Career Summary

Truck Driver


Nature of the Work

Truck drivers are one of the largest occupations, holding 3.2 million jobs. Overall job opportunities should be favorable, especially for long-haul drivers. Almost every product sold in the United States spends at least some time in a truck. While planes, trains, and ships are also used to transport goods, no other form of transportation has the same level of flexibility as a truck. As a result, trucks are used to transport everything from canned food to automobiles and natural resources such as coal. Drivers are responsible for picking up and delivering freight from one place to another. This may be from a manufacturer to a distribution center, from a distribution center to a customer, or from a coal mine to a power plant. In addition, drivers may be responsible for loading and unloading their cargo. They are also responsible for applicable laws such as keeping logs of their activities, and making sure that their equipment is in good working condition.


Drivers who operate trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or who operate a vehicle carrying hazardous materials or oversized loads need a commercial driver’s license also called CDL license. Training for the CDL is offered by many private and public vocational-technical schools. A standard driver's license is required to drive all other trucks. Many jobs driving smaller trucks require only brief on-the-job training. To qualify for a CDL, applicants must have clean driving records, pass written tests on rules and regulations, and demonstrate that they can operate commercial trucks safely. Regulations also require drivers to pass a physical examination every 2 years. Physical qualifications include good hearing, at least 20/40 vision with glasses or corrective lenses, and a 70-degree field of vision in each eye. They must also be able to distinguish between colors on traffic lights. Drivers must also have normal use of arms and legs and normal blood pressure. People with epilepsy or diabetes controlled by insulin are not permitted to be interstate truck drivers.


Median hourly wages of heavy truck and tractor trailer drivers are $17.92. The middle 50 percent earn between $14.21 and $22.56. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $11.63, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $27.07.


© Patrick Blanton 2011