Dreaming of a life on the open road? No one watching your every move, free from the shackles of an office cubicle…no annoying co-workers or micromanaging supervisors. When you’re a truckie it’s just you, the ever changing scenery, and whatever passive activity you choose to keep you entertained.
Of course, driving safely will be your number one focus, but you can also listen to whatever music you like, adopt a favourite radio station, get into audiobooks, or, if you’re interested, you can even listen to personal development audio. You’ll have plenty of time to listen to whatever you want, so you may as well make the most of it!
Plus you’re getting paid to travel, which is cool; you’ll come across plenty of interesting villages and towns and see tonnes of what Australia has to offer. If you load and unload your truck then you’re pretty much getting paid to exercise too. No gym required for you.
Here are our top tips for becoming a truckie:
1. Know what you’re getting into
Ask yourself why you want to become a truck driver. Driving out on the open road may sound exciting, but remember you’ll need to be prepared to drive on weekends and public holidays too. You’ll spend a lot of time away from family and friends which could strain relationships. Ask around to see if any of your family or friends know any truck drivers. Try to speak to them online or in person and get an understanding of daily trucking life. Then discuss what you’ve learnt with your family before you dive straight in!
2. Know the requirements
You’ll need a LR (Light Rigid) License or higher to drive most trucks in Australia. In order to get this, you must have a year on your ‘C’ class license with no violations. There are truck driving schools around the country that provide the required training for the following truck licences: LR (Light Rigid), MR (Medium Rigid), HR (Heavy Rigid) and HC (Heavy Combination).
3. Decide what industry you want to go for
Different industries require different levels of experience and training. A heavy haulage driver transports heavy loads like timber and cement down highways. Tow truck drivers help people when their cars break down. There are also the tilt tray and road train companies. You could also be a livestock hauler, or drive a cement mixer or rubbish collection truck.
4. Familiarise yourself with the working conditions
There are probably some aspects of being a truck driver that you haven’t considered. For example, you need to keep detailed, daily logs of almost everything you do. Think driving hours, rest breaks, petrol stops and amounts and any incident reports, along with the standard date, time and duration of trips. Then there’s the likelihood of working early mornings and late nights. You’ll need to be prepared to handle mechanical problems, as well as regularly checking oil and water, brake and tire performance.
5. Know what salary to expect
Wages can vary a lot based on what kind of driving you do. In mid 2016 the average salary across all truck drivers in australia was $81,500. Hourly rates vary from around $20 – $34 an hour depending on the role, with casual and HR drivers on the lower end of the scale. At the top of the scale are MC Truck Drivers with End-Tipper experience, who can earn up to $50 an hour. When you have more experience and a safe track record, you can generally earn more.
6. Organise your training
There are a few different ways to get hired. A company can hire you and train you on the job, as a traineeship, where supervisors will oversee your driving education. Or you can do a traineeship through TAFE. You can also attend a trucking school and then apply for jobs from there. While formal education isn’t required it does give you an advantage. Some TAFE locations offer a Cert III in Transport and Logistics. This demonstrates to potential employers that you are proficient in occupational health and safety, moving stock and record keeping.
● Some employers in the trucking industry still prefer to advertise jobs the traditional way – in the local newspaper or community noticeboards. Make those a part of your job search.
● Insurance for a commercial truck isn’t cheap. It’s even more expensive if you’ve got a driver under the age of 25. For that reason, many companies prefer older drivers.
● Well paid jobs are often acquired on the hidden job market (through word of mouth). It’s worth getting to know other truck drivers who can tell you when opportunities arise.
● Subscribe to a truck industry magazine. You’ll be able to look for jobs in there plus use the information you pick up to impress potential employers.
● Look for specialised classes offering supplemental licenses, such as hauling dangerous substances. These drivers are usually in high demand and are generally paid well.
● The main industries that employ truck drivers are transport, postal and warehousing, construction, electricity, gas, water and waste services. Instead of waiting for job opportunities to appear, try contacting companies in these industries and enquire about the best way to apply for jobs with them.
● Know who the main hirers are. We’re talking Toll, Australia Post, Linfox, TNT etc. With such large workforces they are often looking to take on new drivers.