California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers in San Diego County

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
TaskSkill 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
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

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 is $42,797 annually, or $20.58 hourly. The median wage for Heavy Truck Drivers in San Diego County is $39,812 annually, or $19.14 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$31,693$39,812$49,867
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


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 Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 18 employers in San Diego County, almost all provide medical insurance and vacation, and many provide dental insurance and retirement plan benefits to Heavy Truck Drivers who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance94%0%
Dental Insurance56%0%
Retirement Plan50%0%
Sick Leave39%0%
Vision Insurance39%0%
Life Insurance33%0%
Disability Insurance22%0%
Paid Time Off Bank11%0%
No benefits6%11%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 17 employers surveyed who responded in San Diego County, who provides medical benefits, almost all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and none reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Heavy Truck Drivers.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
Half or more65%0%
Less than Half6%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

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.

In San Diego County, 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 16.8 percent, or 1,100 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Heavy Truck Drivers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
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.

In San Diego County, an average of 110 new job openings per year is expected for Heavy Truck Drivers, plus an additional 104 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 214 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Heavy Truck Drivers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
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 TitlePercent 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%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 18 employers in San Diego County which employ 203 Heavy Truck Drivers. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: All of these firms employ full-time and few employ part-time Heavy Truck Drivers.

About Work Experience:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all require new hires to have prior work experience as Heavy Truck Drivers. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 0%
25 to 60 months 20%
13 to 24 months 47%
1 to 12 months 33%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while some indicate it is easy to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Heavy Truck Drivers.

About Hiring:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most expect the number of Heavy Truck Drivers they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 22%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 78%
Expect Employment to Decline 0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 18 employers surveyed in San Diego County, 56 percent hired Heavy Truck Drivers during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 90 percent filled existing vacancies, 40 percent filled newly created positions, and none filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

 Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

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
  • 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.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Heavy Truck Drivers with links to more information.

Bus Drivers, School or Special ClientGuide
Bus Drivers, Transit and IntercityGuide
Industrial Truck and Tractor OperatorsGuide
Motorboat OperatorsProfile
Rail Yard Engineers, Dinkey Operators, and HostlersProfile
Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch OperatorsProfile
Light Truck or Delivery Services DriversGuide

Other Sources

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.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification53-3032
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers53-3032.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCI
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Truck and Bus Driver/Commercial Vehicle Operator and Instruc490205
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Truck and Bus Driving094750