My Occupation: Truck Driver
Merrian Webster's Dictionary defines the word trucker as; 1: one whose business is
transporting goods by truck 2: a truck driver. Truckers were 2,900,000 strong in 1994
(Ouellet 11). Most people really do not think about it, but almost everything that we will
use today was at one time or another on a truck. People even say that if the trucks stopped
making deliveries to New York City the city would run out of food and raw materials in
three days. Whether this is exaggerated or not, it shows the importance of the trucking
industry and the truck driver to modern life.
Often times distorted images and ideas are placed into people's heads. This can be
said as far as the image of the truck driver is concerned. Many people think of a macho,
tattooed, beer guzzling, social guy when they think of a truck driver. That balloon filled
image can be popped. The average truck driver is nothing like the Hollywood truck driver.
Most truck drivers are just average people. They are not big macho guys that are full of
tattoos. State police and troopers are also cutting down on drunk driving, and often times
truck drivers are pulled over and checked over. There is no social life either. To a driver,
business comes first. That means that social life comes second on the priority list. There is
no joining the town baseball league, and a truck driver may even miss some birthdays.
With this in mind it is easy to see why fewer then six out of ten new truck drivers last
more than a month (Scharnberg 15-17).
Another image people often have of a truck driver is that they are not extremely
intelligent. This is another false seed that has been planted. Most truck drivers have at
least graduated high school, and many also hold other college degrees. To become a
trucker there are also specific truck driving bridges that need to be crossed. Most carriers
want their drivers to be experienced. One can go about this two ways. The first way was
common around twenty years ago. A future driver was hired by a more experienced
driver. There he would learn how to drive, take care of the truck, write reports, and
handle cargo. This method of getting experience is very rare in today's trucking world
The more common way for one to get experience in truck driving is to go to truck
driving school. Often times school will last for six months, and cost several thousand
dollars (Scharnberg 33). An advantage to this is that most truck schools have deals with
carriers. A driver can usually get a job straight out of school with that carrier if they do a
good job. When picking a school one should make sure that they will be able to get a job
when they graduate. They should also talk with students who graduated, and did not
graduate, to find out what the school was like (Ouellet 41-42).
Most of the carriers in the trucking industry want educated, experienced drivers
for several reasons. The main reason is that insurance is expensive. The reason for this
expense is that the carriers have to insure $100,000 trucking rigs, and $40,000 trailers.
This does not even include the insurance on goods which could be worth up to $500,000.
(Scharnberg 67) When all of this comes into play it is obvious why most carriers want
their drivers to be at least 21, maybe 23 or 25 years of age (Marston 38).
Along with the requirements that a certain carrier has there are also several
requirements that the United States of America has. If a prospected driver has had a
moving violation or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in the past year they cannot legally
become a truck driver (Scharnberg 72). Also, if a person has epilepsy, diabetes controlled
by insulin and/or vision worse then 20/40 with or without glasses they cannot become a
truck driver. If a person meets with all of these qualifications there is still an exam that
must be passed. This is the DOT Exam, or Department of Transportation Exam (Bradley
There are two main parts to the DOT Exam. The first part is a written exam of
about four pages (Ouellet 114). The person taking the exam is asked questions dealing
with laws and rules concerning truck driving. After someone passes this they are given a
certification card. The second part of the exam is the physical exam. This part is fairly
simple and checks a person's health to make sure they are physically fit. After this part of
the exam the person is given another certification card. These cards are placed in the
drivers manual and are often asked for at inspection and weigh stations (Scharnberg 84-
Along with having these certification cards at inspection stations a driver must also
have his/her state permits and rights at hand. The system of rights and permits is rather
complicated. A truck has a set of base plates from the state it is working out of. Once the
truck leaves its base plate state it needs permits, licenses, and authorities from the new
states it is traveling in (Gilliland 222). A driver can either purchase a permit that will allow
him/her to be in the foreign state for a certain amount of time, or a permanent permit
which will allow him/her to pass freely into, and out of that state. The state fees for these
permits depends on the state that is being discussed (Bradley 67). These rules also apply
for the provinces of Canada (Marston 109).
Having all of these items in order is a big responsibility for a driver. There are also
other responsibilities of a driver. They often have to load and unload their own cargo.
That means that the driver is responsible for what goes on the truck and what comes off it.
If a driver signs for ten boxes of pool covers, but when he reaches his destination there are
only seven boxes of pool covers, the expense of the three missing boxes is coming out of
that driver's pocket (Scharnberg 42). A driver also has much paper work to do for his/her
carrier after every trip. A driver must give a detailed report about the trip, condition of the
truck, and any accidents it was in (Ouellet 123).
When a driver has his/her papers in on time they may receive a bonus. Bonuses in
the trucking industry differ from bonuses in other industries. The driver is usually given
their bonuses in vacation days instead of with money, although some companies will
choose to give money. There are also bonuses for safety, and fuel conservation (Gilliland
Drivers are usually paid by the mile, and in 1994 they earned between $0.25 and
$0.27 per mile. In hour payment terms this came out to around $15.97 an hour plus
overtime. All in all, the average driver for 1994 earned between $25,280 and $45,280.
This is before taking out $5,280 for daily living expenses and taxes. Drivers in the
Northeast and the West had the highest salaries (Ouellet 133-134).
Since drivers are paid by the mile often times a driver would try to find the longest
route to his/her destination. This idea was soon foiled by the Household Mover's Mileage
Guide. In the Guide there is a distance table that gives a set amount of miles between two
locations (Scharnberg 47).
There are other types of drivers besides regular drivers that work for a carrier.
With these different drivers come different payment methods. A Percentage Compensation
Driver gets a percentage of what is made on the load of the truck. This is often around 15-
20% of what the carrier gets for the load. Often the driver is not given many bonuses.
Another disadvantage is that if someone is driving around with an empty trailer they are
not getting any money for it, and in a sense are doing it for free (Scharnberg 49).
The other type of driver is the Contract Drivers. These drivers are responsible for
personal insurance, fuel, hired labor, and road expenses, such as tolls. These drivers will
get around 35% of the load payment for what they are carrying. They are attached to the
carrier because they are using the carrier's rig, and the carrier's customers. The carrier
often will provide maintenance for the rig if required (Gilliland 283).
If one wants to become an independent owner/operator there are many more
responsibilities. The driver is responsible for personal insurance, fuel, hired labor, road
expenses, and maintenance. They also have to get their own customers and usually must
have a full truck (Ouellet 139). To make it in the industry the average independent
operator will need to earn around $0.78 per actual mile or around $0.92 per book mile
There are many different types of truck driving depending on the specific industry
being considered. The most common type of truck driving is freight hauling, or
commodity freight hauling. Often times the truck is packed to the limit, and there are tight
deadlines to be met (Bradley 123). The second most common type of truck driving is
refrigerated transport. This deals with transporting perishables, which are almost always
foods. The driver has more responsibility in this field because there is a diesel cooling unit
that needs to be monitored and maintained like the truck engine (Ouellet 147). There are
also temperature controls, and oil and fuel coolant levels that need to be maintained. In
both of these cases the driver often has to load and unload the cargo him/herself (Marston
In flatbed operations the driver often times does not load and unload the cargo
since it is usually construction equipment. This may seen like a good deal, except the
driver has to attach a tarp to his load. This tarp can weigh up to 200 pounds. Many drivers
can be seen at sites crawling all over the flatbed attaching and taking off the tarp. A great
deal of time and energy is spent doing this (Scharnberg 56).
The household moving industry has many differences from the other trucking
industries. These drivers have popular jobs during the summer since most parents like to
move while there children are out of school. The drivers often sit around a lot waiting for
their goods to be ready. They might even help each other out so they can finish faster. The
drivers in this industry have to pack their trailers to the limit since a half empty trailer is
only worth that much (Marston 137).
A special type of truck driving is liquid bulk operations. With this there is a whole
new set of DOT requirements. The driver has to be able to engage a pump system,
measure tank volume, and be able to drain and clean a tank. The load in the truck is
usually top heavy and liquid often moves around. This can make the drive difficult and
uneasy (Gilliland 296).
A totally different type of truck driver is the local delivery driver. These drivers
usually work in the bigger cities of the world. Because of the road conditions the truck
driven is much smaller then one of the big rigs (Scharnberg 57). With this line of truck
driving there is a routine schedule and many more deliveries. In most cases there is a union
involved and the older drivers will get more jobs. These drivers also get a bigger social
life. Since they have a routine schedule they know when they will be home with a regular
nine to five day (Ouellet 151).
As the economy grows there will be more of a demand for the truck driver, and his
ability to take goods all over the country. The job outlook for the truck driver is very
promising as the year 2005 rolls around. The demand for the truck driver will grow a little
more than the average job position. As the economy grows there will be more of a demand
for the truck driver to take goods all over the country (Scharnberg 18).
The trucking industry is very important to life. Most people do not think of the
importance of the truck driver and his/her job. The driver has many responsibilities to
think about. A trucker is responsible for their cargo, having the right permits, and many
other items. They are also responsible for the safety of themselves and all the people on
the world's highways and byways.
I found the occupation of a truck driver to be a very interesting industry. I liked
almost everything I found out. The only major problem I had was that there was not a lot
of money involved in the occupation. I hope as the demand for truck drivers increases
better wages will come along, and I am able to pursue my career as a truck driver.
Scharnberg, Ken. Opportunities in Trucking Careers. Illinois: NTC Publishing Group,
Bradley, Elliot. Trucks and Trucking. New York: Crescent Books, 1979.
Gilliland, Ken. Trucking : A Truck Driver's Training Handbook. California: Career Pub.,
Marston, Hope Irvin. Trucks, trucking, and you. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1978.
Ouellet, Lawrence J. Pedal to the Metal : The Work Lives of Truckers. Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1994.
My Occupation: Truck Driver
I. Introduction: The importance of truck drivers to the people of the world.
II. The Truck Driver
1. School or first hand
2. Department of Transportation Exam
1. Rights and permits
A. Payment as a driver for a company
B. Percentage Compensation Driver
C. Contract Driver
D. Independent Owner/Operator
IV. Different fields of Truck Driving
V. Job Outlook for Truck Drivers
VI. The importance of truck drivers and the occupations characteristics
VII. Conclusion: My feelings on pursuing a career as a truck driver