Good starting pay, fast training, high demand
Watch video: What does a truck driver do?
Look around your home. Chances are, everything you see—from your breakfast cereal to your couch—spent part of its life on a truck. Truck drivers are an essential part of everyday life for every industry from retail to manufacturing. And there’s a shortage of qualified truckers out there. So if you want a job with good starting pay, relatively short training, and the opportunity to hit the open road, then trucking could be for you.

What is Trucking?

Truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. They must have good vision, stay alert, and be skilled drivers (most have a commercial drivers license). While trucking can include a wide range of jobs everything from a local delivery van to a truck specially designed to carry wind turbines up a mountain—here are some of the most common roles:

Job Description Inside Scoop
Freight Hauler Freight haulers transport goods in the large single trailer vehicles you see on the highway.
  • Most common starting role for anyone entering the trucking industry
  • Mostly local or regional deliveries
OTR Truck Driver OTR stands for “over the road,” which refers to drivers who transport materials over long distances.
  • Most common career path for truck drivers
  • Higher than average pay
  • Involves driving long distances days or weeks on the road
Flatbed Driver Flatbed trucks are usually used to transport odd-shaped items, military vehicles, and oversize freight.
  • Job requires skilled driving and knowledge of how to secure different kinds of goods
  • High pay
Tanker Driver Tankers are used to transport liquids.Sometimes these materials are hazardous, so driver must be trained to act quickly in case of emergency.
  • In high demand
  • High pay
LTL Freight Drivers LTL stands for “less than truckload.” This means thatLTL drivers transport smaller shipments.
  • Generally deliver within an urban area or smaller region
  • Expected to unload your own truck
  • Usually no overnight travel required
Source: All Trucking

There are more extreme trucking jobs—like ice road trucking, where you haul freightover frozen waterways (yup, that’s a thing). But these jobs are often dangerous anddifficult to get, though they’re also some of the best paid in the industry.

Why Trucking?

Fast training, no upfront costs

Earning a commercial driver’s license (CDL) takes only a month or two. And, while you can pay thousands of dollars to a trucking school, you don’t have to. Many companies will sponsor you. That means they pay your tuition and, in return, you agree to work for them for a set period (usually a year) at the end. So you graduate with no debt and as table job. Not bad, right?

Good starting pay

“Trucker compensation has been going up 8% to 12% a year.”
- Bob Costello,Chief economist, American Trucking Association

With a commercial drivers license (CDL), a first-year driver can starting driving within a few months and make a full-time income on par with many recent college graduates.

$41,000 a year
Average annual pay for student truck drivers*
$59,504 a year
Average annual pay for entry-level truck drivers*
$50,390 a year
Average starting salary for 2018 grads with a bachelor’s degree
*Source: salary info for 2018
**Source: CNN Business

Earn big money

There aren’t many industries where you can expect a starting salary of $40,000 or more without a college degree. And that’s just the beginning. For commercially licensed truckers, average salaries are $62,752 per year. Median annual wage for a Walmart truck driver is $73,000.

And drivers who specialize can potentially earn much more.

Specialty Challenges Pay
Ice Road Truck Driver Deliver fuel,food, equipment and supplies to across frozen waterways inCanada and Alaska
  • Dark, slippery,sometimes dangerous conditions
  • Many weeks on the road
  • No maintenance stops
$80,000-$120,000(For 3 months work)
OTR Truck Driver OTR stands for “over the road, ”which refers to drivers who transport materials overlong distances.
  • Must be on the road for weeks at a time
  • Be aware of road laws in many different states
  • Keep to a tight schedule
$82,000*(average annual pay)
Hazmat Truck Driver Transport hazardous materials,usually in a tanker.
  • Must understand how to respond in case of an emergency
$55,714(average annual pay**)
Oversize LoadDriver Transport loads that are too big to fit on a flatbed trailer or over 250,000 lb
  • Must know how to secure load properly
  • In some states need extra permits or a police escort
$53,000(average annual pay)

Source is BLS unless otherwise marked
*Source: Truck Driver Salary
**Source: ZipRecruiter

Shortage of qualified drivers

By the end of 2015, the industry was short 48,000 qualified truck drivers. By 2024, that number is projected to reach almost 175,000. That means a lot of available jobs now and in the future.

Chart truck shortage Source: CNN Business

Great lifestyle

Reasons see america illo
See America. Truck drivers spend days or weeks on the road, passing through major cities, small towns, and some of the most impressive landscapes on the continent. See the country from the driver’s seat.
Reasons career growth illo
Career growth potential. In trucking, you can start from zero in acompany-sponsored trucking school and work your way to a six-figure income.Some drivers eventually purchase their own rig and get 3x more per mile to haul freight (though they’re also responsible for expenses like truck maintenance).Other truckers go on to start their own trucking businesses.

Is Trucking right for me?

“I have a lot of friends who joined the industry but are very social–they have to be around their friends every day–and they couldn't handle the lifestyle. I like my solitude. I like being alone. It works well for me.”
- Josh Giesbrecht, Popular Mechanics

Being a truck driver, especially a long haul driver, is not just a job. It’s a lifestyle. You’ll be on the road for days or weeks at a time, often living in a tiny space and spending most of your waking time behind the wheel. Think you’re ready for life on the road? Ask yourself:

  • Are you prepared to be away from home for days or weeks at a time?
  • Can you stay alert for long periods?
  • Do you consume alcohol or drugs (many employers will randomly test on-duty drivers)?
  • Can you sit for long periods?
  • Are you ready to live in a confined space?

Want to know more about what life is like for long haul truckers? Read this Q&A withJosh at Popular Mechanics. Or about A day in the life of a commercial trucker.

How would I get started in Trucking?

There aren’t any formal education requirements to be a truck driver. But if you want to drive a vehicle over 26,000 lb (that includes vehicle, passengers, and cargo) you’ll need a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which means passing written, skill, and vision tests. To prepare, most people attend a private or company-sponsored truck driving school.

Truck driving school Company-sponsored driving school
Cost $1,500-$7,000 $0
Length 3-6 months
  • Learn to maneuver large vehicles on highways or through crowded streets
  • Learn the federal laws and regulations governing interstate truck driving
  • Go on the open jobmarket or purchase your own rig once qualified
  • Attend your choice of community college or private program
  • Some companies likeSchneider will pay or reimburse your tuition in exchange for your agreeing to work for a set period of time
  • Cost
  • Usually no choice of which program you attend
  • Committed to working for one company for a set period with little room to negotiate your salary

Ready to get started? Explore current opportunities.

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More Trucking FAQs

Get a great breakdown of all the skills you’ll learn here.
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