Truck drivers, also known as over-the-road or semi drivers, transport cargo to destinations throughout the U.S. No college degree is needed to become a truck driver. In fact, according to O*Net Online, only 53 percent of the nation’s drivers were high school graduates, 23 percent had earned some college credits without attaining a degree and 22 percent did not complete their high school diplomas. Although truck drivers must be able to read and write, other qualities are more important than educational level. (See References 1, 2 and 3)
Some drivers learn to handle the big rigs at private truck-driving schools or through apprenticeships, employer training or a combination of methods. The requirements vary by employer, but most prefer drivers with a minimum of two years of relevant experience, such as working as a bus or delivery van driver (See References 1 and 3).
About the CDL
Drivers must have a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, which typically involves both a written test and a driving test in an actual truck although state laws vary. Interstate truckers are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and drivers can lose their CDL if they are convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohols, if they receive a felony conviction that involves a vehicle or if they have multiple accidents or receive numerous tickets. (See References 1, 2 and 3)
Companies want drivers who can deliver their loads on time, undamaged and without acquiring citations or having accidents. As lapses can also cost drivers their commercial licenses, they need to be safety conscious at all times. Before starting a trip, and at intervals throughout, drivers need to inspect their trucks and loads to make sure they can carry the load safely. They must obey all traffic laws, and that includes knowing which roads are closed to truck traffic. Truckers must be good drivers, constantly assessing the traffic around them and road conditions, then making any necessary adjustments. They need quick reflexes, normal vision, good coordination and adequate hearing. Because the DOT can bar drivers with medical problems that could impact their ability to drive safely, truckers need to be healthy. Drivers need to be dependable, delivering their loads on time as customers might incur additional costs for late deliveries. Federal law requires drivers to keep a log of their driving and sleep time, so drivers must pay attention to details to avoid fines. Some companies also prefer drivers who can make minor mechanical repairs en route to their destinations should the need arise (See References 1, 2 and 3).
Most truckers spend a great deal of time away from home and their families. At times, they must drive in congested traffic or during inclement weather. They are typically on a timetable. All of these factors can generate stress, so drivers need the ability to cope with life on the road. Drivers need self-control when dealing with dangerous drivers or irate customers. Much of their time is spent alone, so drivers need to be able to function independently. Mechanical problems, road closings or delivery changes can require a driver to adapt to alterations in plans, so truckers need a certain amount of flexibility in their nature (See References 1, 2 and 3).
Earnings and Job Outlook
In 2012, truckers averaged $40,360 annually, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ten percent earned more than $58,910. Drivers in Alaska averaged the most, $51,280 per year. As far as job outlook goes, the BLS predicted a 21-percent growth rate for truckers during the decade ending in 2020 (See References 4 and 5).