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OTR Truck Driver: Duties, Outlook and Salary

Learn about the job responsibilities of an OTR truck driver. Get a quick view of the job requirements as well as details about the career outlook and salary prospects to find out if this is the career for you.

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OTR (over-the-road) drivers transport cargo, sometimes across state lines or across the country. While post-secondary education is not required for this career, OTR truck drivers do need to complete driver training courses where, in addition to learning the skills needed for this job, they learn about the regulations governing the trucking industry. Salaries for truck drivers vary according to the industries in which they are employed.

Essential Information

Over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers transport cargo from one location to another. Long-distance drivers cross state lines, which require them to spend long periods away from home. The driver may work as an independent truck driver or for a trucking and transportation company. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipated about average job growth for the 2014-2024 decade.

Required Education High school diploma and truck driver training courses
Projected Job Growth 5% from 2014-2024*
Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $40,260 *

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

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OTR Truck Driver Duties

Long-distance truck drivers may be responsible for planning transportation routes when they start with a location address and deadline. This requires drivers to be familiar with the laws and rules for carrying cargo on certain routes. Truck drivers also perform a pre-trip inspection of the vehicle to ensure safety features and systems are working properly.

Drivers must adhere to the U.S. Department of Transportation rules regarding the safe operation of the vehicle, which include maximum driving hours and minimum rest times. Long-distance truck drivers maintain a logbook to detail the number of hours driving and at rest. Over-the-road truck drivers must calculate rest periods when route planning. Some truck drivers travel in pairs to maximize the number of hours on the road. Long-haul truck drivers may also be required to unload and load the vehicle.

Truck drivers hauling hazardous materials or dangerous loads, such as chemicals or oversized cargo, must ensure the vehicle is properly labeled with safety placards to warn other drivers on the road.

Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, including OTR drivers, was expected to grow by 5% between 2014 and 2024. As the economy grows, the demand for consumer goods grows, which spurs the trucking and transportation industry.

Salary

The national median salary for a tractor-trailer truck operator in May 2015 was $40,260, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The general freight and trucking industry reported the highest levels of employment for tractor-trailer truck drivers, but those delivering amusement and recreation equipment reported the highest salaries with mean annual earnings of $60,970 as of 2015, reported the BLS.

Salary and job demands vary for OTR drivers, depending on what type of cargo they transport and if they work for a company or independently. Drivers must log their distances and hours, and strong planning skills are a plus. Job growth in this field is about average over the next decade.

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