Concrete Cowboys, Driving the Big Rigs

Concrete Cowboys, Driving the Big Rigs

In the USA, there is a solid-paying profession that attracts over 3 million people, people of all sexes and ages and backgrounds, who have one thing in common— they crave a life of daily non-routine, with no one looking over their shoulder.

There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive.-B. C. Forbes

These are people who crave new sights daily, new vistas. They drive tens of thousands of miles and their office is at the controls of a giant ultramodern million-dollar machine.

Behind their seat is a fully-equipped lounge and bedroom, with all comforts. They live self-contained. And many make very very good money.

Yes… they are truck drivers. Truckers. Long-haulers. Concrete Cowboys.

Like I said, in the USA, truck drivers and driver/sales workers hold over 3 million jobs. The truck transportation industry is HUGE— it employed 27 percent of all truck drivers and driver/sales workers in the United States. And another 26 percent worked for companies engaged in wholesale or retail trade.

Sounds like maybe a good fit for you? So, what about training, qualifications, and the big one— advancement?

Education and training for a long-haul driver, as for for any walk of life, is key to success both finding employment, and in making a living.

Most prospective truck drivers take driver-training courses at a technical or vocational school to prepare for CDL testing.

What is CDL? It’s what separates the big rig drivers, who make the best money, from all the rest.

Truckers, who operate trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds, or who operate a vehicle carrying hazardous materials or oversized loads, need a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Training for the CDL is offered by many private and public vocational-technical schools. (Only a standard driver’s license is required to drive smaller trucks.) Driver-training courses teach students how to maneuver the big rigs on crowded streets and in highway traffic. These courses also train new drivers how to properly inspect trucks and freight for compliance with regulations.

Some States require prospective drivers to complete a training course in basic truck driving before getting their CDL. Some companies have similar requirements. (People interested in attending a driving school should check with local trucking companies to make sure the school’s training is acceptable. )

Truck Interrior

The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) certifies driver-training courses— at truck driver training schools that meet industry standards and Federal Highway Administration guidelines, for training tractor-trailer drivers.

Employers usually have training programs for new drivers who have already earned their CDL. This is often informal and may consist of only a few hours of instruction from an experienced driver. Some companies give 1 to 2 days of classroom instruction covering general duties, the operation and loading of a truck, company policies, and the preparation of delivery forms and company records.

New drivers may also ride with and observe experienced drivers before getting their own assignments. Drivers receive additional training to drive special types of trucks or handle hazardous materials. Driver/sales workers receive training on the various types of products their company carries so that they can effectively answer questions about the products and more easily market them to their customers.

Licensure is a key requirement, and one that your school of choice will help guide you through.

Federal and State regulations govern the qualifications and standards for truck drivers. Drivers must comply with all Federal regulations and any State regulations that are in excess of those Federal requirements when under that State’s jurisdiction.

Truck drivers must have a driver’s license issued by the State in which they live. Drivers of trucks with a GVW of 26,001 pounds or more—including most tractor-trailers, as well as bigger straight trucks—must obtain a CDL. All drivers who operate trucks transporting hazardous materials or oversized loads must obtain a CDL and a special endorsement, regardless of truck capacity.

In order to receive the hazardous materials endorsement, a driver must be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal background check by the Transportation Security Administration. In many States, a regular driver’s license is sufficient for driving light trucks and vans.

To qualify for a CDL, applicants must have clean driving records, pass written tests on rules and regulations, and demonstrate that they can operate commercial trucks safely. A national database permanently records all driving violations committed by those with a CDL, and issuing authorities reject applicants who have suspended or revoked licenses in other States. Licensed drivers must accompany trainees until they get their own CDLs. A person may not hold more than one driver’s license at a time and must surrender any other licenses when issued a CDL. Information on how to apply for a CDL may be obtained from State motor vehicle administrations.

Although many States allow 18 year-olds to drive trucks within their borders, a driver must be at least 21 years of age to cross State lines or get special endorsements. Regulations also require drivers to pass a physical examination every 2 years. Physical qualifications include good hearing, at least 20/40 vision with glasses or corrective lenses, and a 70-degree field of vision in each eye. They must also be able to distinguish between colors on traffic lights. Drivers must also have normal use of arms and legs and normal blood pressure. People with epilepsy or diabetes controlled by insulin are not permitted to be interstate truck drivers.

Other qualifications may be necessary, and again, your school of choice, once you’ve qualified with the needed training, can help you thread the needle.

Federal regulations require employers to test their drivers for alcohol and drug use as a condition of employment and require periodic random tests of the drivers while they are on duty. Drivers may not use any controlled substances, unless prescribed by a licensed physician. A driver must not have been convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle or a crime involving drugs, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, refusing to submit to an alcohol test required by a State or its implied consent laws or regulations, leaving the scene of a crime, or causing a fatality through negligent operation of a motor vehicle. All drivers must be able to read and speak English well enough to read road signs, prepare reports, and communicate with law enforcement officers and the public.

One thing to remember is that many trucking companies have higher standards than those required by Federal and State regulations. For example, firms often require that drivers be at least 22 years old, be able to lift heavy objects, and have driven trucks for 3 to 5 years. Big firms prefer at least a high school graduate, or higher, and require annual physical examinations.

In the US, about 56 percent are heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers; 31 percent are light or delivery services truck drivers; and 13 percent are driver/sales workers.

Projections data from the National Employment Matrix

Yes, in the USA alone, and all over the globe, trucking is a huge business with big opportunities.

Truck drivers can advance to jobs that provide higher earnings, preferred schedules, or better working conditions. Long-haul truck drivers primarily look for new contracts that offer better pay per mile or higher bonuses.

Because companies entrust drivers with millions of dollars worth of equipment and freight, drivers who have a long record of safe driving earn far more than new drivers. Local truck drivers may advance to driving heavy or specialized trucks, or transfer to long-distance truck driving.

You may consider business courses as well, and continue your education— smart ambitious truck drivers can advance to dispatcher or even manager.

If this life is cut out for you, find the right truck driving school, and become your dream— as always, educate, educate, educate!

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