Driver Spotlight: Mauro Pineda
A lot of people believe that you need to be 21 in order to become a truck driver. Not true! By law, anyone over the age of 18 can enroll in a trucking school, earn their Class A CDL, and start driving professionally.
So why do so many trucking companies turn away applicants–even licensed applicants–who are under the age of 21? Simply put, drivers under the age of 21 are not allowed to cross state lines in a commercial vehicle. And since the vast majority of trucking companies require interstate routes, it’s just easier to only consider applicants at least 21 years of age.
At Dot Transportation, however, many of our distribution centers and terminal locations DO offer intrastate routes for drivers under the age of 21. Intrastate driving can be an excellent way for an 18, 19, or 20-year old driver to get an early start on their driving careers without ever having to stray too far from home.
To learn more about intrastate driving, we sat down with Mauro Pineda, a Mt. Sterling driver who got his start with Dot Transportation at just 19 years old in 2019.
When did you become interested in becoming a truck driver?
Ever since I was a little kid, trucks were always interesting. I liked that drivers could travel across the country and get paid for doing it. I liked the work by myself aspect.
Was trucking presented as a viable career option when you were growing up?
In high school I never heard about driving as a “right out of high school” option. People either went to college or joined the military. Everyone said to wait until you’re 21. I think some people might consider truck driving right out of high school, but they don’t know that you can drive under the age of 21.
How did you first become aware of Dot Transportation and Dot Foods?
I started working for the warehouse right out of high school in 2018. My brother-in-law worked there and helped me get on. I had always planned to work in the warehouse until I turned 21 and was old enough to drive a truck with DTI.
Then one day I saw a flyer that said DTI was hiring an intrastate driver and you only had to be 18. They only required six months of full-time experience with Dot, so once that was up I went through all of the interviews and they let me know I was hired and helped me enroll in driving school.
What was the training like?
I enrolled at a local trucking school and was there for about a month while working in the warehouse on the weekends. Once I was done with CDL school, I went out on the road with a trainer. After about 7 weeks of on-the-road and in-classroom learning, I was done. They saw I was progressing pretty quickly.
How does the DTI training compare with other companies?
DTI training is honestly the best compared to other companies. Some companies want to train you for two weeks and give you the keys. My trainer made sure I was good to go. He gave me the phone numbers for a lot of drivers and driver trainers if I ever needed anything. Training is a little longer with DTI than with other companies, but I think that’s needed.
Did you see a nice pay increase when you made the switch from warehouse to driver?
Absolutely! I was making about 50 percent more as a driver. I asked my parents what I should do with the money I was making, and they said to buy a house. So I actually bought my first house at age 21.
What advice would you give to teens looking to get into trucking?
Absolutely look into it at an early age. At a lot of our locations DTI will pay you to go to school and pay for your training program, so once you’re done with classes, you’re completely debt free and can start making money right off the bat. You’ll be on your own, independent, no student loans. You don’t have to go through that. This is a great trade to have, it’s just not put out there enough.
What about when you turned 21? Did you want to stay on intrastate only? Or did you have the option?
They give you the option of staying local, but you have to do one overnight. So I could’ve still been home four nights a week. But I chose to start doing a traditional interstate schedule. And they ease you into it. They don’t just send you across the country the day you turn 21. I’m not home every night anymore, but I am making about 20-30 percent more that I did as an intrastate driver.
Driving in Chicago, huh? Was that difficult as a new driver?
It was absolutely intimidating. Especially when you’re new. You just have to try and stay calm. I felt like I was pretty well trained. I was ready. I was just nervous. Keep in mind, I was only 19 and didn’t really know anyone. Everyone I interacted with was older and that can be intimidating too. Just something to get used to.
Since you couldn’t leave Illinois during those first couple years, did you get more home time as a result?
Yes, I was home 99 percent of nights. Some nights I had to sleep in the truck, but I was almost always home. I just drove from Mt. Sterling to Belleville to University Park. A lot of back and forth between Belleville and Chicago.
Was it easy to adjust to life on the road?
The only thing that took some adjusting was the hours. With driving you can kind of have set hours, but there are a lot of factors that can change your timing: traffic, delay issues, etc. So that all took some adjusting. But DTI was very honest with me with scheduling. They explained that you might be working long hours or waking up early. It’s not impossible though. Anyone can do it as long as they’re willing to put in the work.
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