Trailer, Equipment and Types of Freight Hauling for Professional Truck Drivers

Whatever type of driver you are or plan to become, there’s one thing you’ll have in common with every other CDL holder on the road — you’ll be hauling some sort of cargo, whether it’s dry goods, refrigerated goods, gasoline, or livestock. And depending on the type of freight you’re hauling, you will need to learn to handle not only your truck and your freight, but the trailer you are pulling as well.

Like there is no “driver is a driver is a driver,” the same can be said for trailers or any other piece of equipment used to transport freight. Different types of materials require different types of trailers, and each type of trailer offers drivers its own challenges. If you spend a career as a driver, you’ll likely find yourself hauling more than one trailer type over the years; in fact, you may wind up hauling all of them. With that in mind, take a look at the most often used trailers and hauling equipment to learn a few details about how they might impact you and your work hauling them.

For more information on the different types of trailers, equipment and hauling types, watch this video.

What is Bulk Cargo Hauling Equipment?

Bulk Cargo is a specific commodity hauled using various types of trailers and is delivered to a customer for use in a specific industry. In other cases, the bulk cargo is hauled from a producer to market. Bulk cargo includes grain, soybeans, corn, and other agriculture products; various liquids; coal, propane, gasoline, and other fuels; wood products like pulp wood and mulch; construction products such as sand and gravel; and recyclable materials.

What trailers are used for bulk cargo hauling?

Trailers used for hauling bulk cargo vary and are often designed for specific type of materials:

  • Hoppers: a trailer acting as a dump truck with the ability to tip and “end dump” the bulk material. Allows for “dump spreading” of material as the truck slowly pulls the trailer forward. Hoppers come in two types: high side and low side. Hoppers feature sloped sides to ease unloading. They generally are designed with two hoppers, each having a sliding plate to dump from the bottom of the trailer as well at the rear. Some hopper trailers also allow for side dumping.
  • Walking Floor: a trailer that may or may not tip but includes equipment to push the cargo from the rear. Also allow for “dump spreading.”
  • Pneumatic: a large-body enclosed tank trailer, vacuum-sealed that empties using a pump and forced air. Often used to haul cement, sand, ash, and lime; flour, sugar, and grains; and plastic pellets, industrial alcohol, and dry and liquid chemicals.
  • Belt Trailers: a self-unloading trailer using a continuous belt pulled by a chain for unloading bulk materials.
  • Tanker: a trailer in the form of a long tank, most often with cylinder design

Who hires Bulk Cargo Drivers?

Bulk Cargo drivers are typically hired by processors and distributors of bulk cargo, or if the need is large enough, by companies that use the materials. Examples of such processors, distributors, and companies include:

  • Agriculture producers, processors, and distributors
  • Construction companies or construction materials processors (sand and gravel, asphalt, cement, etc.)
  • Fuel processors and retailers (oil fields, refineries, chemical processors, etc.)

The producers of the material to be hauled may employ its own drivers, or they may contract drivers to haul and deliver the material.

Typically, bulk material haulers travel shorter distances than haulers of dry or refrigerated cargo. Bulk materials are often used within short distances of the supplier, and the materials needed are often common throughout the U.S.

Agricultural products, if not available in an area of the country, are frequently perishable, and the window of time from field to the consumer market is limited. In such cases, a driver or carrier may sub-contract with other drivers along the route. At the locations where they meet, one driver who is at the end of the day in terms of Hours of Service will disconnect the trailer, and another driver just beginning a driving period will attach the trailer and continue hauling the material to its destination. Such an arrangement minimizes the time from field to consumer, as the perishable materials essentially do not stop along the delivery route.

What are the requirements necessary for a Bulk Cargo Driver?

Other than holding a CDL, there are no special requirements to haul bulk materials; however, a driver should be thoroughly familiar with the type of trailer the materials is hauled in and how to operate offloading features. The various types of trailers will also cause a truck to handle differently, so a driver needs to be especially safety-conscious and alert when learning aerodynamics, braking, and other aspects required of various trailer types.

If you are hauling a load of bulk material such as sand and gravel, wood products, or some agricultural products, you will likely use a hopper trailer. While hoppers typically have open tops, in terms of safety, it is best if tarps are secured to cover the material. If uncovered, bulk materials often bounce around in the trailer, and some will bounce out. Such material, particularly sand, gravel, and similar building materials is a hazard to drivers and passengers in vehicles behind you. Not only are millions of windshields get cracked every year as a result of a rock or other material falling from bulk trailers, but the random nature of the events can also create traffic accidents. Likewise, on occasion, an object penetrates the trailing vehicle’s windshield and severely injures or kills the driver or a passenger.

In many states, laws require all bulk materials to be tarped. Likewise, it may be a carrier’s policy to do so. In any case, despite any disclaimers posted on the rear of a trailer such as “Keep Back 500 Feet” or “Not Responsible for Broken Windshields,” the words are meaningless in court. The legal question is one of the drivers using due diligence to ensure the trailer was securely covered prior to leaving the loading area. Even at that, bulk materials do have ways of escaping a trailer, but defense can be bolstered if a driver can prove due diligence was practiced.

Another point to keep in mind is that failure to securely tarp a hopper-type trailer doesn’t just put the truck driver at risk. The driver’s carrier or employer, the source from which the bulk material was obtained, and even the trailer and tarp manufacturers might be held liable in the case of a lawsuit.

What endorsements are needed to haul bulk materials?

As with all truck drivers, those hauling bulk materials must hold the appropriate CDL for the type of vehicle being driven (Class A, B, and/or C). Likewise, as the materials and trailer types a driver hauls will likely vary, it is advisable that those expecting to haul bulk materials obtain endorsements including (H), Hazardous Materials, and (N) Tanker. In some states, drivers may be able to receive the (X) endorsement, a combination endorsement allowing them to haul Hazardous Materials in a Tanker-type trailer.

Is there an up-front financial investment required to become a Bulk Cargo Driver?

Many drivers hauling bulk materials are owner operators, owners of small fleets, and/or drivers experienced in the type of material contracted for hauling. The company owning the material, if not having trucks with trailers designed for the type of material being hauled, may contract with a carrier, a single owner operator, or several owner operators. If owner operators are involved, drivers will have investments in terms of their truck, possibly specialized trailer equipment, and all permits, licenses, and insurance necessary. In many cases, a company contracting drivers to haul material will have its own trailers appropriate for the materials it specializes in delivering. If so, the owner operator will likely just pick up a loaded trailer and make the delivery.

What pay structures apply to Bulk Cargo Drivers?

Depending on who or what carrier the supplier decides to hire to transport bulk materials, drivers can expect to be paid in varying methods. If a driver is an employee of a carrier, the bulk material will likely be considered as any other cargo. In this case, the driver will be paid per agreement with the employer.

If a driver is an owner operator of a single truck or owns a small fleet, a supplier may contract to pay a lump sum upon delivery, or if a large amount of materials is to be delivered, periodic payments may be provided.

Owner operators should keep in mind that suppliers may request or advertise for bids in order to get the best price. Such advertisements may be places in local newspapers, magazines or journals focusing on a particular commodity, one or more of the growing number of online sites specializing in solicitation of bids for bulk material hauling.

Bulk material driver average earnings is $59,000 annually, with higher rates paid for drivers hauling hazardous materials.

What is automobile hauling equipment?

Depending on the number of vehicles be carried, automobile hauling equipment may include a flatbed trailer or, more often, an open trailer with two “stacked decks” capable of hauling a dozen or more vehicles. After the lower deck of vehicles is unloaded by driving them down a ramp (a part of the trailer), the top deck is most often lowered using hydraulics until its ramps a capable of connecting the lower ramps so the remaining vehicles can be unloaded.

For more information about automobile haulers, watch this video.

Note: When referring to automobile hauling equipment, the information provided relates to trucks pulling several automobiles, often “double-stacked” to dealers or junkyards. Two-trucks used to move an inoperable vehicle to a repair shop are not included in this section.

What companies utilize automobile hauling equipment?

Automobile hauling equipment is a necessity for companies involved in moving large numbers of vehicles for any purpose. Examples include:

  • Vehicle manufacturers delivering to dealerships
  • Used car dealerships having purchased several vehicles to be picked up and transported for resale
  • Dealership delivering “trade in” vehicle to auction sites
  • Used part dealers hauling “totaled” or other vehicles who only worth is the sale of undamaged parts

Companies using automobile hauling equipment may have their own fleets or contract with carriers or owner operators to transport their cargo.

What are the requirements necessary to drive automobile hauling equipment?

As will any type of specialized trailer, the driver needs to be trained in the challenges needed to haul automobile trailers. Likewise, driver must be fully trained in the operation of the equipment, including loading, securing, and offloading vehicles. Likewise, drivers pulling a load of vehicles may carry cargo worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Drivers must take special care to ensure not only safety in the form of prevention of accidents but the safety of cargo as well.

What endorsements are needed to haul vehicles?

All automobile haulers must hold a CDL for the type of truck being driven (Class A, B, and/or C). In some cases, an (H), hazardous materials endorsement may be needed (particularly if the vehicles hauled have gas or other liquids pre-filled. Although an (N), Tanker, endorsement isn’t necessary, drivers holding (X), Hazardous Materials/Tankers are also eligible to haul vehicles.

Is there an up-front financial investment required to become an Automobile Hauler?

Many drivers hauling automobiles are owner operators, owners of small fleets, and/or drivers experienced in pulling automobile hauling equipment. The company owning the vehicles, if not having trucks with trailers designed for hauling automobiles, may contract with a carrier, a single owner operator, or several owner operators. If owner operators are involved, drivers will have investments in terms of their truck, possibly specialized trailer equipment, and all permits, licenses, and insurance necessary. In many cases, a company contracting drivers to haul automobiles will have its own trailers. If so, the owner operator will likely just pick up a loaded trailer and make the delivery.

What pay structures apply to Automobile Haulers?

Unless a company employee, drivers of automobile haulers will likely be contracted and paid by the mile, a combination of miles and vehicles hauled, or a flat fee. One thing to keep in mind is that automobile hauling drivers, especially those working with manufacturers, must take special care to ensure the cargo reaches its destination safely. Because of the value of a fully loaded, double-decked automobile hauling trailer and the special care necessary in delivering the cargo, experienced drivers can expect to be paid a premium.

Depending on the value of the cargo, area of the country driven, and other factors, the salary range for automobile hauling drivers is from $60,000 to over $100,000 annually.

What is dry van hauling?

Dry vans are likely the most basic type of trailer in the industry and the type beginning drivers are likely haul upon gaining their first jobs. A dry van is normally a 53-foot box-like trailers loaded with non-perishable good (think of the historical term of “dry goods store,” and the type of products they sold).

For more information about Dry Van Hauling, watch this video.

What companies hire Dry Van Equipment Drivers?

Virtually every carrier or company hiring its own drivers will have a need for dry van equipment. The enormous amounts and types of products hauled in dry vans means drivers for this type of equipment are in high demand; however, remember, as the most basic type of delivery equipment, many drivers compete for dry van hauling positions. The dry van area of truck driving is also a common use of owner operators.

What are the requirements necessary to haul dry van equipment?

Typically, dry vans can be hauled by anyone holding the appropriate classification of CDL.

What endorsements are needed for dry van hauling?

If the cargo is considered hazardous or includes hazardous materials, an (H), Hazardous Materials, or (X), Hazardous Materials/Tanker endorsement is needed.

Is there an up-front financial investment required to become a Dry Van Equipment Driver?

Many drivers hauling dry vans are owner operators, owners of small fleets, and/or drivers experienced in pulling hauling dry van equipment and cargo. The company owning the vehicles, if not having trucks with trailers designed for hauling automobiles, may contract with a carrier, a single owner operator, or several owner operators. If owner operators are involved, drivers will have investments in terms of their truck, possibly in trailer equipment, and all permits, licenses, and insurance necessary. In many cases, a company contracting drivers to haul dry vans will have its own trailers. If so, the owner operator will likely just pick up a loaded trailer and make the delivery.

Frequently, dry vans are used by big box retailers or similar companies. In these cases, the individual companies may have its own fleet of truck and trailers and hire employee drivers.

What pay structures apply to Dry Van Equipment Drivers?

Dry van haulers working for carriers are normally paid by the mile, while those working for companies may receive an hourly wage or salary. Owner operators entering into contracts to haul dry vans typically negotiate payment methods and rates.

The average salary for dry van haulers is about $54,000 annually.

What is flatbed hauling equipment?

Flatbed trailers are essentially exactly what the name implies — a base of steel or similar material mounted on a frame with axles and wheels. Flat beds often haul oversized load that cannot fit in an enclosed trailer.

What companies hire Flatbed Drivers?

Carriers or companies hauling cargo such as steel beams, lumber, construction equipment, and other cargo typically not permanently ruined if hauled through varying weather conditions are often hauled on flatbed trailers.

Companies producing large quantities of products or raw materials capable of being hauled on flatbed trailers typically have their own fleets of trucks and trailers and will obtain drivers through direct hire. Likewise, they will contract with owner operators experienced with hauling flatbed trailers for deliveries.

What are the requirements necessary for hauling flatbed equipment?

Aside from the appropriate CDL, drivers of flatbed equipment need to be adept at securing cargo with tarps, “come-a-longs,” chains, strapping, or other types of devices. Before leaving the location of loading, drivers must make sure the cargo is securely held on the trailer and unable to move in any direction during events up to and including collisions, jackknifing, or to the extent possible, rollovers. Securing cargo on flatbed trailers is not a one-time check-and-go responsibility. Whenever a driver stops or at regular intervals, cargo and securing mechanisms must be rechecked and adjusted as needed.

Flatbed equipment sometimes includes a feature allowing axles to be repositioned to better distribute the weight of the cargo. Drivers must be trained in knowing when an axle adjustment is needed and the procedures used for making adjustments.

Another important point of flatbed hauling concerns oversized loads. If cargo is wider or taller than a trailer would otherwise carry, the trailer must include large notations (black letters and yellow backgrounds) indicating “Oversized Load.” The signs alert approaching and trailing vehicles drivers that they should pull close to the shoulder or onto the shoulder until the truck has passed. For those behind oversized loads, drivers should realize that passing the truck may be more difficult and hazardous than in a typical situation. Likewise, when crossing bridges or overpasses, oversized loads may require the driver to temporarily use both lanes of a highway to avoid hitting guardrails.

In some cases, oversized loads will be accompanied by pilot vehicles who alert the truck drivers of potentially dangerous barriers ahead and often pull into the left lane to prevent other vehicles from passing until safe.

What endorsements are needed by Flatbed Drivers?

Endorsements for flatbed hauling depend on the type of cargo secured to the trailer. In cases where hazardous materials are being hauled, an (H) or (X) endorsement is needed. Also, if a tank of liquid, hazardous or not, is placed on a flatbed, for hauling purposes the trailer becomes a tanker. In such cases, it is best to hold endorsements for (N) Tankers, (H) Hazardous Materials, and/or (X) Hazardous Materials/Tanker combinations.

Is there an up-front financial investment required to become a Flatbed Driver?

Many drivers hauling flatbed trailers are owner operators, owners of small fleets, and/or drivers experienced in pulling hauling flatbed equipment and cargo. The company owning the cargo, if not having trucks with trailers designed for hauling it, may contract with a carrier, a single owner operator, or several owner operators. If owner operators are involved, drivers will have investments in terms of their truck, possibly in trailer equipment, and all permits, licenses, and insurance necessary. In many cases, a company contracting drivers to haul carg9 will have its own trailers. If so, the owner operator will likely just pick up a loaded trailer and make the delivery.

What pay structures apply to Flatbed Drivers?

Depending on who or what carrier the supplier decides to hire to transport cargo on flatbed trailers, drivers can expect to be paid in varying methods. If a driver is an employee of a carrier, the cargo will likely be considered special, and the driver will earn a premium for experience in securing cargo appropriately and the ability to adjust axles. Likewise, if an oversize load is to be hauled, additional premiums may be paid.

If a driver is an owner operator of a single truck or owns a small fleet, a supplier may contract to pay a lump sum upon delivery, or if a large number of items are to be delivered, periodic payments may be provided.

Owner operators should keep in mind that suppliers may request or advertise for bids in order to get the best price. Such advertisements may be places in local newspapers, magazines or journals focusing on a particular industry, and one or more of the growing number of online sites specializing in solicitation of bids for flatbed-hauled cargo.

Average earnings for flatbed drivers are $53,000 annually.

What is heavy-haul equipment?

In some ways, heavy-haul equipment is similar to a flatbed trailer hauling an oversize load. But that is just about where the similarities end. Heavy-haul trailers are designed specifically to haul items like large construction equipment and energy-generating windmill blades. Several types of specialized trailer equipment are used to carry these heavy loads, or “super loads,” as they are often called. A description a few trailer types intended for heavy hauling include:

  • Step-deck: a two-level trailer designed for hauling tall loads. The front of the trailer has a normal height deck about 60 inches above the ground. Behind the front deck, the majority of the trailers “steps down” about 24 inches.
  • Removable Goosenecks: flatbed trailers with removable necks normally connecting the trailer and truck. When detached, the front end lower to the ground and served as a built-in ramp allowing self-powered cargo (i.e., vehicles and equipment) to drive onto the deck. Removable goosenecks often have as many as four rear-axles to distribute the load’s weight.
  • Double-drop or “Lowboys”: Lowboys are designed to carry the tallest loads allowable in most states. In the front, a double drop has a 60 inch deck with another deck in the rear of similar height covering multiple axles. In between, a long deck dropping below the axles is used as a surface to which the cargo is secured.
  • Stretch/Extendable Trailers: These trailers, also known as “telescopic,” are designed with a sliding feature allowing the length of the trailer to be adjusted. Typically, the trailers are about eight feet wide and when extended may be 80 feet long. Typical cargo hauled by telescopic trailers includes lumber, rebar, trusses, steel beams, telephone poles, etc. Although designed to haul extremely heavy loads, weight limits often restrict the cargo to what appears a small amount when compared to the trailer size.
  • Other trailers: Examples of additional and less commonly seen heavy-haul trailers include: Nine-axle tractor combination with transformer deck; “Blade” trailers; 13-axels tractor trailer combination trailers; and “Schnabel” trailers.

What companies hire Heavy-Haul Drivers?

Heavy-haul trucking requires expensive equipment, and most carriers have few, if any, of the specialized trailers in their fleets. Because heavy-haul cargo is not something many customers require on a regular basis, unless the company’s demand is high enough, most heavy-haul drivers are hired by carriers specializing in using heavy-haul equipment.

Before heavy-haul loads can hit the highway, route planners must develop a specific route the truck driver will follow to ensure the roads, bridges, construction zones, and other potential barriers to a heavy-haul load are avoided. The Federal Bridge Formula (FBF) must be taken into account as it limits the federal gross truck weight of 80,000 pounds. The FBF calculates weight limits based on spacing of axles. State Bridge Formulas must also be considered, as they may be more restrictive than federal law. Route planners must take interstate regulations into account when providing drivers directions and plans for routing that deliver cargo in the safest, most efficient manner.

What personal characteristics are needed by a driver to pull heavy-haul equipment?

The name “heavy-haul” implies strength, and strength and durability are important traits for heavy-haul drivers. Even with power-steering and automatic transmissions, the weight of a typical heavy-haul load makes steering more difficult than a typical load such as a dry van. In fact, manual transmissions are often better suited for trucks pulling heavy-haul equipment. Making wide turns to prevent trailers from hitting obstacles on the shoulders of roads often require multiple starting, stopping, backing up, and similar maneuvers best suited for manual transmissions. Likewise, when driving up steep grade, a manual transmission offers the driver steady, although slow, progress, while an automatic transmission may make pulling the grade more difficult.

Drivers of heavy-haul equipment must, like all drivers, be on the lookout for potential safety issues. A heavy-haul driver must be aware of barriers in a wider path than a normal driver. The long trailers require attention to longer distances in sideview barriers as well as wider areas, especially when turning corners. A very important characteristic of a heavy-haul driver is to be a team player. Heavy-haul drivers may be the only person in the truck, but a full team of route-planners, employees loading and securing cargo, pilot-vehicle drivers, and sometimes state or public highway authorities, including law enforcement, all must work together to ensure a safely-delivered load. If a driver sees an underpass and doesn’t believe the load will pass beneath, he should stop and contact the route planner before proceeding. Provided no perceived errors in the route plan are noticed, drivers must follow the route provided and avoid the urge to take shortcuts.

What endorsements are needed for heavy-haul trucking?

While endorsement for heavy-haul drivers are the same for any driver pulling a particular type of cargo, a firm planning a heavy-haul route must coordinate with state or local authorities, often gaining a permit based on information including:

  • Engineering survey of load and route
  • Survey of overhead signals, lines, railroad crossing, bridges, etc.
  • Bridge analysis to determine weight limits and axle configurations
  • Traffic pattern and emergency vehicle routes
  • Diagram of the shipment
  • Explanation of why the route chosen is the best option available
  • Practice runs
  • Approval of escort support or “pilot-vehicle” drivers
  • Schedule that minimizes disruption of traffic
  • Bonding

Is there an up-front financial investment required by Heavy-Haul Drivers?

An up-front financial investment is required to become a Heavy-Haul Driver only if drivers are owner operators specializing in heavy-hauling using their own equipment.

What pay structures apply to Heavy-Haul Drivers?

In heavy-haul driving, the number of miles is not as important as the difficult of the route and time involved in completing delivery. Heavy loads are most often driven at slow speeds. While a dry van driver may cover the planned route in 16 hours of drive time, a heavy-haul driver may need up to double the amount of time. Heavy-haul drivers are often the most skilled and experienced drivers in the trucking industry and are paid a premium for their rare skills. If working for a specialized heavy-haul carrier, these drivers may be paid an hourly wage or salary that is often well-above other drivers; in fact, heavy-haul drivers are among the highest paid truck drivers. The average annual earnings for a heavy haul driver is $56,000.

What is household goods hauling?

When referring to household goods hauling, the term is not necessarily another way of describing “dry van” hauling, although the two have much in common. But “household goods” are those carried in “moving vans” or “moving trailers,” equipment often rented or contracted for people relocating substantial distances from their previous homes. For the purposes of this description, “household goods hauling” refers to the use of tractor-trailer combinations in moving personal belongings from one location to another.

What companies hire Household Goods Drivers?

The most obvious employers for drivers transporting household goods are companies specializing in the fields. Examples include Bekins, Mayflower, Penske, Ryder, and similar national moving companies. In terms of drivers, however, almost all movement of household goods is completed by owner operators pulling a rented trailer with the owner’s name and logo prominently displayed. While small box trucks can be rented by the general public for moving purposes, the large trailers require a truck driven by a CDL holder. Owner operators have carved out a niche in the household goods sector of driving.

What personal characteristics are needed by a Household Goods Driver?

A household goods driver needs to have all the characteristics of a driver of any type of equipment; however, patience, flexibility, friendliness, a willingness to answer question, and respect of both people and the cargo being hauled are magnified. When people hire owner operators to move their earthly possessions cross-country, chances are it is the first time they have had direct interactions with the trucking industry. They will be very concerned about the delivery of goods, and they will ask lots of questions, sometimes the same questions multiple times. Drivers need to keep in mind that relocating residences are among the most stressful life events many people face. A driver’s demeanor can decrease or increase stress levels. If a driver fighting for online recommendation “stars” wants to receive the highest ratings and gain more business, treatment of the client and cargo are of utmost priority.

In some cases, owner operators may only drive the loaded trailer to its destination. In others, the driver will hire a group of laborers to remove a household’s contents and load it into the trailer. Those laborers are the driver’s responsibility, so supervisory skills are a must. If personal property is damaged during the loading or off-loading process, the owner operator is almost always responsible unless, of course, the laborers work for a company specializing in temporary jobs or the moving industry. A smart owner operator will carry insure to cover potential damage and losses.

What endorsements are needed for Household Goods Haulers?

In most cases drivers in the moving industry are like dry-goods haulers. They typically don’t need any endorsements other than those provided to all CDL holders. Occasionally, some hazardous materials may be on board, in which case the (H) Hazardous Materials endorsement will be needed.

Before loading any hazardous materials into a trailer rented by either the owner operator or the client, a driver should ensure the trailer owner has provided written approval. When accidents happen and lawsuits are filed, the driver, trailer owner, laborers (especially when working for a company), and the client may all be named as defendants. If a trailer-renting company prohibits certain materials from being carried, a court may remove the company from the lawsuit. In turn, the owner operator, loading labor provider (if any), and client will each bear a larger burden of liability. Again, owner operators should carry insurance to cover their portion of liability in any such case.

Is there an up-front financial investment required by Household Goods Hauler?

Since owner operators pull most of the household goods moved in the U.S., they will have to own or be making payments on their truck(s). And in cases where equipment is rented, the owner operator may bear the cost of the rental, but it will be passed onto the client. Those who devote 100% of their business to moving household goods may own a couple of trailers they use, so rental costs will not always be necessary.

While the owner operator may invest in all needed equipment, those who can pass on a portion of monthly payments to each client during a given month may be able to cover their payments with profits. It should be kept in mind, however, that owner operators who pass on the costs of their equipment will be at a disadvantage when competing for business. Those owning their equipment outright, will not pass along such expenses. Eliminating the costs from bids or proposals will likely result in lower overall costs to the client. For those making payments on their equipment, the only way to compete is to lower other costs involved in a moving job, the result being lower profits.

Payments might be in the form of a lump sum, or the contract might include terms for down payments or periodic payments based on completion of each step in the moving process.

What pay structures apply to Household Goods Haulers?

Again, because owner operators corner the household moving market, in most cases they will be paid directly by the client. The owner operator will prepare a proposal or contract, the total cost based on all the factors the drivers must consider when planning for the project. Miles driven, any special or valuable cargo, trailer rental costs (if any), an upcharge for equipment maintenance and/or payments, and any cost the owner operator bears for loading and off-loading, and desired profit are just a few of the line items to be considered when preparing a proposal. Annual profits for household goods drivers vary greatly depending on the area of the country, experience, and expected profits.

On some occasions when household goods are being moved due to a company transfer of an employee, the company will pay for moving costs. Companies offering this employee benefits may hire owner operators on a case-by-case basis or have a list of preferred movers they contact when needed. Owner operators may have an agreement, updated as needed, with a company spelling out its charges by line item on a per hour, per mile, cargo weight, and similar estimates. As when working with a private client, owner operators typically will sometimes be paid a lump sum or down payments and/or periodic payments based on completion of specific steps in the moving project.

What is intermodal hauling?

Intermodal hauling is normally applied to drivers hauling cargo that will reach its destination using more than one type of transportation method. While some consider truck routes covering interstates and city streets to be intermodal, the term is more often used when trucks carry cargo to and from clients for just a portion of the cargo’s journey. Railways, shipping along rivers or coastlines, overseas shipping using cargo ships, and shipping via airline may make up other portions of the cargo’s route from supplier to its end destination. Often Intermodal hauling involves international shipments, and the companies coordinate surcharges, tariffs, and other aspects of trade agreements and customs regulations to avoid cargo being held up along its route.

Loading and off-loading intermodal cargo is often completed in congested areas where a driver will encounter many other drivers as well as employees and equipment for the company charged with completing the next phase of transportation. Intermodal drivers may pick up or deliver cargo to railyards, seaports, and specialized air cargo terminals.

What companies hire Intermodal Drivers?

Many carriers, particularly those with hubs or distribution centers at strategic shipping locations, specialize in intermodal cargo, and hire drivers specifically trained for this type of cargo transportation. Drivers will most often live in or near the locations of terminals and distribution centers. A few examples of cities in which intermodal drivers are based are listed below, with the next step in moving incoming or outgoing freight often the primary reason for a company’s strategic locations.

  • Railroad Yards: Chicago, IL, Norfolk, VA; Atlanta, GA; Elkhart, IN; North Platte, NE; Toronto, Ont. Canada; Sacramento, CA; Selkirk, NY; Kansas City & St. Louis, MO; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Seattle, WA; Dallas, TX.
  • Air Terminals: Memphis, TN; Anchorage, AL; Louisville, KY; Chicago, IL; Miami, FL.
  • Riverports: Port of Louisiana (southern end of Mississippi River); Port of St. Louis, MO; Port of Pittsburgh, PA; Port of Baton Rouge, LA.; Port of Huntington (Tristate), West VA; Twin Ports of Duluth, MN. And Superior, WI.
  • Seaports: Port of Houston, TS; Port of New York and New Jersey; Port of Beaumont, TX; Port of Long Beach, CA; Port of Hampton Roads, VA.; Port of New Orleans, LA; Port of Corpus Christi, TX; Port of Mobile, AL; Port of Texas City, TX; Port of Port Arthur, TX.

What personal characteristics are needed by an Intermodal Driver?

Patience. When arriving at a loading terminal, or especially at the off-loading location, long lines of trucks will be awaiting their opportunity to off load their cargo. While forklifts may be used for smaller cargo, in other cases the box of the trailer will be lifted from its axles by crane or the entire trailer, axles and wheels included will be lifted. No repacking of cargo is necessary.

Other attributes of intermodal drivers include a willingness to travel a variety of local, regional, and/or OTR routes; ability to drive 1,200-4,000 miles weekly; the ability to be a team player and accept that the truck driver is but one role of many in a closely coordinated process (an average loaded train takes 280 trucks off the highways); ability to control climate conditions inside a trailer to avoid cargo from getting too hot, cold, wet, dry, or otherwise improper for the cargo.

What endorsements are needed to haul intermodal freight?

A CDL is required of all intermodal freight drivers. Endorsements are depending on the type of cargo being hauled and might include (H) Hazardous Materials, (N) Tanker, or (X) Combination Hazardous Materials and Tanker.

Is there an up-front financial investment required by drivers hauling intermodal freight?

Only if the driver is an owner operator.

What pay structures apply to Intermodal Drivers?

Intermodal drivers may be paid in a combination of structures including per mile plus an hourly rate for the extended periods of waiting to load or offload cargo. The average salary for an intermodal driver is $52,000 annually.

What is livestock truck driving?

As the name implies, livestock truck drivers are those who pull trailers of live animals between locations. Livestock can include cattle, goats, chicken, or other farm animals — even chickens. Also, some drivers working for fish farms or state game and fish agencies may haul tanks of fish, also a form of livestock, to stock lakes or ponds where the fish are catchable or grow into a marketable size and weight.

What companies hire Livestock Truck Drivers?

Meat processing plants offer jobs for livestock truck drivers, do intermodal companies. More frequently, livestock drivers work for commercial ranches and farms, and driving is just one of their duties. Owner Operators may haul livestock as well, although they need specialized skills in working with animals.

What are the Top Ten States producing livestock where majority of Livestock Truck Drivers are employed?

The following are the top ten states producing livestock and where a majority of livestock drivers are employed:

  • Texas
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • California
  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Iowa
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Colorado

What personal characteristics are needed by a Livestock Truck Driver?

The most important difference between drivers of other equipment carry other types of cargo and livestock drivers is the need to be skilled working around animals. Animals are unpredictable and present an “off road” safety concerns for both drivers and others handling them. Quality assurance programs are often required for livestock drivers under state regulations. To ensure the quality assurance standards are met, drivers need to have physical strength, endurance, quick to react, and able to work in adverse weather conditions.

Livestock drivers should be prepared to spend up to 25% of their working hours outside of the truck cab for duties related to caring for livestock and cleaning and sanitizing equipment.

Attention to detail is important as livestock owners are very particular when it comes to who they allow to haul their livelihood to market and the equipment used to haul it.

Livestock haulers also need to be familiar with animal welfare regulations on the states and communities the drive.

What endorsements are needed by Livestock Truck Drivers?

A Class A license is normally the only requirement of a livestock driver.

Is there an up-front financial investment required by Livestock Truck Drivers?

Owner Operators will make financial investments in their trucks. If specializing in livestock, they also may purchase their own equipment.

What pay structures apply to Livestock Truck Drivers?

Payment rates vary based on the size of the cargo, type of livestock, distance traveled and other factors. On average, livestock haulers earn $60,000 – $65,000 annually.

What is “reefer” or “refrigerated” hauling?

Refrigerated trailers are those most often hauling food products that must be kept at low temperatures to prevent perishing. Drivers of reefers may operation within a region, or they may travel cross-country routes in performing their jobs. Driving a reefer, as opposed to a dry van, requires additional skills and responsibilities. Monitoring temperatures within the trailer is a vital task of reefer drivers, as if they vary from a specific range as determined by the product carried. Drivers should be skilled in identifying problems with equipment and making minor repairs as well as calling and waiting for repair help. A reefer driver may make several stops along a route to offload products at grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retail locations.

What companies hire Reefer/Refrigerated Drivers?

Aside from dry vans, reefers may be the most utilized type of equipment in the trucking industry. Major carriers hire reefer drivers, especially those specializing in moving refrigerated products. Likewise, companies processing such product may hire their own drivers. And owner operators with the appropriate skills frequently contract to haul refrigerated products.

What personal characteristics are needed by a Reefer/Refrigerated Driver?

Along with the personality traits need for most driving positions, reefer drivers need to realize and accept the level of responsibility involved in hauling refrigerated products. Depending on the product, a reefer may carry products with a total value of hundreds of thousands of dollars to retailers that rely on a steady supply of refrigerated items to meet consumer demand. Delays in shipments hurt the carriers as well as the retailers.

Reefer drivers must be aware that problems with refrigeration must be acted upon quickly to prevent spoilage. They must accept when problems are beyond their abilities to solve and be willing to call for assistance.

Often, reefer drivers will be responsible for offloading a certain number of boxes or cargo at various locations. A level of strength and endurance is necessary, as is a conscious effort to protect the product from breaking, being crush, or otherwise damaged.

What endorsements are needed to haul refrigerated goods?

Reefer drivers can typically perform their jobs with a CDL appropriate for the truck being driven. No specific endorsements are normally required unless the trailers use atypical refrigeration systems involving hazardous materials.

Is there an up-front financial investment required by drivers hauling refrigerated goods?

As with all owner operators, those driving trucks they own will have expenses. Few owner operators have their own reefer equipment, as the liability of product spoilage would fall on the individual driver.

What pay structures apply to Reefer/Refrigerated Drivers?

When employed by a carrier or company typical per mile wages are often paid, with additional payment for times spent inspecting and maintaining equipment and offloading products at various locations during the day. As of June 2020, the average reefer driver earned almost $59,000 annually.

What is a Tanker/Fuel Transport Driver?

Tanker equipment is designed for hauling various types of liquids and gases ranging from water to gasoline to hydrogen or other chemicals. Tankers include trailer used exclusively for the purpose of hauling liquids and flatbed trailers with tanks secured to the trailer.

What companies hire Tanker Drivers?

As many tankers carry hazardous or flammable materials, the level of liability for carriers hauling tanker equipment is high. Likewise, offloading the liquids or gases hauled requires special skills. With those factors in mind, individual companies producing products hauled in tankers will own a fleet of equipment and hire drivers well-trained in the skills needed.

Tanker drivers are often hired by gasoline or other fuel companies as well as chemical companies. Less hazardous materials hauled in tanker equipment may include water or milk.

What personal characteristics are needed by a Tanker Driver?

A tanker driver must accept an extremely high level of responsibility and exercise equally extreme caution when hauling and offloading liquids or gases. Some chemical hauled in tankers can be environmentally hazardous if released, and other may be deadly – sometime for a considerable distance and requiring evacuations of neighborhoods or business districts. The liability a driver and employer hold when hauling and offloading hazardous materials requires high levels of insurance as well as high premiums. Tanker drivers are not going to be hired if inexperienced or with records of questionable driving behavior.

Tanker drivers must also be detailed in record-keeping. Reading gauges as materials is loaded, hauled, and offloading is important to know how much of a tank’s capacity is delivered to what locations and if gauges indicate leaks. Hazardous material transportation laws can be very strict and it is up to the driver to ensure compliance at all times.

What endorsements are needed by Tanker Drivers?

Tanker drivers are required to hold the (N) Tanker endorsement, and it is advised to obtain the (H) Hazardous Materials endorsement or (X) Hazardous Material-Tanker combination endorsement. With the endorsement tanker drivers will be limited in the liquids they can haul.

Is there an up-front financial investment required by Tanker Drivers?

Only owner operators. Specialized equipment to haul materials typical of tankers requires a high level of liability, skilled maintenance, and ongoing testing. Most often, only the companies owning the equipment have the resources necessary.

What pay structures apply to Tanker Drivers?

While tanker drivers may be paid by the mile or salaried, they command some of the highest wages in the trucking industry due to the level of responsibility and personal danger involved with their work. The average tanker drivers earn $72,000 annually, although drivers specializing in hauling the most dangerous chemicals and gases may earn much higher salaries.

What is expedited driving?

Expedited driving can refer to the delivery of products within a tight time frame or the delivery of a specific type of freight bound for a single destination.

When referring to time-sensitive deliveries, one might consider companies like UPS, Federal Express, DHL, the U.S. Postal Services, and others specializing in getting freight to its destination on-time, every-time. Estimated times don’t apply; the companies involved in this type of shipping guarantee delivery times.

In terms of “specific-destination” expedited driving, the work involves delivering a shipment or multiple shipment of a specific product to a specified location. Routes may as short as from a seaport or rail yard to another destination in a city or as long as a route from Miami to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

What companies hire Expedited Drivers?

Aside from the time-sensitive type of expedited cargo, companies in need of expedited deliveries frequently need them for a single delivery or a series of deliveries within a given time frame. Owner operators are often sought out by these companies as they will dedicate all of their resources to the client until all deliveries are complete. Carriers may also take on expedited contract deliveries.

What personal characteristics are needed by an Expedited Driver?

Expedited cargo drivers must be willing to contract with a company in need of their services on a sporadic basis. Sometimes expedited cargo will be a one-time, one-product delivery while other may be multiple deliveries over a period of weeks or months. It is important that drivers are flexible and build rapport with the companies contracting them.

Expedited drivers must be aware that shipments may be sporadic. The nature of these deliveries may allow drivers to take on other driving duties for periods of time, but they must be ready to accept the expedited work when called upon. Drivers may have to wait several days on standby to work, but at other times they may have so much work they operate non-stop for weeks (within Hours of Service regulations).

What endorsements do expedited cargo drivers need?

Drivers never know what company will request their services at a given time or what type of cargo will be hauled. For that reason, expedited drivers are advised to obtain all endorsements available or practical. Doing so can be the difference between high profits for months at a time and waiting around for another call.

Is there an up-front financial investment required by Expedited Cargo Drivers?

Up front financial commitments are needed by expedited drivers only if they are owner operators.

What pay structures apply to Expedited Drivers?

Payment arrangements may differ depending on whether the driver works for company or is an owner operated. Those working for companies will be paid per mile, per hour, or a salary. Owner operators will sign contracts specifying the amount and terms of payments. In the case an expedited hauling job is ongoing for weeks or months, contracts should be written considering the project as a whole. The goal is to maximize profits, and drivers must understand that expensive involved in one stage of expedited deliveries may be more or less than in another stage. Consider weather issues, characteristics of the driving route, accessing the cargo, and other line items when proposing total charges for a project.

Depending on the number of jobs obtained in a year, expedited cargo drivers can earn an average of $32,000 to $95,000 annually.

Special Category Drivers

Truck drivers and the equipment used to perform their duties come in all shapes and sizes. Within this section, the most common types of equipment drivers haul are discussed. However, some drivers may not want to perform “transportation-related” work, at least to the extent it is related to “18-wheelers.” For those interested in other occupations within the truck driving industry, the choices are many and the type of CDL requirements vary.

Examples of alternative truck driving jobs are listed below. You should research or contact companies or municipalities employing the various types of equipment for more information.

  • Oil field drivers
  • Waste/Refuse Trucks
  • Recyclable Trucks
  • Snowplows
  • Dump Trucks
  • Small capacity cement transporters
  • School Buses
  • Long distance or tour buses
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Tow Trucks
  • Small expedited delivery trucks (UPS, Federal Express, Amazon, U.S. Postal Service, etc.)