Detailed Guide forHeavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers in California
May also be called: Over the Road Drivers; Line Haul Drivers; Long Haul Truck Drivers; Owner Operators; Flatbed Truck Drivers; and Commercial Trailer Truck Drivers
What Would I Do?
The trucking industry plays a key role in moving raw materials and finished products to and from manufacturers and then on to distribution warehouses and retail stores. Products may be transported by various means of transportation such as air, rail, or ship. However, at some point, trucks haul almost everything during the delivery journey because this method of transportation makes door-to-door delivery possible.
Heavy Truck Drivers operate trucks or vans with a capacity of at least 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. Before leaving the terminal or warehouse, Drivers check the fuel level and oil in their trucks. Drivers make sure their cargo is secure. They report equipment that is inoperable or loaded improperly to the dispatcher. Heavy Truck Drivers transport goods including cars, livestock, and other materials in liquid, loose, or packaged form. Many routes cover long distances from city to city. Some companies use two Drivers on long distance runs. One person drives while the other Driver rests in a berth behind the cab. These long runs may last for many days, with stops only for fuel, food, loading, and unloading.
Long-distance Truck Drivers spend most of their working time behind the wheel, but may load or unload their cargo after arriving at the final destination. This is especially common when Drivers haul specialty cargo, because they may be the only one at the destination familiar with the procedures to handle the materials.
After these Drivers reach their destination or complete their operating shift, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires that they complete reports detailing the trip, the condition of the truck, and the circumstances of any accidents. Drivers are also subject to random alcohol and drug testing while they are on duty.
Modern technology is changing the duties for long-distance Truck Drivers. Many trucks have Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that allow Drivers to easily obtain travel directions, weather reports, and delivery schedule changes from dispatchers. Satellites and GPS are tools that also help dispatchers track a truck’s location, fuel consumption, and engine performance. Some Drivers also work with computerized inventory tracking equipment.
Some of the tools used by Heavy Truck Drivers may include: blocks or pulleys, forklifts, hoists, lifts, snowplow attachments, trailer hitches, wheel loaders, and winches. Some of the technology used in this occupation may include the following software: database user interface and query, inventory management, and route navigation.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Follow appropriate safety procedures when transporting dangerous goods.||Public Safety and Security|
|Check vehicles before driving them to ensure that mechanical, safety, and emergency equipment is in good working order.||Equipment Maintenance|
|Maintain logs of working hours and of vehicle service and repair status, following applicable state and federal regulations.||Time Management|
|Obtain receipts or signatures when loads are delivered, and collect payment for services when required.||Mathematics|
|Maneuver trucks into loading or unloading positions, following signals from loading crew as needed; check that vehicle position is correct and any special loading equipment is properly positioned.||Reaction Time|
|Drive trucks with capacities greater than 3 tons, including tractor-trailer combinations, in order to transport and deliver products, livestock, or other materials.||Transportation|
|Secure cargo for transport, using ropes, blocks, chain, binders, and/or covers.||Static Strength|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Public Safety and Security||Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.|
|Equipment Maintenance||Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.|
|Time Management||Managing one's own time and the time of others.|
|Mathematics||Using mathematics to solve problems.|
|Reaction Time||The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.|
|Transportation||Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.|
|Static Strength||The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.|
Truck Drivers frequently travel at night and on holidays and weekends, to avoid traffic delays and to deliver cargo on time. They normally work the most hours allowed by federal regulations. Long-haul trips may keep Drivers away from home for several days at a time. Some self-employed Drivers who own and operate their trucks may spend most of the year away from home.
Although recent truck model changes in seating, circulation of fresh air, and equipment for seeing improve safety and driving conditions, Drivers may face boredom, loneliness, and fatigue on long trips. Also, vibration, noise, poor weather conditions, and the need to stay sharp and alert can cause physical and mental stress for the Driver. Larger companies generally provide GPS in their trucks. The GPS mapping software assists Drivers by providing the truck’s exact location, along with route maps to the next delivery location. However, GPS may be stressful for Drivers not accustomed to the daily monitoring of their activities.
Many Truck Drivers are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of Heavy Truck Drivers will appeal to those who enjoy working independently and outdoors, providing service to others, working with details, and performing physical activities. The Heavy Truck Drivers occupation satisfies those with realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions; little paperwork; or rarely working closely with others.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
Employers pay long-distance Truck Drivers primarily by the mile. The per-mile rate varies greatly from employer to employer and may depend on the type of cargo they are hauling. Some Drivers are paid a percentage of each load’s revenue. Earnings increase with seniority, miles driven, and the size and type of truck driven.
The median wage in 2016 for Heavy Truck Drivers in California was $42,797 annually, or $20.58 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Generally, Heavy Truck Drivers are provided with medical, dental, disability, and life insurance, and retirement plans. Union Drivers may receive benefits, but they are negotiated by their union representatives.
What is the Job Outlook?
The demand for Heavy Truck Drivers will remain strong because the increased use of rail, air, and ship transportation requires Truck Drivers to pick up and deliver shipments. The trucking industry is beginning to recruit older couples (aged 55 years or older) to meet the hiring demands for long-haul Drivers.
Job opportunities may fluctuate from year to year, because the strength of the economy commands the amount of freight moved by trucks. Employment of Drivers is brisk when the economy is strong. However, layoffs may occur when the economy slows.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Heavy Truck Drivers is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Heavy Truck Drivers are expected to increase by 15.3 percent, or 21,700 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
Heavy Truck Drivers
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 2,170 new job openings per year is expected for Heavy Truck Drivers, plus an additional 2,410 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 4,580 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
Heavy Truck Drivers
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
Heavy Truck Drivers must possess a valid California commercial driver license (Class A) which requires a good driving record and the ability to pass a vision and health examination. Drivers are expected to have good hearing and eyesight, be able to lift heavy objects, and have three to five years of truck driving experience. After obtaining a Class A license, Drivers must submit a medical form/certification every two years. Job seekers must be at least 21 years of age to drive most commercial vehicles in interstate commerce or to transport hazardous materials. Federal regulations require employers to test Drivers for alcohol and drug use as a condition of employment and require random tests while on duty. Drivers must also be able to read and speak English well enough to read road signs, prepare company reports, and communicate with the public and law enforcement officers.
For detailed information about how to obtain a Class A California driver license, contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Many vocational and truck driving schools offer Heavy Truck Driver training.
Some training providers, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, offer Truck Drivers and other transportation professionals training in recognizing potential hazards that Drivers may encounter in day-to-day activities.
Early Career Planning
High school preparation courses in driver training, automotive mechanics, business mathematics, and computer technology are helpful. In addition, taking accounting and business classes are beneficial for those who plan to enter self-employment.
Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs
Training programs are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.
Licensing and Certification
Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
Heavy Truck Drivers may hold a certificate such as Certified Environmental Trainer - Management & Transportation of Hazardous Materials & Waste (CET) Certification. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
- Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Agricultural Power Machinery Operation; Driver; and Truck and Bus Driver/Commercial Vehicle Operation.
- Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Heavy Truck Drivers are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|General Freight Trucking ||29.7%|
|Specialized Freight Trucking ||14.7%|
|Grocery Product Merchant Wholesalers ||5.0%|
|Support Activities, Road Transportation ||4.9%|
|Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting ||3.7%|
Finding a Job
Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Heavy Truck Drivers.
- Brokers-Motor Transportation
- Delivery Service
- Freight Forwarding
- Freight Traffic Consultants
- Trucking-Motor Freight
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
Advancement opportunities for Heavy Truck Drivers are limited. Advancement may entail driving runs that provide increased earnings or preferred schedules and working conditions. Some long-distance Drivers purchase a truck and go into business for themselves. Many of these owner-operator businesses are successful; however, some fail to earn a profit and go out of business. Drivers considering self-employment should prepare by taking courses to develop skills to run their own business.
Below is a list of occupations related to Heavy Truck Drivers with links to more information.
|Bus Drivers, School or Special Client||Guide|
|Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity||Guide|
|Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators||Guide|
|Rail Yard Engineers, Dinkey Operators, and Hostlers||Profile|
|Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators||Profile|
|Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers||Guide|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.