Driving big rigs is in high demand, and with the freedom and flexibility the profession offers, we delve into how to become a truck driver.
Trucking is an excellent profession for those who have what it takes. Every day is different, the training requirements are not too substantial for a lifelong career, and in an economy with a driver shortage, CDL holders have options.
So, let’s take a quick look at the statistics in Canada and the US and why prospective truckers might want to consider a career in logistics.
In Canada in 2021, there were an estimated 324,200 truck drivers — up from 300,000 in 2020. The profession is growing, and the industry is struggling to keep up with the demand for drivers, with some estimates of the vacancy rate for drivers at 18,000 unfilled jobs.
In the US, the number of unfilled driver jobs slid to nearly 78,000, down about 4% from a record 81,258 in 2021, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). However, the trucker shortage is still a crucial concern for the industry.
This article provides an overview of how to become a truck driver in Canada and the USA. But before we get into the specifics, some abilities and skills are required upfront to enter the profession.
Natural abilities and skills of truck drivers
People who want to become truck drivers usually share common attributes regarding professional skills and natural abilities. These include the desire to work independently, being able to cope with the stress of tight deadlines, and critical thinking skills.
Some other essential skills that are needed for this profession are the ability to move your hands with dexterity and ease, carry a weight ranging from 10 to 55 pounds regularly, and remain seated for long periods.
In general, to be a trucker, you need to be relatively able-bodied, in good health, and capable of adjusting to irregular working hours.
How to become a truck driver in Canada
Canadian truck drivers are classified under the NOC 7511. The profession is in high demand in Canada, and companies always look for reliable and experienced drivers.
Employment requirements for truck driving candidates:
- Be at least 18 years old (although some companies require more years of experience to work for them)
- A high school, secondary school diploma or equivalent
- On-the-job-training experience provided through the CDL licensing program
- Up to three months of accredited driver training at a vocational school
- Flatbed truck drivers require a Class 3 or a Class D license
- Long-body combination trucks require a Class 1 or Class A driver’s license
- Airbrake approval is a requirement for drivers operating vehicles equipped with these devices.
- Dangerous goods transport certification is required for roles that require it
But other conditions also include:
- Having a clean driving record
- Passing the Ministry of Transportation’s medical and vision tests
- Passing a drug and alcohol test
License requirements can vary by province and territory. For example, in Quebec, it depends on the specific requirements of the ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur.
Training and fees
Since 2020, truck drivers in Canada must complete a minimum of 103.5 hours of training to obtain a Class 1/A license. In addition, they must combine 8.5 hours of training for the airbrake license.
This minimum is set up by the National Safety Code standards, which determine that the hours of training are divided into 36.5 hours in the classroom, 17 hours in the yard, and 50 hours behind the wheel. Airbrake training consists of six and a half hours in the classroom and two hours in the yard.
Fees vary from institution to institution and can be different in every province. In Quebec, for instance, the CFTR training fees of $530 include school material, medical evaluation fees, the cost of the driver’s license, appropriate clothing, and shoes, but long-distance driver training could put this amount closer to $2K-3K.
The entire course and program fees in Ontario can be up to $8,000-$15,000 for full-time 6 to 12-week programs.
How to become a truck driver in the United States
It’s important to note that individual states, not the federal government, are responsible for issuing CDLs (Commercial Driver’s Licenses).
- Be at least 21 years old
- Hold a high school diploma or GED certificate
- Possess a non-commercial driver’s license
- Pass DOT physical medical tests
- Write and pass a test to obtain the Commercial Learners’ Permit (for initial training)
- Do the CDL exam and obtain your truck driving license: the Class A CDL is the best choice as it allows the holder a wider choice of employment options
CDL training program
CDL truck driving schools in the US can be different in every state, and there are many to choose from. The program typically lasts 300 hours with a trainer (eight to 10 weeks), including onsite coaching and road steering practice.
Truck driving programs cost between $2,000 and $10,000 in tuition, depending on the school. Students can often offset these costs with scholarships and grants. Some schools even have relationships with employers that help students pay off loans they take out. Students can to discuss tuition and funding with their student advisors.
Types of CDL schools:
- Private training academies and community college programs with dedicated instructors
- Publicly funded schools that are usually less expensive
- Company-Sponsored CDL Training: programs offered by trucking companies that train students to obtain a CDL in exchange for a promise to stay with the company as a truck driver for a certain period (usually about a year)
Many paid CDL training programs offer tuition-free plans. However, they require students to repay tuition upon completion of the program if they don’t stay.
If you are a truck driver and you are interested, discover ENERGY’s career opportunities and all their benefits and work advantages!