In Demand: Truck Drivers

Americans don't like to wait. We like our fruit and meat fresh and our packages delivered overnight. To accommodate our demands for instant delivery, businesses rely on trucks - the only means of transportation that can deliver goods door-to-door - to make sure their products get to the consumer fast.

If you are interested in a career as a truck driver, check out these facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


Before they leave the terminal or warehouse, truck drivers check their trucks' fuel levels, oil, breaks, wipers and lights to make sure everything is working. They also secure cargo, adjust mirrors and report anything missing or improperly loaded to their dispatchers.

Once on the road, drivers must be alert to prevent accidents. They may provide daily service for a specific route, or make intercity or interstate deliveries.

Training and Education

A truck drivers must have a state-issued driver's license and a clean driving record. Drivers who will be maneuvering a truck designed to carry more than 26,000 pounds must obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) from the state in which they live.

To obtain a CDL, applicants must pass a written test on rules and regulations and demonstrate they can operate a commercial truck safely. In addition, drivers must be 21 years old with good vision, normal use of arms and legs and normal blood pressure. Persons with epilepsy or diabetes controlled by insulin can not drive a commercial truck.

In addition, truck drivers can not have felony records, and must be able to read and speak English well enough to read signs and communicate with law enforcement officials and the public.

Many employers impose stricter standards: their drivers must be 22 years old, able to lift heavy objects, have three to five years' experience in truck driving and have a high school diploma. Training is generally on-the-job and informal.


Most truck drivers work in metropolitan areas near major highways.

Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers drive trucks or vans with a capacity of at least 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW). These trucks transport cars, livestock and other materials.

Light or delivery services truck drivers drive trucks or vans with a capacity under 26,000 pounds GVW. They deliver or pick up merchandise and packages within a specific area.

Driver/sales workers or route drivers deliver and sell their firms' products over established routes or within an established territory.

Pros and Cons

Truck driving has become more comfortable and less physically demanding because most trucks now have more comfortable seats, better ventilation and improved, ergonomically-designed cabs. Some trucks even have refrigerators, televisions and bunks.

The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates work hours for all truck drivers who engage in interstate commerce. A long-distance driver can work no more than 60 hours per week, and they must rest 10 hours for every 11 hours of driving.

Despite the lessened workload, drivers on long runs may become bored, lonely or fatigued. In addition, they often travel at night to avoid heavy traffic and spend long stretches away from their families.


According to the BLS, the median hourly earnings of heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers were $15.97 in 2002. Light or delivery services truck drivers earned a median of $11.48 that year, and driver/sales workers earned $9.92, including commission.

Truck drivers generally receive an hourly wage and overtime pay.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of truck drives and driver/sales workers is expected to increase at about the average rate for all occupations through 2012. However, many job opportunities will arise as drivers leave the occupation.

The demand for long-distance drivers is expected to remain strong due to the need to transport perishable and time-sensitive goods efficiently.

Next: Confessions of a Truck Driver >>

Source: BLS October 2004

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