Truck Driving as a Profession

As a start, TheTrucker.com’s History of the Trucking Industry provides an overview of the history and the impact of the Trucking Industry, which provides a start in understanding the importance of Truck Driving as a 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?

It’s hard to define a “typical” truck driver, 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.

If you’re interested in learning about the personality types and even taking a test to find out how you fit in, there are many free resources available online to assess this. You may find the results don’t match what you think about yourself. In any event, they will be enlightening!

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

For additional insight on what it takes to become a good truck driver, watch this video.

Who can become a professional 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. See also Requirements to get Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP).

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:

  • FMCSA and state requirements to obtain a CDL
  • Passing CDL written and skills tests
  • Passing a medical exam conducted by a FMCSA-approved physician with a focus on FMCSA 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 FMCSA-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 professional 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.

What are the current demographics of professional truck drivers?

Demographics of truck drivers are ever-changing. For the most recent information, it is suggested you visit https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/06/america-keeps-on-trucking.html.

Is there anyone who cannot become a professional truck driver?

In general, anyone who cannot meet FMCSA 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 FMCSA 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 employer’s requirements before applying.

What is the typical workday like for a professional truck driver?

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

For most jobs, even for bankers, the “typical” workday 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.

What are top 5 reasons to become a professional truck driver?

To hear the top 5 reasons to consider being a profession truck driver, watch this video.

Is the lifestyle of a professional truck driver for you?

To hear if the trucking life is for you, watch this video to help you decide.

Will autonomous driving trucks cost CDL drivers their jobs?

To hear if autonomous driving trucks will eventually cost CDL drivers their jobs, watch this video.