Truck Driving Job FAQs

The Truck Driving Profession

Based on the overview of the trucking industry, you probably already have a good idea about the profession. Truck drivers operate the trucks serving the industries and traveling to the locations carriers or private companies require. But few trucks drivers only drive trucks while on-the-job. Depending on the type of driver needed, the professional arrangement worked under, and several other related issues, a driver’s work, as well as the drivers, will vary.

What does the typical truck driver do?

If you haven’t already read the section on the Trucking Industry related to “types of drivers”, you may want to read it now. It’s hard to define a “typical” truck drivers, as drivers vary in terms of trucks being driven, trailers being hauled, cargo being transported, and beginning and ending destinations. In general, however, all drivers will perform some, all, or other duties not listed below.

– Transport cargo between locations
– Operate vehicles ranging from small UPS or FedEx delivery trucks to single unit box trucks to 18-wheelers.
– Drive Over-the-Road (OTR) while stopping at multiple locations nationwide or within a region
– Drive regionally, stopping at one or more locations within an operating area
– Drive locally, making numerous deliveries within a city or metropolitan area
– Report incidents encountered on the road to a dispatcher
– Follow all applicable traffic laws
– Secure cargo for transport
– Maintain a log or verify the accurate of an electronic log as federal and state agencies require
– Inspect trailers before and after the trip and records any defects found
– Report mechanical issues to the proper department
– Maintain truck in clean operating order
– Assist with loading and unloading cargo

What personal characteristics does someone need to be a good truck driver?

Interesting question. When it comes down to it, anyone capable of passing a CDL test can be a truck driver, but a good truck driver requires any number of personal qualities. Some of these qualities can be learned, but others are as much a part of our personality type. Those based on our personalities can be changed over time, but we need to know how our own personality type fits the qualities a good driver needs.

Once you know your personality type, you can match them to the characteristics making good truck drivers. And just what are those characteristics? Well, they vary with the type of trucking job, assigned routes, cargo, and most of all, the people you’ll interact with on a regular basis.

The internet is filled with lists like the “Top 5 Characteristics of a Great Truck Driver,” and similar resources. Do a web search on “truck driver characteristics” and you’ll find many resources. Also, job postings for drivers are an excellent resource. Many job ads will include the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required to driver for the carrier/company recruiting drivers. And depending on the “corporate culture” or values of the carrier/company, you may find differences.

Speaking in general terms, the following are a few characteristics and KSAs of good truck drivers included on many lists as well as within some job postings. The first item on the list, a commitment to safety is the one characteristic that is imperative for all prospective drivers to hold before even considering a job in the trucking industry. If safety is not your #1 priority, you cannot be a good truck driver; in fact, if you manage to secure a job driving, you can be guaranteed you won’t last long!

– Safety conscious
– Reliability
– Trustworthiness
– Courtesy
– Respect
– Honesty
– Flexibility
– Patience
– Excellent communications skills, written, verbal, and through devices including CB radios, mobile phones, texting, emailing, and in-cab alert and messaging systems
– Ability to manage stress
– Ability to be alert at all times
– Commitment to caring for physical and mental health
– Ability to work and live along for extended periods mechanical mindset
– Ability to maintain an excellent driving and performance record

Who can be a truck driver?

The short answer is, almost anyone can be a truck driver, provided they meet the physical and mental requirements to earn a CDL and safely operate a truck.

As discussed in the section on characteristics of a good truck driver, the best drivers have personal qualities helping them to make a career behind the wheel. If you are just beginning to consider truck driving as a profession — especially students — you probably want to know about training, experience, qualifications, and anything that may prohibit you from driving a truck. The following are a few requirements anyone wanting to drive a truck must consider:

– NMCSA and state requirements to obtain a CDL
– Passing CDL written and skills tests
– Passing a medical exam conducted by a NMCSA-approved physician with a focus on NMCSA guidelines for physical and mental health
– Stick to any treatments or regiments prescribed by a medical examiner so you may pass periodic testing in the future
– Abstain from using any illegal substances, even in your private life as many remain in your system for extended periods and may still impair driving long after they are used
– Submit to and pass periodic illegal substance testing whether NMCSA-required or as required by an employer
– Have a suitable driving record, especially when behind the wheel of a truck.

These are just some basic requirements of any truck driver. They don’t vary by gender, age, region of the country, or demographics. Anyone who can achieve the items listed can be a truck driver.

If you job shadow or interview a truck driver ask lots of questions. You’ll probably learn that while the basic requirement will qualify you as a driver, different carriers/companies have additional requirements of the drivers they hire. These are often included in job advertisements as well as in the KSAs for the job description.

It would be worth your time to visit a job boards and websites of carriers/companies hiring truck drivers to learn requirements. Who know, you may find the perfect match for you!

Can females become truck drivers?

Absolutely! In fact, the federal government and many carriers and private companies have programs in place specifically intended to recruit more females to the profession.

Historically, truck driving has been a male-dominated profession. Unfortunately, it still is, but not necessarily because females lack the ability to drive or are discriminated against in the hiring process. Not long ago, you’d have to look far and wide to find a female truck driver, but that is no longer the case. In 2019, 7.2% of all truck drivers were female. This may not sound like many, but the percentage has been steadily growing. With recruiting programs in place that target females, the disparity between males and females in the profession is sure to grow smaller.

Is there anyone who cannot be a truck driver?

In general, anyone who cannot meet NMCSA or state requirements to qualify for a CDL of the classification needed to operate the truck used in a specific driving job cannot be a truck driver. Specific disqualifications may be based on NMCSA or state regulations and include, in part:

– Failing a background check
– Failing a medical exam based on a condition that cannot be corrected or accommodated with treatment, including vision and hearing exams
– Having certain conditions that prohibit an individual from safely operation a truck
– Driving with a blood alcohol limit exceeding 0.04%
– Driving under the influence of an illegal substance
– Record of using a motor vehicle during the commission of a felony
– Fleeing the scene of an accident
– Negligently causing an accident that results in a fatality.
– Conviction in any case of human trafficking

Specific carriers/companies may have additional criteria that excludes some individuals from driving a truck under their own policies and procedures. Provided they do not discriminate or violate federal, state, and/or local laws, you should consider a potential employers requirements before applying.

What is a CDL?

Anyone operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in the United States (unless training) must hold Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The type of CDL a driver needs depends on the type of Commercial Motor Vehicle operated. The type of vehicle is normally defined as the combination of the truck and trailer. While the Federal Highway Administration developed standards for CDL licenses, actual testing and issuing of CDLs is handled at the state level.

Why do I need a CDL?

Before 1986, many states allowed anyone holding a standard automobile driver’s license to operate commercial motor vehicles. But these vehicles are normally more difficult to operate than passenger cars and require unique skills. Eventually, some states tightened requirements and only allowed driver’s holding chauffeur’s licenses to drive trucks.

In 1986, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act (CMVSA) was signed into federal law. The law made CDLs mandatory for all drivers of commercial motor vehicles. By ensuring that bus drivers and operators of large trucks are trained and qualified to operate the vehicles needed to do their jobs and similarly qualified to transport people and/or specific types of freight, the CMVSA dramatically increased safety on the nation’s highways.

Obtaining a CDL serves as proof you are qualified to drive and haul specific truck and trailer types and their contents. Some carriers operates their own training programs allowing you to be employed prior to earning a CDL.

What type of CDL do I need?

The answer is dependent on the type of truck you operate and the trailer and cargo you haul.
CDLs are issued in one of three “Classes” — A, B, and C.

What is a Class A CDL?

Class A CDLs are the most versatile type of CDL drivers can carry. Class A CDLs allow drivers to operate almost any Class A, Class B, or Class C Commercial Motor Vehicle. Class A CDLs are required if a driver is operating, per the NMCSA, “any combination of vehicles with a GVWR/GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating/Gross Vehicle Weight) of 26,001 or more pounds provided the GVWR/GVW of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Class A holders are also permitted to operate any commercial motor vehicle included in Classes B and C.”

In simple terms, if you want to drive trucks often referred to as “18-wheelers,” you need a Class A CDL.
Examples of truck you can drive with a Class A CDL include:

– Tractor-trailers
– Truck and trailer combinations
– Tank vehicles
– Livestock carriers
– Flatbeds
– Reefers
– Logging vehicles

What is a Class B CDL?

A Class B CDL allows a driver to operate a vehicle with a “GVWR and GVW of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR and GVW. Class B holders are also permitted to operate any commercial motor vehicle included in Class C.”

Examples of Commercial Motor Vehicles you can drive with a Class B CDL include:

– Buses
– Tow trucks
– Cement trucks
– Dump trucks
– Other trucks used in the construction industry
– Garbage and recycling trucks
– Straight trucks
– Box trucks
– Armored vehicles
– Package delivery vehicles
– Utility vehicles.

Class B CDL holders often drive “cash-in-transit vehicles,” defined as those with GVWRs between 8,000 and 12,000 pounds that securely transport freight in urban areas. With certain endorsements, a Class B CDL allows a driver to operate other vehicles as well.

What is a Class C CDL?

A Class C CDL allows a driver to operate a single vehicle or combination of vehicles not meeting the definitions of Class A or Class B, but designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or to transport material designated as hazardous but not carried in a vehicle requiring a Class A or Class B CDL.

Examples of vehicles you can drive with a Class C CDL include:

– Small HazMat vehicles
– Passenger vans or small buses
– Vehicles requiring a CDL to operate but not covered in Class A or Class B definitions

What is the difference between a CDL and a CLP?

A CDL, or Commercial Driver’s License, is a type of motor vehicle operator’s license issued by a state after you have proven you hold the knowledge and ability to drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle of the appropriate classification. To obtain a CDL, you must pass a written test, a skills test, and obtain medical clearance.

A CLP, or Commercial Learner’s Permit, is a state-issued permit authorizing you to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle for training purposes under the supervision of a valid CDL holder for the vehicle you are operating. Obtaining a CLP is often considered the first step taken toward earning a CDL.

Do Federal and State CDL requirements differ?

Maybe.

The FMCSA sets regulations that all states follow before issuing a CDL. Qualifications, training, and testing is based on federal regulations regardless of the Class of CDL a driver needs.

Issuing CDLs is a state responsibility. States require the CDL candidates fulfill Federal regulations and any additional regulations issued by the state. States can enact laws that are more stringent than FMCSA regulations, but they cannot issue CDLs to candidates who do not meet, at a minimum, those issued by the FMCSA.

How old do I have to be to qualify for a CDL?

In most states, the minimum age to qualify for a CDL is 21. Some states allow drivers aged 18 – 20 to obtain a CDL allowing them to drive only within the state issuing the CDL. Federal requirements, however, prohibit anyone under age 21 from engaging in “interstate commerce,” meaning driving a commercial motor vehicle outside the CDL-issuing state’s boundaries.

The nationwide truck driver shortage has led the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider options that might lower the interstate age requirement. One such options is allowing drivers trained in the military to drive interstate routes prior to age 21. Pilot studies are also conducted to research if a trained driver younger than 21 can operate a commercial motor vehicle with the same level of safety as a similarly trained individual at least 21 years old.

Check with the CDL-issuing agency within your state of domicile for more information on age restrictions.

Do I need experience to qualify for a CDL?

Maybe.

Earning a CDL does not necessarily require experience beyond that needed to train and pass your written and skills tests.

Some carriers operate in-house training programs allowing applicants to be hired based on their potential for success as a truck driver then trained by the carrier under FMCSA regulations and any additional standards the carriers may set. These programs will not only allow you to learn information and skills you’ll need to obtain your CDL, but in some cases you’ll be paid during your training period.

Some carriers may require you to have a certain amount of experience as a driver before they will hire you. It is not uncommon for drivers to obtain their CDL after completing a carrier’s training program then drive for the carrier for the minimum amount of time or number of miles required under the training agreement. After the obligation to the original carrier is fulfilled, these drivers will often look elsewhere for jobs.

Other candidates for truck driving jobs will follow a route requiring them to obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), train under the observation of a qualified CDL holder, and test for the CDL when they feel prepared and in accordance with state regulations.

How long does it take to obtain a CDL?

The real question is, “How long does it take to obtain a CDL assuming I am comfortable behind the wheel and feed prepared to drive a commercial motor vehicle on public highways.” The answer varies dependent on the individual.

No specific time-frame exists for you to earn your CDL. In general, if you attend a driver training program, the minimum time for completion is 4 – 7 weeks, although some programs may require up to 6 months.

It should be understood that attending a driver training program is not* a prerequisite to earning a CDL. Passing the tests required to obtain a CLP then learning what is necessary to pass the written and skills tests while training with a valid CDL holder, allows you complete the process in as few as 14 days (the minimum time being a state issuing a CLP and allowing testing for a CDL).

The actual time between receiving your CLP and testing for a CDL depends on you, your confidence in passing the required tests, and your demonstrated ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle on public highways.

After you obtain your CDL, you may not feel comfortable behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle. If not, you cannot operate it safely. Before driving solo or hauling a loaded trailer, gain more experience and confidence in your driving ability.

*While training programs and “driver academies” may pour thousands of dollars into marketing their training services and offer guarantees that you’ll pass your tests on your first attempt, such marketing ploys are at the discretion of the program and carry no validity with the FMCSA or state agencies responsible for issuing CDLs.

How much does it cost to get my CDL?

Depending on the route you choose, fulfilling all requirements for a CDL could cost less than a couple of hundred dollars or as much as thousands of dollars. Cost of study materials, paid training programs, housing and meals during training, testing fees, and CDL fees should all be considered when choosing your approach to obtaining your CDL.

Am I required to hold a CLP prior to testing for a CDL?

FMCSA regulations state that a CLP must be acquired within the applicant’s state of “domicile” and held for a minimum of 14 days prior to the applicant becoming eligible for CDL testing. But there is an exception.

A CLP is only needed if you are upgrading to a CDL level that requires a skills test (as opposed to a written test). For example, if you wish to obtain a Class C CDL for the purpose of driving a church bus carrying 16 passengers (including you, the driver), you are only required to obtain a CLP if your state administers a skills test for the Class C level of licensing.

What is required to get a CLP?

To gain a CLP, a candidate meet the following criteria:

– At least 18 years old
– Obtain training required at the state level in which the CLP will be issued
– Pass a general knowledge written test.
– Apply through his/her state of “domicile*”
– Receive a CLP issued only by the state of domicile.

FMCSA regulations define “domicile” as the “that state where a person has his/her true, fixed, and permanent home and principal residence and to which he/she has the intention of returning whenever he/she is absent.”
The consideration of the state of domicile, means someone planning to gain a CLP must be aware of additional regulations:

A student training for a CLP outside the state of domicile, cannot obtain a CLP from the state in which the training occurred.
The general knowledge test a candidate for a CLP must pass can be conducted in the state where training occurred. Results of out-of-state testing will be made available to the CLP-Issuing authority within the candidate’s state of domicile.
Prior to issuing a CLP, a state must verify the name, date of birth, and social security number of the applicant with the information on file with the Social Security Administration. If the data provided does not match what is on file, a state may not issue a CLP.
FMCSA standards do not prohibit a “non-domiciled” person in the United States (i.e., a foreign national) from obtaining a CLP provided the candidate is legally present in the U.S. and/or domiciled in a jurisdiction that is prohibited from issuing CLPs.
The decision of issuing a CLP to a non-domiciled person is at the state issuing agency’s discretion in accordance with state law.

What does a CLP allow me to do?

A valid CLP allows the holder to operate a commercial motor vehicle in any state provided he/she is operating within FMCSA requirements. These requirements include:

– A permit holder between 18 and 21 years old, can only operate a commercial motor vehicle within the state of domicile where the permit is issued.
– A permit holder at aged 21 or over may operate in any state, meaning they may train while hauling under “interstate commerce” regulations.
– In all cases, while training, a CLP holder must be accompanied by a driver holding a valid CDL endorsement(s) necessary to operate the commercial motor vehicle being driven.
– The CDL Holder must at all times be physically present in the front seat of the vehicle next to the CLP holder or, in the case of a passenger vehicle, directly behind or in the first row behind the driver.
– The CDL driver training the CLP holder must have the CLP holder under observation and direct supervision at all times.

How long is a CLP valid?

A CLP is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance. Depending on the issuing state’s regulations, a 180 day extension may be approved without retesting.

Can I obtain endorsements while holding my CLP?

Yes.

FMCSA regulations allow CLP holders to gain the following endorsements under specific conditions:

– School Bus (S)
– Tanker (N)
– Passenger (P)

A “no passenger” restriction is be placed on all CLP holders with P and S endorsements. In other words, while a CLP holder may train to drive a School Bus or Passenger Vehicle for which a CDL is required, no passengers other than the CDL holder accompanying and observing the CLP holder are allowed to be transported with the CLP holder operates the vehicle.

A CLP holder may also be issued an (N) endorsement, meaning he/she may train while driving a tanker vehicle only if the tank is empty and carries no hazardous materials.

FMCSA regulations specifically prohibit CLP holders from (T) endorsements, those required for CDL holders hauling double or triples. After a CLP holder receives a CDL, the (T) endorsement may be obtained provided the state of domicile offers such an endorsement. In all cases, the CDL holder must have valid endorsements for the type of vehicle being operated.

What type of training is required to test for a CDL?

An important point to remember is that the FMCSA has issued no requirements that you attend a truck driving training program to qualify for a CDL. Training, however it is obtained, will help you learn the information and skills needed to pass your tests. But you can learn the information to pass written testing and the driver skills to pass live testing through different channels. Understanding the process involved in obtaining your CDL may provide an idea of type of training best suited for you.

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMSCA) is the arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation overseeing guidelines for testing to obtain a CDL. Steps included in the FMCSA process to obtain a CDL are as follows:

Test and obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). While requirements to qualify for CLP testing may vary by state, all must meet FMCSA regulations.
Present your current driver’s license (normally a Class D license allowing for operation of passenger cars.
Provide a copy of your 10-year driver history, a report including any moving violations, at-fault accidents, and other information depending on the state in which you live. Most likely, the testing location has this information in its electronic system, but you should check with an official at the location to be sure. If you do not have a driving history of 10 years (i.e., you are 21 years-old and have only been driving since you were 16), your full driving record will be required.

Where can I find training options?

To gain training needed to qualify for a CLP and/or CDL, you have many options. You can consider several formal training options.

High Schools

Some high schools throughout the country have recently offered preliminary truck driver training through vocational education programs. While these programs do not offer live driver training, some use high-tech virtual reality simulators that seasoned drivers say are as close as one can get to driving on a public highway. Using these simulators, students learn repetitive motion skills and develop motor memory that will serve them well when they enter live training and earn their CLPs or CDLs.

Vocational Schools/Community Colleges

Many community and vocational colleges offer Truck Driver training programs. The nature of these programs may vary from non-credit courses specifically focused on gaining the information and skills needed to earn a CDL. Other may require a student to earn a diploma or certificate, typically involving for-credit courses that are more extensive than non-credit training classes. or they may involve earning a Diploma If attending an accredited community college, you may earn an Associate’s Degree along with your CDL training. Degreed programs typically require general education courses such as Composition and College Algebra as well as courses truck drivers may find useful in the field like accounting, basic diesel engine maintenance, communications, and others.

Truck Driving Schools

Private, for-profit truck driving schools or academies are situated strategically throughout the country so that they may market their programs to as many potential students as possible. These programs might involve private training with as little as one instructor and truck, or they might employ numerous trainers and own a full fleet of trucks. Instruction by be online, live, or a combination of both. The cost of these programs is typically higher than other training sources, but they are worth checking out. A private truck driving school might be just what you are looking for!

Military

The military offers many opportunities for those hoping to become truck drivers while serving their country. Trucks have played vital roles in U.S. military action during the 20th and 21st centuries, and all branches of the service need many truck drivers whether overseas or within the United States. Likewise, as the military trains soldiers as young as 18 to drive trucks with many leaving the service before they turn 21, the FMCSA is conducting pilot programs to determine if military drivers should be able to engage in interstate commerce prior to turning 21 years old, the normal age required for civilian drivers.

Freight Carriers

Numerous freight carriers operate their own driving academies. Under this training arrangement, future company drivers normally learn the skills and gain the experience needed to earn their CDLs while also learning about the company for which they will be driving, it policies and procedures, and its corporate culture.

Carrier training programs often provide paid training in return for a commitment to work for the carrier for a given period of time or number of miles.

Consider the various carriers requirements carefully if considering training and eventually committing to drive one. Make sure expectations of you, the student-employee, are in writing. The carrier should also provide a copy of its responsibilities. Thoroughly read all documents as they will likely be in the form of a contract you and the carrier representative will sign. If you drop out or do not fulfill you agreed to commitment after training, you may be required to reimburse the carrier for training costs.

If you are looking for a route that includes training and a potential job in one package, a carrier offering its own driving school may be a good option to consider!

How much money can I make as a truck driver?

The median earnings for a U.S. truck driver in 2019 were $45,260, or $21.76 per hour assuming a 40-hour work week. Keep in mind, the noted earnings listed are “median,” meaning 50% of drivers earn more, sometimes much more, and 50% of drivers earn less.

Annual earnings are based on many factors including they type of driving performed and the cargo being hauled. Depending on your compensation arrangement, you may also earn overtime pay and bonuses.

Keep in mind that driving a truck is not just a job, it is a lifestyle. Top earning drivers spend much of the year on the road, and this can be hard on families and relationships. Consider if the truck driver’s lifestyle is one that fits what you want in terms of a “work-life balance.”

What is the typical work day like for a truck driver?

When you think about a “typical” work day, you probably want to compare a truck driver’s job to what some call “bankers hours,” meaning 8 hours a day Monday through Friday with weekends and holidays off.

For most jobs, even for bankers, the “typical” work day doesn’t exist. And you can be sure that “working 9 to 5” is a schedule a truck driver never works. Every day is different. A driver runs into different challenges every day that cause hours to vary and distances driven to exceed or fall short of expectations. That’s why flexibility is an important trait of a truck driver. Yes, truck driving jobs do exist that allow drivers to be home every night, but OTR driving is seldom one of those jobs.

Should I care about pay and compensation structures?

Most definitely.

Carriers often advertise for drivers on the back of a truck, on a billboard, or in a newspaper or magazine. Normally, compensation is an “attention getter” for these ads.

Usually, driver recruitment ads emphasize mileage based pay rates, and they’ll catch your attention. That’s the whole point — the ad is supposed to get you to call the phone number and speak with a recruiter. But as in all advertising, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

You may or may not find fine print that, if you read it, will make you realize how difficult it will be to meet conditions necessary to earn the advertised rate. Or you may find out when talking to the recruiter.

For instance, the advertised per mile rate may be based on conditions a driver will find it very difficult to qualify, and/or it may be for team drivers, meaning each member of a 2-driver team would earn only half that advertised, again under the best possible circumstances.

You should also understand that depending on your arrangement, you may drive nights, weekends, and holidays and be away from home for weeks before returning for time off the road. Before considering any pay structure, you should first become familiar with the FMCSA’s Hours of Service regulations.

What pay structures are used in the trucking industry?

Different carriers or companies operating trucks use different methods of calculating wages. The basis by which you will be paid is known as a “Pay Structure.” Various structures exists, including payment based on hours worked, miles driven, specific routes driven, or a combination of the three. Typically, full-time truck drivers do not earn a straight annual salary. This is especially the case with OTR drivers.

Per Hour: Hourly compensation is uncommon in the trucking industry. For those company that do pay hourly wages, as of 2019, the average wage is $24.00 per hour. Most often hourly wages apply to local drivers. An advantage of hourly pay is that, provided you work your assigned weekly hours, you can count on a steady income that you can plan for. Hourly drivers are also eligible for overtime, something not provided to most types of drivers. Under this sort of arrangement, you are likely to be home most nights. On the negative side of hourly pay structures, you won’t be paid for “sleeper time,” “layover time,” or “inconvenience time” as are OTR drivers.

Per Mile: Most truck drivers are paid on the basis of miles driven. The mileage and total payment may vary week-to-week, but drivers paid by the mile will find when comparing their wages to other pay structures, they typically earn more per hour or if their pay is salary based.

A driver paid per mile normally drives up to 3,000 miles a week, the estimated maximum based on the “Hours of Service” regulations. When converting to an hourly wage, mileage-based pay may equal up to $50.00 per hour. According the to the U.S. Department of Labor, most mileage-based drivers earn 28-40 cents per mile driven. Some companies will pay slightly more for drivers with extensive experience or who specialize in hauling a dangerous, high-value, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary types of freight. In terms of disadvantages, any inconvenience (weather, breakdown, urban driving) that decreases the number of miles driven during a given period will have a negative impact on your paycheck.

Route-based: Like hourly pay structures, few companies pay on a route-basis. In most cases, a truck driver with a normal delivery route is more likely to be paid an hourly wage or salary than a lump sum dependent on a delivery route.

Routes are usually fairly short, meaning overnight driving is not always required. On the other hand, if paid a specific amount to complete a given route, drivers who experience delays during the day may find themselves working long hours (but in no case more than the FMCSA regulations allow).

Route-based drivers should study the FMCSA regulations that provide exceptions to the Hours of Service regulations for drivers operating with a limited radius of their terminal. FMCSA has considered excluding drivers from regulations if they do not drive more than a certain number of miles from a base location (i.e. within a 150-mile radius).

Do the different types of routes, drivers, and equipment impact compensation?

Yes.

Compensation varies based on many factors. These might include experience, driver type, equipment type, cargo, and size of carrier or company.

No industry-wide standard exists when it comes to compensation structures or rates of pay. Owner-operator pay rates will likely be far more than any other driver type; however, by the times expenses are subtracted from gross receipts and taxes are paid, the final annual profit may be as little as half of receipts.

What can an entry-level driver expect to earn?

Entry-level positions in the trucking industry pay less than those held by experienced workers. Whether paid by the mile, hour, or route, an entry level driver will earn substantially less than an experienced driver doing the same work.

On average, an entry-level driver can expect to earn $25,000 – $35,000 annually. As an owner-operator, an entry level driver and an experienced driver may see a similar profits per year; however, experience allows a driver to become familiar with money-saving driving methods such as the quality of roads being driven, how to avoid slowdowns, and how to maximize efficiency.

What are the highest paying truck driver jobs?

In terms of cash compensation, OTR drivers are likely the highest paid type of drivers. If drivers are salaries, large companies that own their own fleets of trucks and hire drivers might pay more than $70,000 annually, and that is before bonuses.

Specialty drivers are likely to earn more than average based on the limited supply of drivers and the demand for specialty services. Endorsements can also result in higher annual earnings.

In order to increase earnings, drivers should focus on safe, timely deliveries. In most cases, consistent safety and timeliness is rewarded.

What is the trucking industry’s reputation when it comes to paying female drivers on an equal basis to male drivers performing the same work?

Unfortunately, wages do differ between males and females.

As of 2019, the typical male driver earned $40,000 to $45,000 dollars a year, while females earned $25,000-$30,000. The percentage of female drivers compared to male drivers in the industry is still very low, and efforts are being made by both private carriers and the federal government to encourage females to pursue truck driving jobs. As the percentage of female drivers increase, it can be expected that wages will begin to equalize. How the situation plays out, however, remains to be seen.

What is the job outlook for truck drivers?

As of 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated the number of truck drivers needed would increase 5% by 2028. That’s almost 100,000 new jobs.

Keep in mind that these are “forecasted” numbers and assume few changes in supply-demand or major developments making truck drivers and OTR transportation more or less necessary. These factors can change daily. Keep an eye on quarterly statistics is the best method of tracking job opportunities. (Need to add some links to sources here)

What types of benefits do truck drivers receive?

Like pay, benefits vary based on the employment arrangement of drivers.

Full-time OTR drivers will earn the typical benefits found in most occupations — health care, life insurance, paid time off, and perhaps liability insurance among others. Carriers and companies employing drivers also pay half of the “payroll tax” collected by the federal government. As of 2020, the total payroll tax is 15.3% of gross earnings.

Contracted or owner-operators must pay the full 15.3% payroll tax. So if an owner-operators income after deducting expenses is $100,000, the government is owed $15,300. Owner-operators are also responsible for obtaining their own health insurance and paying all expenses involved in operating as a “self-employed” individual. On the other hand, time off is not a concern of owner-operators as they can accept or refuse any contract offer. But “time off” for an owner-operator is not “paid.”

What are Hours of Service Regulations?

The FMCSA has issued regulations controlling the number of hours a truck driver can be behind the wheel during various periods. These regulations are typically referred to as “Hours of Service.”

The FMCSA regulates a number of factors related to the time a driver is allowed to drive and required to rest:

– Consecutive driving hours
– Hours worked in in addition to those behind the wheel
– Hours driven within a 24-hour period,
– Hours driven within 7- or 8-day periods,
– Required time off.

The regulations permit a driver to be on duty for 14 hours, 11 of which can be driving. The other three hours can be used for pre- and post- trip inspections, loading and unloading, completing paperwork, etc. The other 10 hours a driver must be off duty with no work permitted. A portion of those 10 hours must be spent in the sleeper berth. The driver must spend at least seven of those 10 hours in the sleeper berth. Thirty minutes of the remaining off duty hours must be spent resting after a driver has been on duty for eight hours. 

The intention of Hours of Service is safety. Drowsy driving resulting from too much time behind the wheel and/or lack of sleep is a major concern when it comes to highway safety.

While operators of any vehicle need to be aware of their levels of alertness while driving, regulating every driver on the road is not possible. But regulating truck drivers is not as difficult. Understanding Hours of Service regulations can be confusing. An explanation is provided below.

Many drivers consider Hours of Service regulations to be a nuisance that prevents them from completing their jobs efficiently. The FMCSA says the regulations are meant to ensure the safety of truck drivers and those sharing the roads. Likewise, the FMCSA imposes these regulations to prevent truck drivers from being abused by employers or contracting companies.

Until recently, drivers recorded their hours in logbooks; however, the FMCSA now requires that most trucks be equipped with electronic logging devices (ELD). These tools help prevent drivers from falsifying records and/or carriers from forcing drivers to drive or work longer than regulations allow.

What are some definitions helpful in understanding Hours of Service Regulations?

Understanding the FMCSA regulations related to Hours of Service is not easy. The actual regulations are written in a legal format not easily followed by the average person. Likewise, it is not easy to summarize Hours of Service regulations in simple terms. For this and operational reasons, many carriers and truck drivers have been opposed to Hours of Service regulations. The FMCSA periodically updates Hours of Service regulations in response to congressional action.

The first step in understanding Hours of Service regulations is to consider FMCSA terminology and definitions. As previously noted, the regulations are written in legal language, so some may be more difficult to understand than others. Definitions included are taken from FMCSA regulations. A simplistic variation is included if deemed necessary.

On-duty

By regulation, on duty time is “all time from when a driver begins to work or is required to be in readiness to work until the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work.” In general, other than assigned breaks, a driver is on-duty from the time of arrival at the workplace until the time of leaving. Keep in mind, your workplace may be your truck.

Driving Time

Driving time is all time spent at the driving controls of a commercial motor vehicle. This definition is fairly simple, but driving time is time you are behind the wheel of your truck, even when stopped.

Sleeper Berth Time

Sleeper berth time is any amount of time spent inside the sleeper berth (e.g., resting or sleeping). A sleeper berth is an area separate from (usually immediately behind) the driving controls that includes a bed. The rules do not explicitly require that a driver must sleep, only that a driver must take a period of “rest” within the sleeper berth or off-duty (i.e., home).

Off-Duty

Off-duty time is any time not spent on-duty, driving, or in the sleeper berth.

How are Hours of Service tracked?

Traditionally, a driver recorded on- and off- duty times, as well as hours and other information in a handwritten log book. With technology becoming less expensive, today, at least in most cases, FMCSA requires trucks to be equipped “electronic logging devices” or ELDs. You can think of an ELD as an electronic log book.

An ELD automatically records driving time and location, leaving the driver responsible only for reporting on-duty and off-duty time. In these respects, the ELD is less susceptible to forgery than a paper log book, and prevents employers from abusing drivers while also maintaining safety on the highways.

It should be noted that the ELD requirement is relatively new, and many truck drivers and others in the industry openly express frustrations with the devices. In some cases, a malfunction can keep a driver off-duty longer than is required.

The FMCSA continues to monitor the effectiveness of ELDs and may modify regulations pertaining to them in the future.

Hours of Service regulations do have some exceptions. For instance, a driver encountering adverse weather may be allowed mare than 11 hours of drive time but not more than the maximum on-duty time of 14 hours. Other exceptions relate to distances driven from a driver’s base location, oil field drivers, and regulation variances for some states.