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Long-Haul Truck Driver Job Description, Career as a Long-Haul Truck Driver, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training License

Salary Median—$16.11 per hour

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Long-haul truck drivers transport goods over hundreds and even thousands of miles. They may drive flatbed rigs, which are used for carrying steel, or tankers and tractor trailers. They usually drive at night when traffic is light. Long-haul routes are driven by the most experienced drivers because the trucks and cargo are extremely valuable.

When drivers report to the truck terminal, they are given their assignments—usually loaded trucks to be driven to specific destinations. They always inspect the cargo to make certain that it will not shift. They also check the truck itself—first to make sure it has been serviced properly and will run safely, then to be certain it has safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and flares, in case of emergencies.

During their trips, long-haul drivers make rest stops every few hours, which is why they have lower accident rates than other drivers. On very long trips two drivers take turns. Many long-distance trucks have a small bunk in the cab where the off-duty driver can rest.

Long-haul truck drivers transport goods, such as oil, over long distances. They are responsible for the cargo as well as the truck. (© Earl Dotter. Reproduced by permission.)

When they have docked at their destinations, drivers complete paperwork required by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Their travel logs record exact routing; who drove; the length and location of all stops; and the condition of the truck. They must account for any breakdowns, repairs, or accidents. Drivers keep bills of lading—itemized lists of goods—for each shipment they carry.

Two types of firms hire long-haul drivers: private carrier firms, which are the trucking divisions of companies that transport the commodities they make, and common carrier firms (also called contract carriers), which transport the goods other companies make. Typically private and common carriers own their trucks. A growing number of long-haul truck drivers are owner-operators; they buy their own trucks and have to find cargoes to haul.

Moving van drivers are a special group of long-haul drivers. Like other drivers they carry freight over long distances, but their destinations usually are private homes. They also drive farther than most other long-distance drivers. Moving van drivers have several helpers who assist them in loading and unloading.

Education and Training Requirements

The U.S. Department of Transportation sets minimum requirements for longhaul truck drivers: they must be at least twenty-one years old; have normal blood pressure; and must pass physical examinations, which are usually paid for by employers. Applicants must also have at least 20/40 vision, with or without corrective lenses, and they must have good hearing.

In addition, drivers must take road tests in their particular type of truck. They must pass written tests on safety regulations given by the Department of Transportation. States require that drivers have state-issued commercial driver' licenses, which require written and driving tests.

Companies may have higher standards than those required by law. Many stipulate that their drivers be at least twenty-five years old or have several years of experience in long-haul trucking. Some firms require applicants to have completed at least two years of high school, and others require high school diplomas.

An increasing number of private vocational/technical schools and community colleges are offering courses in truck driving. High school courses in auto mechanics and driver training are helpful.

Drivers usually work as local truck drivers before they enter training programs for long-haul driving. Once hired, they take short courses on company policies. They make their first trips under the guidance of experienced drivers or teachers. Most drivers begin as substitute drivers on the "extra board," which is a list of alternates for regular drivers. With experience they become eligible for regular routes.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to trucking companies and private carriers. State employment services, private agencies, newspaper classified ads, and Internet job sites are other sources of employment leads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Full-time long-haul drivers are at the top of their profession. A few become dispatchers, safety supervisors, and driver supervisors. Others become owneroperators.

Employment of long-haul truck drivers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. Long-distance trucks continue to be the most efficient means of transport for time-sensitive and perishable materials. Other forms of freight transportation—air, rail, and ship—also require trucks to move goods between airports, depots, ports, retailers, and warehouses. Job opportunities may fluctuate with the economy.

Working Conditions

While drivers have a good deal of independence in their workday, their routes keep them away from their families for extended periods. The hours can be long and the driving stressful and tiring.

The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates drivers' schedules. It stipulates that drivers may not work more than sixty hours in a seven-day period. The regulations also state that drivers may work no more than ten hours without resting for at least eight hours. Most long-haul truck drivers belong to unions.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings depend on the number of miles driven and the total hours the drivers work. The type of truck, its weight, and the kind of cargo it carries also determine pay. For example, drivers of trucks carrying flammable materials are paid higher rates than are other drivers.

In 2004 the median wage for all heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers was $16.11 per hour. The highest ten percent of drivers earned more than $24.07 per hour.

Where to Go for More Information

American Trucking Associations
2200 Mill Rd.
VA 22314-4677
(703) 838-1700

International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO 25
Louisiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2198
(202) 624-6800

Truckload Carriers Association
2200 Mill Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 838-1950

Benefits may include health insurance, retirement plans, and paid holidays and vacations.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesTransportation & Logistics