Truckers are the link between point A and point B. Day and night, they
transport anything and everything that we need to go about our daily lives:
the food we eat, the furniture we sit on, the books we read and the cars we
Due to a truck's ability to link with rail, sea or air transportation facilities,
truck drivers usually make the initial pickup from factories, consolidate
cargo at terminals for inter-city shipment and deliver goods from terminals
to stores and homes. Indeed, trucks move nearly all goods at some point in
their journey from producers to consumers.
Truckers are responsible for all aspects of their jobs, including the condition
of their equipment, loading and unloading, and the safety and security of
cargo. They obtain special permits and other documents required to transport
cargo on international routes and record information, such as cargo status,
distance traveled and fuel consumption, in a log book or on an onboard computer.
They may drive as part of a team or as a convoy, relay information to a
central dispatcher or transport hazardous products or dangerous goods.
There are basically two types of truck drivers. Short-haul truck drivers
transport materials in a limited area; long-haul truck drivers haul materials
over long distances in large trucks or tractor-trailer rigs.
Local, or short-haul, truck drivers may transport anything from fresh produce
to clothing. They're often responsible for loading and unloading their cargo
as well. Some truckers sell their company's product to local stores.
Long-haul drivers transport a huge variety of products. Loads vary from
trailers carrying new cars to moving trucks full of people's belongings. Transporting
the items can take days or even weeks.
While short-haul drivers may spend a lot of their time on the job loading
and unloading their trucks, long-haul drivers spend the better part of their
Two truckers may be necessary for long runs. The partnership is necessary
so that one trucker can sleep in the space behind the cab while the other
drives. These tag-team trips can last for weeks, usually with the truck stopping
only for necessities such as fuel and food or loading and unloading.
Most truck drivers are expected to know how to maintain their vehicles
so they can make sure everything is running smoothly. They check to see that
the brakes, windshield wipers and lights are working. Truckers are usually
responsible for making minor repairs to their vehicles.
Safety, of course, is important to a trucker's job. When driving, they
must be alert so they can manage the road and steer clear of accidents. Whether
it's performing 30-minute safety checks before they take off or keeping their
cool in busy traffic, safety has to be the number one priority for truckers,
both on the road and off.
"Sometimes, with other drivers, you have to predict what they're going
to do before they do it," says long-haul driver Joe Lubovinsky.
Most truckers work for trucking or wholesale companies like oil companies
and grocery stores. Owner-operators often serve a variety of businesses, or
lease their services and their trucks to a trucking company.
The average workweek for short-haul drivers is about 48 hours. Long-haul
drivers can work even longer hours -- around 60 hours in any seven-day period,
with a well-deserved rest afterwards. Experts estimate that some truckers
spend over 240 days a year away from home. Many describe long-haul trucking
as a lifestyle, not just a job.
"It's a lonely life, but you're so busy driving you don't notice it much,"
says trucker Archie Archibald.
Trucking requires physical strength and stamina; you drive for many hours
at a stretch and lift heavy material when unloading cargo. The driving can
also be stressful. Steering a few tons of metal in bad weather or heavy traffic
is enough to frazzle anyone's nerves!
Good hearing, 20/40 vision -- with or without glasses -- 70 degree field
of vision in each eye, normal use of arms and legs and normal blood pressure
are the minimum physical requirements. People who are color blind or those
with epilepsy or diabetes can't be truck drivers.
Most states allow those who are 18 and older to drive trucks within state
borders, but the U.S. Department of Transportation establishes minimum qualifications
for truckers engaged in interstate commerce. Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Regulations require that drivers must be at least 21 years old and pass a
physical examination once every two years.
Most truckers receive on-the-job training. They must have a driver's license
appropriate to the class of vehicle they are driving. Drivers who deal with
hazardous products or dangerous goods must be certified by their employers.