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Become A Tractor-Trailer Driver

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Working As A Tractor-Trailer 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

  • $41,350

    Average Salary

What Does A Tractor-Trailer 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-Trailer 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-Trailer Driver jobs

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Tractor-Trailer Driver Demographics

Gender

  • Male

    90.9%
  • Female

    7.9%
  • Unknown

    1.2%

Ethnicity

  • White

    81.7%
  • Hispanic or Latino

    10.6%
  • Asian

    5.8%
  • Unknown

    1.4%
  • Black or African American

    0.5%
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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

    56.7%
  • Carrier

    13.4%
  • Zulu

    4.5%
  • Polish

    4.5%
  • Arabic

    4.5%
  • Russian

    3.0%
  • Dakota

    3.0%
  • Portuguese

    1.5%
  • Czech

    1.5%
  • Serbian

    1.5%
  • Dari

    1.5%
  • Slovak

    1.5%
  • Thai

    1.5%
  • Italian

    1.5%
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Tractor-Trailer Driver

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Tractor-Trailer Driver Education

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Real Tractor-Trailer Driver Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Horse Tractor Trailer Driver Brook Ledge Inc. Oley, PA Apr 01, 2016 $51,194
Truck Driivers, Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Manuel Huerta Trucking Inc. Rio Rico, AZ Oct 17, 2007 $36,000 -
$48,000
Truckdrivers, Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Manuel Huerta Trucking Inc. Rio Rico, AZ Feb 21, 2008 $36,000 -
$48,000
Tractor Trailer Driver Bullet Transport Services, Inc. Presidio, TX May 19, 2008 $31,994
Tractor Trailer Driver Winding Brook Turf Farm Inc. Suffield, CT Jan 04, 2016 $24,501
Tractor Trailer Driver Winding Brook Turf Farm Inc. Suffield, CT Apr 15, 2015 $23,500

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Top Skills for A Tractor-Trailer Driver

DeliveryInstructionsTractor-TrailerCombinationAppropriateSafetyProceduresOTRCustomerServiceTractorTrailerDriverPre-TripInspectionsCDLLogBookPick-UpQualcommReeferPalletJackFederalRegulationsEmergencyEquipmentHazmatVehicleServiceSafeDrivingApplicableStateHazardousMaterials

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Top Tractor-Trailer Driver Skills

  1. Delivery Instructions
  2. Tractor-Trailer Combination
  3. Appropriate Safety Procedures
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Communicated with customers to determine delivery needs or special delivery instructions.
  • Drive trucks with capacities greater than 3 tons, including tractor-trailer combinations, to transport and deliver products.
  • Followed appropriate safety procedures for transportation of dangerous goods.
  • Instructed students in OTR Tractor Trailer Operations which included: lessons in safety, defensive driving, Truck Maintenance.
  • Transported freight to companies nightly Provided professional customer service Completed all required DOT documents for assigned shift

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