As with any industry, the jobs you can get with little to no experience aren’t always jobs you want to keep. For freight carriers, there is a big risk associated with hiring on new drivers. Even though you have a CDL, you don’t have any road experience. The company can’t just send you out on the road with a few million dollars worth of equipment and freight, so they typically pair you up with a trainer, who they have to pay. Because new drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident, the carrier’s insurance rates will be higher. And since you’re new, who knows if you will actually like the job. Some people try trucking for a while, hate it and quit. For these reasons, a lot of companies won’t hire drivers with less than a year experience.
On the other hand, some large national carriers prefer to hire new drivers. Some of these carriers argue that they prefer to train people in their own practices and policies and not have to work with a previous employer’s conflicting training. Or, their business may compete on cost and they need to get the least expensive drivers possible: entry level drivers.
For many new drivers, a layoff or downturn in their previous job was what led them to trucking in the first place. If you’ve been out of work, your top priority is usually just getting “a job,” not “the job.”
For example, Micron Technology in Boise, Idaho, laid off about 3,500 workers in 2008 and 2009. Some of these displaced workers, along with struggling realtors and bankers tried their hand at trucking. At that time, a flood of recent grads hit the labor market all at once, which made it tough for anyone to find a job. Over time, these transitioned workers have been absorbed either into trucking or other jobs, and it’s getting easier for new CDL grads to find a job now.
Beginners often get the least desirable routes in the firm. You may get less miles (and therefore less money) than you want. You are unlikely to get freight that involves a bonus. You could spend excessive amounts of time laid over and waiting for dispatch to tell you where and when to pick up your next load. The company may cancel your leave at the last minute or leave you hanging around at home waiting for an assignment.
Many big companies practice forced dispatch, which means you have no right to refuse a load that’s been assigned to you. If, for example, you don’t like a certain customer or you aren’t properly rested and you can’t safely make the load, you can’t just say no when you work for a forced dispatch company. If you do, you might have to wait a day or more for another load. Some companies will carry a grudge for weeks, others may suspend or fire drivers for refusing a load. If you are working for a less-than-scrupulous company, forced dispatch could pressure you to violate hours-of-service rules. Fortunately, federal regulations are changing so that drivers’ violations now affect the carrier’s safety rating.
Entry-level truck driving jobs can be rough. It’s best to have realistic expectations and understand it’s just one year of your life and after that, things do get better. Depending on your personal preferences, after you get some experience, you might prefer to move into a shorter-haul job with a regular schedule and predictable home time. Or, you might look for a job that gives you longer routes and more miles.