Trucks and truck drivers are a constant presence on US highways and interstates. A person on even shortest drive is likely to pass by a truck or two transporting goods, and even merchandise that travels by ship, train, or airplane travels on a truck for some phase of journey to customer. Because trucks are such a major part of industry, truck driving jobs are important positions and good paying jobs.
Truck drivers have many responsibilities. Before leaving terminal or warehouse, truck drivers make routine checks of their vehicles, checking fuel and oil levels. They inspect tires, brakes, and windshield wipers, and make sure that all safety equipment is loaded and functional. They report any problems to dispatcher, who keeps track of all of these small details. Once they start driving, truck drivers must be constantly alert. They can see quite a long distance along highway because they sit higher than most other vehicles. This puts them in a position of power on road, as well as heightened responsibility.
Delivery requirements vary according to type of merchandise, driving assignment, and final destination. Local drivers provide daily service along a specific route, while other drivers must make intercity and interstate deliveries based on specific orders. The driver’s responsibilities and salary change based on time spent on road, type of product transported, and vehicle size.
New technologies are revolutionizing way that truck drivers work. Long distance truck drivers now have satellites and global positioning systems (GPS) to link them with company headquarters. Information, directions, and weather reports can be delivered to truck instantly no matter where it is. Company headquarters can track truck’s location, fuel consumption, and engine performance. Inventory tracking equipment is now computerized, allowing producer, warehouse, and customer to all check in on products on road. New technology is making truck driving an easier job, as seats become more comfortable, trucks have better ventilation, and cabs are better designed.
Some routes are very, very long, and these usually employ heavy truck or tractor-trailer drivers. On longest routes, companies will hire two drivers for sleeper runs. Sleeper runs can last from days to weeks and truck only stops for fuel, food, loading and unloading. The drivers switch off driving and sleeping in truck.
Truck driving can be a demanding job. Some self-employed long-distance truck drivers who own and operate their own trucks spend most of year away from home. The government restricts long distance drivers to no more than 60 hours a week as well as requiring 10 hours rest for every 11 hours driving. Many drivers work very close to this max time permitted because they are compensated according to number of miles or hours they’ve put in. The difficulty of truck driving is well compensated, which makes it a popular job. In 2002, there were 3.2 million truck drivers.