Similar Titles

CDL Driver (Commercial Driver's License Driver), Driver, Line Haul Driver, Log Truck Driver, Over the Road Driver (OTR Driver), Production Truck Driver, Road Driver, Semi Truck Driver, Tractor Trailer Driver, Truck Driver

Job Description

As the saying goes, “If you got it, a truck brought it!” Truckers are responsible for hauling the groceries and products we buy in stores, as well as delivering fuel, raw construction materials, automobiles, chemicals, medical supplies—and just about everything else our society needs!

While most of us take such things for granted, delivering these invaluable goods around the nation is what Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers do all day, every day. They may perform short trips within the same state…or do cross-country deliveries, such as driving to a warehouse in New York to pick up cargo and then take it to California.

These hard-working truckers are literally the workhorses of the American economy, ensuring the smooth flow of goods across the country in all sorts of weather conditions. Without these 18-wheel truck drivers cruising around in their “big rigs” or “semis,” our supply chain would grind to a halt, affecting our lives and the entire economy.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Being an integral part of the supply chain
  • Contributing to the economy by facilitating commerce and trade
  • Experiencing the freedom of the open road and the satisfaction of job autonomy
2022 Employment
2032 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers spend several hours a day on the road. For overnight trips, truckers often rest or sleep in their vehicles, in the sleeper berth behind the driver’s seat. This area includes a small bed and in some cases cabinets, a heater, or even a TV and a tiny fridge!

Typical Duties

  • Conduct vehicle inspections to look for any mechanical or safety issues. Report issues that require maintenance or repair
  • Review cargo documentation; ensure proper environmental conditions, as needed (such as using a “reefer” or refrigerated trailer to haul perishable goods)
  • Review delivery instructions and plan safe, efficient driving routes. 
    Be mindful of special conditions along routes, such as weight limits, low bridges, tolls, etc.
  • Check weather conditions along routes and prepare accordingly
  • Adhere to federal and state regulations related to working hours and rest periods
  • Maintain log books with dates, total miles driven each day, and other data
  • Work with loading crews to back up trucks to loading docks
  • Oversee truck loading processes; help to load or unload cargo, when necessary
  • Secure vehicles and cargo when unattended
  • Maintain vehicle service logs. Annotate and report any traffic violations or accidents
  • Perform basic maintenance and emergency roadside repairs
  • Operate cab computers, radios, and navigation tools
    Communicate with dispatchers
  • Comply with safety protocols when transporting dangerous goods

Additional Responsibilities

  • Carefully pull over to the side of the road if a tire blows out
  • Watch for pieces of retread tires (aka “road gators”) coming off
  • Stop at commercial truck weigh stations along the highway, as required by law
  • Locate suitable fueling stations along the routes and stop when needed
  • Keep vehicles clean and ensure they are roadworthy at all times
  • Work with other drivers during long hauls to reduce downtime
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Adaptability
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Compliance-orientation
  • Good hearing
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Independence
  • Patience
  • Reliability
  • Safety-conscious
  • Scheduling
  • Situational awareness
  • Stamina
  • Time management
  • Visual acuity

Technical Skills

  • Proficient operation of heavy and tractor-trailer trucks
  1. Mastering maneuvers such as backing up, parking, turning, and negotiating tight spaces
  2. Operating manual and automatic transmissions
  3. Understanding air brake systems
  4. Adjusting driving based on vehicle load and road conditions
  • Knowledge of federal and state transport regulations
  1. Hours of Service (HOS) regulations
  2. Weight limits
  3. Vehicle size restrictions
  4. Hazardous materials (HazMat) transportation
  • Basic mechanical skills for minor repairs and maintenance
  1. Pre-trip and post-trip inspections
  2. Identifying safety issues
  3. Changing tires
  4. Troubleshooting basic engine problems
  • Use of GPS and electronic logging devices (ELDs)
  • Company-specific software for logistics management and tracking deliveries
  • Ability to read maps, follow directions, and plan routes efficiently
  • Use of CB radios for communicating with other truckers
  • Emergency response and first aid
  • Fuel efficiency techniques
  • Understanding of safe cargo handling and securing techniques
Different Types of Organizations
  • Construction companies
  • Freight, logistics, and transportation companies
  • Independent contracting
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Retail, distribution, and wholesale trade companies
Expectations and Sacrifices

Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers are tasked with delivering goods across vast distances under the constant pressure of tight schedules. The urgency to make deliveries on time can mean long hours on the road, as well as long periods away from family and friends. For some drivers, this can affect personal relationships and lead to feelings of loneliness.

Drivers must maintain a high level of alertness and precision, requiring both physical endurance and acute attention to ensure safety on the road. The responsibility for preventing accidents can be a heavy burden, especially considering the potential consequences of even a momentary lapse in concentration or judgment.

Current Trends

The trucking industry is evolving with the adoption of autonomous technologies and electric vehicles (EVs), driven by aims to boost efficiency and sustainability. The shift to EVs brings with it challenges such as limited range and the need for more charging infrastructure.

Automation, including self-driving trucks and advanced driver-assistance systems, is addressing driver shortages and enhancing safety, though it prompts questions about the role of human drivers and their training.

Meanwhile, regulatory changes like the Electronic Logging Device mandate are trying to ensure better adherence to Hours of Service rules, to improve driver well-being and road safety for everyone! 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Individuals drawn to heavy and tractor-trailer truck driving are usually very independent and don’t like to be bothered. They often have a love for vehicles, driving long distances, and the lure of the open road. They may have been fascinated by the idea of exploring new places on their own. 

Education and Training Needed
  • To become a Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver requires a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as specialized training and a Commercial Driver’s License

Commercial Driver’s License:

A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is essential, with truck driving training programs available at many community colleges, private driving schools, or trucking company training contractors

  • The three main types of CDL are:
  1. Class A: Allows the operation of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. Ideal for driving tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tankers, livestock carriers, and flatbeds.
  2. Class B: For driving vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, without the towing requirement of Class A licenses. Suitable for driving straight trucks, large buses, etc.
  3. Class C: For driving vehicles that transport 16 or more passengers or transporting hazardous materials in quantities requiring placards.
  • Drivers will need at least one license endorsement. Class A CDL endorsements include:
  1. H (Hazardous Materials)
  2. N (Tanker Vehicles)
  3. P (Passenger Vehicles)
  4. S (School Bus Transport)
  5. T (Double and Triples)
  6. X (covering both Tanker and Hazardous Materials)
  • CDLs may come with restrictions, such as:
  1. E - Manual Transmission Restriction: Applied if the skills test was taken in a vehicle with an automatic transmission. The driver is not allowed to operate a Class A vehicle with a manual transmission.
  2. L - Air Brakes Restriction: Issued to drivers who have not passed the air brake component of the general knowledge test or the skills test in a vehicle equipped with air brakes. They are not permitted to operate a Class A vehicle with air brakes.
  3. M - Restriction: Placed on Class A CDLs when the holder passes the passenger (P) or school bus (S) endorsements using a Class B or C vehicle, restricting them from operating Class A passenger vehicles.
  4. O - Tractor-Trailer Restriction: Applies if the skills test was taken in a vehicle that is not a tractor-trailer, thereby restricting the driver from operating tractor-trailers.
  5. P - Passenger Restriction: Indicates that the driver has not passed the passenger endorsement test and cannot carry passengers in a passenger vehicle.
  6. V Restriction: Indicates a medical variance on the CDL, based on conditions reported to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which might include diabetes, hearing issues, seizures, or eyesight impairments.
  7. Z Restriction: Imposed on drivers who are not authorized to operate a CMV with full air brakes, typically because they took the road test in a vehicle with air over hydraulic brakes.

Commercial Learner’s Permit:

  • Note, drivers may apply for a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) first
  1. A CLP is often required before a student can begin behind-the-wheel training in a truck driving program
  2. The CLP allows the student to practice driving on public roads under the supervision of a qualified instructor
  3. Obtaining a CLP involves passing a written knowledge test covering general trucking knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles, depending on the specific class of commercial driver's license (CDL) the student is pursuing
  4. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles for details on preparing for and taking the written exam

Truck Driver Training Programs:

  • Truck driver training programs may last several weeks and cover the essentials of driving large vehicles, such as:
  1. Starting, controlling, and stopping the vehicle
  2. Driving on various road types, including highways and smaller roads in towns and cities where traffic may be congested and turns may be very tight
  3. Driving in inclement weather conditions and at night
  4. Emergency procedures and defensive driving
  5. Navigation and trip planning
  6. Cargo handling and security, including hazardous materials handling
  7. Safety regulations
  8. Basic vehicle maintenance and inspection procedures
  9. Logistics and supply chain management
  10. Health and wellness

Age Limits:

  • Drivers must be at least 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles that will cross state borders (i.e. interstate), per federal regulations
  • Some states allow drivers who are at least 18 to operate heavy trucks within state borders (i.e., intrastate)

Required Physical Exams and Drug/Alcohol Tests:

  1. Note, that there are certain medical conditions and other factors that could potentially disqualify an applicant from getting a DOT medical clearance to drive

            * Examples include certain heart conditions, epilepsy, inner ear disorders, and uncorrectable vision problems. Applicants who are turned down may submit an exemption package to be considered for a waiver

  2. Drug and alcohol testing is also a serious part of the application for a Commercial Driver’s License. Drivers can review DOT’s website to learn more

Paying for Training:

  • There are several methods to finance the cost of truck driver training. Some companies offer apprenticeship programs for students who will later drive for them
  • As explains, trucking companies may offer different types of “paid training,” so it is important to understand the details of any offer. For instance, three popular options include:
  1. “Drivers receive free training but the company is reimbursed for the cost of training by deducting a portion of the driver’s paycheck afterward;
  2. “Drivers receive free training but the driver is required to work for the company afterward for a set period of time (usually 6-24 months);
  3. “Drivers receive free training and are also paid during training but are required to work for the company afterward for a set period of time (usually 6-24 months).”
  • Driver students can also apply for federal student aid, Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act funding, scholarships, or personal loans. Veterans can apply to use Veteran Affairs education benefits

Additional Information:

  • Many trucking companies offer additional training focusing on their specific operations, safety practices, and procedures
Things to look for in an university
  • Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers don’t have to go to college, but they do need training. Training programs should ideally be approved or accredited by one of the following organizations:
  1. Professional Truck Driver Institute
  2. Commercial Vehicle Training Association
  3. Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  4. Council on Occupational Education
  5. The state's Department of Education or professional/vocational licensing division
  • Consider the cost of tuition and carefully review the options for payment. Many trucking companies advertise “paid training,” but it’s important to learn the details of such offers.
  1. If using financial assistance, be mindful that not all schools qualify for students to use federal aid or Veterans Affairs educational benefits!
  2. Beware of scams or misleading ads. If you see a program you’re interested in, check its reviews with the Better Business Bureau and other sites. Ask around and do your research before you sign any sort of financially binding contract.
  3. Note, that some trucking companies have agreements with training programs, and these companies will reimburse students under certain conditions. However, if a student doesn’t pass the training, they are usually liable to pay all the tuition expenses.
  • Programs should offer significant behind-the-wheel training to build practical skills, as well as feature a comprehensive curriculum that covers all aspects of truck operation, including safety, regulations, and emergency procedures!
  • Look at the instructor bios to make sure they have plenty of experience. Also, check out the condition and modernity of the vehicles you’ll be training in.
  • Many schools help graduates find their first job, which can be crucial in the competitive job market. Check out the program’s success rate in terms of job placement.
Things to do in High School and College
  • It can be useful to earn your regular driver’s license as early as possible to get experience behind the wheel
  • Maintain a clean driving record!
  • High school courses in math and geography may help with route planning and understanding logistics
  • Take auto repair courses in school or community college to gain a basic understanding of vehicle maintenance
  • Decide what type of truck you want to drive so you can tailor your training accordingly
  • Be aware of age limits, physical exams, drug and alcohol test policies, and other requirements necessary to earn and maintain a Commercial Driver’s License
  • Get your vision tested to make sure you’re eligible for a CDL
  • Talk with truck drivers to get a feel for their day-to-day routines. Ask how they got trained and if they have recommendations
  • Read online forums about trucking life and truck driver training. Ask questions and do your research before making any decisions
  • Try to start a physical fitness program that builds stamina, which is required for driving long distances
Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Roadmap
Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Use your school’s career center to prepare for job applications and to learn about possible job openings
  • Many drivers get their first truck driving job by enrolling in a training program with a trucking company. These companies often partner with training schools, so they can hire graduates
  1. Note, these companies may offer to reimburse the cost of tuition for drivers willing to commit to working for their company for a certain period of time
  • Once you have your CDL, determine if you need specific endorsements, such as for hauling hazardous materials. Study hard for the exams so you can get your endorsements!
  • Scan job postings on portals like Indeed, Glassdoor, and
  • Make a list of the biggest trucking companies like UPS and other trucking employers, such as Walmart or Heartland Express. Review their career pages regularly for openings
  • Check out examples of Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver resumes for ideas
  • Tailor your resume to highlight relevant experiences and skills. 
    Include relevant keywords such as:
  1. Cargo Handling
  2. Commercial Driver’s License
  3. Defensive Driving
  4. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)
  5. Emergency Response
  6. Fuel Efficiency Practices
  7. GPS Navigation
  8. Hazardous Materials (HazMat)
  9. Safety Compliance
  10. Transportation Regulations
  11. Vehicle Maintenance
  • Prepare for interviews by researching the hiring company’s operations and by rehearsing answers to common questions about safety driving practices, equipment operation, etc.
  • Stay informed about industry trends and developments
  • Review common Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver interview questions such as “Do you think it's important to stop at weigh stations throughout your shift?”
  • Ask a friend to help you run through mock interviews to practice your responses
  • If you’ve driven before, consider pulling a copy of your record from the Pre-Employment Screening Program
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Speak with your supervisor about career progression. Let them know you’re willing to undergo additional training courses to enhance your skills
  • Pursue additional CDL endorsements on your own
  • Start work on time, do your best to meet delivery timeframes, avoid accidents, and maintain a strong safety record. Keep in mind that information about truck drivers is kept in the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a federal database so that companies can see if the driver has had an incidents
  • Communicate effectively with dispatchers, fleet managers, logistics coordinators, customers, receivers, mechanics, inspection officers, and law enforcement, as necessary
  • Be open to relocation, if needed. Sometimes bigger job opportunities come up in different cities or states
  • Learn about various types of trucks and cargo. Be willing to branch out and try new things
  • Join a professional organization such as a trucker’s union, if you see there are benefits to doing so. Such organizations are a great way to network, learn, and make friends!
  • Volunteer for roles in safety committees or training programs
  • Stay informed about the latest innovations in the trucking industry
  • Consider earning a degree that could qualify you for management positions 
Plan B

Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers play a crucial role in our economy, but the job comes with long hours on the road. In addition to being away from friends and family, truckers have a statistically higher risk of vehicular accidents simply due to the extra time spent driving.  

If you’re curious about related jobs that utilize similar skill sets, consider the below options!

  • Bus and Truck Mechanic
  • Diesel Engine Specialist
  • Bus Driver
  • Delivery Truck Driver
  • Material Mover
  • Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator
  • Light Truck Driver
  • Loading and Moving Machine Operator, Underground Mining
  • Material Recording Clerk
  • Railroad Worker
  • Rail Yard Engineer
  • Refuse and Recyclable Material Collector
  • Shuttle Driver and Chauffeur
  • Tank Car, Truck, and Ship Loader
  • Taxi Driver
  • Water Transportation Worker


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