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Heavy Truck Drivers

Heavy truck drivers use a tractor trailer combination or a large straight forward truck to transport and deliver cargo. Heavy truck drivers operate trucks which have a capacity of at least 26,000 gross vehicle weight (GVW). Most of these truck drivers are over-the-road or long-haul drivers and deliver cargo by utilizing inter city routes which may traverse through several states. In addition, some heavy truck drivers load and unload the truck.

Some heavy truck drivers have regular routes or regions where they usually drive, whereas other drivers drive throughout the nation and may enter Canada and Mexico. Long-haul drivers often are asked to plan their own routes. On long runs companies sometimes use two drivers per truck in order to minimize downtime. One driver sleeps in the berth while the other person is driving.

Some sample job titles are over-the-road driver (OTR driver), truck driver, road driver, line haul driver and flat bed truck driver.


  • Maneuver trucks into unloading or loading positions
  • Secure cargo for transport
  • Inspect and maintain vehicle equipment and supplies
  • Report delays, accidents and other types of traffic and transportation situations
  • Adhere to established traffic and transportation procedures and obey traffic laws
  • Verify the contents being transported with shipping papers
  • Provide bills and receipts and collect payments for items delivered or loaded
  • Report vehicle mechanical problems
  • Maintain records of cargo, vehicle logs and billing statements

Job Characteristics

A truck driver job can be tiring due to driving for many hours at a time and loading and unloading cargo. Deciding to be a long-haul driver is a major lifestyle choice since drivers can be a way from home for days or weeks at a time. They usually spend a lot of time alone. Truck drivers often drive during nighttime, holidays and weekends. Local truck drivers often work more than 50 hours per week.

Truck drivers involved in interstate commerce have their work hours regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor. They are required to document their time in a log which indicates their mileage and working hours for each day.

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted a 13 percent employment growth for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers from 2008 to 2018 which is about as fast as average for all occupations. The demand for truck drivers significantly depends on the performance of the economy. In addition, the median hourly wage for heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers in 2008 was $17.92.

Many long haul truck drivers are paid according to the amount of miles they drive and some drivers receive bonuses if they save the company some money. Truck drivers can move up to jobs that provide higher earnings, better working conditions or preferred schedules. Long-haul truck drivers typically seek new contracts that provide higher pay per mile or higher bonuses. Some long-haul truck drivers, known as owner-operators, buy or lease a truck and have their own business. Owner-operators either lease their services and trucks to a trucking company or independently serve a variety of companies.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Individuals seeking to drive heavy trucks, tractor trailers, or large straight trucks are required to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). Those driving vehicles transporting hazardous materials or oversize loads are required to obtain a commercial driver's license and a special endorsement regardless of truck capacity. Many private and public vocational schools provide training for a commercial driver's license.

In order to qualify for a CDL, candidates need to have a clean driving record, pass written tests regarding rules and regulations and demonstrates they are able to safely operate commercial trucks. In many states, 18 year olds are allowed to drive trucks within the state's borders, however drivers need to be at least 21 years old to cross state lines or to acquire special endorsements. Drivers are also required by regulations to pass a physical examination every two years.

Most truck driver candidates take driver-training classes at a vocational school in order to be prepared for CDL testing. Driver training courses show students how to maneuver large trucks in highway traffic and on crowded streets. Students are also trained to properly inspect trucks and freight to ensure they comply with regulations.

In some states, prospective drivers must complete a training course in basic truck driving before they are allowed to get a commercial driver's license. Some companies have similar requirements. Employers typically provide a training program for new truck drivers who have acquired their commercial driver's license.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute certifies driver-training courses provided by truck training schools that meet industry standards and Federal Highway Administration guidelines for the training of tractor-trailer drivers.

The standards for truck drivers are governed by Federal and State regulations. Drivers are required to comply with all Federal regulations and any State regulations that are in excess of Federal requirements when under a particular state's jurisdiction. Truck driver's are required to have a license issued by the state where they live.


Major Employers

The top employers are trucking companies, retail companies, manufacturing firms and wholesale companies.

Schools for Heavy Truck Drivers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Heavy Truck Drivers Skills

Below are the skills needed to be heavy truck drivers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Operation and Control3.883.5
Operation Monitoring3.753.12
Time Management3.123
Critical Thinking33

Heavy Truck Drivers Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be heavy truck drivers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Control Precision44
Far Vision43.75
Multilimb Coordination3.883.88
Near Vision3.883.25
Reaction Time3.883.88

Heavy Truck Drivers Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be heavy truck drivers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Public Safety and Security3.733.49
Customer and Personal Service3.694.12
English Language3.473.29

Heavy Truck Drivers Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being heavy truck drivers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment4.584.97
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material4.34.41
Getting Information4.234.27
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events3.874.25
Controlling Machines and Processes3.84.74

Heavy Truck Drivers Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being heavy truck drivers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work StyleImportance
Self Control3.96
Attention to Detail3.92
Stress Tolerance3.84

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Heavy Truck Drivers

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Heavy Truck Drivers jobs , as of 2019

Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington60,900$48,600
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim46,160$47,890
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land41,960$45,670
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell36,960$47,060
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario25,300$49,770
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach24,730$41,590

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Heavy Truck Drivers

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to heavy truck drivers

Source : 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 24.3 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Heavy Truck Drivers.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.