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Bonnie Trown of United Truck Driving School explains how you can get your foot in the door as a truck driver.

Let’s start with a brief rundown of your school.

United Truck Driving School has been in operation since 1978. We have four campuses located in San Diego, Riverside, and Orange Counties, and we’ve successfully trained thousands of students since our beginning.

Ok. So, tell me about the program.

We teach the Class AP, Class A, and the Class BP programs. The courses range in length from 3 weeks to 4.5 weeks. The “A” license allows a driver to operate a tractor / trailer combination vehicle, what you might commonly refer to as a “big rig” or an “18 wheeler.” A Class B vehicle may be a dump truck, trash truck, delivery truck or anything over 26,000 pounds with no articulation point. The “P” at the end of either license means passenger and allows the driver to drive a bus. Because we do the Class B training in a bus all of our Class B students end up with a BP license.  We use all manual transmission vehicles so that our students do not leave school with a restricted license. Courses range in price from $3,350 to $4,850.

Can you break down the enrollment process?

Prospective students must first meet with an admissions representative who will go over the programs that we offer as well as the employment possibilities after graduation. The admission rep will discuss options for payment and qualifications for becoming a licensed truck driver. They will also provide applicants with a brief tour of the school. Program fees charged include the application fee, and each incoming student will be given an entrance exam to verify that they can benefit from the training program.

What’s the average age-range of your students?

Students must be at least 18 to be issued a commercial driver’s license from the State of California. A driver must be at least 21 to qualify for an over-the-road job (state to state). Most truck companies are looking for at least a 1-year driving history. That being said, the average student is about 40 years old and looking for a second career. About 6% of truck drivers are women, a number that the industry hopes will go higher. Some students are in their early twenties, looking to get started in a solid career. Our oldest student was near 70 with job offers at graduation. Students come to us from every background.

How often does completion of the program result in work?

Students are job-ready in four weeks or less, and our placement rate is 87%. If a student is eligible to go over-the-road they will have job offers before they complete school. If personal background or family issues require a local job, the students’ motivation will play a part in how quickly they are employed. For the student who is willing and able to qualify for the over-the road job, the placement rate jumps to 100%. All over-the-road jobs would be considered full-time, as would most local jobs. No employer wants to own a truck that is not moving.

What does an entry-level truck driving job pay?

The average wage for an over-the-road truck driver is $35,000, with many earning much more. Payment is by the mile. Local drivers are usually paid about $16 per hour.

Let’s say someone starts out doing over-the-road jobs. How long until they can land a local or regional job that keeps them closer to home?

Because the over-the-road driver is racking up so much driving experience, they usually find themselves eligible for the regional or dedicated route in the first year. The experience gained in an over-the-road job will also make them more desirable to many local companies in that same time frame.

What kind of person would you say is best suited for this type of work?

First of all, someone who enjoys driving. I am always amused by the prospective student who says that the school is too far to drive to from their house. That person probably shouldn’t be a truck driver. Really, anyone who likes to drive is probably a good candidate. Jobs can range from “no touch” freight to moving companies so the level of physical demand can vary to suit any driver.

Do you have any additional advice for those considering a career in truck-driving?

Talk to us. Get your questions answered. You can’t make a reasonable decision until you have all the facts. Talk to someone that you respect who’s in the industry. And then, look around your house. Probably everything you see there came on a truck. Food, clothing, furniture, that car in your garage… it didn’t get all the way to where you bought it without coming part of the way on a truck. Truck driving is a career that can last a lifetime.

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