Becoming a truck driver in Alabama can be one of the best career moves you can make. Every day is a new adventure, you’re the boss in the cab of your truck, and the earnings potential is exceptional. Better yet, you’ll be in very high demand in a growing industry that is the backbone of America.
If you’ve ever wondered how to become a CDL driver and what you can expect as a driver, we’re here to help with the information you need.
Tips to Getting Your CDL in Alabama
For those that question, “how do you become a truck driver” affordable truck driver training in Alabama is the best start. Even trucking companies pay for CDL training in Alabama because drivers are in such demand.
Starting your new career requires that applicants be over 18 years of age and have held a valid driver’s license for at least one year that hasn’t been suspended, revoked, canceled, or disqualified. To drive outside of state lines, the applicant must be over 21.
Before being licensed as a CDL truck driver, as an applicant, you must obtain a commercial learner’s permit, which authorizes you to practice on public roads.
Before considering things like endorsements and vehicle classes, it’s essential to spend time behind the wheel with an expert in the passenger’s seat, learning to drive, backing, and familiarizing yourself with the equipment, you’ll be using. Additionally, bookwork and study are very recommended.
At a driving school, you’ll be taught by experts using tractors and trailers the same as you will operate as a CDL driver. You’ll learn at your own pace in the classroom with books, tablets, and video instruction. The school will be with you through to your test date, even scheduling your test.
In a CDL driving school, you can expect to learn safe and effective driving and how to be successful in your new career.
After getting your CDL, now is the time to consider special endorsements and add-ons for your CDL. New opportunities open up when you can drive specific vehicles or haul certain materials. Some endorsements will include the ability to transport hazardous materials, pull double or triple trailers, and drive buses.
What to Do After You Recieve Your CDL in Alabama
Congratulations! You have your CDL license and are ready to become a professional truck driver. There are a few steps to take next.
Let’s get you on the road.
Join a carrier
You have your CDL; it’s time to sign on with a carrier. Many carriers need drivers immediately, so look for the one that best fits your current and future goals. Desired pay is your primary consideration, but you should also consider benefits, tuition reimbursement or assistance, and your long-term advancement opportunities.
You can start looking for carriers while in truck driving school. Many students are hired before receiving their CDL, and a job lined up before you finish school is a huge step and a great head start.
Advanced training programs
Before you get on the road, most carriers will require more advanced training. The carrier will arrange your courses, and the more complex techniques will be incredibly beneficial when you’re on the road. Like your CDL training, a trainer will be in the passenger seat for some of your driving, and once it’s agreed you’re ready, it’s time to hit the road.
Hit the road
You’re signed with a carrier, your advanced training is done, and you’re ready to hit the road as a professional CDL driver. Many carriers will start you out with Over-the-Road (OTR) assignments. These long-distance trips will give you tremendous experience as you start your career.
What Does a Day in the Life of a Truck Driver Look Like?
You might wonder what your typical days will look like while driving a truck. Trucking is freeing but also comes with its challenges.
Many truck drivers like to get an early start, although this can depend on the driver or job requirements. The early rise is an opportunity to check route and weather conditions, inspect the truck, and complete any logs before heading out.
On the road, your schedule is tight, meaning you always want to be alert for anything that could cause a delay. Accidents and slow vehicles can impact your transit time, as can harsh weather or equipment issues. The expectation is that delivery will be made on schedule, so days are spent making every effort to get cargo where it needs to go on time.
It’s also important to note that truck drivers are limited to 11 hours on the road due to federal regulations, which can result in additional pressure to finish your route.
Your workdays can vary, but they will typically be long. Depending on the route, weather, traffic, rest areas, and road hazards, a day can be shorter or longer. That 11-hour daily maximum allowed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) can be spread over 14 hours, potentially making days very long, especially if you take a lot of breaks.
The first year can entail a lot of time on the road. The pay as an OTR is good, but the lifestyle does require some adaptation time.
After a long day, you might find yourself in the sleeper in your truck once you’ve pulled off to rest. If you’re parked at a truck stop, your evening will probably involve grabbing a bite to eat or taking a shower, after which you’ll call home and get some rest before another early start.
What to Look for in a Carrier
While evaluating who you wish to work for, you should consider five specific things.
It’s about more than money, but you also didn’t go in truck driving because you wanted to be under-compensated. Compensation means all aspects of financial benefits, including health care insurance and paid time off. One company might offer you a substantial paycheck but not treat you well, so income should always be weighed against all of your needs.
Working for a company with strong values is a consideration for anyone looking for a new job. It’s worth checking if the company backs up its value statement with decades of proven success. Also, ask the drivers if they feel respected and review the company’s safety record. It makes all the difference to work for a company with integrity.
Being on the road and away from home is the reality of driving truck, which makes working for a carrier that respects home time essential. Do they have programs to get drivers home for more extended periods or switch up routes to promote work-life balance?
Great carriers will continue to train you and open up new opportunities to move your career forward. A company that offers advancement and training opportunities is also one that is likely to pay you well, treat you right, and respect your work-life balance.
You’ll be on the road a lot, meaning your equipment needs high quality. A truck that breaks down limits your earnings. If it isn’t modern and comfortable, do you want to spend most of your days in it? A company that continually invests in new equipment and uses technology is a must.
What to Expect in Your First Year as a Truck Driver
Starting a new career always entails wondering what life will look like for the first year. This is the period where you establish yourself and build experience, meaning it will be very different from the years after.
Seven aspects of your first year will include:
- You’re constantly learning: All new jobs have a break-in period where you get used to the requirements and lifestyle. The first year is when mistakes will be more common, and necessary learning can often come from frustrating situations. Experience counts; the more you get in the first year, the more you’ll make over the long term.
- Seat time is essential: Your first-year goal is getting in the seat and driving, but it will take work. At first, you might be driving with a trainer, so two personalities need to get along in a small space, which can be challenging.
- Paid Training Wages Can Stink: Companies tend to offer different pay for those in training, and trucking is the same. You could spend a lot of time in a truck with a trainer while getting paid a lousy wage. Once you hit the road, your first-year pay will still be low compared to subsequent years when your expertise has grown.
- You need to live cheap: Remember, your first year is about gaining experience, not getting rich. Prepare to budget and make living adjustments.
- Minimize accidents: You learn as you go but also avoid accidents, which are common with first-year drivers. Taking great care and getting to know the equipment is critical to keeping accidents off your driving record.
- Plan on being away from home: When you’re on the road, it could be for several weeks. It’s not easy if you’re in a relationship or have kids. Your family needs to know what to expect, and you need to prepare yourself for being away. Trucking can be very lonely at times.
- You have to stay focused: The first year is tough, so keeping your goals in mind and committing to them are essential. Don’t let yourself get discouraged or overwhelmed; focus on setting yourself up for later success.
- You’re not the top dog: A new driver is yet to be known by anyone in the company. It’ll likely be assigned to you when a challenging load comes up. Give it time, make friends in the company, and things will change.
How to Become a Successful Truck Driver
Beyond learning and making it through the first year, there are a couple of things to consider to become ever more successful throughout your career.
- Play by the rules: Follow all of the laws and regulations. Learn them and stick to them to avoid accidents and incidents that could tarnish your license.
- Practice safety first: You’re driving a massive vehicle, pulling a very long trailer, and potentially carrying something hazardous; make safety priority number one. Protecting yourself and others is the most essential consideration every time you’re on the road.
- Find your niche: You’ll always be the most successful when you find the niche you like the most. Whether your specialty is based on distance, truck type, or materials hauled, you’ll excel once you find what you like best.
- Befriend your dispatcher: While you always want to be friendly, befriending your dispatcher comes with some perks. Your dispatcher can take a lot off your plate, like tracking conditions, fuel costs, and weather, allowing more time to focus on driving.
- Maintain your work-life balance: It doesn’t matter what your job is; work-life balance is essential. Don’t get consumed by your work. Spend time with your family and friends and avoid burnout.
- Manage your time well: When you’re on the road, getting loads delivered on time is all on you. Manage your time and earn a reputation as reliable, but also factor in taking care of yourself. Remember, you need to eat, shower, call home, and do your log books.
Why Choose AMX Academy for Entry-Level Driver Training (EDLT)?
Just like choosing a carrier to work for can be difficult, so can choosing a truck driving school. It comes down to factors like time behind the wheel, instructor quality, class sizes, and equipment quality.
AMX Academy keeps classes small to ensure students have more time behind the wheel and practice backing. Your driving time takes place in quality, modern equipment like you’ll be using on the road.
AMX employees are expert trainers with real-world experience and love getting new trainees into their new careers. In the classroom, you’re empowered to learn on your schedule with the best learning materials and technologies.
The Benefits of Becoming a Truck Driver Through AMX Academy are Excellent
If you’ve been wondering how to become a truck driver, now is the time. The industry needs drivers immediately, which opens up more opportunities for you. You can start with a great company and literally “let your career take you places.”
Learning from instructors with real-world experience and teaching real-world techniques empowers you to advance your career even faster. Those industry experts know what it takes to survive and prosper and will pass that knowledge on to you.
AMX Academy Simplifies Truck Driver Training
There has never been a better time to enter the trucking profession. If you’re ready to begin your new exciting, high-paying career as a CDL-A driver, AMX Academy will simplify the process and set you up for success.
Apply to AMX Academy today to start your incredible new career.