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Are you ready to hit the open road, explore new horizons, and play a pivotal role in the backbone of American commerce? Delivering goods across the country is the backbone of the economy, and the demand for dedicated and skilled truck drivers has never been higher. The trucking industry isn’t just about transportation; it’s a dynamic community that offers unmatched job security, competitive wages, and the kind of freedom that you simply can’t find within the confines of a traditional office setting.

What does it takes to become a professional driver? What are the different paths you can take in establishing your career? How do I find the best opportunities in the industry? Whether you’re an aspiring trucker ready to hit the road or a career changer interested in the growing conditions of the transport sector, you’ll need to be equipped with the right knowledge and skills to succeed. Whether you’re looking to transition into a new career or eager to jumpstart your working life, the trucking industry has a spot for you.

Understanding the Trucking Industry

The trucking industry is a crucial part of the logistics network, ensuring that goods travel safely and efficiently from manufacturer to consumer. It’s truly a mobile economy, sustaining communities across the nation and beyond. With the surge in e-commerce and the need for faster delivery times, the industry is now faced with a pressing demand for more drivers.

Economic Engine

Trucking moves more than 70% of all the freight in the United States. The industry generates hundreds of billions of dollars annually and employs millions of drivers. But what’s truly remarkable is the scale at which it operates – trucks can carry everything from perishable items, such as food and flowers, to heavy equipment and hazardous materials.

Need for Drivers

Despite its significance, the trucking industry is experiencing a notable shortage of drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the turnover rate at large truckload carriers reached 92% in 2019. This is due to a variety of factors, including an aging workforce, the difficulty in recruiting younger drivers, and the stringent regulations that govern the profession.

Requirements, Training, and Career Opportunities

Becoming a truck driver is more than just a career choice; it’s a commitment to safety, responsibility, and the art of navigation.

Meeting the Basic Requirements

To become a truck driver, you need to meet several baseline requirements. You must be at least 21 years of age (for interstate driving), have a valid driver’s license, and be in good physical health. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has specific medical and vision standards that you must adhere to, and many companies also require drug screening and background checks. You must be at least 21 years old to drive across state lines or haul hazardous materials. Additionally, you must pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam to obtain your Medical Examiner’s Certificate, which will serve as proof of your physical capability to operate a commercial vehicle.

Education and the Path to a CDL

Most trucking jobs demand at least a high school diploma or GED, but higher education is not a strict requirement. What does matter is your training in the operation of commercial vehicles, typically obtained through a Commercial Driver License (CDL) training program. This essential certification ensures you have the necessary skills and knowledge to safely operate a large vehicle.

The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is to truck drivers as a degree is to a professional. Obtaining a CDL is non-negotiable for anyone looking to pursue a career in trucking. It signifies a driver’s competency in handling commercial vehicles and is a strict requirement across the industry. To acquire a CDL, candidates must pass a series of tests designed to evaluate their knowledge and skills in commercial driving. These tests include:

    • Must have a valid Class A CDL License: This is non-negotiable. A Class A CDL allows you to operate vehicles towing more than 10,000 pounds and is essential for most over-the-road trucking jobs.
    • General Commercial Driving Knowledge: This covers the fundamentals of commercial driving, including the rules of the road, vehicle inspection, and safety protocols.
    • Operation of Air Brakes: For drivers whose vehicles are equipped with air brakes, demonstrating proficiency in their operation is essential.
    • Combination of Vehicles: Drivers planning to operate combination vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, must show they can safely handle the added complexity.
    • Special Endorsements: Certain types of cargo require additional endorsements. This includes tankers for liquid transport, double/triple trailers for larger loads, and hazardous materials. Each of these endorsements demands passing a specific knowledge test focused on the particularities of hauling such cargoes.

Successfully passing both the written knowledge test and the skills test in these categories is critical for receiving a CDL, allowing drivers to legally operate commercial vehicles across the country.

The Trucking Industry in Motion

Globalization, e-commerce, and ongoing demand for freight movement have turned the trucking industry into not only a solid career choice but also a crucial service. In the U.S., the trucking industry moves more than 70% of the country’s freight, making professional truck drivers key to driving economic growth.

With such a high demand for goods movement, the need for drivers is substantial and continuous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of delivery and heavy truck drivers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2020 to 2030, amounting to over 119,000 new positions. This growth is poised to create a significant number of job openings for individuals looking to start a career behind the wheel.

Truck Driver Training

With the licenses securely fastened in your wallet, the actual training to become a proficient truck driver starts. There are several channels through which you can prepare for the road.

CDL School

Arguably, the quickest and most structured route to your CDL is through a CDL school. These institutions provide a curriculum that’s designed to help you pass the necessary tests, covering everything from vehicle inspection procedures to state driving regulations.

Some trucking companies have their training programs or partner with CDL schools, offering potential candidates tuition reimbursement or subsidized training costs.

On-The-Road Experience

Once you’ve acquired your CDL, the experience behind the wheel becomes the most significant factor in your employability and overall safety as a truck driver. Many new drivers start their careers with Over The Road (OTR) trucking, serving as the main entry point to the industry. OTR drivers can spend weeks at a time on the road, crisscrossing the country to deliver perishable goods, food, or electronics.

Local and regional driving opportunities are available for drivers who prefer more predictable routes and home-time schedules. Specialized routes, such as tanker and double trailer loads, usually require more experience and additional endorsements due to the complexity and risk factors involved in hauling certain types of freight.

The Journey Ahead

Once you have your foot in the door, the trucking industry offers a range of opportunities to tailor your career to your personal preferences and work style.

OTR Trucking: The Long Distance Lifestyle

For those who relish adventure and the solitude of the road, OTR trucking offers that and then some. It’s an excellent way to rack up experience and miles quickly.

At Mountain River Trucking Co., our primary routes run from North Carolina to the West Coast, ensuring fresh produce, meat, and other perishables reach their destinations promptly and safely. On the return trip, we backhaul from the West Coast to the East Coast, maximizing efficiency and sustainability in our operations. Our commitment to reliability and excellence in service makes us a leading choice for refrigerated transport needs across the country.

Short Haul Regional Load Options

Regional trucking jobs generally keep you within a few states’ borders, allowing for more consistency in your schedule without sacrificing the thrill of the long haul altogether.

At Mountain River Trucking Co., we understand the importance of flexibility and proximity in the trucking profession. That’s why we offer exclusive short haul regional load options tailored for drivers seeking shorter routes. These distribution services are strategically focused between Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, ensuring our team can effectively serve the Southeast with efficiency and reliability. This option is perfect for drivers looking to balance life on the road with time at home, without compromising on the range of opportunities available within the industry.

Local Trucking: Keeping It Close

Local truck driving typically involves making deliveries in a specific metropolitan area and offers more time at home. This can be an attractive option for truckers who prioritize location and a stable work-life balance.

Specialized Carriers: A Touch of Expertise

If you’re drawn to a specific type of freight or have a penchant for specialized driving, look into carriers that transport chemicals, pharmaceuticals, or even vehicles.

At Mountain River Trucking Co., we take pride in operating one of the largest refrigerated fleets in the Eastern United States. For drivers interested in specializing in refrigerated transport, Mountain River Trucking Co. provides an unparalleled opportunity to master this niche. Our state-of-the-art fleet is equipped with the latest technology to ensure that temperature-sensitive cargo is transported under optimal conditions, securing the freshness and quality of the goods from pickup to delivery. If you’re looking to make a significant impact in the supply chain of perishable goods, while growing your career in a direction that values expertise and precision, then driving for Mountain River Trucking Co.’s refrigerated division might just be your ideal path forward.

Benefits of a Trucking Career

Trucking is more than a job; it’s a lifestyle. The compensation for truck drivers is generally higher than the national average, with OTR drivers often earning the most due to the long hours and higher demand for the role.

Earning Potential on the Road

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $47,130 in May 2020.

At Mountain River Trucking Co., we highly value our drivers and the essential role they play in our success. To support our new recruits in their career beginnings, we offer competitive compensation for entry-level positions. Entry-Level pay for CDL School Graduates starts at $0.24 cents per mile, ensuring our drivers are rewarded for every mile they conquer. On average, a first-year salary can reach up to $58,000, reflecting our commitment to providing industry-leading remuneration. These initiatives are part of our ongoing effort to not only attract but also retain the best talents in the trucking industry.

OTR Team Driver Pay Scale

For experienced drivers ready to take their career to the next level, our OTR Team Driver positions offer an attractive pay scale. Experienced team drivers at Mountain River Trucking Co. can expect an average annual salary ranging from $70,000 to $85,000. This enhanced earning potential reflects the additional skills, coordination, and endurance required for team driving roles. This package underscores our commitment to recognizing and rewarding the valuable contributions of our team drivers in facilitating efficient, long-haul deliveries across the country.

All Roads Lead to Benefits

While pay is significant, the benefits of a trucking career often extend well beyond the paycheck. Many trucking companies offer extensive benefit packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and bonuses for safety and longevity.

At Mountain River Trucking, we go beyond the standard compensation package to ensure our drivers’ well-being and satisfaction on and off the road. Our comprehensive benefits package is designed to offer security and comfort to our team members and their families.

Insurance Benefits

Our company drivers enjoy access to competitive insurance benefits, designed to provide comprehensive coverage and peace of mind. This includes:

    • Medical, Dental, and Vision Insurance: Comprehensive health coverage to meet the diverse needs of our drivers and their families.
    • Life Insurance: Offers financial security and peace of mind for drivers and their loved ones.
    • Short-Term Disability Insurance: Provides income protection for drivers unable to work due to illness or injury.
    • Cancer, Critical Illness, and Accident Insurance: Added layers of financial protection in the face of unexpected health issues.

Safety & Performance Bonus

Safety is a top priority at Mountain River Trucking. To acknowledge and reward our drivers’ commitment to safety, we offer bonuses to those who maintain a record free of preventable accidents or out-of-service incidents within a specific timeframe. This incentive encourages not only safe driving practices but also recognizes the dedication of our drivers to maintaining the highest safety standards.

Home Time

Understanding the importance of family, we ensure our drivers receive an average of two days of home time per week. This policy is part of our commitment to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, allowing our drivers to rest and recharge while spending valuable time with their loved ones.

Vacation Pay

To further support our drivers’ well-being, we offer up to 3 weeks of paid vacation each year, based on the number of weeks worked and tenure with the company. This benefit is designed to provide our drivers with the opportunity to enjoy well-deserved breaks and to recharge.

Holiday Pay

Our drivers are eligible to receive up to 5 paid holidays per calendar year, ensuring they can enjoy important moments and celebrations without worrying about financial impact.

401K With Company Match

We offer a 401K plan with company match, encouraging our drivers to plan for their future with a solid retirement savings plan that grows together with their contributions.

Pet Policy

Recognizing the companionship pets provide, our drivers are permitted to have pets in company equipment, provided the equipment is kept clean and maintained each week. This policy underscores our recognition of the comforts of home, even when on the road.

By providing these additional benefits, Mountain River Trucking Co. aims to not only attract the best drivers in the industry but also to ensure their continued satisfaction and growth with us.

Job Security and Industry Growth

The growth of the industry combined with an aging workforce means that job security for professional truck drivers is robust. Those who enter the industry now will be poised to step into high-demand roles as older drivers retire.

Tips for Success in Your Truck Driving Career

The trucking industry rewards those who go the extra mile. Here are some tips to steer your career toward success:

  • Maintain a Clean Driving Record: This is your working portfolio. It speaks volumes about your professionalism and reliability.
  • Stay Informed: Understand industry trends and standards. Knowledge is power in a constantly evolving sector.
  • Network: Join professional organizations and connect with other drivers. The camaraderie and advice you’ll receive are invaluable.
  • Balance the Books with Balance of Life: Budget your earnings and hours effectively, but also know when to pull over and enjoy the scenery.

Becoming a Truck Driver: Requirements, Training, and Career Opportunities

A career in trucking is more than a job; it’s a lifestyle. The industry is an essential cog in the American economy, and those who take the wheel in this profession are poised for a fulfilling and stable future.

If the call of the road beckons you, or you’re ready to shift gears in your professional life, the trucking industry stands ready to welcome you. Ready to take that first step? Mountain River Trucking Co., Inc., invites you to explore the opportunities that await you.

Navigating through the requirements, training, and career paths in the trucking industry may seem like a long haul, but with the right mindset and commitment, your career as a professional truck driver is within reach. It’s time to turn the key and start your engine. The world of trucking awaits.

For more information on how to become a truck driver with Mountain River Trucking Co., Inc., visit our website or reach out to our recruitment team for personalized guidance.

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