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Tractor Trailer Driver Duties and Responsibilities

Although the specific duties and responsibilities of tractor trailer drivers are determined by where they work, some tasks are universally expected of those in the profession. Based on our review of job listings, the core tasks associated with the job are:

Plan Routes It's common for tractor trailer drivers to be responsible for route planning, and it's important to plan the most efficient route possible. For example, it's wise to plan on arriving in large cities at times when traffic is less congested. It's also important to plan fuel and rest stops in advance.

Inspect Equipment Every time a tractor trailer driver gets ready to go on the road or returns from a job, he must perform a careful inspection of his truck and trailer. The checklist includes the brakes, lights, tire pressure, fluid levels, and more. Any issues must be promptly reported to the trucking company and repaired.

Record Data Tractor trailer drivers maintain either paper or electronic logbooks according to federal and state rules and regulations. Log books must be accurately maintained throughout each trip.

Know Rules and Regulations Knowing federal and state trucking rules and regulations is vital for a tractor trailer driver. For example, truck drivers are only permitted to drive a certain number of hours per day before taking a mandatory break. Other rules and regulations to know and follow include weight restrictions, weight adjustments, and loading and unloading procedures.

Monitor Traffic and Road Conditions One way for a tractor trailer driver to save time is to monitor upcoming traffic and road conditions. This is especially important for long-haul truckers. There are plenty of reliable weather and traffic apps that truck drivers can download to their phones or other devices.


Tractor Trailer Driver Skills and Qualifications

Due to the wide scope of duties tractor trailer drivers can perform, they must be ready for anything. Employers also desire applicants who have the following abilities:
  • Hearing ability - good hearing is essential for a tractor trailer driver. Federal regulations state that a truck driver must be able to hear a forced whisper from no less than five feet in at least one ear
  • Visual ability - tractor trailer drivers also need good vision. According to federal regulations, truck drivers need 20/40 vision, a 70-degree field of vision in each eye, and the ability to distinguish traffic light colors
  • Hand-eye coordination - while driving, any number of situations could occur that require a quick and defensive response. Therefore, the ability to quickly coordinate hand, eye, and leg movements is key
  • Customer service - although much of a tractor trailer driver's work is carried out independently on the road, good customer service skills are needed at pickup and dropoff points
  • Physical and mental stamina - long hours on the road coupled with the stress of driving in less than ideal conditions takes a toll on tractor trailer drivers. The ability to physically and mentally overcome these challenges is vital
  • Dependability - even with all of the challenges a tractor trailer driver may face, they're still expected to follow through with their pickups and deliveries. And if they can't make it on time, they must notify the appropriate parties of the delay

Tractor Trailer Driver Education and Training

As a minimum educational requirement, a high school diploma or the equivalent is required by most truck-driving companies. Additionally, many people who aspire to become truck drivers attend a professional truck driving school or enroll in a community college course to receive a certificate of completion. Typically, these training options take three to six months to complete. Attending a school or enrolling in a course helps students learn how to safely maneuver a tractor trailer in a variety of situations while following all applicable federal laws and regulations. Typically, several weeks of on-the-job training take place after a new truck driver is hired. Long-haul truck drivers must also obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). Truck drivers who hold a CDL must maintain a clean driving record, submit to random testing for drug and alcohol abuse, and undergo a physical exam every two years.

Tractor Trailer Driver Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the median annual salary for a tractor trailer driver as $42,480, with a median hourly wage of $20.42. A tractor trailer driver in the 10th percentile earns approximately $27,510 a year, while the highest paid in the field make $64,000 a year. According to the BLS, 1.8 million tractor trailer drivers are employed in the United States. Projected employment growth for this sector is 6 percent through 2026.

Helpful Resources

To decide whether a career as a tractor trailer driver is for you, you might want to do a little research. Here are some of the best industry resources for tractor trailer drivers:

"Safety Training Resources for Heavy & Tractor Trailer Truck Drivers" - these downloadable resources from the Texas Department of Insurance cover everything from preventing driving fatigue and dealing with road rage to vehicle-backing safety

"Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Trucking Industry" - OSHA provides helpful information about avoiding occupational illness and injury in the trucking industry through summaries, trainings, publications, and additional resources

American Trucking Associations - founded in 1933 and representing more than 37,000 members, the ATA ranks as the largest national trade association for the trucking industry

Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Training - written by Alice Adams, this guide is for anyone who wants to be trained as a tractor trailer driver. From coupling and uncoupling to whistleblower protections for professional drivers, this book can serve as a valuable reference

Barron's CDL: Commercial Driver's License Test - in all 50 US states, truck drivers who wish to obtain a CDL must take a test. This guide, which addresses both the written and driving portions of the test, includes helpful information and detailed diagrams

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