Learn About Being a Truck Driver

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Truck Driver Snapshot
National Average Salary: $1,106 per week
Commonly Required Skills: Time management, problem-solving, communication
Entry-level Education Requirements: High school diploma

 

What does a truck driver do?

A truck driver’s job is to transport goods with a heavy truck or a tractor-trailer. Their routes can be regional or national, sometimes keeping the truck driver on the road for days or weeks at a time. Depending on their industry, truck drivers can carry a variety of different items, such as food or livestock. Some common responsibilities for this position include:

  • Loading and unloading the truck
  • Inspecting the truck to ensure safe operating conditions
  • Completing necessary paperwork relevant to each delivery
  • Driving safely and in accordance with traffic laws, especially as they pertain to heavy vehicles
  • Keeping a log of hours on the road, any traffic violations committed and similar activities

 

Average salary

The truck you drive can affect how much you earn. Factors like your experience level and driving record can also help you negotiate a higher salary.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $1,106 per week
  • Some salaries range from $300 — $2,400 per week

 

Truck driver requirements

The requirements for tractor-trailer drivers are more demanding than for drivers of other types of vehicles. As a truck driver, you will need to obtain additional training and certifications before you start your job.

 

Education

To become a truck driver, you will typically need a high school diploma or GED. A hiring manager may sometimes waive this condition depending on your experience or certifications, but most employers will require this level of education.

 

Training

Aside from a valid driver’s license, you will also need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This is required to drive heavy vehicles. The CDL application process may differ depending on where you live. In the U.S., you must be at least 21 years old to drive a commercial truck, though in some states you need only be 18 to 20 years old if you are only driving within that state. You will also need to pay a fee and undergo a medical examination. You can attend an accredited driver training school to prepare for your CDL test, but this is not a requirement. Once you have passed the road test and paid the fees, you will receive your CDL.

There are three types of CDL you can get depending on the vehicle you intend to drive. When you apply for your CDL, be sure you know which class of license you need.

  • Class A covers vehicles with a combined weight over 26,000 pounds. This usually includes tow trucks, which may need to carry several vehicles at once.
  • Class B covers a single vehicle weighing over 26,000 pounds, not including the additional weight from carrying one or more vehicles.
  • Class C is for vehicles that carry over 16 passengers or vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

 

Certifications

After getting your CDL, you can get some certifications to increase the range of vehicles you can drive and show driving competence. Some certifications include:

  • Endorsements: You can apply to add endorsements to your license. These letter codes show authorization to drive specific vehicle types.  For example, a “P” endorsement allows you to drive passenger vehicles, “H” permits driving vehicles containing hazardous material and “X” signifies you can transport hazardous materials such as gasoline, propane and acetic acid.
  • Driver Finishing Certification: In the U.S., the Professional Truck Driver Institute offers this certification for commercial truck drivers to master their driving skills. This certification is often offered through trucking companies who want to invest in their employees.
  • Professional Truck Driver Online Defensive Driving: This course, which is offered by the National Safety Council, trains drivers to identify potential driving hazards and how to avoid them. 

 

Skills

If you’re interested in becoming a truck driver, consider developing the following skills:

  • Time management. You will need to keep to a schedule to deliver goods to the correct destination at the designated time. This also means taking into account road and traffic conditions that might delay your arrival.
  • Stress management. When emergency situations arise, you will need to remain calm and think clearly. This includes dealing with unexpected vehicle maintenance, unforeseen hazardous weather and traffic accidents.
  • Problem-solving. Since you will be on your own most of the time, you should feel comfortable resolving unexpected issues without help.
  • Communication. While truck drivers spend a significant amount of time on the job alone, they will still interact with customers and loading crews. They will expect you to be courteous, friendly, professional and helpful. Your ability to communicate will reflect well on both you and your employer.

 

Truck driver work environment

Truck drivers spend a lot of time inside their vehicles. While some regulations limit a truck driver’s driving time, it is not unusual for a driver to spend eight to ten hours behind the steering wheel. Drivers may need to drive overnight or during early morning hours to meet their delivery time. Regulations determine how often a driver must rest, but there are usually no scheduled stops. Drivers take advantage of designated rest areas, truck stops and motels to sleep.

Truck drivers may find themselves away from home for days or weeks at a time. Companies usually give drivers time off between trips to recuperate and spend time with family.

 

How to become a truck driver

Follow these steps to become a truck driver.

  1. Earn your high school diploma. Graduate with a high school diploma or GED. You will need to track inventory, fill out forms and maintain logs, which all require the reading, writing and arithmetic skills taught in high school. 
  2. Maintain a clean driving record. This shows you are a safe and competent driver. Since the job requires you to spend a lot of time driving a heavy truck, this is an important step. A company will more likely accept your application if no driving violations occurred within the last three years.
  3. Get your Commercial Driver’s License. You will need a Class A or B CDL to work as a truck driver. Research state-approved driving schools that provide training.
  4. Be willing to submit to other necessary testing. This might include Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation testing and a physical exam. Your employer may also require you to take a drug test. These tests are necessary to show you are both physically and mentally able to fulfill the demands of the job.

 

 

 

Truck driver job description example

We are looking for a Truck Driver to join our logistics team. The successful applicant will safely deliver goods to various outlet sites across the country. Responsibilities include driving a large commercial vehicle, loading and unloading cargo, maintaining logs and completing paperwork. We expect our drivers to adhere to all standard safety regulations with regard to size, weight, parking and break periods, as well as company policies.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, a Commercial Driver’s License, excellent time management and problem-solving skills and no driving violations within the last three years. The ideal candidate will also have training and experience driving and operating a heavy truck. Job candidates must drive long distances safely and lift up to 25 pounds.

 

Related careers

If you’re thinking of becoming a truck driver, you may also be interested in one of these related careers:

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