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Truck Driver: Employment & Career Info

Truck drivers deliver goods to locations around the country and may be self-employed or work directly for shipping firms or companies in a wide variety of industries. Read further to learn more about the training, skills, salary and employment outlook for this occupation.

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Career Definition for a Truck Driver

Truck drivers drive vans or trucks with a weight capacity of at least 26,000 pounds all over the country. They can carry canned goods, live stock, cars, liquids, and many different types of packages. Truck drivers frequently work long hours and may be away from their families for extended periods of time.

Required Education Commercial driver's license and training program; some companies may require high school diploma or equivalent
Necessary Skills Clean driving record, concentration, attention to detail
Median Salary (2015)* $40,260 (for all heavy and tractor-trailer drivers)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 5% (for all heavy and tractor-trailer drivers)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

There are no specific degree requirements to become a truck driver, but some trucking companies prefer a high school diploma or a GED. A commercial driver's license that will allow you to drive a truck over 26,000 pounds is also required for most positions. Many employers require their truck drivers to complete an in-house safety training program in addition to any outside education. A certificate or associate's degree in automotive technology and business can be helpful for truck drivers, especially those looking to start their own business.

Skills Required

To be a truck driver, you must maintain a clean driving record. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, www.fmcsa.dot.gov, you must take and pass the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) Exam, offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This consists of a written test and a driving test that you must pass to become a truck driver. You will have to take and pass this test every two years. Excellent concentration and attention to detail are also needed, as truck drivers work long hours and must often track their load's weight and contents, as well as logging their own hours worked and slept, per industry regulations.

Career and Economic Outlook

Truck drivers will not only have to drive their trucks, but may be responsible for loading and unloading the goods after arriving at their destination. Truck drivers can find employment in all 50 states, but most trucking companies are located in the Midwest, providing them with equal access to both coasts. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the median hourly wage reported for truck drivers was $19.36 in May 2015, while the median annual salary was $40,260. Jobs are available, with average growth of 5% predicted from 2014-2024, but a high number of qualified applicants and downturns in the economy can lead to fierce competition for the most desirable positions. High gas prices may eat into the profit margins of independent truck drivers, resulting in lower-than-usual profits.

Alternate Career Options

Skills necessary to become a truck driver may help prepare you for jobs in other areas:

Bus Driver

Usually needing a high school diploma or its equivalent, in addition to meeting vision and hearing requirements, bus drivers then obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) and complete a training program in which they learn to safely transport people on short routes, chartered trips and tours. During the 2014-2024 decade, an average growth rate of 6% was predicted for bus drivers by the BLS. In 2015, they earned an annual median salary of $30,950, per the BLS.

Taxi Driver and Chauffeur

These drivers may not always need a high school diploma and receive brief training while on the job. Many areas require these drivers who transport people back and forth from places such as home, shopping malls, airports and workplaces to have a special limousine or taxi license. A faster than average employment growth of 13% was projected by the BLS for taxi drivers and chauffeur from 2014-2024. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs earned median annual wages of $23,510 in 2015.

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