What Does a Motor Vehicle Operator Do?

Explore the career requirements for motor vehicle operators. Get the facts about the job duties, education requirements, licensure, and salary 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 Motor Vehicle Operator?

Motor vehicle operators use motor vehicles to perform assigned tasks. This may include transporting people or cargo from one location to another. Motor vehicle operators are responsible for basic vehicle maintenance. They need to perform checks each day, such as checking the oil and the tires and ensuring that the lights work. They also have to report any mechanical concerns. They may be required to keep mileage logs and other documentation related to their duties. Motor vehicle operators are also responsible for keeping their vehicle clean and for obeying all traffic laws when operating their vehicle. They may need to load or unload cargo, or assist passengers with their luggage if applicable.

Education Required High school diploma
Training Required Complete trailer or truck driver program, on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Drive vehicle, maintain vehicle or provide owner with report of problems, transport people and/or objects, follow all vehicle safety and passenger laws
Licensure Required Licensure is required in all states. CDL licenses are required for all commercial vehicle operations.
Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% for all heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers*
Median Salary (2018) $43,680*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Job Options For a Motor Vehicle Operator?

If you drive a bus, taxicab, limousine, heavy truck or tractor-trailer, you are a motor vehicle operator. Your main responsibility is to safely drive the vehicle to transport passengers or freight. You may be responsible for the maintenance of your vehicle or may only be required to report problems to the vehicle owner.

Bus drivers may provide public transportation or transportation for school children. As a public bus driver, you may run several different routes throughout the day or have one dedicated route that you drive several times a day. You must collect fares and ensure you reach the bus stops at the scheduled times. If you drive a school bus, you may drive your route to school in the morning and then again in the afternoon to take children home. Keeping the children safe includes driving cautiously, monitoring the students' behavior on the bus and ensuring students are safe when dropped off at their bus stop.

Driving a taxicab requires you to follow the passenger's directions to where they want you to go. You may pick passengers up and drop them off at home, work or other locations throughout the city. As a limousine driver, you offer private transportation to one client who has booked your services for a set period of time. You may work for a limousine service or work for a dedicated client.

As a truck or tractor-trailer driver, you may drive short routes or long routes. You may haul the same type of goods each day or different goods on each route. Your job may involve loading and unloading freight. Most employers will require you to keep a log of your miles and deliveries. It is also your responsibility to follow the laws regarding load limits, specific types of loads and the number of hours you can be on the road without a break.

What Requirements Must I Meet?

A high school diploma is sufficient for most motor vehicle operator jobs. You may consider completing a training program if you wish to drive a truck. Truck or tractor-trailer drivers typically complete a truck driving program to learn how to safely and properly operate this type of vehicle. Some employers may offer training to teach you about company policies and procedures.

Special driver's licenses or license endorsements are typically required for all motor vehicle operators. Commercial driver's licenses (CDL) are required for drivers of commercial vehicles. Special passenger endorsements may be required on a regular driver's license or commercial driver's license for some operators. To earn a CDL or an endorsement, you may have to pass driving and written tests. Requirements for licensing are set by the federal government and state governments.

Employers may also set additional requirements which include drug testing and background screening. Some employers may require you to speak and write fluent English. You may have to pass a skills test or be a certain age. Many employers also require you to pass a physical and have a clean driving record.

What Are My Job Advancement Options?

Most training for motor vehicle operators is done on the job, so it is common to start out in a trainee position and advance into a position in which you become the main driver. Bus drivers may ride along on routes in the beginning to become familiar with operating procedures. Truck drivers may also start out riding along on routes before being given their own truck and route.

In some positions, you have the opportunity to buy your own vehicle and run your own business. For example, if you drive a truck, you may start out driving a truck owned by another person and pay a fee to the owner to drive the truck. In time, you may earn enough money to buy your own truck, allowing you to earn more money. As a limousine or taxi driver, you may be able to do the same thing.

In some companies, you may have the opportunity to move into an administrative position after gaining experience as a driver. If you wish to continue working as an operator, you may be able to gain seniority and earn more hours, better schedules or higher-paying routes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median salary for a motor vehicle operator was $43,680 in May 2018. The BLS also reports the job growth for all heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers for 2018-2028 is 5%, which is as fast as the average growth for all occupations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Hand laborers and material movers and water transportation workers have a lot in common with motor vehicle operators. Hand laborers and material movers manually move cargo. They may help load or unload vehicles that motor vehicle operators are going to drive, and therefore need to understand how to load the vehicle properly. Since motor vehicle operators may also load and unload cargo this is a task they have in common with hand laborers and material movers. Hand laborers and material movers do not need any formal education and learn through on-the-job training. Water transportation workers operate vessels that may be used to transport people or cargo over water. Like motor vehicle operators they are responsible for maintaining their vehicles and must follow all applicable laws and regulations. Water transportation workers need a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and Merchant Marine Credential (MMC).

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