Life as an Over-the-Road Truck Driver

Most truckers start their careers as over-the-road (OTR) drivers, meaning they drive longer distances and are often on the road for days or weeks at a time. OTR ends up being more of a lifestyle for drivers rather than just a paycheck. Let’s take a look into the life of an OTR driver:

About 300 Days On the Road Per Year

While some drivers spend more days than others on the road each year, the average days spent on the road is about 300. Some drivers will learn it takes about 2 years working in an OTR position before moving on to a regional or local truck driving jobs. This is often due to a companies desire for a drivers level of experience.

You’ll Log Several Driving Hours

Many OTR truck drivers will end up logging 70+ hours of driving over an average 8-day period. After that period, the law requires drivers to take a full 34-hour period of time off before resuming their driving. Drivers can consider cramming more hours into fewer days (i.e., 14-hour days over 8-days) but you will only be allowed to drive 11 hours per day which will be followed by a mandatory 10-hour rest period following every period of driving you complete.

You Have Some Flexibility in What Hours You Work

Some drivers prefer daylight driving while others prefer to drive at night. Either way, unless you are coming back from time off, then you have to report to your dispatcher at a particular time. Otherwise, you can drive which hours work best for you long as you follow the hours mentioned above.  Set a schedule that helps you feel the most alert and stick with it.

You Get To Go Home Every Three Weeks

When working on an OTR schedule, you will get to go home once every 3 weeks or so. That kind of work schedule can be rough on relationships or lifelong partnerships. Having a serious talk with your partner to see if that lifestyle can work while you. Considered the time you will miss from home before you take a job that requires national driving.

Pay Depends on the Company

Some companies will pay drivers by the hour, while most will pay by the miles driven. Drivers can expect to make about $45,000 in your first year driving and usually $55,000 to $75,000 as an OTR driver every year after that.

The Miles Add Up Fast

The average OTR driver will average about 125,000 miles per year or about 2,500 miles per week. Those miles add up to a lot of driving and a lot of time in solitude behind the wheel. Prospective drivers should decide if that appeals to them before taking on such a job.

You Essentially Live Out of a Truck

While you are on the road, you will essentially live out of your truck. Many trucks have a bed in the back where the driver sleeps, and many meals get eaten on the road. If this isn’t a lifestyle that sounds like something you would enjoy, then you might consider other careers than truck driving for a longer-term or job.

OTR Driving turns out to be more of a lifestyle than just a job. OTR driving can change your life, and it can be something that many drivers come to enjoy and wish to do longer-term. Driving over-the-road will allow you so see many different parts of the continental US and the natural beauty it has to offer. However, deciding if it is for you is key before committing to a position.

For further information on becoming an OTR driver and to see if it’s the right fit for you, to contact us today! CDS Tractor Trailer Training is ready to enroll you in your CDL training and get you one step closer to becoming an OTR driver.

What is the DOT Physical Exam?

The DOT Physical Exam is an examination that all truck drivers must take and pass to get their Commercial Driver’s License. The DOT Physical Exam determines if the driver is in satisfactory physical condition to drive without a risk. This exam is required as truck drivers are deemed “safety-sensitive” to other citizens out operating motor vehicles on the road each day.

What’s the Purpose of the DOT Physical Exam?

The DOT Physical Exam is used to determine if a driver is in appropriate physical condition to drive the vehicles that they will be operating once receiving their CDL. This exam is required and must be passed by every driver before they can earn their license. All candidates are asked to fill out all health questionnaires before they arrive at the office. If drivers have any of the following conditions they need to bring the following with them to the exam:

  • Drivers who have vision or hearing problems must bring either their glasses/contacts or hearing aids with them to the exam.
  • Potential drivers with diabetes must bring their most recent and comprehensive Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) results and blood sugar logs with them.
  • Drivers with heart-related issues must bring a letter from their cardiologist outlining the issues and limitations that the driver has as well as along with a note that they are safe to perform this kind of work.

If a driver comes without these specific papers, yet has one of these conditions, the exam will not be able to be passed until the appropriate items are brought in.

What Does the DOT Physical Exam Detect?

In addition to the necessary checks mentioned above, the DOT Physical Exam will also look for a variety of other conditions that a driving candidate may have. These will include the following:

  • General Appearance
  • Eyes (i.e., cataracts, glaucoma, muscular degeneration, etc.)
  • Ears (i.e., scarring of the tympanic membrane, perforated eardrums, etc.)
  • Mouth/Throat Exam (issues swallowing)
  • Heart (to detect problems)
  • Lungs & Chest
  • Abdominal Issues
  • Vascular Issues
  • Genito-Urinary Issues
  • Extremities
  • Possible Spinal Injuries
  • Neurological Issues

These are just some of the issues that get looked at within the exam. The idea behind the DOT Physical Exam is to give prospective drivers a comprehensive physical to ensure that the driver is fit and healthy before beginning their driving career.

What Happens If A Candidate Doesn’t Pass?

A candidate will fail the exam if they have the following:

  • Cardiovascular/Respiratory Disease
  • High Blood Pressure (without medication)
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Nervous/Psychiatric Disorder
  • Poor Eyesight (without corrective lenses)
  • Loss of one/multiple limbs

Candidates will also fail if they do not pass the alcohol or drug test that accompanies the rest of their physical.

If a candidate does not pass the physical due to a medical condition, they can look into receiving a waiver. Otherwise, if the candidate fails due to alcohol abuse issues, they will not be allowed to return to work until they see a see an Alcohol Abuse Specialist and meet all job requirements.

Use of drugs such as amphetamines, narcotics, or other drug-forming habits can also be grounds for someone to fail the exam, even if they are using these substances under the guidance of a doctor.

For further information about passing the DOT Physical Exam, feel free to contact us at CDS Tractor Trailer Training for assistance. CDS provides Class A CDL training at four Virginia locations. Let’s get you on the road to a new career!

Veteran Deploys on New Mission

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate for veterans declined from 4.3 to 3.7 percent in 2017. As a veteran, this basically explains that there are opportunities out there after your enlistment time. A popular option among veterans is truck driving. This allows them to learn a new skill as well as travel to different parts of the country you’ve been protecting. The trucking industry is very proud to help military members and their family and often provide help throughout the training time.

Tuition Payment Assistance

For any would-be truck driver, the cost of CDL training is usually a concern. However, at CDS Tractor Trailer Training, we strive to offer training at a reasonable rate. There are several different tuition assistance options available. For military veterans, we also have specific veteran options. Our goal is to help anyone earn their CDL license by focussing less on the overall cost.

Some of the funding assistance options you have, include GI Bill veteran funding, Workforce Program funding, and Fast Forward Grant. You can also get funded by agencies and banks to get a custom funding plan.

Flexible Training Classes

With CDL training, students have the privilege of picking a schedule that best suits them. Plus, you get to choose a location that’s near you. CDL training can be part-time or full-time depending on your current engagements. Part-time classes mostly occur during the weekends, and they’re ideal for those with jobs during the weekdays.

This flexibility also gives you adequate time to spend with your loved ones or if you are currently on leave.

Job Placement Assistance

After earning your CDL license, securing a job is usually the next task. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects trucking jobs will grow by 6 percent from 2016 to 2026. The trucking industry job outlook is generally positive, but CDS graduates will also receive job placement assistance.

For example, at CDS, we offer our students the opportunity of finding jobs with local, regional, national, and dedicated carrier companies. Our coordinators work with you when reviewing your job possibilities. You also get to engage recruiters from different companies to determine the best options for you.

Start Your CDL Training Today

Being a veteran puts you in a great position of succeeding in trucking. Truck driving can drastically change your life, and allows you to fit into the civilian world quickly. At CDS Tractor Trailer Training, we offer professional driver training at various locations throughout Virginia. If you have any question on CDL training, feel free to contact us.

A Shopping List for New Truck Drivers

Congratulations! You’ve gotten your first truck driving job. You have a nice shiny new truck… but now what? Here is a list of must-haves every trucker should bring along for a smooth ride.

Personal Necessities


From comfortable driving clothes to off duty clothes, it’s important to bring along plenty of options. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the temperature may rise or drop depending on your destination, so pack a jacket as well as a t-shirt to be ready. Having plenty of underwear can’t hurt either.

Weather Gear

Make sure to bring along a raincoat and some sturdy boots for inclement weather. Also, don’t forget to bring along a pair or two of sunglasses for when things get a little bright!

Personal Products

Since you’ll be living in your truck, you’ll want to have everything you need to get through the day. In your overnight bag, be sure to include your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, deodorant, cologne, and whatever else you use each morning. If you wear glasses, be sure to pack them as well as their cleaning supplies, and contacts if you need them. Don’t forget your shower supplies like shampoo, conditioner, razors and shaving cream.

Cleaning Supplies

Messes are bound to happen, so be prepared with some wet wipes, air freshener, paper towels, laundry detergent, and maybe even a handheld vacuum cleaner.

Comfort Items

Making sure you’re comfortable on the road is crucial, so be sure to bring whatever it is that can make your truck more homey for you. We recommend bringing blankets and pillows you also have at home. Also, some truckers bring a portable toilet so they don’t have to worry about waiting for the next rest stop.

Document Envelopes

This seems like a small detail, but it will make all the difference on the road. Having envelopes to store your license and registration information will be convenient if you ever need them. Also, using manila folders for invoices, shipping information, and expense receipts can keep things organized.

Emergency Gear


Things are unpredictable on the road, so be sure to bring along your toolbox in case an issue arises. Things you can include are zip ties, pliers, brake cleaner, a hammer, a pocket knife, a flashlight, a screwdriver, a wrench, and a tire pressure gauge. Maybe even bring along chains for your tires when there’s a chance of ice on the road.

Safety Gear

If an emergency presents itself, you might have to step out of your truck at night or in inclement weather. Be sure to have a reflective vest on hand, flares, and cones to make sure other drivers won’t hit you.


Try and avoid stopping at fast food restaurants along the road by packing healthy snacks. Chances are, you probably won’t have a refrigerator on the road, so be sure to bring foods that can last on their own like apples, crackers, peanut butter, meat jerky, and nuts. For meals, aim for easy to make recipes like sandwiches, soup, and salads.

Entertainment & Comfort

It might get boring out on the road, so be sure to bring along some fun items you can use in your spare time. Some options we recommend are books, laptops, tablets, crossword puzzles, activity books, magazines, and newspapers. You might also have a hobby like photography, art, or knitting, so bring along materials for these to keep you occupied.

Bringing these essentials will make the best of your trucking experience. We know there isn’t much room in your truck, so pack smart and bring what seems necessary for you. If you are looking for more tips for your first time, feel free to look around our website or contact us about a training program that would be right for you. Safe travels!

50 Questions Every Truck Driver Should Ask Recruiters

Trucker drivers are in high demand throughout the United States with more than 60,000 current job openings. Many more will be added in the coming years as the “Baby Boomer” era of truck drivers continue to retire. Whether you wish to work in local, region, or distance trucking, there are job openings out there that are looking for you!

Finding the Match That Meets Your Needs:

The key to finding a truck-driving job that meets your expectations is finding a job that meets your specific needs. If you are someone who wants to be home on evenings and weekends, then a local job might be something that better suit you. If you are okay with working throughout the week and coming home on weekends, then regional trucking may be something that fits your needs a little better. If traveling throughout the country and seeing new places appeals to you, and you don’t mind being away from home for weeks at a time, then over-the-road (OTR) trucking could be your best option.

Asking Recruiters the Key Questions:

When you are training to get your CDL through CDS, you will find yourself meeting with several trucking companies who come in to meet you. Asking the critical questions about the carriers they represent will be a vital part of ensuring that you find an employer who meets your “ideal job.” Understanding what you are getting into before you start is key to finding somewhere you enjoy working for and representing.

50 Questions to Ask Recruiters:

The following is a list of 50 ideas of questions that you might also consider asking recruiters during Hiring Events. That way, you can make an educated decision and choose a job that meets your specific needs:

  1. What is your company’s home-time policy?
  2. How much time off can I expect to get through your company’s home-time policy?
  3. Will my days off vary or be consistent?
  4. What is your policy for needing extra time off (i.e., medical needs, injuries that occur outside of work, illness, family emergencies, etc.)?
  5. What kind of paid vacation do you offer time do you suggest?
  6. How much more vacation time can I earn by staying with this carrier long term and how long will it take for that vacation time to accumulate?
  7. Are there restrictions on when I use my vacation time (i.e., only so long I can take off at one time, not taking off around holidays, etc.)?
  8. Do vacation days expire annually or can they be carried over into the next year?
  9. How many vacation days can I accumulate before I must use them?
  10. Which routes do your drivers most often travel?
  11. How many driving miles can I expect to average?
  12. How many miles away from home will I be expected to travel?
  13. What kind of equipment do I need to get comfortable working?
  14. Will my truck has an air-ride suspension system?
  15. Will my truck have a sleep-in area?
  16. What size (and how many tons) will the truck I am going to drive weigh?
  17. Do you provide layover pay?
  18. What is the average layover period?
  19. Do you require drivers to “slip-seat” to take time off?
  20. What do you pay drivers for each job position (i.e., local drivers, regional drivers, OTR drivers, etc.)?
  21. What kind of raises may I receive with time?
  22. What is my top earning potential in this position?
  23. Does the cost of living in my area affect how much you pay me?
  24. What are the potentials for promotions in the future if I decide to take this job?
  25. What do my promotion potentials end up paying once I earn them?
  26. How long will it take me to earn a pay increase?
  27. What kinds of benefits does your carrier offer to its drivers?
  28. Do you offer your drivers full health insurance benefits?
  29. Do you provide healthcare coverage for drivers families?
  30. What plans can I choose from when I am selecting my healthcare?
  31. Do you offer short-term disability coverage to your workers?
  32. Do you offer retirement benefits such as a 401k?
  33. If you offer retirement benefits, do you offer matches on employee contributions to their retirement?
  34. What are your retirement maximum benefit contributions annually
  35. Do you provide driver bonus opportunities?
  36. How do you earn bonuses and what are criteria for qualifying for them?
  37. When do you provide bonus pay and when can I expect to receive any that I earned?
  38. Is there a limit on how many bonuses (or the dollar value) that a driver can earn annually?
  39. Do you offer new driver sign-on bonuses?
  40. Does your carrier pay for lumpers?
  41. Who is responsible for loading or unloading trucks if you don’t hire lumpers?
  42. Do drivers ever have to unload their trucks?
  43. What are your deadline policies for delivering goods?
  44. If I miss delivery deadlines what are hte consequences to me as an employee?
  45. What about missing deadlines for circumstances beyond my control (i.e., truck breakdowns, bad weather, traffic accidents, etc.)?
  46. Will I get a dedicated driver manager?
  47. What type of on-the-job training will I receive as a new driver?
  48. Do I receive mentorship as a new driver?
  49. What are the policies you have on how many hours I must rest versus how many I can drive at once?
  50. Are there any other company policies or rules that I need to be aware?

These are just 50 of the great questions that you should consider asking recruiters when you are determining which trucking carrier you will be working. Determining which carrier meets your personal needs will help you decide what “fit” is right for you so that you choose a career in which you can love and flourish.

For further information on what to ask the recruiters that you meet with, please feel free to contact us at the CDS Tractor Trailer Training for further assistance.

Wishing You a Happy 2019 from CDS

A very Happy New Year to everyone from the entire staff and instructing group at CDS Tractor Trailer Training. What a year we have had in 2018. With so many students graduating from all of our training facilities, we have had quite a busy year. We’ve seen veterans, wives, married couples, best friends, and more come through our doors and end up with a new Commercial Driver’s License. Every one of you has a special place in our hearts and we are so excited for you and this new chapter ahead.

Start the New Year off Right!

As for 2019, we are so excited to see what the future holds for all of us at CDS. We know it will be a wonderful year and we hope you will be apart of it. There is no better time than now to get started with your CDL training. Truck drivers are in HIGH demand. By earning your commercial driver’s license in just 4-weeks, you can be off to a new and more rewarding career. Trucking companies throughout the country are looking for local, regional, and over-the-road truckers. What’s holding you back?

At CDS Tractor Trailer Training we have four training locations throughout Virginia; Fredericksburg, Richmond, Roanoke, and Winchester. We also offer several travel programs throughout the year. No matter where you may live, we’re certain a CDS training facility will be nearby. CDS also offers several Tuition Assistance options to students to help pay for their training. We know money is tight after the holidays, but we can work together to find the best solution! After your training, our Job Placement staff will help you find a job that fits your lifestyle best? Need to be home nightly? We’ll look at local positions. Ready to make the big bucks? Over-the-road is your best choice! We’re ready to help you make 2019 the year you begin a new career in trucking. Contact us today to get started!

Trucking Industry Outlook for 2019

As we move toward 2019 many in the industry are wondering what the New Year holds in terms of the trucking industry. Experts overall are saying that 2019 appears to be a positive year for the industry. There will continue to be demand growth and plenty of jobs available for anyone who wants to get into the truck driving industry. As things look positive for the new year many experts also suggest that the positive trend may continue past 2019 and even into 2020.

Consumer Demand Continues to Increase

As 2019 years, the consumer demands for goods is expected to continue to increase. The economy continues to improve and experts estimate that the overall consumer demand throughout the US will rise about 3-4% throughout 2019. Considering that 70% of all goods that move across North America each year travel by truck, this means that there will be plenty of work in trucking. That’s excellent news for truck drivers, meaning they will have great job security and plenty of work in the coming year!

Truck Driving Jobs Vacant Throughout the U.S.

There are estimated to be ~52,000 trucking jobs that are vacant throughout the U.S. as we move into 2019. That number is expected to increase as we move throughout the year. This demand means that anyone thinking about getting into the industry should not have a problem finding a job once they complete their CDL training and are ready to begin working. There are jobs available in all parts of the country for soon-to-be drivers. Demand is there, drivers are needed!

Automatic Trucks are a Distant Future

Many drivers have become nervous about automated or self-driving trucks taking over their jobs. While those trucks are indeed being worked on as a technology, they are nowhere near ready to hit the roads in full force yet. Developments of products like this will take years, if not decades, to hit the roads. Even then, humans will still likely have to operate some of the more challenging maneuvers a truck has to do such as backing up and getting on and off of interstates or busy highways. Truck drivers jobs are very safe moving into 2019 and automatic trucks are no real threat to driver’s jobs security.

Truck Driving is a Growing Industry

The need for truckers continues to grow as consumer demand increases and the population of the US rises. Considering this shortage of drivers there are plenty of jobs for people getting their CDLs at this time. The average OTR truck driver who has just gotten their CDL can make up to $45,000+ annually in salary just starting out. Many drivers also work for large carriers who are willing to help pay back some of their costs for schooling on a monthly basis if the driver signs a contract to work for that company (usually a 1-year contract). Carriers are also providing paid-time-off, full benefits, and retirement plans!

A Career Worth Considering

The trucking industry is clearly in-demand. Job security is excellent and there is no better time to begin your CDL training than now! Contact CDS Tractor Trailer Training about enrolling in classes to help you start your new year off with a new career by getting your CDL! We’re ready to get you started!

Tips to Preparing Your Truck for Winter

As the temperature seems to get colder and colder and winter sets in, many truck drivers are beginning to consider how they will prepare their truck so they can continue on working throughout the winter months. It’s important that truck drivers are aware of how they can prepare their truck for winter to ensure they are able to handle anything the cold, frigid temperatures and ice, sleet, and snow throw at them.

The following are 4 great steps to help keep truck drivers safe on the road and to help them travel safely even through the winter season’s most treacherous stretches:

1. Maintenance checks

Winter weather can take even the most seasoned drivers by surprise. The last thing you want to be dealing with on top of the weather is truck maintenance issues. A few checks you need to perform include:

  • Truck battery – check your battery’s age and strength before you hit the road
  • Cooling systems – inspect your radiator, belts, and hoses for possible failures. Check coolant for optimum freezing levels
  • Tire pressure – make sure tires are at full pressure and check the pressure often throughout the winter

2. Switch to winter blend fuels

Diesel fuels have a habit of turning to gel under the extremely cold conditions that can occur during winter. It happens because regular diesel fuel contains a hydrocarbon called paraffin that crystallizes under freezing conditions. Switching to a winter blend fuel with a high cetane rating and adding anti-gel additives whenever you fuel up will keep this from happening.

3. Invest in an engine block heater

If you drive through some of the coldest parts of the country and your truck sits for long periods of time, consider investing in an electric engine block heater. Diesel engines are notoriously difficult to start during the winter because of their higher cylinder temperatures, and an engine block heater will help solve the problem by raising the temperature.

4. Stock up on emergency supplies

Make sure your normal emergency supply kit is well stocked (i.e. flares, working flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit), but also consider these additions for when you are driving in winter weather:

  • Shovel
  • Radio
  • Anti-gel additive


At CDS Tractor Trailer Training, we do more than just help our students earn their CDL. We make sure that they are prepared to enter into the trucking workforce. With the help of CDS, you can be on the road to a new career in just 4-weeks. Contact us today to learn more about our training programs!

CDS Winchester Training Center Uses Trucking Simulator

The CDS Winchester Training Center at the Lord Fairfax Community College recently had a visit from the Local DVM. The new truck driving simulator has been a big hit with our trucking students. Local DMV wanted to check it out for themselves. They checked in with James Robinson, one of our CDS instructors at our Winchester Training Center. James became a truck driver in 1993 and shared that things are much different than used to be stating, “Totally different all the way up to the pre-trip that the DMV requires you to do, we weren’t required to do all that. Even the backing maneuvers they require, I didn’t have to do that.”

One of the big changes in the industry is the training. Students can now get the hands-on experience of truck driving with the push of a button. James told Local DMV, “If you turn too sharp, you’ll take down a sign, turn to sharp you’ll hit a car. On the simulator, it will stop you and say you have crashed. Out on the road, it’s not going to stop you,” Robinson said.

Along with helping students learn how to drive safely and work on shifting, the simulator allows students to drive on different roads, states, and settings. It gives students options to practice in different weather settings and road conditions. This is extremely helpful when practicing driving in snow or on ice. It gives students a safer way to practice these harsh conditions without having to actually get on the road.

CDS Winchester Training Center is just one of the four locations CDS has throughout Virginia. All training centers have at least one trucking simulator to help students during their first few weeks of training. If you’re interested in earning your Class A CDL and would like to try out our trucking simulators yourself, head to one of our CDS training centers and test it out!

What CDS Tractor Trailer Training is Thankful For

Thankful for You

This year, CDS Tractor Trailer Training has much to be thankful for. From our staff to our awesome instructors, we have had such an incredible year working with so many bright and intelligent men and women. To our current students and graduates, what a year we have had with you! We are so grateful to you for picking CDS for your CDL training. Each one of you has such a special place in our hearts. You are the reason we get up and go to work each morning. We appreciate your confidence in us as a school and trusting us to be a part of reaching your career goals.

We are excited to continue working with our new students and the students to come and helping them achieve their trucking goals! From our own Jill Balleh, “I am thankful to be able to provide the opportunity for individuals to get their CDL. This helps the individual, their family, and their community. To be part of a students journey and part of that ripple in the water is truly a blessing.” We would love to help you get started with your CDL training and make 2019 the year you begin a new career. If you are interested in earning your CDL with CDS, contact us today.

Again, from the entire CDS Tractor Trailer Training family, we wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!