Class B Commercial Driver: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Training Requirements

Explore the career requirements for Class B commercial drivers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Class B Commercial Driver?

Tractor-trailers, dump trucks, delivery trucks and other commercial vehicles are driven by Class B commercial drivers. These drivers are required to have a Class B license and are responsible for inspecting their trucks, securing loads that need to be delivered, following a delivery route and delivering goods on schedule. Light truck drivers typically follow smaller routes within a city, county or state, while heavy and tractor-trailer drivers are more likely to perform long-haul services, transporting goods out of state, across country or, in some cases, out of country. Delivery truck drivers may also be responsible for communicating with customers as well as accepting payments and handling receipts. Both types of drivers need to make sure their trucks and equipment are in good working order and report any problems encountered either with their equipment or on the road to the appropriate personnel.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent (light truck drivers); postsecondary non-degree award (heavy truck drivers)
Key Responsibilities Transport freight between locations
Communicate with dispatchers
Load/unload cargo
Training Required Short-term on-the-job training
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 3% increase (light truck drivers)*; 5% increase (heavy truck drivers)*
Average Salary (2015) $34,080 (light truck drivers)*; $42,500 (heavy truck drivers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Are the Job Duties of a Class B Commercial Driver?

A Class B commercial driver's license permits one to drive single commercial vehicles that weigh more than 26,001 pounds and to drive such vehicles with a towed weight of no more than 10,000 pounds. This also applies to trucks carrying hazardous materials. As a driver, your main responsibilities would be to pick up freight at one location and transport it to another.

Your duties as a Class B driver could vary by the industry in which you work. In addition to loading and unloading cargo, you might fill out paperwork and sign receipts, utilize electronic delivery tracking systems and communicate with dispatchers about schedule or route changes. If you become a light truck driver, you'll also have industry-specific duties, such as sales or customer service. You'll generally work a standard 40-hour week; however, it is common to work in excess of 50 hours. Your schedule could include early mornings or late nights, particularly if you drive a grocery goods truck.

What Is the Projected Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for drivers in the heavy and tractor-trailer truck industry are projected to grow by five percent during the decade between 2014-2024, and those for light delivery truck drivers are expected to increase by three percent. It is predicted that nearly 125,900 total jobs (27,200 for light truck drivers and 98,700 for heavy truck drivers) will be established within that decade.

Growth projections are attributed to an expanding economy and the resultant need for goods. The BLS reports that long-haul truck drivers will have the best job prospects, but competition will also be heavy for truck driving positions with local carriers. As of 2015, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned an average annual salary of $42,500, while light or delivery truck drivers earned an average of $34,080 per year.

What Training Requirements Must I Satisfy?

Your main basic requirement for a Class B commercial driver position is a commercial driver's license (CDL). Depending on the state you live in, you may be required to complete a formal truck driving course before receiving a CDL. Many technical schools and community colleges offer driver's training courses for the Class B CDL. You may also wish to pursue a truck driver training program that's approved by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). PTDI-approved courses aren't available in all states, so the organization offers a checklist on its website for you to evaluate training programs in your area (www.ptdi.org).

Class B commercial driver's license training programs cover air brakes, vehicle control, gear shifting and inspection techniques. Training courses should also cover maneuvering large vehicles on city streets, highways and in parking areas, as well as covering the information included on the written part of a driving test, which can vary by state.

To qualify for a CDL, you must meet the minimum age requirement of 18 or 21 years, take a physical examination, possess a clean driving record and pass a written examination on regulations and rules. You'll also have to demonstrate the ability to safely operate a commercial-sized truck.

Upon completion of formal training and securing a job, you'll most likely also participate in a brief, informal employer-sponsored training program that focuses on company policies, truck loading and operation and hazardous materials handling, if applicable.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Bus drivers may be required to have a special license and may transport individuals on local routes or out of state. Their role is similar to that of a Class B commercial driver, except they transport people instead of goods. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs also transport people and may be required to have a special license to perform their services. Water transportation workers transport cargo or people on waterways and need to be trained to operate the appropriate vessels used for these purposes, such as water taxis, ferries and cargo ships.

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