Driving in the Freight and Transportation Industry
Although the things you buy online or in the store may come from China, Taiwan or Tennessee, they have to make a trip from the factory or field to your house somehow. Goods from overseas spend some time on a ship, and railroads handle a lot of cross-country transportation, but only a truck can deliver boxes of watermelons to the grocery store and pallets of mulch to the home improvement center.
Trucking Industry Regulation
The United States Department of Transportation, through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), sets rules for truck drivers. The number of hours a driver may work, the amount of rest he must have and the kinds of records he has to keep are all determined by the FMCSA, with a goal of keeping roads safe for everyone.
Technology like navigation systems, engine governors and electronic record-keeping have changed the way truckers operate. These systems help trucking companies manage their fleets, improve gas mileage and meet federal requirements, but some drivers see the technology as taking away their privacy and independence.
If you like spending time on your own, if you want to explore parts of the country you've never seen before, if you cringe at the thought of working in a cubicle eight hours a day and you don't mind sitting still for many hours a day or sleeping in the berth of a truck, then you can make good money after a short training period working as a commercial trucker. The following pages may help you start thinking about career paths in the trucking and freight industry:
- Trucking Career Options
- Owner Operator Jobs
- Driving a Delivery Truck
- Diesel Mechanic Jobs
- Becoming a Freight Forwarder
- Getting a Commercial Driver's License
- Finding the Best Trucking Companies
Did you know: Strengthening of the US economy could produce a shortage of professional truck drivers. During the recession, reduced demand for goods dramatically decreased the amount of freight truckers had to carry, leading to layoffs and low miles. Many drivers changed jobs or retired. As the economy improves and people start buying more TVs, appliances and clothes, freight will increase. This growth in demand could lead to a driver shortage, with better miles and pay rates for drivers.
To work as a professional truck driver, you will need to get a Commercial Driver's License(CDL). You apply for a CDL learner's permit at your local department of motor vehicles.
First, you have to take a written test that shows you understand the special rules that apply to truck drivers. Once you pass the test, you will be able to practice driving a tractor-trailer in a CDL school. Some CDL schools offer "free" training up front if you agree to work for a particular carrier after graduation. This can look like a great deal if you don't have any cash to put up for your training, but it can end up costing you more money - and your independence - a little further down the road.
Drivers either work by the mile or by the hour. Local delivery drivers who work a regular shift and drive the same route every day are usually hourly employees. Long-distance drivers usually receive pay by the mile. As with most jobs, pay rates increase with experience and a good safety record.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, long-haul drivers earn an average of about $18/hour. Delivery drivers average a little more than $13/hour.
Trucking Job Prospects
Your future in trucking will depend on the growth of the US economy. As long as times are good and the economy is expanding, there will be demand for drivers. Since driving attracts many workers over the age of 40, you can expect that many of these workers will start to retire within the next few decades, leaving openings for new drivers. The largest number of openings is likely to be in regional trucking, but long-haul drivers are likely to earn the most money and local drivers will have the most predictable schedules.
- A combination of increasing demand and retiring truck drivers could lead to a driver shortage.
- Long-haul drivers earn an average of $18/hour.
- Most long-distance drivers receive pay by the mile.
- Local drivers are usually paid by the hour.