Most of us know truckers keep America in business. No matter what commodity we’re talking about; if it wasn’t for truckers, goods wouldn’t make it to the variety of destinations where they’re needed. Hours on the road transporting various materials require strong driving skills and awareness which is why great drivers are always in need.
How far back to trucking companies check driving records? When a trucking company initially hires an individual, they are likely to pull a DAC (Drive-a-Check) report that includes at least 10-years of history. Once hired on, companies are also required to check every driver’s record at least once every twelve months.
This does not mean that a decades-old offense will definitely have a bearing on your ability to be employed – the DAC simply provides a snapshot of important information for the employer. Being a truck driver is demanding and it takes a special breed of individual to be good at it. Let’s take a look at some of the requirements for being a truck driver.
What Marks on Your Record Are Barriers to Getting Hired as a Truck Driver?
There are a few things that are considered non-negotiables – at least on a temporary basis – to getting hired with a trucking company:
If you have a DUI or a DWI on your record within the past two years, you are likely to be subject to a waiting period before a company will consider hiring you.
CDL holders who get a DUI or DWI while driving are subject to stiff fines, potential jail time, mandatory driving school, and at least a one-year licensure loss.
If this offense was committed in a commercial vehicle, it results in an automatic disqualification for at least one year.
If you previously committed – and were convicted of – a felony, you will be subject to a four to five year waiting period before you will be eligible to enroll in a truck driving school.
Guess what? NOT a problem! Most companies do not care about your credit history, provided credit fraud is not the issue.
Certain infractions will also affect your ability to retain your license, should you already have your CDL. These can vary by state but are almost always very well spelled-out by the Secretary of State. Here is some information from Missouri’s website, as an example:
Missouri used a points-based system to keep track of a CDL driver’s record. Offenses tallied against a driver include:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Careless driving
- Driving without insurance
- Refusal to submit to chemical testing
- Court-determined drug or alcohol offenses.
Nationwide, there is very little tolerance for poor driving performance or dismissal of road safety by a driver with a CDL. It is extremely important to keep a clean driving record if you hope to stay on the road.
How Do You Become a Truck Driver?
So, you want to be a truck driver. To be a truck driver, you must have your CDL (commercial driver’s license). There are a few different routes you can take to get your foot in the door in this industry:
Apply to a specific company’s driver school.
Some of the larger carriers have their own sponsored certified driving school that offers CDL training. Once accepted into one of these programs, you will have the chance to go through the company’s rigorous training to obtain your CDL.
These programs cost companies anywhere from $3,500 to over $7,000 per student. That said, it doesn’t come as a surprise that there is usually a contract involved that states the individual will drive for the company for a certain amount of time after training.
People who do not meet the terms of the contract usually are required to reimburse the trucking company for the cost of the training.
Apply to companies who need tandem drivers.
You already have your CDL and have a clean driving record, but don’t have enough road hours of experience. Consider applying with companies that hire less experienced drivers to team up with veteran drivers for long-haul trips. You will still have to pass the company’s driving test and application process to get this kind of opportunity.
Apply to companies who need warehouse help.
If your driving or criminal record is such that you are under a mandatory waiting period, apply for different jobs at your trucking companies of choice while you wait. This gives both you and the company a chance to learn about each other – to discover strengths and develop a strong rapport.
What Trucking Companies Are Looking for in a Driver
Like most companies, trucking companies are looking for drivers they can depend on. They want someone who is going to be:
These companies are on a tight schedule and expect their drivers to understand that. There will be times when travel conditions – weather, traffic, road construction, forest fires, etc. – make it impossible to keep to the schedule, but those times should be the exception.
Drivers have to keep meticulous records of the number of miles they’ve driven for a specific period of time, the amount of rest time they’ve taken, the weights scales have recorded at weigh stations, total cargo hauled, and more. Employers expect their drivers to be honest in their dealings in these areas.
Granted, some companies care more about this than others. Quality companies want their drivers to represent their brand. They should be well-groomed, provide updates to the dispatcher regarding any snags in the schedule, be safe drivers, and keep their rig clean and well maintained.
During the interview process, the hiring company is looking for someone who is ready to move forward and make a good impression – not someone who is interested in bad-mouthing their previous employer or co-workers.
The truck driving industry has very specific health standards for drivers. To obtain a CDL, an applicant must submit to a physical examination. Certain ailments will automatically disqualify a driver and these decisions are based entirely on the safety of the driver and other drivers on the road.
Are Truck Drivers Well-Compensated?
Many of the top trucking companies not only offer competitive salaries but also have extensive benefits packages for their employees. Some companies even have matching 401(k) programs and stock purchase programs for their employees.
Companies with Sponsored CDL Programs
Let’s assume that you have a clean driving record and don’t have any previous legal challenges in your way. Here are some of the companies that offer sponsored CDL programs so you can get on your way to becoming a truck driver:
This company is well established and has a good reputation in the industry. They hire both regional and positions dedicated to specific routes after between 3-6 months of successful employment. There is a lot of unloading expected of drivers, but most feel the job is well worth it.
Prime’s CDL training process is very hands-on, which gives you a chance to experience what it’s truly like to be a trucker before you officially become one. They also offer regional and dedicated local runs and are known for treating new truckers well.
Knight also offers one-on-one hands-on training with an experienced driver. They have a good career structure and offer opportunities for additional training.
Roehl is known for paying its drivers while they are in training. They offer a combination of traditional driving school training and on-the-job training with a diver coach.
C.R. England Trucking Company
One of the biggest refrigerated trucking companies in operation, this company offers sponsored CDL training. That said, it is sponsored, not paid for. You will be charged a non-refundable administrative/processing fee up-front and will be responsible for financing your CDL training. Provided you remain with the company for more than three years, you will be reimbursed a portion of the cost you invested in your training.
Many of the top companies offer their experienced driver’s salary packages in excess of $80,000 per year, so putting in the time can be a very valuable and lucrative career path.
Truck drivers are the backbone of the American economy. Good truck drivers earn respect and excellent compensation. Mediocre truck drivers – not so much.
Since the job is all about driving, it’s understandable that regulations require companies to review their driver’s records at least every twelve months and to take a close look at the work and driving history of the people they are hiring.
If you’re ready for a job that has you on the road, is physically demanding, but also very rewarding, look into some of these companies. You will be able to keep food going to grocery stores, clothes going to retail outlets, and fuel getting to gas stations.