Career and Job Search Guide

Truck Driver

Truck drivers are found on every American interstate and highway. All products found in a store are delivered by a truck driver. Ocean cruisers, planes, and trains may ship products to a port or distribution center, but trucks ship these products to stores.

Prior to getting on the highway to make deliveries, truck drivers check fuel and oil levels, as well as examining the lights, safety equipment, brakes, and windshield wipers on their trucks. They must also ensure their rearview mirrors are properly adjusted and the freight they are transporting is securely fastened. Any damaged or improperly loaded freight must be reported to a dispatcher.

The United States Department of Transportation requires that truck drivers maintain records about their daily work activities, operating conditions of their trucks, and, if a driver is involved in an accident, a report of the accident details.

Truck drivers who transport loads totaling 26,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) or more are known as heavy truck or tractor trailer truck drivers. These drivers move livestock, automobiles, and any other load meeting or exceeding 26,000 lbs GVW. They often travel long distances, so many companies transport these loads with two drivers so one can sleep while the other drives. When two drivers work together, they sometimes drive routes that can last days or weeks. They usually only stop to eat, fill their trucks with gas, and unload their freight.

Certain drivers moving these heavy loads transport freight to one city on a continual basis, and some drivers transport freight on an unscheduled basis whenever clients request shipments.

Truck drivers transporting heavy loads far distances spend most their time driving. These drivers usually are certified to unload the freight they transport. Sometimes when it does not require special skills to unload freight, drivers hire local employees at their delivery destinations to unload it. Drivers who transport freight weighing under 26,000 lbs GVW are known as light delivery service drivers. They usually have assigned delivery routes. They frequently make deliveries to a city, make a pick up, and deliver the cargo back to the city their company is based out of. Drivers utilize electronic tracking technology to keep track of freight, and these drivers are usually responsible for loading and unloading freight. They usually only hire outside help if they are moving heavy merchandise or have responsibility for numerous deliveries during the day. Once drivers complete their shifts, they must turn in payments, delivery records, and report any truck problems to their supervisors.

Driver's duties and route lengths are usually determined by the type of freight they transport and the size of their trucks. Local drivers usually service a specific region daily, and the schedules and routes for drivers who transport merchandise across interstate highways often changes.

Local truck drivers are often assigned customer service and sales duties. Commonly referred to as driver/sales specialists or route drivers, they sell and deliver their company's merchandise across set routes. Since these drivers have customer service responsibilities, the manner in which they deal with a customer can determine whether they keep them as customers. They usually collect money and take their customers' orders.

The responsibilities of truckers with sales duties depend on the industry they are employed in and their company's sales policies. They usually deliver products to stores and distributors and usually do not make deliveries to personal residences. These drivers often monitor store shelves to determine what items are popular and make recommendations to their customers. Laundry companies that provide businesses with rented clothes usually dispatch truckers to pick up dirty laundry. Many drivers are required seek additional customers when they travel their routes.

Once they have finished their routes, drivers specializing in sales complete their orders for their next shifts according to clients' requests and merchandise sales.

Many trucking companies monitor their trucks' locations and provide truckers with weather and traffic conditions using GPS systems or satellite technology. This technology also enables drivers to coordinate deliveries and report any problems to dispatchers. In addition, satellite technology also monitors fuel levels and motor performance. Modern trucks are usually equipped with computerized freight tracking technology.

Work environment. Modern trucks are usually designed for trucker comfort, so the job is not as tiring as it used to be, but driving all day and unloading and loading heavy freight can be physically exhausting. Truckers who drive local routes are usually home at night. Truckers who own their own trucks and make long distance deliveries are away from home a lot.

United States Department of Transportation regulations determine the hours for truckers making interstate deliveries. Drivers making interstate deliveries can only work 14 continuous hours, only driving 11 hours. Once they are done working, truckers must have at least 10 hours off. Drivers are also restricted from driving after working 60 hours during a week or 70 hours in an 8 day period. They may continue their work after resting for at least 34 consecutive hours. Truckers must record their hours in logbooks. Since they are often paid per mile or hours driven, truckers usually work as many hours as they are permitted by law. Most truckers must work evenings, weekends, and holidays, so many struggle with loneliness and exhausting.

Truckers driving local routes usually spend 50 or more hours working every week. Truckers delivering food or products to grocery stores often work very long shifts beginning in the early mornings or late evenings. Truckers usually make their deliveries on standard routes, but some truckers routes change daily. Drivers with local routes and sales responsibilities usually load and unload merchandise, so these workers can fatigue quickly from lifting heavy loads.