Sooner or later, just about everything we buy, everything we see in stores, must be transported by truck. Drivers classified as “heavy truck” or “tractor-trailer” operators drive trucks with a capacity of at least 26,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). Transporting everything from food, clothing and toys to livestock, cars and heavy machinery, more than 1.5 million people are employed as tractor trailer truck drivers in this country (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Before each trip, truck drivers are responsible for checking fuel and oil levels; inspecting headlights, windshield wipers, and brakes; checking fluid levels; and making sure they have emergency tools on board such as flares, a fire extinguisher, toolbox, first aid kit, and certain spare parts. Prior to leaving the terminal or warehouse, truck drivers make sure their cargo is properly loaded and secured, and they report any problems to their dispatcher.
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that truck drivers keep a log of their activities, reporting any accidents or changes to the condition of their truck or cargo. Depending on the company, truck drivers can work within one city, drive to and from the same city on a routine basis, drive to a selection of cities, or drive cross-country on a scheduled route. On multi-day routes, some companies assign two drivers to one truck, so one can sleep in a space behind the cab while the other drives. Once trucks arrive at their destinations, drivers are often responsible for either supervising or assisting as their cargo is unloaded.
Truck driving is more than sitting behind the wheel. Drivers must be able to easily get in and out of their truck, open and close doors, carry loads, and inspect all parts of the vehicle. Many truck driving schools and trucking companies require a pre-work physical assessment test:
- General health, weight, height
- Squat test, 10 reps – ability needed to perform pre-trip inspections
- Front carry, 30 lbs and 60 lbs., 30 feet – ability needed when unloading trailer
- Floor to head lift, 30 lbs. – ability to lift your gear into cab
- Crouching under 40-inch surface, 2 reps for 20 seconds – simulates pre- and post-trip safety checks under truck
- Step-step-kneel-kneel motion – to climb into and out of trailer
- Horizontal pull, 100 lbs. – ability to raise or lower landing gear, slide tandem, open and close doors of trailer
What Kind Of Hours Will You Work?
For long-distance, interstate routes, the Department of Transportation has established a list of regulations that limit the number of hours truck drivers can spend on the road, such as only driving 11 hours at a stretch before taking 10 hours off.
Truck drivers are required to log their hours in a logbook. Drivers who are paid by the mile rather than by the hour will often drive at night or on holidays and weekends to avoid heaviest traffic.