October 10, 2008

Spotlight on Long Haul Truck Driving Jobs

According to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry is experiencing a driver shortage to the tune of 20,000 truckers.

If the present trend continues, the gap will only grow further. Over the next ten years, shipping is projected to grow 71.2 percent, which means the shortage of drivers will grow to 539,000.  The greatest shortage will be in long-haul drivers.  This week’s spotlight therefore is taking a look at the highly in-demand profession of long-haul trucking.

What is Long-Haul Trucking
As the name implies, long-haul drivers transport goods in rigs, tankers or tractor trailers over hundreds or thousands of miles. Long-haul drivers will stop for rests every few hours, but typically do most of their driving at night when traffic is lighter. There is a set amount of paperwork required in the job, most of it mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as well as the manufacturer.
Private Carrier Firms vs. Owner-Operated
Long-haul drivers typically work for one of two different kinds of firms. Large enough companies have their own fleet of trucks and other companies subcontract large trucking firms.  Both of these options are known as private carrier firms.  Owner-operated truckers own their own trucks and subcontract their services to companies with cargo to haul.

Education and Training
While a specialized degree or certification is not necessarily required for long-haul drivers, you might be able to get a leg up on your competition by attending a course in truck driving.  A growing number of technical and community colleges offer these kinds of courses.  Many drivers also have experience and/or specialized training in mechanics.

Most long-haul drivers have experience driving for local truck companies.  Once hired for long-hauls, they may be mentored from more experienced drivers for a brief "probationary" period before being qualified for solo long-haul routes.

Requirements for Long-Haul Drivers
As per the Department of Transportation, long-haul drivers must be at least 21-years old and pass a standard physical examination (which, among other things, tests their vision and hearing). Individual companies will often have more stringent standards; most, for example, now have an age cut-off of 25 years. 

Drivers also have to pass state-issued commercial driver license and Department of Transportation safety regulation tests.

Job Conditions
As mentioned above, most long-haul drivers drive at night, when traffic is at a minimum.  In addition, they can be behind the wheel up to sixty hours a week, per the Department of Transportation.

The median salary for long-haul, tractor-trailer drivers is $16.11/hour. Many drivers start out making $50,000/year. The highest paid drivers are earning more than $24/hour. In addition, employees of private carrier firms may earn benefits like health insurance and paid vacations.

If sitting behind a desk and working in a cubicle sounds like your personal definition of torture, then a career in long-haul truck driving might be especially appealing for you.  Drivers typically have a lot of autonomy and little direct supervision.

There are also a growing number of opportunities for women, immigrants and young people just starting out in their career.

Benefits to Owner-Operated Driving
While working for a private carrier firm is a popular choice about drivers, a growing number of long-haulers are choosing to go the owner-operated route, which gives them more flexibility and greater earning potential.  Some industry associations suggest that owner-operators can earn up to $220,000 a year — more than 4 times the average salary of a private carrier driver. There are a few downsides to owner-operated, however: uncertainty in routes, which equals an uncertain monthly income, the high cost of fuel (which cuts into earnings), and the need to manage the business side of your job while also driving your routes.

If you want to learn more about a career in truck driving, long-haul or local, private carrier or owner-operated, check out JobMonkey’s section on Truck Driving.


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