FAQs



Q?

How are truck drivers paid and how much will I earn as a truck driver?

A.


Over-the-road drivers are generally paid “by the mile”.  Starting pay for inexperienced drivers is usually in the range of $0.32-$0.35 per mile.  Some companies pay extra for trips into certain areas, like New York City.  Some companies pay extra for short runs.  Most companies have “detention pay” when a driver has to wait for loading and unloading.  There are also quarterly bonuses based on achieving goals in areas such as safety, fuel economy, and meeting delivery schedules.  First-year income for an OTR driver averages about $40,000.  Unlike an hourly paid job, those who work hardest make the most money.  You will have to work smart and hard to be successful in this industry.  Local jobs, such as hauling construction equipment or food/beverage delivery, usually pay by the hour.  Annual income from a local job is often lower than from an OTR job but, for many, the lower pay is offset by more frequent home time.


Q?

What kind of drug and alcohol testing is done for truck drivers?

A.


All truck drivers are subject to drug and alcohol testing.  Employers are required to test prospective drivers for drugs before employing them.  The test includes any drug or substance identified in 21 CFR 1308.11 Schedule I, amphetamines, narcotics, or other habit-forming drugs.  Some companies use a urine test that will indicate drug use in the past 30 days or so.  Other companies use a hair follicle test that can indicate drug use as far back as 90-120 days.  Once employed, drivers are subject to random testing, post-crash testing, and reasonable suspicion testing for both alcohol and drugs (controlled substances).  These are federal requirements and supersede state laws that are less restrictive.  The most common situation arises when marijuana use, either medically or recreationally, is legalized by a state.  Marijuana use by commercial vehicle drivers is strictly prohibited regardless of state law.


Q?

My driving record isn’t perfect. How will that affect my employability?

A.


There are the same two issues here as there are with a criminal history – eligibility for a CDL from the state and employability.  Check with a Secretary of State office to determine your eligibility for a license.  Employers will be concerned about crashes, especially crashes you caused or in which you lost control of your vehicle.  They will also be concerned about DUIs (alcohol or drugs) and violations of traffic laws that indicate a disregard for the safety of the motoring public – speeding, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, etc.


Q?

I have a criminal history. Will that prevent me from becoming a truck driver?

A.


Maybe.  There are 2 issues to consider.  The first issue is your eligibility to obtain a CDL from the state of Michigan.  If you have concerns about this issue, we strongly suggest that you check with a Secretary of State office to be sure you are eligible before you start training.  The second issue is whether an employer will hire you.  Each company has its own standards for hiring and many handle each application on a case-by-case basis.  However, there are some general standards in the industry.  The more time that has elapsed since the crime occurred and the punishment ended, the less it is a barrier to hiring.  Not surprisingly, more severe/violent crimes are bigger barriers than are less severe/violent crimes.  However, in many cases, companies are less accepting of DUIs (alcohol or drugs), reckless driving, and other violations that indicate a disregard for the safety of the motoring public than they are of some felonies.  The best approach is to talk to recruiters at trucking companies to determine how much your past will affect your eligibility for employment.


Q?

What kind of health conditions will prevent me from becoming a truck driver?

A.


To become a commercial driver, you must pass the DOT physical examination.  Only health care providers listed on the DOT Certified Medical Examiner Registry (https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/home.seam) can conduct these examinations and determine if any of your health conditions will disqualify you.  However, there are some conditions that almost always prevent a person from becoming a commercial driver.  Among these are: diabetes that requires insulin for treatment; a history of seizures; untreated sleep apnea; alcoholism; use of controlled substances (there is a long list that includes marijuana).  For answers about your specific situation, contact one of the providers on the CME Registry.


Q?

I think I would like driving a truck but I don’t want to be away from home for weeks or months at a time. Are there other options?

A.


There is a wide range of “home time” schedules among the over-the-road companies.  Some do require the driver to be out three weeks or so between home times of 4-5 days.  Other companies can get the driver home the same two days every week.  There are many truck driving jobs that do not require the driver to be away from home for more than a day or so, but most of those jobs are filled by experienced drivers.  It is possible to find one, but not likely until you have some experience.  Many drivers begin their careers as over-the-road drivers.  After 6 months, you are more likely to find a job with more frequent home time.  By the time you have 2 years of experience (driving safely, of course), almost every trucking company in the country would hire you.


Q?

What can I do to prepare to begin my course at Pinnacle?

A.


One thing you can do is learn about the career field.  Talk to truck drivers; watch on-line videos; read trucker blogs; visit trucking company websites; attend a truck show.  More than most career fields, a job as an over-the-road truck driver affects everyone in the family.  Be sure that those who will be left at home when you are on the road fully understand what will be required of them for you to be successful.  It makes no sense for you to spend the time and money to become a truck driver if it conflicts with the rest of your life.

Another thing you can do is study the Commercial Driver License Manual.  You can pick up a free paper copy at a Secretary of State office.  It is also available at no cost on-line.  You can even pass the three written tests required for your Temporary Instruction Permit (general knowledge, air brakes, & combination vehicles).  This will give you a head start and may allow you to complete the training in less than 4 weeks, thus saving you time and money.


Q?

I already have a Class B CDL and just want to upgrade to a Class A. How long will that take?

A.


Many people think that the increment of difficulty between a CDL-B and CDL-A is small. It is not small. Class A commercial vehicles typically have non-synchronized manual transmissions which require double-clutching to shift. Class A vehicles, by definition, are combinations of a towing vehicle and a towed vehicle (usually a tractor and trailer). This makes them much more difficult to back up than a straight truck or bus. Combination vehicles also require much more skill to drive safely, especially in traffic and when turning. We have found that most students with a CDL-B progress no faster than students without that license.


Q?

What are the costs in addition to the cost of tuition?

A.


The only additional cost will be the fee charged by the Secretary of State office to convert your operator license to a CDL.  That fee is currently about $50.