Truck Driver: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for a truck driver. Get the facts about the job duties, licensure requirements and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Truck Driver?

Truck drivers are responsible for operating a motor vehicle and using it to transport goods or materials from one location to another. Heavy truck drivers need a CDL license to use vehicles that, when combined with the weight of the merchandise and passengers, weigh more than 26,000 pounds. Light truck drivers use vehicles that, when all weights are combined, weigh less than 26,000 pounds. Heavy truck drivers typically haul their loads over long distances.

Some truck drivers work for private companies; others are self-employed. Unlike many privately employed drivers, a self-employed driver may be responsible for all insurance and maintenance costs related to his or her truck. Some drivers travel for days at a time before returning home, while others go home each night.

Degree Required None
Training Required Training program for commercial driver's license (CDL)
Key Responsibilities Load and unload freight, pick up and drop off trailers, log activities, drive safely, navigate
Licensure CDL for certain vehicle types
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5%/3%* (heavy/light trucks)
Average Salary (2015) $42,500/$34,080* (heavy/light trucks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Truck Driver?

Truck drivers often help load and unload freight, pick up and drop off trailers multiple times a day, keep a travel log of their activities, inspect their rigs for problems and make repairs as needed. As a truck driver, you must obey traffic laws and deliver your freight safely to its destination. You may also have to map out routes, paying attention to restrictions set by the U.S. Department of Transportation that might bar you from traveling in certain areas or on certain roads.

Are There Any Job Requirements?

The main requirement for a job as a truck driver is a commercial driver's license (CDL). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a CDL is required for drivers who operate a truck with a gross vehicle weight over 26,000 pounds, carry hazardous materials or have an oversized load (www.bls.gov).

You'll typically need to complete a training program to prepare for the CDL test. Training programs are usually offered through technical or vocational schools. Topics covered may include regulations regarding trucks and freight, truck maneuverability and truck inspections.

CDL requirements vary from state to state. However, most states expect applicants to take a written test, be at least 18 years old, have a clean driving record and pass a physical examination in order to earn a CDL. Drivers who transport oversized loads or hazardous materials may need a special endorsement on their CDL. Endorsements usually have additional requirements, like a criminal background check.

What Could I Earn?

According to the BLS in May 2015, tractor-trailer and heavy truck drivers earned a mean annual salary of $42,500. During the same year, light or delivery service truck drivers earned a mean annual salary of $34,080. In October 2016, PayScale.com reported that most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned between $31,082 - $67,650 per year, including bonuses.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The primary responsibility of heavy and light truck drivers is to use a motor vehicle to transport goods or materials from one destination to another. In this respect, the work that bus drivers and postal service workers do is very similar. Bus drivers transport passengers, and postal service workers transport mail. Bus drivers, like heavy truck drivers, need a commercial driver's license. Taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs also perform similar tasks, because they transport people from one destination to another. They may need to be licensed by the city or state where they work. Hand laborers and material movers also perform the task of moving goods and materials from one location to another, but they do this without the use of motor vehicles and typically only move the goods short distances within the same building or area.

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