About Truck Drivers
Truck drivers transport a variety of goods and materials to and from stores, warehouses, production centers, and other facilities. Some operate local routes, but most handle long-haul routes, which may include multiple states or span the length of the country. While many truck drivers work for large trucking companies, some own and operate their own businesses.
Education and Experience Needed
To be a truck driver, you’ll need a high school diploma and a commercial driver’s license (CDL). To operate a truck across state lines, you must be at least 21 years old and have a clean driving record. You’ll also have to pass a written exam and a road test to get a CDL.
When testing for a CDL, keep in mind that you can get a standard commercial license or you can get additional endorsements. Hazardous material (HAZMAT) endorsements, for instance, can help you get more lucrative jobs, but you’ll need to pass an extra exam and undergo a background check first.
While you might not have to attend a truck driving school to get your CDL, most drivers take this step to learn the basics of maneuvering a tractor-trailer. Many trucking companies offer paid training, and some also have pre-hire programs that help you land a job after getting your CDL.
Certain skills and abilities can also help you land a great trucking job. Strong attention to detail and great visual and hearing abilities help you maintain constant awareness of hazards around you. Quick reaction times and good hand-eye coordination will also help you and your equipment stay safe on the road.
While you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to become a truck driver, some people choose to pursue this profession as a second career. In this case, having a bachelor’s degree, some business experience, and communication and time management skills could help you land a higher-paying truck driving job with more opportunities for advancement.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual wage for truck drivers is about $41,500. Drivers at the high end of the spectrum earn a median of more than $63,000 per year, while those on the low end earn less than $27,000 per year.
Truck drivers who specialize in certain niches often have the potential to earn higher salaries. For instance, those who work in general freight trucking earn a median of $43,500 per year, while those in specialized freight trucking earn about $41,650 per year. In contrast, truck drivers who work in the manufacturing field earn a median of $38,800 per year.
No matter what type of trucking you specialize in, however, you’ll usually earn a certain amount per mile driven, plus a potential bonus. The type of cargo you haul and the kind of route you drive typically influence the per-mile rate you earn. Keep in mind that you can’t drive unlimited miles, though. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the maximum number of miles you can drive during a day or a week and stipulates required rest periods.
Typical Duties and Tasks
On a basic level, truck drivers are responsible for operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with a capacity of over 26,000 pounds. However, they do much more than drive local, interstate, and long-haul routes. They also must ensure the safety and security of their cargo, inspect their trucks before and after each trip, and handle both basic truck maintenance and emergency repairs.
Truck drivers must keep to relatively strict schedules in order to pick up and deliver goods and materials on time. They also track and report their hours and communicate constantly with their dispatchers.
If you excel as a truck driver, you could pursue a number of opportunities for advancement. After gaining experience as an entry-level truck driver, you could get additional certifications to haul hazardous materials. You could also become an over-the-road (OTR) or a long-haul driver who operates exclusively on cross-country routes.
If you want to turn your trucking experience into a lucrative business, you could also opt to become an owner-operator. Rather than working for trucking companies, owner-operators work for themselves, own their own trucks, and manage their own businesses. This is ideal for ambitious truck drivers who have business experience or education and who want to apply their administrative, accounting, and marketing skills.
Want to pursue freedom, independence, and rewarding career on the open road? Learn more about truck driving careers and get the training and experience you need.