While being a commercial truck driver might not be the most glamorous of jobs, the occupation is projected to increase at about the same rate as the national average for all occupations through 2024. Because the job carries responsibility for the prompt delivery and good condition of the cargo you're carrying, you'll need special training in order to operate the vehicle in a safe and secure manner.
Commercial truck drivers operate tractor-trailers and other large vehicles to transport cargo over various distances. While some may work in a local area making deliveries to businesses and residences, others may travel long distances or carry non-traditional cargo, such as hazardous materials. In order to perform this type of work, a person must obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). They must also obtain special endorsements in order to carry certain types of cargo. Training programs are available to teach operators how to drive large trucks and to prepare them for the CDL test. A person who enjoys traveling and working independently may enjoy this type of career.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Other Requirements||CDL (Commercial driver's license)|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5% (heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$40,260 (heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
There are several different employment opportunities for commercial truck drivers. Some work locally making deliveries to businesses or customer residences. Route drivers typically work the same path making distributions to retail establishments, such as grocery stores. Pick-up and delivery drivers carry goods from a transport center to a business or private customer. These drivers usually operate in a particular area consistently.
Over-the-road, or long-haul, truck drivers carry merchandise over state lines. In some cases, these drivers travel a consistent route, but others may work a variety of routes all over the country. Some commercial drivers specialize in carrying uncommon cargo, such as hazardous materials or cars.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for drivers of heavy and tractor-trailer trucks (including commercial trucks) were projected to increase 5% during the 2014-2024 decade. In May 2015, the BLS noted that the median annual salary for the field was $40,260.
Driving the vehicle is the main responsibility of the commercial truck driver, but some also need to load and unload cargo. Long-haul truck drivers must maintain a logbook of their driving activities to ensure compliance with federal regulations governing the rest and work periods for operators. Drivers also keep a record of vehicle inspections and make sure the truck is equipped with safety equipment, such as hazardous material placards. Some long-haul truck drivers plan their route according to a delivery schedule. Local-delivery drivers may be required to sell products or services to stores and businesses on their route, obtain signatures from recipients and collect cash.
Commercial truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver's license to operate vehicles over 26,001 pounds of gross vehicle weight, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Drivers of vehicles transporting hazardous materials or oversized cargo must also obtain special endorsements and a commercial driver's license (CDL) in their home state. The hazardous materials endorsement involves a knowledge test as well as a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) threat assessment.
Training programs are available to teach operators of large commercial trucks the techniques for driving on city streets and highways and to prepare them to take the CDL test. Students must have a valid driver's license and be at least 18 years old to drive instate, and they may need to be 21 or older for interstate driving. Courses also instruct the student in the regulations governing long-haul trucking. Programs typically include behind-the-wheel training on both loaded and unloaded trailers of varying sizes. Drivers must comply with state and federal regulations to obtain a commercial driving license, which include a medical examination and passing a driving examination.
Employers may provide on-the-job training for tractor-trailer operators or delivery drivers. On-the-job training provides the new driver with an education in company policies and the duties of the job. New commercial drivers may be paired with an experienced employee to complete the on-the-job training.
Though you may qualify for a state-issued CDL at the age of 18, you'll need to be 21 for long-haul, interstate routes. In either case, you generally must attend a professional truck driving school. For specialized cargo hauling, such as hazardous materials or oversized merchandise, you'll need specific endorsements to your CDL.