Your Guide to a Truck Driving Career

truck driving career

Have you considered starting a truck driving career but have some questions on what they actually do? I am pretty sure you have the basic understanding that truck drivers make a living driving trucks. But what else do they do? What is the outlook for jobs? Would you like to learn more about truck driving jobs?

Believe it or not, those who have truck driving careers are some of the hardest working people in the United States. They spend countless hours and days on the road each year transporting nearly everything we use on a daily basis from food to fuel. Because of this, truck drivers are incredibly important to the economy of this nation since they move so much merchandise and consumables from one side of the country to the other.

In this guide, you will get to learn more about truck driving careers and what it is really like. Not only will you get to read a typical job description but also learn about some hazards and what kind of personality traits you should have to consider this career choice. Keep in mind while you are reading all of this that right now there is a tremendous shortage of qualified truck drivers in this country right now.

We really want to make this page extremely helpful for those that are considering a career in truck driving. If you have any questions or comments that you would like us to address, please send us an email.

What is a Truck Driver?

In a sense, truck drivers are the one of the industries that are movers and shakers of our consumer economy. They are the last of the American cowboys who help transport goods and raw materials from one place to another to keep our daily lives a bit better. Everything from the hamburger you ate for lunch to the computer you are using right now was transported in some way by one or more truck drivers.

We are not alone with believing that truck drivers the one of the careers that are the backbone of our economy. The largest national trade association for the trucking industry – the American Trucking Association (ATA) – celebrates the importance of truck drivers every year with a National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW).

Don’t let anyone tell you any different, truck drivers are trained professionals who help move things down the road. The job isn’t as easy as driving a car down the street. It takes skill, knowledge and a certain attitude to be able to do this job. Let’s take a closer look at some things you should consider or know about truck driving careers.

Recommended EducationTraitsJob DescriptionInside the Job

Do I Need Any Special Education to Become a Truck Driver?

While it is totally possible to become a truck driver without enrolling in a truck driving school, the odds of finding a job are a bit rough. One thing you will find out is that most employers prefer or even require that their employees have had some formal training. Keep in mind that there are trucking companies that will help pay for your training if you decide to sign a contract with them stating you will drive for them for a specified amount of time. Usually this is the first one to two years of your truck driving career.

Truck driver programs are held at several different types of training centers. These include:

  • Privately-Run Driver Training Companies
  • Company-Sponsored Programs
  • Community Colleges
  • Company-Owned and Operated Training Programs
While enrolled in one of these training programs, you will quickly be immersed in the world of truck driving. You will spend time in the classroom learning about safety and the laws. You will also spend a significant amount of time behind the wheel learning how to drive, backup and brake properly. You can learn more about the training in our Guide on Truck Driving Training Programs.

What Kinds of Personality Traits Should I Have?

On paper, nearly anyone can start a truck driving career. You get some training, pass the CDL examination and you too can be riding the highways of the country in a big rig. But to be a good truck driver, it takes a bit more. It is really helpful to have some of the following traits that may you have a great truck driving career.

    • Self-Reliant: Being able to work and solve problems on your own away from technical support
    • Mechanically Inclined: It is helpful to have some knowledge on how trucks operate and be able to make minor repairs when you are able to
    • Responsible: Understanding the importance of being reliable and timely while make sure to keep the shipments safe and sound
    • Adapting to Change: The ability to be flexible to changes in shipping orders, weather or road conditions or other things that may throw you a curve ball while out on the road
    • Patience: You will run across a lot of morons out on the road so you have to be patient and not let your anger cause problems
    • Strong Willed: The road life can be tough but you have to have the wherewithal to stand up to the challenges and get the job done
    • People Skills: Even though you are alone a lot of the time on your runs, you still have to be courteous to other drivers, employers and your clients to ensure that you continue to get work
    • Alert: You will be driving a large vehicle on the road so it is upmost that you stay alert, don’t take things for granted and always be safe
    • Stress Management: Being able to handle the stress you may face out on the road such as being away from home, accidents, breakdowns, etc… that can cause undue stress and make your work not enjoyable
    • Good Health: While you will spend most of your time sitting behind the wheel, you still have to be somewhat physically fit to endure that driving and helping unload your cargo
    • Mentally Stable: You will spend vast amounts of time alone so you have to be able to withstand it
    • Sense of Humor: Sometimes it is easier to just let things roll right off of you and laugh about it than to get upset plus a sense of humor can go a long way when meeting with clients and others
    • Good Vision: Being able to see close and far clearly is incredibly important when driving, as you may suspect
    • Depth Perception: You should have some ability to tell distances and judge how far something is so you can avoid accidents and be able to back up properly
    • Peripheral Vision: While your eyes may be on the road, a good amount of peripheral vision can help you see things to either side of you such as cars trying to pass or moose running out of the woods headed to the highway
    • Organizational Skills: You will need to keep an accurate trip log and keep track of vehicle inspections according to federal and state regulations
    • Good Work Ethic: Doing a job from start to finish correctly and on time is your main goal

What is the Job Description of a Truck Driver?

Truck drivers do a lot more than just go from point A to point B. They have a number of duties and responsibilities that they must complete. Here is a list of typical duties that most truck drivers are responsible for completing.

  • Safely operate a tractor-trailer in various weather conditions such as rain, snow and heat
  • Drive loads over long distances on highways, rural roads and intercity streets
  • Plan trips for the quickest and least expensive routes using both maps and satellite intel
  • Meet timelines according to the customer or client expectations
  • Report to dispatch any issues or incidents that may delay deliveries
  • Keep up with the latest on road conditions such as construction or heavy traffic congestion
  • Perform pre-trip and post-trip inspection of tractor-trailer and note any potential issues
  • Maintain an accurate log of activities, incidents and inspections
  • Make a report of any serious mechanical issues
  • Secure loads and containers using straps to avoid excess movement during transport
  • Helps load and unload cargo
  • Be able to correctly maneuver tractor-trailer for loading and unloading of cargo
  • Keeps truck, trailer and cab clean and well maintained
  • Perform roadside repairs such as changing light or hooking up tire chains
  • Supervise the loading and unloading of cargo by giving coherent instructions
  • Make an inspection of cargo to ensure that it is secure
  • Keep and record all receipts, signatures and payments made
  • Stop at weigh stations before, after and during your trip according to state regulations
  • Obtain and read bills of lading to help plan routes
  • Collect and follow the delivery instructions from dispatch or client
  • Couple and uncouple trailers
  • Connect and disconnect electrical or air lines
  • Regularly fill up with fuel, check oil and tires
  • Be able to operate the in-cab equipment such as CB radios, phones, GPS, etc…
  • Follow state and federal regulations at all times
  • Plan ahead for possible issues or delays and make appropriate decisions to meet deadlines
  • Inspect and check inventory of cargo before and after trip
  • Operate idle reduction systems or the auxiliary power systems
  • Learn to drive a wide range of heavy vehicles including hybrid-electric or alternative fuel based
  • Know how to use both an automatic and manual transmission
  • Crank the landing gear up or down to secure trailer
  • Follow appropriate safety regulations for transporting hazardous materials
Keep in mind, the actual job description for truck driving careers may vary slightly between the different trucking companies.

What Does the Future Look Like for Truck Drivers?

On this website we’ve mentioned that there is a growing demand for qualified truck drivers. According to a CNBC article, the need for more people to start truck driving careers is at the highest it has been in years. The two main reasons for this immediate need is turnover and the improving economy.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) currently projects that the US is short over 30,000 qualified drivers. The lack of truck drivers could end up costing consumers more money for products or even worse, stagnating the growing economy which could result in a possible double dip depression.

The outlook for those currently working or starting their truck driving careers is nothing but positive. With nearly 70% of all goods being transported on ground, this means a fairly stable industry to be involved in. Not only that, but short-term wise, at least, salaries of truck drivers could go up to meet the need as trucking companies try to lure in qualified drivers to work for them.

Before you shrug all of this off as industry paranoia, take a look at the latest projections released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment Trends for Truck Driving Careers
2012 Employment 1,702,000
Projected New Jobs (2012-22) 464,700
Projected Growth by % 14%

As you can see, the estimated growth for truck driving careers is expected to continue over the next decade. So by our estimations, if you are looking for a job that is fairly stable, offering decent wages with little training, then maybe a truck driving career is the right thing for you.

Final Word on Truck Driver Jobs

Those who choose a truck driving career normally have strong personalities that allow them to love the life on the road. The idea of spontaneity and challenging runs spark a certain desire in the soul of most truckers. But don’t think for a moment that truck drivers are just wildly driving to one spot to another.

There is a fair amount of discipline and a solid work ethic involved. You may be out on the road alone but you still have specific responsibilities and set timelines you have to meet to continue this lifestyle. Sometimes it can be stressful but if you pull up your adult pants you should be able to make it through. Are you ready to start your truck driving career today?

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