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Long-haul Truck Driver Duties and Responsibilities

Based on postings that we analyzed, most long-haul truck drivers share several essential responsibilities:

Transport Goods and Materials The central duty of long-haul truck drivers is operating a tractor-trailer to deliver goods and materials around the country. This requires both the ability to successfully and safely operate and maneuver a large vehicle and a high level of physical and mental stamina due to the long hours of the work. Long-haul truck drivers typically make deliveries and pickups that can involve cross-country driving, usually on a strict schedule.

Plan Routes and Schedules Long-haul truck drivers plan routes and driving schedules, using GPS technology to outline routes and determine the number of miles they can cover in a day. As part of this process, long-haul truck drivers also have to consider factors such as weight limits, hazardous materials regulations, weather, and traffic. Long-haul truck drivers also have to be familiar with roadways near their route so they can make adjustments while driving.

Maintain Driving Records Another important aspect of this job is maintaining detailed records of both materials picked up and delivered, along with tolls paid and other expenses while on the road. Additionally, long-haul truck drivers maintain records of stops, keeping detailed records of miles driven, especially if the driver is paid on a per-mile basis. Additionally, long-haul truck drivers may have to provide proof of delivery and enter information in computer systems.

Inspect and Maintain Vehicles Long-haul truck drivers inspect and maintain their vehicles before driving, while on the road, and after making deliveries. This includes ensuring that all materials are securely loaded and packed, as well as conducting regular maintenance, inspections, and emergency repairs. Drivers also 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 Finally, long-haul truck drivers work closely with dispatchers and other logistics professionals while planning and driving their routes. This can involve providing updates on delivery timelines, routes, total mileage, and breaks each day. In cases where long-haul truck drivers make a pickup after a delivery, they log this information, updating dispatchers to ensure that delivery schedules and timelines are maintained.


Long-haul Truck Driver Skills and Qualifications

Long-haul truck drivers deliver goods and materials throughout the country, spending long days on the road. Workers in this role have commercial driver’s licenses, along with the following skills:
  • Driving and vehicle operation - long-haul truck drivers operate tractor trailers carrying heavy loads, so they need clean driving records and the ability to safely drive for hours at a time
  • Route planning - to determine the most efficient routes and make adjustments based on road conditions or unexpected closures
  • Reporting skills - to maintain accurate records and documentation of hours worked, miles driven, and expenses while on the road, particularly if they are independent contractors
  • Time management - to ensure that driving hours worked are within limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • Stamina - to manage long days and nights of cross-country driving
  • Verbal communication - long-haul truck drivers frequently communicate with dispatchers, logistics personnel, and team members at pickup and delivery locations

Long-haul Truck Driver Education and Training

Most long-haul truck drivers have at least a high school diploma or GED. There are also truck driving schools throughout the country that prepare drivers to safely operate tractor-trailers, although attending one of these schools is not a requirement for this position. Long-haul truck drivers also need to pass a written examination and driving test to obtain their Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

Long-haul Truck Driver Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that, as of May 2017, heavy- and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned a median yearly wage of $42,480. The highest-paid 10 percent of workers in this role earned more than $64,000, while the lowest-paid made less than $27,510 per year. It is also worth noting that many long-haul truck drivers are paid per mile, and many also work as independent contractors instead of full-time employees. The BLS expects employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers to grow 6 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Helpful Resources

We searched the web and found many resources if you're interested in starting a career as a long-haul truck driver:

Trucker's Training: Truck Driving Schools in the U.S. - Truck driving schools prepare students for successful careers as long-haul truck drivers by teaching essential skills and safe operation of tractor trailers.

CDL - Commercial Driver's License Exam (CDL Test Preparation) - Read this book with clear diagrams, examples, and practice questions by Matt Mosher to prepare for the commercial driver's license exam.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) - The FMCSA plays a central role in setting rules and regulations for long-haul truck drivers by establishing guidelines for miles per day and required breaks to ensure highway safety.

Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Training - This book by Alice Adams contains valuable information for new long-haul truck drivers, along with advice on training and maintaining vehicle safety.

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