Different types of truck driver jobs offer different earnings opportunities:
- Over the Road / Long-Haul Drivers operate heavy trucks and drive for long periods of time, either interstate (between states) or intrastate (within one state). Some over the road truck drivers travel a few hundred miles and return the same day; others are away from home overnight, or for several days or weeks at a time. Some drivers work in teams, including husband and wife teams.
- Pick-up and Delivery (P&D) / Local Drivers operate light, medium or heavy trucks and work in route-sales or pick-up-and-delivery operations. These drivers have more contact with customers than over the road drivers and usually make more stops each day. Those P&D drivers often need sales skills in addition to driving skills.
- Specialized Trucking involves specialized trucks that handle unusual, oversized or sensitive loads. Drivers cover local and long-distance routes, and need extra training to operate their equipment. Examples of specialized trucking include auto carriers, dry bulk carriers, (permitted) oversized and overweight loads, or double and triple trailers. Other permits may be needed.
- Hazardous Materials Drivers need additional training. Drivers need to know about the content of the loads they are hauling, how to handle the loads safely and what to do in an emergency. Truck drivers who transport hazardous materials must also take a special test when applying for the CDL that certifies them as a hazardous materials driver. Examples of hazardous materials drivers include tank truck, over the road or P&D drivers carrying hazardous materials. Other permits may be needed.
- An Owner-Operator or Independent Driver owns his or her equipment, anything from a straight truck to a flat-bed tractor-trailer, and hauls freight on a contractual basis. Husband-and-wife owner-operator teams are very common, especially in the household goods moving industry. It is possible to make a good living as an owner-operator, but like many businesses, the competition is tight and there are many overhead expenses involved – equipment purchases, maintenance, fuel and insurance, to name just a few. Most owner-operators begin their careers as salaried drivers with a motor carrier before starting their own business.
Rates of pay and potential earnings vary considerably within the industry. Most city pick-up-and-delivery drivers are paid by the hour. In long-haul operations, truck drivers are usually paid a specified rate per mile, or, in some cases, a percentage of the revenue the motor carrier receives for the load hauled.
With so many different types of truck driver jobs to choose from, you may be wondering if professional truck driving is right for you.
We found a recent post on the ecapital blog, which does a pretty darn good job of describing several common types of trucking jobs that are available to professional drivers.
Some of the most common trucking jobs are:
- Dry Van: This is the most common trucking type for new drivers, and usually refers to a 53-foot trailer that hauls dry or non-perishable goods. These jobs are generally more available and easier to get.
- Auto Hauler: Auto haulers pull specialized trailers designed to haul all types of vehicles. There are several regulations and rules that auto haulers are required to know, adding an extra layer of responsibility and expertise.
- Bull Hauler: Bull haulers pull trailers that are specially designed for the transportation of live animals. Similar to auto haulers, bull haulers have additional responsibility and training.
- Container Hauler: Container haulers transport metal containers commonly used for imported goods that can also be transported by large ocean-going ships and railroad cars. Drivers usually pick up their containers from ports or terminals and distribute to other ports or terminals.
- Flat Bed: This refers to a flat trailer that can haul anything from airplanes to scaffolding–basically anything that won’t fit inside a standard trailer. The driver is expected to pay close attention to securing and the safety of the load.
- Hopper (or Grain Hauler): A hopper is a trailer specially designed for dumping its contents. Hoppers generally transport dry bulk loads, such as grain and corn.
- Hot Shot: Hot shot trucking, also known as less than truckload (LTL), refers to a truck that’s smaller than the usual semi truck and trailer. Though many truck varieties can fall into this category, one common type is a 1-ton diesel dually pulling a 40-foot gooseneck trailer. These drivers normally have to make several stops for a small amount of freight, and are generally expected to load and unload it themselves.
- Low Boy (or Heavy Equipment Hauler): These trailers are usually extremely low at the center and generally carry items that are tall or oversized. They often require escort vehicles and special permits depending on the overall size, weight and dimensions of the load, and the route of travel.
- Reefer: Specialized, refrigerated trailers have an air conditioner at the front of the trailer and haul goods (for example, food or pharmaceuticals) that must be kept at specific temperatures. The driver is expected to maintain and monitor temperature settings to protect the safety and viability of trailer contents.
- Tanker: Tankers are used mostly for hauling liquids–anything from gasoline to milk. Special training is requiring when hauling a tanker because the center of gravity is constantly changing.
Generally speaking, the highest-paying truck driver job types are reefers, tankers, flatbeds, low-boys, bull and auto haulers; however, these also require more training and certification.