What is a Truck Driver?

A truck driver is someone who earns a living driving a truck, transporting goods and materials over land. They typically go to and from retail and distributions centres or manufacturing plants, working any hours of the day or night. They provide an essential service to industrialized societies. While trucking isn’t a great career choice for everyone, for some it can be a fantastic way to work and live. In order to really enjoy the job, however, you have to enjoy the 'lifestyle' of living on the road, as trucking is really more of a lifestyle than it is a typical job.

What does a Truck Driver do?

A Truck Driver earns a living by driving a truck and transporting goods and materials over land.

Truck drivers move commerce by way of tractor trailers, travelling either locally or across country. Almost all truckers begin as over the road drivers (OTR), which basically means driving for long distances and being gone two to three weeks at a time. The driver should know how to connect/disconnect the cab from the trailer, and know some basic repair skills (for example, know how to change a tire). However, the company usually has heavy-vehicle roadside assistance that can be dispatched immediately to the truck's location if the driver is not able to drive safely to a repair shop or a truck stop.

Driving a big truck is totally different from driving a conventional vehicle. The driver has to know what to do when going up or down a steep grade so the brakes will not overheat, and know how to keep a load from shifting on a curve. There are many gears in the transmission; the average rig (18 footer) has ten forward drive gears and two reverse drive gears, with some rigs having nine, 13, 15 or 18 gears. The truck weighs 20 to 30 times more than a car, and is typically 70 to 80 feet long (including the cab).

There are three types of truck drivers:

Company Truck Drivers
- are employees of a trucking company and drive a company truck

Owner-Operators
- may own their own truck
- may lease a truck from a company and make payments on it to buy it in two to five years
- may lease their truck by contract with a trucking company to haul freight for that company
- may haul loads for a number of companies and are self-employed independent contractors

Independent Owners
- own their own authority to haul goods and drive their own truck
- may own a small fleet anywhere from two to ten trucks

Truck drivers work very long hours, typically around 70hrs per week, and are expected to keep track of their hours in a logbook. They must get the merchandise to its final destination on time, check the manifest sheet and make sure the load matches, and either load or unload the truck. These amongst many other duties make up the job of the trucker, as they are responsible not only for the load they carry, but for the truck's efficiency, management, operation and safety.

Are you suited to be a truck driver?

Truck drivers have distinct personalities. They tend to be realistic individuals, which means they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty. They like tasks that are tactile, physical, athletic, or mechanical. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if truck driver is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a Truck Driver like?

Truck Drivers can travel across the entire country, or drive locally.

Some drivers travel across the entire country while some drive locally. One can expect to work any hours of the day or night, and have quite an erratic sleep schedule. Long distance truck drivers can be gone for weeks at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do Truck Drivers sleep?

It is important to get good restorative sleep not only for the sake of the truck driver's health, but also for the sake of their job. Part of the reason why the Hours of Service regulations are in place is so that professional truck drivers will have enough time to sleep so as not to become drowsy or fatigued behind the wheel and cause accidents.

Truck drivers typically sleep at truck stops, rest areas, a shipper or receiver's property, or a legal get-on ramp. Some truck drivers prefer being away from the truck for a few hours, and will sleep at a motel. For those that are new, it is recommend to plan the trip with a motor carrier's road atlas and a truck stop guide book.

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Are there many Truck Driving jobs?

Professional truck drivers drive more than 400 billion miles on the road each year, according to the American Trucking Association estimates. The trucking industry transports more than 10 billion tons of freight every year, which is more than two-thirds of the total freight tonnage transported in the nation (rail transportation accounts for about 13 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage).

There are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, according to estimates by the ATA. The total number of people employed in the industry surpasses 8.7 million, and about one of every 15 workers in the country is employed in the trucking business, according to the ATA. These figures clearly show that trucking is an exceptionally stable industry that is likely to continue generating jobs in the coming years.

According to the ATA, an annual shortage exists in the field. By 2016, companies in the U.S. are expected to be creating as many as 115,000 job openings for truck drivers yearly. The demand for new truck drivers is growing more quickly than the number of drivers who are entering the profession. Job growth among heavy truck drivers and tractor-trailer drivers is expected to grow by 21 percent by 2020 compared with 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Department of Labor projects that truck drivers will account for 43 percent of the growth in logistics jobs in the coming years.

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How long does it take to become a Truck Driver?

On average, a Class ‘A’ CDL program lasts about seven weeks. This is based on full-time programs than run five days per week. Class ‘A’ programs tend to last longer than Class ‘B’ programs, as a Class ‘A’ license applies to a greater variety of trucks and to transporting larger loads.

Class ‘B’ training programs, which prepare truckers to drive straight trucks, dump trucks, and other trucks that carry smaller loads, can often be completed in about a week.

What are Truck Drivers like?

Based on our pool of users, truck drivers tend to be predominately investigative people. They tend, almost in equal measure, to be enterprising. Both of these traits reflect perfectly the demands that truck drivers face. They commonly must investigate evolving conditions and circumstances and enterprisingly find ways to literally and figuratively keep going.

Should I become a Truck Driver?

Before attempting to answer this question, perhaps the most important thing to recognize is that trucking is not a job. It is a lifestyle – one that is largely responsible for the high driver turnover rate at large truckload companies.

It has been said that your personality and attitude will make or break you as a truck driver. To be successful in the role, you have to be a self-starter, independent, and extremely patient.

Take some time to consider both the disadvantages and the advantages of this career:

Disadvantages

Time away from family and friends It is not uncommon for an OTR (Over the Road) truck driver to earn only one day of home time for every week out on the road. You will almost never be guaranteed to be home on a specific day, meaning you may miss birthdays, holidays, or other special events.

Irregular sleep patterns* There are many federal regulations that govern when, where, and how much you must sleep in any given 24-hour period. When you get into the trucking industry you will find that these regulations are not always followed to the letter. Even if they are followed, they force your sleep pattern and work schedule. You will find that sometimes you must rest when you’re not tired and work when you are tired; and there is nothing you can do about it. Circadian rhythm is often challenged by Department of Transportation regulations concerning hours of service.

Irregular weather patterns You will be crossing the country on a regular basis, warm weather one day and then freezing temperatures and snow packed roads the next. Some people have a hard time with the environmental changes to which you will be exposed on a regular basis. Some have problems with allergies due to the constant climate and environmental variations.

Limited truck parking In most states, there are way more trucks on the road than there are parking spots. This can be very frustrating and sometimes even infuriating, particularly when you are exhausted and short on the hours you can legally drive.

Inconvenience Trucks do not come with a toilet, shower, or kitchen. Being a truck driver means using public restrooms and showers regularly. Most drivers purchase the majority of their meals at truck stops, even though it is possible to do some cooking inside modern trucks.

Stress Deadlines, traffic, accidents, breakdowns, incompetent dispatchers, slow shippers, load issues, living in a very small space, bad weather, and a lack of parking spaces at truck stops and rest areas can really grind your nerves down.

Potential health challenges Staying healthy can be hard when driving a truck for a living. You will spend many hours just sitting and driving with almost no movement. Boredom sets in easily and you tend to snack more than if you had an active job. Those snacks – especially from fast food joints and truck stop vendors – turn into pounds very fast.

Advantages

Truckers are always in demand Today, almost everything is moved by truck. Companies no longer warehouse large amounts of goods due to overhead and storage costs. This means that products are always on wheels and must be delivered in a consistent flow. Job stability, therefore, is one of the great advantages of being a truck driver. Most companies are always hiring.

No boss – for the most part Truckers who adhere to the law, follow safety regulations, and deliver on time rarely hear from their driver manager or anyone else from the trucking company that employs them. For many truck drivers, having no boss telling them what to do and how to do it is particularly appealing.

The open road For some truckers, the lure of the open road calls them to the occupation. While trucking presents its share of challenges, it also provides drivers with the opportunity to see forests, mountains, deserts, plains, grasslands, big cities, and remote hamlets – from the east coast to the west coast.

No experience needed Some trucking companies hire aspiring drivers with no experience. They bear all or part of the cost of training.

For some further insight into the trucking industry, read, below, some excerpts from an interview with a professional truck driver of almost a decade:

Are there common misconceptions about your profession? That all truck drivers are steering wheel holders, and don't do much else, which is not true at all. If you come into trucking thinking you are just going to drive, you will have a rude awakening! Also, a lot of people don't realize the mental capacity it takes to be able to drive for long periods of time, by yourself, in all sorts of road conditions, with all sorts of bad drivers on the road.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? I enjoy working by myself at night, even though I'm working for a company now and not out on my own. It's nice not to have a boss constantly breathing over your shoulder. The health insurance and pay are nice. I also enjoy the interaction with my co-workers; we all get along, and that helps.

What are your least favorite aspects of your job? Not having the weekends off, but the company makes up for that in spades, so you take the good with the bad.

What personality traits do you think would help someone to be successful as a truck driver? Common sense, the ability to be alone with yourself a lot, and the drive. You have to want to be a truck driver.

What personality traits do you think might hinder someone's success as a truck driver? The exact opposite of my last answer. Don't get behind the wheel if you don't have any common sense. Especially an 18-wheeler flying down the freeway at 60 mph!

What advice, or words of caution, would you give to a student who is considering studying to become a truck driver? Well, just know that this is what you want to do, as with any career. And make sure you also at least get an Associate’s Degree in some kind of business management, because you won't always be able to throw tarps, strap and load, and unload. Or have the mental capacity anymore. You need to be able to move into the management side of things when you get older. Either that or save really well and retire early!

Steps to becoming a Truck Driver

Aspiring truck drivers must meet certain basic requirements; complete commercial driver training; pass the commercial driver’s license test and the Federal safety regulations exam; and upon employment, complete company-specific orientation and further training.

Are Truck Drivers happy?

Truck drivers rank among the least happy careers. Overall they rank in the 11th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

This notably low happiness quotient among truck drivers could be connected to the demand of the career to opt not just for a job, but for a lifestyle that has potentially significant negative impacts on personal health, relationships, and general work/life balance.

Truck Drivers are also known as:
Line Haul Driver Log Truck Driver Over the Road Driver OTR Driver Semi Truck Driver Tractor Trailer Operator Tractor Trailer Driver Trucker