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Heavy Truck Driver Duties and Responsibilities

A typical workday varies depending on the route, but all heavy truck drivers possess commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and are responsible for efficiently and effectively transporting materials from one location to another. Based on listings we analyzed, core duties include:

Transport Heavy Loads Heavy truck drivers transport heavy loads within their assigned route or territory in compliance with rules and regulations for transporting materials. They determine whether their vehicle complies with weight and height limits on bridges and tunnels and change their plans if needed.

Maintain Records Heavy truck drivers maintain excellent records of materials picked up and delivered, along with miles driven, tolls paid, and other activities while on the road. For long-haul drivers, this also includes maintaining records of stops and keeping detailed records of miles driven, since heavy truck drivers are frequently paid on a per-mile basis. Heavy truck drivers also provide proof of delivery, entering information into computer systems.

Plan Routes and Schedules Heavy truck drivers also need to plan routes and driving schedules, particularly for long-haul trips. In this aspect of the role, heavy truck drivers may use GPS technology to outline routes and determine the number of miles they can cover in a day, and may also need to consider factors such as weight limits, hazardous materials regulations, weather, and traffic. A heavy truck driver also needs some level of familiarity with their route so they can make adjustments while driving.

Conduct Vehicle Inspections and Maintenance In this role, heavy truck drivers are also responsible for inspecting and maintaining their vehicles before driving, while on the road, and after making deliveries. They may also be responsible for regular maintenance, inspections, and emergency repairs. Heavy truck drivers also need to report any accidents or delays to their supervisors and keep detailed records of vehicle maintenance, inspections, and repairs to ensure that their trucks remain safe and legal to drive.

Coordinate Activities with Dispatchers Heavy truck drivers coordinate with dispatchers and other logistics personnel while driving their routes. They frequently provide updates on delivery timelines, routes, miles driven, and breaks taken. Frequently, heavy truck drivers make a delivery and a pickup at the same location, logging this information and updating dispatchers to ensure that delivery schedules and timelines are maintained.


Heavy Truck Driver Skills and Qualifications

Heavy truck drivers are excellent drivers, able to safely operate their trucks to deliver loads that weigh several tons. Companies hire candidates who have CDL licenses, along with the following skills:

  • Driving and vehicle operation – a heavy truck driver safely operates and maneuvers a truck carrying loads weighing more than three tons; a clean driving record, the ability to drive for hours, and excellent driving skills are necessary
  • Route logistics – heavy truck drivers are comfortable planning and altering routes to make deliveries and pickups efficiently and according to schedule
  • Vehicle maintenance – heavy truck drivers have a solid grasp on vehicle inspection and maintenance, ensuring their trucks remain safe and efficient while conducting deliveries
  • Time management – managing a schedule is important for heavy truck drivers, as well as ensuring that hours worked are within limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • Verbal communication – heavy truck drivers should be able to effectively communicate with dispatchers, logistics personnel, and team members at pickup and delivery locations

Heavy Truck Driver Education and Training

Heavy truck drivers tend to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Many also attend truck driving schools to learn the basics of maneuvering and operating tractor trailers. This position requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which consists of passing a written examination and driving test.


Heavy Truck Driver Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy truck drivers earned a median yearly wage of $41,340 as of May 2016. The highest-paid 10 percent made over $63,140, while the lowest-paid earned $26,920. Wages for heavy truck drivers can vary because of many factors, including routes driven, pay per mile, or whether truck drivers were recognized as employees or independent contractors. Employment for heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers is expected to grow at an average rate of six percent between 2016 and 2026. This job plays an important part in supply chain management and logistics, and with so much freight traveling by truck in the US, this is a very stable position.


Helpful Resources

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a heavy truck driver, there are many resources available on the web to find more information:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – The FMCSA sets laws and guidelines for commercial vehicle operators, including hour limits and guidelines for breaks and daily mileage to ensure safe roads.

Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Training – This book provides a useful overview of training to be a heavy truck driver, with all of the information a new driver needs to prepare for this career.

Trucker’s Training: Truck Driving Schools in the US – Read about truck driving schools across the nation that prepare drivers for careers as heavy truck drivers.

CDL – Commercial Driver’s License Exam (CDL Test Preparation) – Prepare for the CDL exam with test information, diagrams and definitions, and practice questions.