At this very moment, and around the clock, coast-to-coast, trucks are on the road hauling the essentials—everything the Nation needs such as food, books, clothing, electronics, automobiles and medical supplies.
More than 3.6 million professional truck drivers, operating more than 36 million trucks of all classes, including 3.7 million typical Class 8 trucks keep America moving forward. There are over 8.7 million people employed in all facets in the trucking industry.
Trucking also plays an important role in trade exchanged between the United States and two of our largest trading partners, Canada and Mexico. Continuing to have free trade between our countries will only help our industry well into the future.
But a serious shortage exists in some segments of the trucking industry. It’s not a shortage of freight or equipment; it’s a shortage of men and women qualified to drive trucks.
The shortage is not due to a lack of interest, just basic economics – the demand for professional truck drivers is growing faster than the number of new drivers entering the field. The industry is desperate for new drivers. If you received your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) today, it’s almost certain there would be a job available to you tomorrow.
HERE'S A SNAPSHOT...
3.5 millionTruck Drivers
Professional Truck Drivers & Types of Driving Jobs
Most individual long haul drivers average from 100,000 miles to 110,000 miles a year, with an average daily run of about 500 miles a day. Regional and city drivers average about 48,000 miles behind the wheel annually. You do not need to buy or lease your own truck for most driver jobs. The vehicle is provided for you and usually maintained by the trucking company.
U.S. professional truck drivers are both men and women, vary in age, race, educational background, and live all over the United States.
There are different types of truck drivers:
Over the Road / Long-Haul Drivers operate heavy trucks and drive for long periods of time, either interstate (between states) or intrastate (within one state). Some long-haul drivers travel a few hundred miles and return the same day; others are away from home overnight, or for several days or weeks at a time. Some drivers work in teams, which can include spouse teams.
Pick-up and Delivery (P&D) / Local Drivers operate light, medium or heavy trucks and work in route-sales or pick-up- and-delivery operations. These drivers have more contact with customers than over the road drivers and usually make more stops each day. Those P&D drivers often need sales skills in addition to driving skills.
Specialized Trucking involves specialized trucks that handle unusual, oversized or sensitive loads. Drivers cover local and long-distance routes and need extra training to operate their equipment. Examples of specialized trucking include auto carriers, dry bulk carriers, (permitted) oversized and overweight loads, or double and triple trailers. Other permits may be required.
Hazardous Materials Drivers need to know about the content of the loads they are hauling, how to handle the loads safely and what to do in an emergency. Drivers who transport hazardous materials must also take a special test when applying for the CDL that certifies them as a hazardous materials driver. Examples of hazardous materials drivers include tank truck, over the road or P&D drivers carrying hazardous materials. Other permits and training may be required.
An Owner-Operator or Independent Driver owns his or her equipment, anything from a straight truck to a flat-bed tractor- trailer, and hauls freight on a contractual basis. Husband-and-wife owner-operator teams are very common, especially in the household goods moving industry. It is possible to make a good living as an owner- operator, but like many businesses, the competition is tight and there are many overhead expenses involved – equipment purchases, maintenance, fuel and insurance, to name just a few. Most owner-operators begin their careers as salaried drivers with a motor carrier before starting their own business.
Do You Have What it Takes?
To qualify for a truck driving job with a company operating in interstate commerce, a driver must meet the minimum requirements prescribed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations guide. Each applicant must pass a knowledge and skills test. In addition to federal regulations, most companies have other rules and guidelines which a driver must follow.
Some basic requirements:
AGE: While many states allow those 18 and older to drive trucks within state borders, federal regulations require drivers operating across state lines to be at least 21 years of age. The American Trucking Associations is actively working with Congress to change these rules and allow 18-years-olds, who have gone through a specific training program, to driver interstate. Fleets are willing to bring 18 year olds on through apprenticeship programs and to work on the dock.
LICENSE: Every truck driver must have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) issued by his/ her state of domicile. A commercial driver can hold a license from only one state. Specific endorsements (i.e.: hazardous materials, tank, double or triple trailer) may be required depending upon the company’s needs and the type of equipment you will be operating. Go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov for more information.
PHYSICAL CONDITION: The U.S. Department of Transportation requires a driver to have a complete physical examination every two years. A driver must not have suffered any loss of a limb, nor have any physical defect or disease likely to interfere with safe driving, or has been granted a skill performance evaluation certificate. A driver must not have a medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes that requires insulin for control.
VISION: A driver must have a minimum of 20/40 vision in each eye, with or without corrective lenses, and have a 70-degree field of vision in each eye. Drivers may not be color blind.
HEARING: A driver must be capable of perceiving a forced whisper in the better ear at not less than five feet, with or without the use of a hearing aid.
EDUCATION: All drivers must be able to read and speak English well enough to understand traffic signs, prepare required reports, and speak with law enforcement authorities and the public. (Note: Some companies may have additional educational requirements.)
SAFETY: The U.S. Department of Transportation sets safety rules for interstate truck drivers (vehicle inspections, hours of service, etc.), and drivers must learn these rules and comply with them. Most states have adopted similar rules for intrastate drivers.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Strict regulations forbid the use of alcohol or drugs prior to or while operating commercial vehicles. Drivers are subject to drug and alcohol testing by their employers and by law enforcement officials under four different circumstances: pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion and random testing. A driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) must be no greater than 0.04 percent. Additionally, a driver must have no current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism, and must not use any illegal drugs.
CRIMINAL / DRIVING RECORD:
A driver must not have been convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle; a crime involving drugs; driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or, hit-and-run driving which resulted in injury or death.
How to Choose a Truck Driving Training School
A good way to get started on a career in driving is by enrolling in a truck driver training program. Driver training schools can be found in most parts of the country, often in community colleges, vocational-technical schools, and through private, proprietary schools. Many trucking companies also operate their own training facilities. Visit the Commercial Vehicle Training Alliance, the National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools or the Professional Truck Driver Institute websites and learn more about driver training schools. Those organizations represent some of the most reputable schools.
To find the program that is right for you, visit as many schools either in person or on-line as you can and consider the following guidelines:
The school should have adequate facilities for in-class instruction, comparable to the average public school classroom. Classroom instruction should include lectures and training videos, and should adequately prepare you to pass the Commercial Drivers License (CDL) exam. Consider the teacher-student ratio and what courses are offered. Be sure their class curriculum is outlined in detail. Contact your state division of motor vehicles for a copy of the CDL study manual.
The school should provide a variety of well- maintained trucks, tractors and semi-trailers to train you for local, long-haul and city pick-up-and- delivery driving. The school should have an off-street area for initial, behind-the-wheel instruction in vehicle handling and maneuvering.
Instructors should have a solid background in truck driver training, combining education and actual driving experience. Be wary of schools that claim to be endorsed by the federal government, trucking associations, specific truck fleets, or that claim to train you in less than two weeks. Contact organizations to which such endorsement is noted and verify the claims.
Check with the local board of education or business licensing agency to see which certificates or licenses the school is required to have. Then, check to see that the licenses are displayed and are valid. (Telephone numbers for these agencies usually can be found in the state and local government section of the telephone directory
or on the web.)
One of the best ways to verify the reputation of a training school is to ask local trucking companies if they hire graduates from that school. Talk with recent graduates about the content and quality of training received, and ask if they have been successful in finding a truck driving job. Ask the training school how many student graduates receive their CDL.
Once you have decided on the program that is right for you, pay close attention to the following details before signing the contract:
Read and understand the contract, and know exactly what your obligations are. Verify the tuition and other costs and terms governing refund or forfeiture of the down payment, should you fail to complete the program. If necessary, make arrangements (and be sure you clearly understand the terms) for financing the remainder of the tuition.
If the school is far from your home, check into the availability of room and board at the school. Be sure to investigate the adequacy and costs of those facilities. If you have dependents, be sure you have made arrangements to support them while you complete training.
Research the availability of truck driving jobs where you live and realize that you may need to relocate in order to find a driving job.
Share the Road
ATA’s commitment to Highway Saftey:
Every year the number of fatalities on America’s highways reaches into the tens of thousands. The American Trucking Associations is doing something about this alarming national problem. Through ATA’s premier highway safety program, Share the Road, we deliver lifesaving safety information to the driving public across America.
In partnership with Share the Road sponsor Mack Trucks, Inc., we work with ATA motor carriers, highway safety organizations, and local and state officials around the country to broadcast safe driving techniques that can save lives. Share the Road is support- ed by teams of accident-free professional truck drivers dedicated to educating millions of motorists every year.
Through the news media, public events and other communications programs, Share the Road instructs drivers of all vehicles how to share the nation’s roads safely. By providing specific information about how crashes happen and how to avoid them, Share the Road is committed to improving driving behavior. We are deter- mined to make America’s roadways safer for all drivers and their families. One life lost in a traffic crash is one too many.
Never cut in front of a truck. Fully loaded trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds and take the length of a football field to stop. Most cars weigh only 2,000 pounds.
Don’t linger along side a truck; there are 4 large blind spots around trucks where cars disappear from view and the driver can’t see you.
Pass quickly to resume visibility and change lanes only when you can see both of the truck’s headlights in your rear-view mirror. Never pass on the right – the right blind spot runs the length of the trailer and extends out 3 lanes.
Steer clear of front and rear blind spots; stay back 20-25 car lengths and leave 4 car lengths in front of a truck for safety cushions – following a truck too closely obscures your view and the driver can’t even see you 30 feet behind the truck.
If you’re following a truck and you can’t see the driver’s face in the truck’s side mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you.
Allow trucks adequate space to maneuver; they make wide turns at intersections and require additional space.
How many trucks operate in the U.S.?
Estimates say there are 2 million tractor-trailers on America’s highways – plus another 13 million smaller commercial trucks.
How many truckers are there?
It is estimated that there are over 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. alone. Of that number, one in nine truckers own the truck they are driving!
What is the volume of goods transported by the trucking industry?
The United States economy depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S., accounting for $700 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods transported by truck in the U.S. alone.
How does the trucking industry Keep America Moving?
More than 70% of all the freight moved in the U.S. goes on trucks. Without the industry and our truck drivers, the economy would come to a standstill. We can’t have trucks…. without truck drivers!
ATA Share The Road Instructional Video
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