Truck drivers and driver/sales workers comprise one of the largest occupational groups, about 3 million workers. No other form of transportation is as flexible as a truck, so they are used to transport most goods at some point in their journey to consumers. Drivers must pick up and deliver freight and may also have to load and unload their cargo. They also must follow state and/or federal regulations, keep logs, and make sure that their equipment is working properly.
Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers operate vans or trucks with a capacity of at least 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight. Most of these are long-haul drivers who drive interstate routes. Some have regular routes, but others drive all over the country and to Canada and Mexico. Long-haul drivers often plan their own routes to determine how to get the shipment delivered on time.
Light or delivery services truck drivers deliver goods within an urban area or small region. They usually carry goods to homes or businesses. They may also accept payments and handle paperwork. Specialized truck drivers may carry liquids, oversized loads, or automobiles. Some carry hazardous materials, such as industrial chemicals and waste. These drivers have strict procedures to ensure safety of delivery. Driver/sales workers or route drivers have sales responsibilities. They may be responsible for recommending purchases to their clients and soliciting new business.
Driving a truck is a physically demanding job. Long hours, loading, and unloading can be very fatiguing. Becoming a long-haul trucker is a major decision, as this necessitates being away from home for days or weeks and spending much of that time alone.
U.S. Department of Transportation has very strict regulations for the number of working hours and off-duty hours that long-distance truckers must have, for these long-haul drivers face boredom, loneliness, fatigue, and sometimes traveling nights, holidays, and weekends. Local truck drivers may work fifty or more hours weekly, often late at night or early in the morning. Most have regular routes, but many, particularly driver/salesmen, still must do a great deal of walking, lifting, and carrying.
QUALIFICATIONS AND ADVANCEMENT
Truckers driving long-haul vehicles with a GVW of 26,001 pounds, as well as those transporting hazardous materials or oversized loads, must have a commercial driver’s license. They usually prepare for CDL testing at a vocational-technical school. Pulling hazardous or oversized loads also requires special endorsements. The endorsement for hauling hazardous materials requires fingerprinting and a criminal background check by the Transportation Security Administration. Driving of all other trucks only requires a standard driver’s license issued in the state where the driver lives.
Employers also give their own training to new drivers who hold a CDL. This is often informal and may last from a few hours to a couple of days. New drivers may also ride with and observe experienced driving before driving routes on their own. Additional training is required to drive special trucks or deal with hazardous material.
- Driver / Salesmen must learn their stock to market these products to their customers.
- Drivers must be at least twenty-one years of age to drive across state lines or receive special endorsements.
- They are also required to have physicals every two years. Physical requirements include good hearing, at least 20/40 vision with or without correction, and a seventy-degree field of vision in each eye. They cannot be color-blind. Drivers are also required to have normal use of their arms and legs and normal blood pressure. Those with epilepsy or diabetes controlled by insulin may not be interstate truck drivers.
- Federal regulations state that employers must test their drivers for alcohol and drug use when first employed and randomly thereafter. Drivers may not use any nonprescribed controlled substance.
- A driver may not have been convicted of a felony and must be able to read and speak english well.
Drivers who have a long record of safe driving earn a great deal more than new drivers. Local truck drivers may advance to operating more specialized vehicles or move into long-distance trucking. Some long-distance truckers purchase or lease trucks and become owner-operators of their own businesses. Most truck drivers will find their employment in large cities or along major interstates.
JOB OUTLOOK AND EARNINGS
Job prospects will likely be favorable for truck drivers, especially long-haulers, chiefly because of those retiring, transferring to other jobs, or leaving the work force. There will be competition for the higher paying long-haul jobs, although local jobs can be even more competitive due to more desirable working conditions.
Industries least affected by changes in the economy will be the most stable employers for truck drivers.
The median hourly wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is about $18 per hour, for delivery drivers around $13 per hour, and for driver/salesmen near $11 per hour. Long-haul truckers are usually paid by the mile with bonuses available. Local truck drivers are paid by the hour with overtime. Pay will increase with experience and seniority as well as the type of truck driven. Only about 16 percent of truckers are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.