Big Rigs and Rest Stops: Key Things to Know About Being a Tractor-Trailer Trucker

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Driving a big rig back and forth across the country is a great way to see the sights while making a decent living, too. Truck drivers are always in high demand, as all of the goods that are built and imported in the country need to get where they are supposed to be quickly and efficiently.

There are about five million commercial truck drivers in America today, and that number is constantly growing, so it’s a great field to get into. There’s some training involved, but there is no education requirement, so it’s a great opportunity for those who have little to no higher education experience to earn a living while seeing the country. If you are thinking about becoming a tractor trailer driver, here are a few things you should know.

You’ll Need Your CDL

In the United States, there are a variety of different drivers licenses that are available, and the one you will need to be a truck driver is called a CDL: commercial driver’s license.

You need a CDL because of a law that was passed in 1986 to ensure the safety of other drivers on the road. Driving large trucks, buses and even larger recreational vehicles pose a lot of different problems that driving a regular vehicle or even a motorcycle. By making commercial drivers get their CDL before getting a job ensures that they know what they are doing and can navigate any problems that may arise.

There are also two classes of CDL, A and B. “A” CDLs are required for anyone who will be driving a tractor trailer on an Interstate highway. This means that if you are going to work for a long-haul company, you will need Class A. Class B CDLs are reserved for local drivers, supervisors and other positions that require a CDL, but will not be on long hauls.

There Will be Some Continuing Education

While most hauling companies only require a high school diploma, there’s a good chance that you will need to attend some sort of truck driving classes before you can qualify for your CDL. These classes usually last anywhere from three to six months and will cover all of the basics and advanced concepts you will need to properly operate a large vehicle.

You will learn the federal regulations that govern the rules of truck drivers and you will also get hands-on training. Since driving a big rig is so different from a car or pickup truck, you will learn how to maneuver the vehicle through streets and areas that can pose a problem. This will help you understand how the truck works and handles, and the areas you can and cannot go.


As of 2016, truck drivers make an average of $40,300 per year. This can vary from company to company and can also vary with the type of vehicle or route you drive, so you can possibly make over $50,000.

The pay rate is usually given out per mile driven, with bonuses sometimes available for reaching your destination early or other factors that make your haul more efficient. If you are an owner-operator, you stand to make even more money as you can earn a share of the shipping revenue as well.

There are limits to how long truck drivers can work, too. Most long-haul drivers live in their vehicles, sleeping in their trucks at rest areas and truck stops. They can work no more than 14 hours in a 24 hour period, which only allows for 11 of those hours driving, with the other three made up of other work, like loading and unloading cargo.

A Few Concerns

Driving a truck for a profession can be exciting and fun, but it can also be stressful if you cannot handle the potential tedium of driving for 11 hours in a day. In fact, fatigue and an unhealthy lifestyle are constant complaints from truck drivers, so make sure you take care of your body while on the road.

Driving a truck for a living can also be dangerous. You are on the road for most days out of the year and the potential for accidents is very real. You should always have the number of a Criminal defense attorney at hand in case you get into an accident. Avoid accidents by sleeping well and eating right to keep yourself alert.

Driving a truck is a great profession for many, so look into it today.

Logan Hayward works as a careers advisor. He works mostly with young adults but also has experience helping those in their 40s and 50s to change their career paths. Read his articles on job and career focused blogs.