I've been driving an 18-wheeler for 11 years. People
always ask "is it hard to drive that thing." The answer is: yes and no.
Once you're used to driving an 18-wheeler, it's not hard. But it takes
a lot of practice, patience, and paying attention to get good. You know
a guy has been trucking a long time when he can blind side it into a
hole between two trucks without having to pull up once. For the rest of
us, it's a good idea to have an extra set of eyes watching from outside
the truck, go slow, and not worry about looking dumb when you need to
make a correction.
Trucking schools teach you the basics. They
teach you what you need to know to pass the test in your state. They
teach you how to answer the questions the right way and how to turn the
wheel to put the trailer where the examiner wants it to go. They do NOT
teach you trucking. I'd call trucking school "Intro to Trucking, 101,"
if you will. Don't get me wrong-trucking school provides you with a
good base of knowledge about trucking. You can learn the physics behind
a jack knife and some basic tips to avoid trucking accidents. You can
learn the basics of maneuvering. You can learn the rules and
regulations of the trucking world. The more you know when you leave
trucking school, the better equipped you are to handle the realities
you will encounter on the road.
I don't know of any reputable
companies that don't require trucking school. Some companies provide
their own trucking school and teach you for free so long as you drive
for them for a certain period of time- usually 6 months to a year.
When I went to trucking school, there were 4 ways to pay.
- Pay cash up front.
- Get a loan, pay the trucking school up front and pay
the loan back to the loaner (whether it's a bank or a relative).
- Take a loan from the trucking school and pay them
back with a lot of interest.
- Government funding through unemployment or military
If you opt to take a loan from the trucking school, be aware of the
interest they are charging. Also, read the contract on the loan
carefully. Some loans penalize you for paying them off early and some
require that you pay all the interest whether you pay it off early or
If you opt to work for a company that provides the
training in return for your commitment to drive for them, be aware of
what the going rates are for new drivers. Say that trucking school
costs $3,500 and the going rate for a solo driver is 30 cents per mile
(cpm). If you opt to go through a company's trucking school and they
want you to drive for them for a year at 20 cpm, that's a 10 cent
difference. In a year's time, if you drive 100,000 miles, you have made
$10,000 less than you would have working for 30 cpm. You need to decide
if the original investment in trucking school is worth the loss of
income you may face.
However you pay for it, trucking school is a necessity
in most cases. It is the gateway to a good paying job.