Unfairly, many people overlook the value that a career as a truck driver offers. Without qualified truck drivers, food, clothing, toys, automobiles, electronics, furniture, medicine, and everything else millions of people depend on to live would never reach the intended market. Although it takes a special person to maintain a career as a truck driver, there is tremendous satisfaction in knowing a much-needed service is being provided to people around the world.
Although this particular career often requires long hours, most people find the work exciting, they appreciate the opportunity to travel, and enjoy working independently. There are many different types of truck drivers, making this an extremely versatile career. Just a few examples include the following:
Dry Van – As the most common form of truck driving career, trailers are used to haul dry goods and various non-perishable goods
Reefer’s Hauler – Hauled trailers are designed with air conditioners for freight that must maintain a precise temperature, usually 30 degrees or less
Flat Bedders – Truck drivers that haul flatbeds move massive cargo from one location to another to include items such as military tanks, airplanes, construction materials, and more
Low Boy – In this case, freight is oversized and overweight, sitting low to the ground for easy transportation and clearance. Depending on freight, geographic location, and distance, one or more escort vehicles may be required.
Tankers – Typically, a truck driver would haul some form of liquid, often gasoline but sometimes, tankers are also used to haul certain dry products
Bull Haulers – This involves the transportation of live animals
Automobile Haulers – As the name implies, the truck driver would move automobiles
Based on the type of driving being done, weight of pulled trailers is anywhere from 6,000 to 20,000 for each axle. Drivers often work for transportation companies directly or as third-party drivers for other companies. Additionally, some truck drivers invest in a private truck and trailer, allowing them to be self-employed. Regardless if a driver works for a contract carrier or is a private carrier, specific education and licensing is mandated.
Truck Driver Responsibilities
In simple terms, a truck driver is responsible for moving merchandise and animals from one destination to another. Depending on the type of driver, driving distance could be just a few miles or involve trips that cover thousands of miles. In some instances, a truck driver is also responsible for loading and unloading cargo but not usually. For all drivers, very strict city, state and federal guidelines, as well as company policies must be adhered to as a means of ensuring safety.
While the job is similar regardless of the kind of driving being done, there are distinct differences. Below are two examples of specific roles associated with a career as a truck driver to show different aspects.
Local Truck Driver – Also referred to as a short haul driver, trailers weight 26,000 pounds or less. Drivers would pick up and drop off freight in designated areas of the city, typically following a regular delivery schedule. Other responsibilities might include taking orders, gathering payments, loading and unloading trailers, and providing certain customer support services. Most local truck drivers work 50 plus hours a week and work with the same customers on a regular basis.
Long Haul Truck Driver – As the name implies, a truck driver that handles long hauls is on the road for long periods, often driving between 10 and 14 hours a day. After trailers are loaded by other company personnel, the truck driver would deliver merchandise to its final destination. The individual choosing a career as a long haul truck driver would not only spend tremendous time on the road but also work during the night, on weekends, and during holidays.
Best Career Candidates
Working on a relatively independent basis is one of the many aspects of a truck driver career that people find attractive but along with this are long and sometimes difficult hours. The exact work assignment for freight would depend on the type of load being hauled, as well as the final destination where the freight would be dropped. Although being a truck driver is not for everyone, for those who enjoy an adventure this career is very rewarding.
The best person for the job would be someone who enjoys being independent and has no problem with flexibility. While there are millions of married men and women who work as truck drivers, because of the potential for time away from home and family the ideal candidate would be someone single. This person would also be required to pass strict physical requirements so good health and clear mind is a must.
Additionally, a successful truck driver should be someone with a tremendous amount of patience. In addition to some hauls being monotonous, there will always be road challenges and customer issues. Therefore, being dedicated to the job, having patience, and being optimistic about possible obstacles would certainly benefit the person interested in working as a truck driver.
Future Career Opportunities
Because of the current economic situation but also companies searching for affordable means of getting merchandise from one location to another, experts believe careers as a truck driver will see significant growth. Local drivers might face a more competitive market but long haul drivers are in high demand now and will continue to be heavily sought after. Of course, other types of truck driving careers such as movers are also in high demand. Overall, the future for a career as a truck driver is positive.
Pulling large trailers loaded with merchandise worth thousands upon thousands of dollars, and perhaps millions is serious business. Because a truck driver faces both known and known situations on the road, educational requirements are tough but absolutely necessary. There are many excellent truck driving schools located around the world, those that provide all required education specific to the type of driving a person would be interested in.
Someone wanting to become a truck driver should look for schools based on specific factors. Things that would be important to find in a reputable school are mentioned below.
Look for low student to teacher ratio
Find a truck driving school that offers various courses
State certifications should be provided upon successful completion of all mandated education
Determine the percentage of students who have passed the CDL examination
The best truck driving school would be an active member of Commercial Vehicle Training Association or CVTA or some other industry accepted membership since all members are required to pass extremely strict testing not only on coursework but also accountability and transportation code of ethics
Schools considered should offer both on-the-road training and classroom education
Instruction should consist of 160 hours minimum, 40 actually driving
Education specific to professional truck driving results in two licensing types, which then dictates the type of truck and trailer a person could drive, geographic locations drivers could go, and the amount of money to be earned. These licenses include:
Class A – Vehicles rated as “Class A”, are usually tractor trailers with a multiple axle. In this case, trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 although in certain situations, weight could be even greater. With this, a person would be licensed as a long haul or “over-the-road” driver, capable of moving freight both intrastate and interstate.
Class B – Vehicles within the “Class B” category do not typically exceed 26,000 pounds and trailers are single axle. With a Class B license, a truck driver would be limited to areas within the state, whether locally or intrastate.
The quality of education a person receives has a direct impact on the level of success achieved. Therefore, one of the most important elements of becoming a professional truck driver on any level is choosing the right school. Regarding the cost to complete truck driving school, overall tuition is high but potential for income is excellent, allowing a person to recoup the educational investment within a short amount of time.
Regarding potential earnings, long haul truck drivers usually make around $40,000 a year for the first year of being licensed. However, with experience and based on the company working for, as well as the type of freight being hauled and location for delivery, income could reach $80,000, sometimes higher. For short haul drivers, most earn between $13 and $15 an hour but again based on company, type of freight, and delivery locations, this could increase to $18 to $20 an hour.
Securing a Career
Some truck driving schools do offer some type of job placement service. With this, a person who had successfully completed all education and passed the state exam for licensing would be provided assistance in being hired. However, more people wanting to become a truck driver would seek out employment on their own after finishing education and securing a state license.