example, while other negotiated rates are paid by cents per mile. Every haul is different.

For truckers who are paid by the percentage of their loads, they are given a portion of the money earned by a trucking company. Typically the percentage rate is set across the board. For example, you might receive 10 percent of the total fee received for every load you haul. This means you will receive that same portion no matter how many days or miles it takes you to deliver a load. If you are working for a trucking company that has solid connections with good paying customers, then you can make great money with percentage rates.

Cents Per Mile

The most common and most popular way to get paid as a trucker is by cents per mile (CPM). For truckers with good experience and working with a top paying trucking company, they can earn approximately 40 cents per mile. This pay rate lets truckers get paid for as many miles as it takes them to deliver loads. Therefore you have to have a sound reputation for making deliveries on time and without getting lost in order to earn CPM. The downside for CPM pay is:

  • You don’t get paid to sit, unless you receive detention pay.
  • You aren’t getting paid if you are deadheading since you aren’t hauling a load in the process.

As you can see each type of pay comes with its own pros and cons. Finding the right pay type for you as a trucker requires you to take a look at your job status, experience level, trucking employer and pay expectations.