I've been poring through this forum for a couple of weeks now. Excellent stuff.
I've been living abroad for about 20 years now. I did not work driving trucks before. I've had some driving jobs but it was limited, in the 90s. My wife and I own a restaurant over here that does ok (like $5k/month), but it'd be great if I could go back and earn more there while she runs it. In particular, it'd help us get well set up to send our kid to go study in another country and have a great life there.
Anyway, I would need to get back to the US first and get a new driving license, mine expired years ago. I haven't used one over here. I've had licenses before in Illinois and California. Next, I'd need to do a course and get the CDL. So due to my own kind of unique situation, this is the possibly tricky part. Oh and I'm 59. I'm slim and healthy. Zero drugs ever, don't even drink, non-smoker my whole life. I've worked in tech and offices back in San Francisco, Chicago and NYC, here it's been the restaurant and some teaching. My driving record should be squeaky clean -- never had any accidents before. Never had any arrests or convictions or anything like that.
The idea of driving long distance, and even sleeping in the cab, is interesting and exciting. I've driven cross country a couple times before, from NY to LA, and Chicago to SF. Both were once-in-a-lifetime high points.
My family would still be back in the other country, so seeing them while I'm working driving isn't really an issue. I have no strong ties to any one place in the US now. Friends and extended family scattered all over the place and no need to go visit them. Both my parents passed away a few years ago.
I should tell you where those friends/relatives are. A close aunt lives in Pflugerville, Texas now, near Austin. A close friend is in Indianapolis. Cousins are in New Jersey near NYC. Good friends in Portland OR and near Seattle (Olympia). San Francisco. As long as I could get a place to stay/sleep/shower, I'm ok to go anywhere for the school or to start a job.
OK well, I hope to hear some tips. Thanks a lot for whatever ideas you have.
American abroad, want to return to the US to start truck driving
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Your plan sounds just fine...except for 3 caveats:
- Your time apart from your spouse may well trash your marriage. Divorce rates among truck drivers are rather stout--due to the time apart/away from families.
- The overall freight market in the US is pretty much in a recession right now--so as a new driver....getting into the game with no experience, will be more difficult than it otherwise should be. Also--it's tough to predict when this problem will start to get better.
- Don't expect to automatically make a lot of money as a beginning driver. Yes, there are good-paying driving jobs. But--especially in the current market--don't automatically expect to start out as a "cash cow".
I hear you about the market being tough now. I'm learning as I go along. I hear you.
I didn't expect to make big bucks especially starting out. How much should I expect given my situation? I'm not sure if it's a big plus for me that I'm ok with overnight, holidays, going anywhere. I'd go to Mexico if that helped, or to Nunavut. (a friend of mine just got back from a gig there!) Maybe these don't matter at all, I don't know.
As long as you understand....up-front....going in...that what you are contemplating will NOT be a healthy thing for your marriage...then I suppose we're ok from there.
Some other suggestions...to MAXIMIZE your earnings potential...and (otherwise) your odds of CDL success:
Last edited: Jun 13, 2023
- When you come back to the US--move to somewhere in TEXAS. Why Texas? There--you can work the central US freight market, the western US freight market, or the eastern (or all of them). It's easier for dispatch to send you almost anywhere in the US--because in Texas, you are best located for such. Your odds of working/driving the ENTIRE US are then maximized. Thus--now you are basically a paid "tourist". Also--the freight market in Texas will be as strong and as diversified (or even moreso) than anywhere else in the US. In western Texas--you can work in the oilfields. You could easily retire from working just in the oilfields. Lots of steady, good-paying work there. If the oilfields should suddenly go "bust" (it has happened)....you are (again) strategically located to easily "pivot" to other jobs, because (in part) of your geographic advantage of being in Texas. Also--I can't mention Texas without bragging about their BBQ food--it's FANTASTIC!!!
- When you do graduate from CDL school, and you finally get your class "A" CDL--go ahead AT THAT POINT IN TIME--and get ALL of the CDL endorsements: tanker, hazmat...and also, doubles/triples. DON'T LET SOME WUSS TALK YOU OUT OF HAZMAT--most hazmat loads are really no big deal: hairspray, charcoal, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol....and other day-to-day stuff like that. MOST hazmat loads are NOOOOTTT nuclear waste, or similar. Also--when you graduate--if the freight market is anything like what it is now--you will NEED all those endorsements, just to distinguish yourself further from the other "rookie" CDL grads....that are competing against you for those same jobs....
- Be sure to choose a good "starter" carrier to begin with--then stay with that carrier FOR AT LEAST A YEAR (and two years is of course even better). Pick a carrier that has an established training program/track record of grooming "rookies" into professionals; don't just get a job with any fly-by-night, 1099-paid, Chicago or Jersey (or offshore) area-based, white Volvo fleet...because they offer you a hot starting salary. Think long-range: be smart--& instead, spend that first 2 years with a carrier that is set up for...and will TEACH YOU HOW TO DRIVE, on a professional level. Later on--you'll be glad you did.
- As a rookie driver--stay away from any job or account that has you delivering to any of the so-called "dollar" store accounts: Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc. Those jobs are meat-grinders for new CDL holders. Leave those jobs to drivers with several years experience. And thus--you have been WARNED....
I've got a list of a few carriers here from my notes looking through this forum. If there are any that you think are especially good "starter carriers", that would be good to know.
Getting picked up by a carrier, will it be a problem that my last 20 years' work history is over here in this other country running a restaurant or teaching?
No, your age isn't a problem. In fact--most carriers prefer someone older, due to the maturity factor. Driving a big rig here in the States is no place for kids and showoffs.
I would advise against starting off in the oilfields, as a rookie. Remember--above I said...for a starter carrier--pick one that SPECIALIZES IN GROOMING BEGINNERS. That pretty much puts you outside the oil sector.
For a starter carrier--here are some easy examples:
Western Dairy Transport (tanker)
Wilson Logistics (reefer)
Leonard's Express (dry van, or reefer)
Swift Transportation (dry van, or reefer)
Melton Truck Lines (flatbed)
Your overseas work history should not pose a real problem--as long as you can verify/substantiate all of it.
Also: STAY AWAY from any/all hazmat tanker duty--until you have AT LEAST 2 YEARS cdl experience. You need real experience, first--for those jobs.
Earlier....you asked about how much money you might expect to make...when starting out as a beginning driver.
That's a really tough question to answer accurately--because that depends on SO MANY different factors:
- Your experience level (or the lack thereof)--when rookie drivers see some of their first paychecks, they are often disappointed/dismayed. BUT THEY JUST GOT STARTED!!!
- What CDL endorsements you have (or don't): for example--hazmat loads pay more; hazmat tanker loads pay even more, still...
- What part of the US you are in: some areas naturally pay more than others.
- The carrier you are with: some carriers pay well; others, are just cheapskates.
- Supply vs demand for drivers, in a particular area: it's no big deal to see sign-on bonuses of $20k--or even more, for certain situations.
- The time of day/week you are driving: example--for fuel hauling--night/weekend/holiday drivers make more per hour than the regular, day-shift drivers.
- The type of freight that you are pulling: generally speaking--the more specialized the freight, the better/higher the pay. Specialized freight examples: fuel (gasoline, diesel), hazardous waste, high-value automobiles, expensive/new pharmaceuticals, etc. Because of the very nature of these loads--they are quite often not available to inexperienced drivers.
- I've probably left something else out in this list--but I think I've already made the intended point.
Well, as a starter, I might not have as much choice in which freight I carry, I'd guess. So maybe let's assume I start shipping less specialized freight.
My experience level will be a new guy. I'll aim to get as many endorsements as I can, heeding your advice, but let's say they don't give me all I want but do let me get some.
As for where, I'll throw out 3 possible places: 1. Texas, 2. Indiana, 3. Oregon. I have friends or relatives in those.
I'll drive whenever I'm needed most. I'd be doing this solo, and my family won't be in the US, I won't need to see them until after a year. I can do weekends drive overnight, work on holidays, all fine by me.
So just starting out, what would be on the low end of what to expect, and what can I dream of getting (high end) ? And now I'm a bit curious: which areas of the country are better paid?
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