What Are the Job Duties of a Truck Driver?

Research what it takes to become a truck driver. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average salary and job outlook 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 pick up goods and materials, drive them to their destination and deliver them as instructed. Their primary focus is to safely and efficiently deliver their cargo. They are also responsible for basic vehicle maintenance, keeping their truck clean, and obeying traffic laws. They may also help load and unload the cargo they're delivering. Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers need a CDL license and use vehicles that, when combined with the weight of the cargo and passengers, exceed 26,000 pounds. Light truck drivers use vehicles that, when combined with the weight of cargo and passengers, are less than 26,000 pounds.

Heavy trucks and tractor-trailers Light trucks
Education Requirements High school diploma; completion of professional truck driver training program recommended High school diploma
Licensure Commercial driver's license (CDL) Drivers license
Job Responsibilities Move cargo over long distances, load and unload cargo, maintain equipment, keep a log of activities Transport cargo within a small region, load and unload cargo, maintain equipment, keep a log of activities, handle delivery confirmation paperwork and cash-on-delivery shipments
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5% (for all heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers)* 3% (for all light truck or delivery service drivers)*
Average Salary (2015) $42,500 (for all heavy duty and tractor-trailer truck drivers)* $34,080 (for all light truck or delivery service drivers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Career Duties as a Truck Driver?

Your core responsibility as a truck driver is to pick up cargo from one location - for example, a manufacturer or distribution center - and transport it to another (such as a distribution center or customer). Sometimes you might have to load and unload your cargo yourself. Drivers must also keep a daily log, maintain their equipment and observe traffic laws. Other job duties vary depending on whether you're a long-haul driver, a light driver, a specialized driver or a route driver.

As a long-haul driver, you operate heavy tractor-trailer rigs. Often you are given a destination and deadline and must plan your route to deliver cargo while complying with state and federal restrictions on road access and rest time. Routes might span several states or even from Canada to Mexico.

As a light driver, you transport cargo within a municipality or small region - commonly from a distribution center to individual households and businesses. You might load your truck once in a day and deliver single packages to multiple locations or deliver several loads through the day. You also handle delivery confirmation paperwork and cash-on-delivery shipments.

As a specialized driver, you deliver unusual loads - such as liquids, hazardous industrial chemicals, hazardous waste, cars and oversized loads. You must follow strict safety regulations and transport procedures.

A route driver is a hybrid of a truck driver and sales worker and therefore is also called a driver/sales worker. In this role, you deliver and arrange goods in retail stores - or in the case of rental companies, replace worn or soiled items. They also might seek new customers on their routes and recommend that a store increase its inventory of a product or stock new products.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 5% increase in the employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers from 2014 to 2024, as fast as the average rate for all occupations. Employment of delivery truck drivers is only expected to increase by 3% from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

What Could I Expect to Earn?

Your salary varies depending on what type of driver you are. According to the BLS, all heavy truck and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned an average annual salary of $42,500 in 2015. All light truck and delivery service drivers earned an average annual salary of $34,080 in the same year.

What Training Programs are Available?

Smaller trucks require only on-the-job training, but heavy trucks and tractor-trailers require a commercial driver's license (CDL). Certificate-level training programs for a CDL are available from a number of community colleges and private vocational schools. Programs teach you safe driving procedures, commercial truck laws and regulations, daily logging, freight handling and fire protection. Content is conveyed through a mix of classroom study and road exercises. To obtain your CDL, you must pass a practical driving exam and a written exam on road regulations for truck drivers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Bus drivers, postal service workers, taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs all have some duties that are similar to the duties of truck drivers. Like heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, bus drivers need a CDL license. Taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs may need to be licensed by their state or city. All of these professionals need a clean driving record, need to follow traffic laws, and need to perform basic maintenance on their vehicles. They are also responsible for keeping their vehicles clean. The main differences between these professionals are the distances they drive. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers and bus drivers may drive very long routes; some bus drivers also work within a community or city, which is similar to the type of routes that light truck drivers work. Bus drivers, taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs all transport people, while postal service workers deliver mail and packages, which is comparable to what light truck drivers may deliver. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers may deliver goods or materials such as vehicles, merchandise or manufacturing parts.

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