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How to Become a Truck Driver

Published on March 1, 2011.

How to Become a Truck Driver

Very few items are grown, manufactured or imported in this country without spending some time on a truck. Truck drivers are a critical link in the path a product takes from a factory or farm to your home.

Job Duties

Truck drivers move materials from one point to another. Some truck drivers operate within a specific metropolitan or geographic area. These drivers usually are employed by the company whose good they are delivering. They typically drive company-owned vehicles classified as light or delivery trucks. Light truck drivers may have set work schedules and have the opportunity to go home at the end of their workday. In addition to driving, they may be responsible for loading and unloading their trucks.

Truck drivers who move materials from one city to another, or across the country, are classified as heavy or long-haul truck drivers. These truck drivers may work for a company and drive the company's trucks, or they might operate as independent contractors using their own truck. Long-haul truck driving often requires the use of a tractor which pulls one or two long trailers. Long-haul truck drivers may spend days--and sometimes weeks--away from their home.

Job Skills People who want to become a truck driver should be self-motivating, as they spend a lot of time on their own without direct supervision. Truck drivers should be in decent physical condition, as they may spend hours driving in heavy traffic. Drivers responsible for loading and unloading their trucks should be in very good physical condition. Income

The income of truck drivers can vary depending on their experience and the type of driving they are doing. Some companies pay their drivers an hourly wage, while others have a base pay arrangement that includes a commission and bonus. Long haul truck drivers may be paid mileage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008 the median annual income for a light truck driver was $27,610 per year, and the highest 10 percent made in excess of $50,230. They reported that for the same year long-haul truck drivers had an median yearly income of $37,270 per year, and the highest 10 percent made in excess of $56,300.

Training and Education

All truck drivers must have a vehicle license issued by the state where they reside. Truck drivers who operate a truck with a gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 pounds must have a commercial drivers license (CDL). Driving a truck loaded with hazardous materials can also require a CDL. Obtaining a CDL usually entails passing a written exam and a test of your driving skills.

Many vocational and technical schools offer training courses for passing the CDL test. If your state requires CDL applicants to take a driving training course, make sure the school you are planning to attend is an approved program. Trucking companies often require their truck drivers to participate in regular driving refresher courses.

Employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008 there were approximately 1,672,580 positions filled by personnel classified as heavy or long haul truck drivers, and 908,960 positions filled by light or delivery truck drivers.

Job Outlook

The truck driving career field is expected to expand over the next 10 years, and long-haul truck driving is projected to grow by as much as 13 percent. As current truck drivers retire over the next decade, there may be competition to replace them with experienced drivers. Truck driving is an occupational field which can expand rapidly when the economy grows, and truck drivers with training and experience may be in a position to grow with the industry.



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