Making A Truck Driver – Prologue

CC has been a place that has morphed from strictly being a site that celebrates old cars into one that is about vehicles of all kinds.  Back in May I shared with a few people that I had made a major life change.  I decided to leave the practice of law – something in which I had been engaged for right at about thirty-eight years.  Being too young to actually retire (I was not yet 64 at the time) I decided on my second act: I decided I was going to get a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and drive big trucks.

Yes – Lawyer to truck driver in a few easy weeks.  What was I thinking?  I went into some depth on this in a couple of posts on my blog – like where I talked about leaving law and where I shared my new gig.  The short version was that I had become increasingly tired of a high-stress treadmill.  My practice had mostly included working for national property & casualty insurance companies.  That work never paid top tier rates, but the tradeoff had always been steady work and reasonable hours.  That tradeoff had been getting increasingly out of whack in recent years and I decided that I wanted off the merry go round.

But why trucking?

Anyone who reads here can surely see the allure of driving for a living.  I had been a pizza delivery guy for one semester in college, and also drove parts delivery vans for a couple of warehouses as summer jobs.  I have always loved driving, but had no intention of becoming a 60-something pizza guy or Uber driver.

An uncle had worked for one of those companies where you bought your own van and got dispatched to pick up parts at one location and deliver them to another when a company’s “just in time” inventory system was not working as it should.  My research indicated that the bigger the truck, the more money the driver makes.  My new daughter-in-law’s father drives a tractor-trailer for a living and graciously spent some time on the phone with me giving me the ins and outs of the business.  One of the chief takeaways is that there is a shortage of drivers, and this is one field where a guy my age is in demand.  It was then that I formed the plan.

Obtaining a CDL today is much more difficult than it was in “the old days” (whenever those were). One method for getting one was to get hired by a company that would train a new driver.  Those are large companies, and the deal is that you will get paid while you train and will not have to front the cost of obtaining the license, but then you will be obligated to work for them for a time (one or two years is typical).  The other way was to go with private instruction.

This was going to involve several weeks of school (and a few thousand dollars out of pocket in addition to a lack of income).  I reasoned that because I knew exactly zero about the trucking industry, it would be foolish to yoke myself to a trucking company for a fairly long time for a short-term benefit – especially at my age.  It seemed to me that I would have more options if I got my license on my own.

I first checked a school affiliated with our local community college.  Four weeks of class and the first week would be devoted to obtaining a learner’s permit from the state BMV.  The class work was all by video and the driving instruction would be at another location.  I was interested, and they started a new class every Monday.  Another school was a purely local operation, and cost about the same.  This program was five weeks, and I was expected to have my learner’s permit on day one.  In my mind, this translated to more schooling for the same cost – which was a good thing.

I contacted the second school.  I would have to fill out an application, go through an interview, sign off on a background check and go for a drug test.  I would also have to get a “DOT (Department of Transportation) Medical” – this is the certificate that says you are healthy enough to drive a truck, and without one of those this whole plan would blow up.

I started with the medical.  I am fortunate to be in good health and was issued a certificate good for the maximum two years.  I passed the background and drug screens (as I knew I would) and got accepted into the school.  The rub was that there was not a new class starting for another three weeks.  Fortunately, my “out date” at my law firm had been very soft, and I had plenty to do in the transition to keep me working up until right before the start of classes.  I had hoped to get a little time off, but ended up finishing work at the office at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening and beginning “truck school” the following Monday morning.

The next few weeks would see a complete transition in my life.  And the next few weeks here will share my experiences in going from a normal driver to someone licensed to drive just about anything that rolls.  So stay tuned.