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Become A Tractor Trailer Operator

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Working As A Tractor Trailer Operator

  • 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

  • $28,542

    Average Salary

What Does A Tractor Trailer Operator 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 Operator

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 Operator Career Paths

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Tractor Trailer Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

91.8%

Female

7.0%

Unknown

1.1%
Ethnicity

White

63.2%

Hispanic or Latino

16.2%

Black or African American

11.3%

Asian

6.1%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.7%

German

11.1%

Polish

11.1%

Persian

11.1%
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Tractor Trailer Operator Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

15.4%

Remington College

7.7%

The Academy

7.7%

Central Texas College

5.8%

Beaufort County Community College

5.8%

Chippewa Valley Technical College

3.8%

Ashford University

3.8%

Central New Mexico Community College

3.8%

Ohio University -

3.8%

Mesa Community College - Boswell

3.8%

ITT Technical Institute-Arlington

3.8%

Liberty University

3.8%

Kirkwood Community College

3.8%

Delgado Community College

3.8%

Houston Community College

3.8%

Oklahoma State University

3.8%

Chicago State University

3.8%

Waubonsee Community College

3.8%

Butte College

3.8%

University of Colorado Denver

3.8%
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Majors

Business

25.4%

Automotive Technology

8.7%

Criminal Justice

8.7%

Electrical Engineering

5.6%

General Education, Specific Areas

5.6%

Medical Technician

5.6%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

4.8%

Computer Science

4.0%

Management

4.0%

General Studies

3.2%

Psychology

3.2%

Electrical Engineering Technology

2.4%

Biology

2.4%

Mechanical Engineering Technology

2.4%

Law Enforcement

2.4%

Graphic Design

2.4%

Mental Health Counseling

2.4%

Engineering

2.4%

Computer Networking

2.4%

Secondary Education And Teaching

2.4%
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Degrees

Other

47.8%

Associate

17.0%

Bachelors

15.2%

Certificate

9.8%

Diploma

4.5%

Masters

3.6%

License

1.8%

Doctorate

0.4%
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Top Skills for A Tractor Trailer Operator

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  1. Vehicle Maintenance
  2. Tractor-Trailer Combinations
  3. Delivery Instructions
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed basic vehicle maintenance tasks, such as adding oil, fuel, or radiator fluid or performing minor repairs.
  • Selected the most efficient routes in compliance with delivery instructions and fuel policy.
  • Maintain a daily log book on each trip and loads ensuring that each delivery was on time and to standard.
  • Prepare reports and follow guidelines as per federal CDL guidelines and safety procedures.
  • Provided excellent customer service upon pick up and delivery.

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