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Become A Tractor Driver

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Working As A Tractor Driver

  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Getting Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Controlling Machines and Processes
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $21,663

    Average Salary

What Does A Tractor Driver Do

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) capacity of more than 26,000 pounds. These drivers deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.

Duties

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers typically do the following:

  • Drive long distances
  • Report to a dispatcher any incidents encountered on the road
  • Follow all applicable traffic laws
  • Inspect their trailers before and after the trip, and record any defects they find
  • Maintain a log of their working hours, following all federal and state regulations
  • Report serious mechanical problems to the appropriate personnel
  • Keep their trucks and associated equipment clean and in good working order

Most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers’ routes are assigned by a dispatcher, but some independent drivers still plan their own routes. They may use satellite tracking to help them plan.

A driver must know which roads allow trucks and which do not. Drivers also must plan legally required rest periods into their trip. Some drivers have one or two routes that they drive regularly, and others drivers take many different routes throughout the country. Also, some drivers have routes that include Mexico or Canada.

Companies sometimes use two drivers, known as teams, on long runs in order to minimize downtime. On these team runs, one driver sleeps in a berth behind the cab while the other drives.

Certain cargo requires drivers to adhere to additional safety regulations. Some heavy truck drivers who transport hazardous materials, such as chemical waste, must take special precautions when driving, and may carry specialized safety equipment in case of an accident. Other drivers, such as those carrying liquids, oversized loads, or cars, must follow rules that apply specifically to them.

Some long-haul truck drivers, called owner–operators, buy or lease trucks and go into business for themselves. In addition to their driving tasks, owner-operators also have business tasks, including finding and keeping clients and doing administrative work, such as accounting.

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How To Become A Tractor Driver

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers usually have a high school diploma and attend a professional truckdriving school. They must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Education

Most companies require their truck drivers to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Many companies require drivers to attend professional truckdriving schools, where they take training courses to learn how to maneuver large vehicles on highways or through crowded streets. During these classes, drivers also learn the federal laws and regulations governing interstate truck driving. Students attend either a private truckdriving school or a program at a community college that lasts between 3 and 6 months.

Upon finishing their classes, drivers receive a certificate of completion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering a requirement that mandates all newly hired interstate truck drivers to take a truckdriving course.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) certifies a small percentage of driver-training courses at truckdriver training schools that meet both the industry standards and the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines for training tractor-trailer drivers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All long-haul truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Qualifications for obtaining a CDL vary by state but generally include passing both a knowledge test and a driving test. States have the right to refuse to issue a CDL to anyone who has had a CDL suspended by another state.

Drivers can get endorsements to their CDL that show their ability to drive a specialized type of vehicle. Truck drivers transporting hazardous materials (HAZMAT) must have a hazardous materials endorsement (H). Getting this endorsement requires passing an additional knowledge test and a background check.

Federal regulations require random testing of on-duty truck drivers for drug or alcohol abuse. In addition, truck drivers can have their CDL suspended if they are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or are convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle.

Other actions can result in a suspension after multiple violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website has a list of these violations. Additionally, some companies have stricter standards than what federal regulations require.

Training

After completing truckdriving school and being hired by a company, drivers normally receive between 1 and 3 months of on-the-job training. During this time, they drive a truck with a more experienced mentor–driver in the passenger seat. This period of on-the-job training is given so that the new drivers will learn more about the specific type of truck they will drive and material they will transport.

Important Qualities

Hand-eye coordination. Drivers of heavy trucks and tractor-trailers must be able to coordinate their legs, hands, and eyes simultaneously so that they will react appropriately to the situation around them and drive the vehicle safely.

Hearing ability. Truck drivers need good hearing. Federal regulations require that a driver be able to hear a forced whisper in one ear at 5 feet (with or without the use of a hearing aid).

Physical health. Federal regulations do not allow people to become truck drivers if they have a medical condition, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, which may interfere with their ability to operate a truck. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website has a full list of medical conditions that disqualify someone from driving a long-haul truck.

Visual ability. Truck drivers must be able to pass vision tests. Federal regulations require a driver to have at least 20/40 vision with a 70-degree field of vision in each eye and the ability to distinguish the colors on a traffic light.

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Tractor Driver Typical Career Paths

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Tractor Driver Demographics

Gender

Male

89.3%

Female

9.7%

Unknown

1.0%
Ethnicity

White

48.9%

Hispanic or Latino

33.0%

Black or African American

9.9%

Asian

5.0%

Unknown

3.3%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

100.0%

Tractor Driver Education

Schools

Imperial Valley College

13.2%

Hartnell College

9.4%

Washington State University

5.7%

Delgado Community College

5.7%

Mississippi Valley State University

5.7%

Palm Beach State College

5.7%

Boise State University

5.7%

Texas A&M University

3.8%

Oregon State University

3.8%

Brigham Young University

3.8%

South Texas College

3.8%

Western Oregon University

3.8%

Wake Technical Community College

3.8%

William Rainey Harper College

3.8%

Columbia Basin College

3.8%

Arizona Western College

3.8%

Modesto Junior College

3.8%

William M. Maguy School of Education

3.8%

Reedley College

3.8%

The Academy

3.8%
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Majors

Business

18.2%

Criminal Justice

11.1%

Precision Metal Working

8.1%

Automotive Technology

7.1%

General Education, Specific Areas

6.1%

General Studies

6.1%

Electrical Engineering Technology

4.0%

Medicine

4.0%

Communication

4.0%

Education

4.0%

Computer Information Systems

3.0%

Electrical And Power Transmission Installers

3.0%

Computer Networking

3.0%

Kinesiology

3.0%

Agricultural Mechanization

3.0%

Nursing

3.0%

Accounting

3.0%

Management

2.0%

Drafting And Design

2.0%

Mechanical Engineering

2.0%
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Degrees

Other

45.8%

Bachelors

22.9%

Associate

13.3%

Certificate

10.8%

Diploma

3.6%

Masters

2.4%

License

1.2%
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Real Tractor Driver Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Truck Drivers, Heavy and Tractor Drivers Miller Gordon LLC Saint George, UT Oct 01, 2009 $46,592
Tractor Drivers Wafla Royal City, WA Feb 29, 2016 $27,966
Tractor Drivers McDougall Family Farming Royal City, WA Feb 29, 2016 $27,966
Tractor Driver Ferrari Farms, Inc. Linden, CA Feb 21, 2015 $23,646
Tractor Driver Ferrari Farms, Inc. Linden, CA Feb 21, 2016 $23,646
SOD Farm Tractor Driver Billy Mayfield Farms Bay City, TX Nov 12, 2016 $23,270
Tractor Driver Garry Saha Bay City, TX Jan 02, 2015 $22,665
Tractor Driver Garry Saha Bay City, TX Apr 22, 2014 $22,665
Tractor Driver Ferrari Farms, Inc. Linden, CA Feb 21, 2014 $22,414
Tractor Driver/Field Worker Sky Top Orchard, LLC Flat Rock, NC Jun 08, 2016 $22,373
Tractor Driver & Laborer Caleb Jones Farms Palestine, AR Jan 07, 2016 $22,310
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Segura Farms LLC New Iberia, LA Oct 03, 2016 $22,310
Sugarcane Tractor Driver A and F Farms, Inc. New Iberia, LA Dec 03, 2016 $22,310
Sugarcane Tractor Driver U and R Farms LLC Belle Rose, LA Oct 03, 2016 $22,310
Farm Tractor Driver Garry Saha Bay City, TX Sep 01, 2016 $21,600
Grain Farm Tractor Driver Hansen Farms Palacios, TX Jun 02, 2016 $21,600
Tractor Driver Michael and Janet Saha Palacios, TX Mar 16, 2015 $21,600
Tractor Driver Hansen Farms Palacios, TX Mar 18, 2015 $21,600
Sugar Cane Tractor Driver C & L Planting, Inc. White Castle, LA Mar 01, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Mark Callegan Farms LLC Plaquemine, LA Mar 10, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Four Oaks Farms Vidalia, LA Mar 07, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Frank Pearce Jr and Son's Farms, Inc. Maringouin, LA Sep 21, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Lejeune Brothers LLC Jeanerette, LA Mar 07, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Woods Farms, Inc. Paincourtville, LA Mar 15, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver B & T Farms, Partnership Addis, LA Mar 01, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Green Acres Jeanerette, LA Mar 07, 2015 $21,246
Tractor Driver Brignac Farms LLC Bunkie, LA Jan 20, 2016 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Medine Farms Inc. Port Allen, LA Mar 10, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver U & R Farms LLC Belle Rose, LA Mar 10, 2015 $21,246
Sugarcane Tractor Driver Four Oaks Farms Vidalia, LA May 04, 2015 $21,246

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Top Skills for A Tractor Driver

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  1. Tractors
  2. Farm Equipment
  3. Unload Materials
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Operated heavy machinery such as tractors, backhoe work and other general farm equipment to perform manual labor.
  • Transport heavy machinery and tractor attachments from field to field.
  • Line Haul Pick up and Delivery Trailer Switches Load and unload Trailers with forklift
  • Operate side dump trailer and tanker trailer; seasonal employment.
  • Use hand tools, such as shovels, trowels, hoes, tampers, pruning hooks, shears, and knives.

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Top Tractor Driver Employers

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