Education and Training Requirements
High school students interested in working as truck drivers should take courses in driver training and automobile mechanics. In addition, some bookkeeping, mathematics, and business courses will teach methods that help in keeping accurate records of customer transactions.
Drivers must know and meet the standards set by both state and federal governments for the particular work they do and the type of vehicle they drive. In some companies, new employees can informally learn the skills appropriate for the kind of driving they do from experienced drivers. They may ride with and watch other employees of the company, or they may take a few hours of their own time to learn from an experienced driver. For light truck driving jobs, companies may require new employees to attend classes that range from a few days to about a month. On-the-job training of one to three months is required for new heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.
One of the best ways to prepare for a job driving large trucks is to take a tractor-trailer driver training course. Programs vary in the amount of actual driving experience they provide. Programs that are certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute meet established guidelines for training and generally provide good preparation for drivers. Another way to identify quality programs is to check with local companies that hire drivers and ask for their recommendations. Completing a certified training program helps potential truck drivers learn specific skills, but it does not guarantee a job. Vehicles and the freight inside trucks can represent a large investment to companies that employ truck drivers. Therefore, they seek to hire responsible and reliable drivers in order to protect their investment. For this reason, many employers set various requirements of their own that exceed state and federal standards.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Truck drivers must meet federal requirements and any requirements established by the state where they are based. All drivers must obtain a state commercial driver's license. Truck drivers involved in interstate commerce must meet requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Candidates must be at least 21 years old and pass a physical examination that requires good vision and hearing, normal blood pressure, and normal use of arms and legs (unless the applicant qualifies for a waiver). Drivers must then pass physicals every two years and meet other requirements, including a minimum of 20/40 vision in each eye and no diagnosis of insulin-dependent diabetes or epilepsy.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
No experience is needed to work as a truck driver, but those with prior work experience will increase their chances of landing a job, getting promoted, and possibly earning higher pay.
Many drivers work with little supervision, so they need to have a mature, responsible attitude toward their job. In jobs where drivers deal directly with company customers, it is especially important for the drivers to be pleasant, courteous, and able to communicate well with people. Helping a customer with a complaint can mean the difference between losing and keeping a client.