Tips for gaining experience as a trucker in Washington State

December 15, 2020

You’ve finished your CDL driving school course in Washington. You’ve landed your first trucking job, but want to get more.

We’d never advise shifting jobs until you have another one lined up. While you’re working to line up a new position, however, there are ways to get more experience as a trucker. Keep these in mind, as well as all the job placement advice you received from your Washington State truck driving school.

Demonstrate that you have a professional mindset

As with all occupations, demonstrating that you have the right attitude to succeed will end up paying off--sometimes not right away, of course. Because the payoff does not come immediately, a central part of your professional mindset is patience.

Patience is not only a quality--it’s a skill. You will exercise patience while waiting for your truck to be loaded. Or unloaded. Or at toll booths. Or in traffic. Patience is part of the job, and people will notice it.

Another key part of the professional mindset is planning. Don’t wait until the last minute for things. Be ready for unusual as well as usual delays--and be on time for appointments. Leaving a day early is not unreasonable--if life (as in family) allows it.

Drive properly

Signal when you’re going to change lanes--whether or not the back of the trailer has the safety contact phone number for your carrier. Let people know that you are about to do something with your heavy vehicle. Letting people know what you’re going to do will make life easier for everyone.

Use your headlights in bad weather--even though you’re driving a big vehicle, you want to be more visible. You know that not every vehicle will do that--but you are not every vehicle. Do what you wish everyone else would do.

Your seat belt is your friend. Not only do you want to avoid tickets for driving without a seat belt on, you want to avoid injury or death.  

Sell yourself

You may end up interviewing with a number of companies over your first few years of driving. The company you start with in all likelihood not the company you will be with in 12, 18, or 24 months.

Companies have reputations just like drivers, and those reputations are based on how they do business. Some companies may have a reputation for efficiency and customer service. That company will not be as interested in your family and home time needs and more interested in a driver willing to take the longer trips. If this company is right for you, you should prepare around those expectations, and demonstrate that you plan ahead, work with efficiency, and can be relied on to get the job done.

Another company may have been started by truckers tired of being abused--they want to have hometime, and their truckers to have home time, also. You will stress your values of family and commitment--and hard work to them. You may not need to stress the willingness to be on the road for 3-5 weeks at a time.

Print business cards for yourself, even if you’re working for another company. A batch of a 1,000 cards will go more quickly than you think. Distribute your cards to

  • Other drivers
  • Owner operators
  • Shippers and receives
  • Warehouse managers

Everyone. Get your name out there.

Build a resume and make sure that copies are available at all times. You’ll stand out because resumes are not expected in trucking. Leave it with applications

There are plenty of places online where you can get resume guidance.  A few tips are:

  • Make sure everything is spelled correctly--have someone proofread for you whether you’re a good or bad speller.
  • Be consistent. If you use bullet points, stick with bullets.
  • Until you have a lot of experience, keep it to one page.
  • Highlight the skills you want to show off.

Use all resources

Your truck driving school may help you with job placement, not only as you finish your training, but in the years after. Keep in touch with them as your career develops, even while you have steady work with one company. You don’t know what will happen over the next 6 - 12 months, and you should have them ready to help you out.

Make sure your application and resume are available to companies through an online placement service. Most are free to use, and can provide you with access to many companies nationwide. Remember, though, that many truckers are using these sites--so don’t rely only on them.

At truck stops, get trucking magazines. You will probably be able to find more information about companies, including their operating lanes. You’ll be able to see which companies operate close to home.

In your first year, of course, you will have to be flexible about home-time. Drivers with more experience get the routes allowing them more time at home--that’s a fact of life. One of your resources, therefore, is your resilience at dealing with separation from home.

Visit manufacturers and distribution centers near your home. If they have company trucks, speak with their HR department. Bring in your business card and resume, and don’t be afraid to give cards to anyone you speak to on the way to the HR office. You are creating your own presence.

Ask around for companies hiring inexperienced drivers. There are some anywhere. Make sure you’ve kept a list of all the companies your driving school works with.  

You will make it!

The key for new truck drivers is to work with their truck driving school for placement assistance. They are the best bet in your area to be connected with a first job. Take advantage of a service you’ve paid for--their help.

But after that, be open and flexible. Take the “bad routes”, and be willing to have longer trips away from home--you are building your reputation as a good, solid, reliable driver.

If you will be crossing into Canada frequently, you can apply for a Possession and Acquisition License. This license lasts for five years. To obtain a PAL, you will also need

The process from start to finish seems to take around 3 months.

Canadian Hours of Service

The regulations for hours of service for truckers in Canada are different than in the US. You will need to be aware of both sets of regulations to drive safely and legally in Canada. Different rules apply north of latitude 60° North (in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut).

The Canadian hours of service are:

  • No more than 13 hours of driving in a day, and no driving after 14 hours of on-duty time in a day.
  • The driver must have an off-duty period of 8 consecutive hours before driving again, either after the 13 hour driving-day or the 14 hour on-duty time.
  • No more than 16 hours may pass between the end of one 8-hour off-duty time and the beginning of the next 8-hour off-duty time.
  • Drivers must take at least 10 hours of off-duty time during a day, include the consecutive 8 hour period.
  • Other daily off-duty time may be taken in blocks of 30 minutes, and at least 2 hours may not form part of the 8-hour period required.
  • Up to 2 hours of daily off-duty time may be deferred to the following day, provided at least 20 hours are taken over the two days, the time is not part of the mandatory 8-hour periods, the total driving time is not 26 hours over two days, and the deferral is noted in the log.
  • There are some detailed instructions for splitting time in a truck with a sleeper berth or when part of a team of drivers--see sections 18 and 19.

Driving Cycles

In Canada, carriers are allowed to select one of two driving cycles. Work with your carrier to determine the best one for you and your shipment. Both cycles require 24 consecutive hours of off-duty time every 14 days, subject to resetting the cycle.

  • Cycle 1--the driver may be on duty no more than 70 hours during a period of 7 days.
  • Cycle 2--the driver may be on duty no more than 120 hours during a period of 14 days, and no more than 70 hours of on-duty time without 24 consecutive hours off.
  • Resetting Cycle 1--the driver may end a cycle with 36 consecutive hours of off-duty time.
  • Resetting Cycle 2--the driver may end a cycle with at least 72 consecutive hours of off-duty time.

Wrapping Things Up

Driving in Canada is pretty much like driving in the US. Apply all the skills and knowledge you learned at your CDL driving school in Washington, and you’ll be fine.

This guide should help you brush-up on what you need to know to make sure you drive successfully on Canadian highways. Being open to crossing the border will enhance your career and your income.


(253) 448-5041


(253) 448-5041


Toro Trucking Academy

1321 109th Street E, Tacoma, WA 98445
4441 NE Crystal Lane, Portland, OR  97218
8601 S 218th Street, Kent, WA 98031