Types of Trucking Jobs Guide

Different Types of Different Trucking Jobs

We wanted to breakdown the various types of trucking jobs that you might have the opportunity to gain if you earn your CDL (and potentially other certificates). Here is a breakdown of those various career options.

Over The Road (OTR) CDL Trucking Jobs

Over the Road Long Haul drivers keep America moving and going. Truck drivers carry and transport 71% of the nation’s freight. Materials that need to make it to the other side of the country, or even just the next region over, are transported by OTR drivers.

OTR drivers are operating heavy equipment to carry loads with a gross vehicle weight greater than or equal to 26,000 pounds. These drivers can expect to be on the road for at least one to up to four weeks at a time.

Some companies define OTR as one to two weeks out, but some define it as three to four weeks out. Someone interested in becoming an OTR driver will need a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL), meet the required DOT standards (such as medical clearance by a physical), pass a drug and alcohol test, and have a clean background check and motor vehicle record.

The type of freight that an OTR driver will carry can greatly vary. Goods and materials that need to be transported throughout America can be, well, anything! Food, animals, cars, fuel — pretty much anything you can think of — will probably need to be transported by an OTR truck driver to make it to their destination.

It is inevitable that a person in America will come across an item that was transported via an OTR driver. There are many different types of trucks that a carrier can provide a driver to drive to meet the needs of the shipper and/or receiver.

The need for freight to be moved is extremely demanding right now and that demand is likely going to only continue to grow.

The vast majority of OTR drivers will be required to have an Electronic Logging Device, known as an ELD, hooked up to their truck.

The ELDs are in place to enforce certain DOT regulations drivers have to follow pertaining to their work day and the amount of hours they can put in. These are called Hours of Service, or HOS, regulations.

ELD Statuses and OTR Driver Regulations

There are 4 statuses. Off Duty is when the driver is not working at all. Sleeper Berth is when the driver is taking a break or sleeping in the truck’s sleeping quarters known as the sleeper berth.

On Duty means the driver is working but not driving. This may include fueling, loading/unloading freight, doing an inspection, etc. Driving means just that — the truck is in motion and the driver is driving.

  • After 11 hours of driving (actual driving, not fueling or loading/unloading), a driver is required to take a 10 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.
  • Once an ELD is switched to Driving or On Duty (which may include fueling, tarping, or loading/unloading), the driver has 14 hours — including breaks — until they are required to take a 10 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.
  • A driver cannot exceed a 70 hour work week within 8 days or a 60 hour work week within 7 days, whichever was previously decided on. This includes Driving time and time On Duty. To completely reset the clocks, a driver must take a 34 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status, or they can gain back time at midnight when the 8th (or 7th) day falls out of the window.
  • When a driver switches to Driving or On Duty, before 8 hours is up, they must take a 30 minute break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.

It is very important to follow these regulations. These regulations were put in place for the carrier’s safety, along with the safety of other drivers on the road, and they can carry big penalties if they are not followed correctly.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may fine the driver or carrier anywhere from $1,000 to $11,000, depending on the severity of the violation. These fines can be per violation if there are multiple.

OTR drivers that can maximize their earnings by becoming team drivers. These drivers are paid by the mile and then those earnings are split between them.

Being a solo driver puts a lot of restriction on how much a driver can actually drive before they are required by law to take a break. The reason that driving on a team is a great way for the drivers to make more money is because the team makes less stops.

When one driver needs to take their mandatory ten consecutive hour break, the other driver will be driving and vice versa.

Team drivers can also still take advantage of very sizable sign-on bonuses that are split between them after a period of time or distance driven.

What Will Make My Day Look Like?

Drivers start their day by inspecting their trucks and trailers, checking their ELDs, and do some trip planning. They may need to check weather conditions, and any other safety conditions, along their route and plan accordingly.

Depending on what type of truck the driver is driving, they may have other responsibilities. For example, a flatbed driver may need to tarp, untarp or use tie down materials to secure their loads.

Tanker drivers might need to pump out the material that was in their tank and wait for the inside to be professionally cleaned out.

Most drivers prefer what’s called a drop and hook when they arrive to the shipper or receiver because they are literally just “dropping” their full trailer at the location and “hooking” up to another one.

It is a quick process and allows for them to get on the road faster. If the driver has to sit through a “live load” or “live unload,” they may be sitting there for hours while their truck is being loaded or unloaded by others.

Drivers that are paid by the mile are essentially not getting paid during this time, as they are not driving, hence why they prefer drop and hooks. Some drivers may be expected to load and unload their own trucks or assist in doing so. Most companies offer a loading and/or unloading bonus to compensate for the physical labor.

If the driver needs to sit through a live load/unload they might take that time to do some extra route planning. That might include meal breaks, dealing with weigh stations along the way, or stopping for fuel.

Once the driver has reached their limit for the day, they usually find somewhere to legally park their truck overnight. Something that defines a driver as an OTR drivers is having sleeping quarters in the truck, usually called a sleeper berth.

They may use a rest stop along an highway to park overnight and then use the bathroom or shower before they sleep for the night. When they wake up in the morning, after their mandatory 10 consecutive hour break is up, they hit the road again for another day of driving.

A lot of OTR drivers drive an average of 600 miles per day within their 11 hour time frame and can expect to drive an average of 2,000 and 3,000 miles per week.

How Much Can An OTR Truck Driver Make?

Being an OTR driver is a different lifestyle than other types of truck drivers. A local driver is always home every night, and a regional driver may be home every week or even a couple times a week.

But the rewards of being an Over the Road truck driver can be great. Due to the national driver shortage — specifically OTR drivers — companies are now offering more competitive rates, better benefits, and even sign-on or other bonuses to attract drivers to work for them.

Some are even trying to create a much better work/life balance for their drivers with new time-on-the-road and time-home ratios. For example, a company may offer three to four weeks on the road with one whole week off. Another example is two weeks on and five days off.

Most OTR drivers will be paid by the mile, and this rate is dependent upon the driver’s experience, location, and even performance.

For a new driver, they may expect their per mile rate to be anywhere from under 30 cents per mile to up to 40 cents per mile. The average is about 45 cents per mile. More experienced drivers can potentially make over 50 cents per mile!

Since the ELD went into effect, many drivers were not happy to have lost money making opportunities. Since they were being paid by the mile, a lot of drivers would drive more than the 11 hour restriction that is now placed on them to rack up more miles driven, thus increasing their pay.

Companies have taken this into consideration and is one of the factors that is driving wages up. A lot of drivers that were once protesting the new regulations are back to work thanks to wage increases.

The average pay for OTR drivers in 2018 was $66,711, according to TruckDriversSalary.com. However, companies trying to stay competitive are offering per mile rates that give OTR drivers the potential to make upwards of $70k a year. Sign-on bonuses average between $2,500 and $5,000, but can be up to $10,000 depending on the company.

When you receive the bonus can vary. Some companies may offer it after completing orientation, some after 30 days, others after a certain amount of miles, or even after 90 days.

Other bonuses may include: safe driver bonus, fuel efficiency bonus, clean inspection bonus, on-time delivery bonus, Hazmat bonus, and more!

The need for CDL drivers is only going to increase. In 2014, the projected 10 year job growth was 5%. As of today, there is a huge CDL driver shortage nationwide and companies are struggling to find qualified workers. 898,000 new drivers are going to be needed during the next decade, with half of that number replacing retiring drivers.

Drivers thinking about becoming over the road long haul drivers need to weigh the pros and cons and see if it is the right path for them to take. An OTR driving career is a lifestyle that comes with challenges, but also has many perks and rewards.

Besides monetary bonuses, an OTR driver can travel across America and see new cities and sometimes even Canada or Mexico if their routes cross the border! It can be the start to a rewarding career.

Local CDL Trucking Jobs

Local truck drivers drive in a designated area within a predetermined radius, and sometimes even drive the same route every day. These drivers get to return home every night, providing a good work/life balance.

To become a local truck driver, you’ll need a commercial driver’s license (CDL), meet the required DOT standards (such as medical clearance by a physical), pass a drug and alcohol test, and have a clean background check and motor vehicle record, and possibly have some experience as a truck driver under your belt.

There are a lot of different types of companies that need local truck drivers that have CDLs. Those may include: moving companies, furniture delivery companies, distribution centers for local retailers, and more. Or you can see a traditional carrier that needs drivers for dry vans and may have dedicated lanes within 100 miles of the Chicagoland area, for example.

What Does A Typical Local CDL Trucking Day Look Like?

Unlike OTR drivers and even regional drivers, local drivers may have to load and unload their own trucks depending of their job type. This can be physically demanding but it may work out to be a good balance between driving and getting up to stretch to lift the material or items in and/or out of the truck.

Local drivers may also have to make multiple stops. Their stops may be drop and hooks which is literally just “dropping” their trailer at the location and “hooking” up to another one. It is a quick process and allows for them to get back on the road faster.

If the driver has to do a “live load” or “live unload,” they may be sitting there for hours while their truck is being loaded or unloaded by others, or may have to load and/or unload their own truck. If the local driver has a delivery type job, making sure the truck is loaded with the correct inventory prior to the start of the route may be a part of their responsibilities.

Other responsibilities depending on the role and company can include: customer service, light sales (upselling), keeping the truck clean, recorded and reporting any mechanical issues, and more. There are many opportunities for a local CDL truck driver to choose from depending on where their skill set and interests lie.

How Much Can A Driver Doing Local CDL Make?

Almost all local truck drivers are paid hourly, which is different from regional and over the road drivers, who are paid by the mile. This is because they may not cover a lot of miles per day like the other types of drivers.

The average pay for local truck drivers is about $18 per hour or $38,000 per year. There are some companies that are offering much higher salaries for local truck drivers, upwards of $50k, or over $1000 per week! It seems that companies are trying to stay competitive during the CDL driver shortage that America is facing.

This is less than an over the road truck driver, however, the benefit of being home every night might outweigh that and be a deciding factor for some drivers. Companies are still offering health benefits, 401k matches, and bonuses such as a sign-on bonus. They may not be as high as some sign-on bonuses for OTR or regional drivers, but they are still very healthy, coming in at an average of $1,000.

OTR and regional drivers have more control over their schedule and what time of the day they want to drive. A local driver usually has set hours and they are usually during standard business hours.

If a CDL driver wants a more predictable schedule, wants to be home every night (possibly with their family), and does not want to travel far, then becoming a local CDL truck driver may be the right choice for them.

Regional CDL Trucking Jobs

Regional CDL drivers usually have routes within a fixed territory. These territories may take them to neighboring states to their home state, but these routes usually do not keep them away for weeks a time like over the road truck drivers. As a regional CDL driver, the the trips may last a week or less.

Most drivers can expect to be home once a week, while some may be home 2-3 times a week with short overnight stays on their trip. Time off in between trips depends on the employer, location of the delivery/pickup, and length of the trip. A driver may get only one night off for a short trip. In contrast, they may be given many days off in a row after coming off a longer trip such as a week long trip.

Someone interested in becoming a regional truck driver will need a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL), meet the required DOT standards (such as medical clearance by a physical), pass a drug and alcohol test, and have a clean background check and motor vehicle record.

Most regional truck drivers will be required to have an Electronic Logging Device, known as an ELD, hooked up to their truck. The ELDs are in place to enforce certain DOT regulations drivers have to follow pertaining to their work day and the number of hours they can put in. These are called Hours of Service, or HOS, regulations.

There are 4 statuses. Off Duty is when the driver is not working at all. Sleeper Berth is when the driver is taking a break or sleeping in the truck’s sleeping quarters known as the sleeper berth. On Duty means the driver is working but not driving. This may include fueling, loading/unloading freight, doing an inspection, etc. Driving means just that — the truck is in motion and the driver is driving.

  • After 11 hours of driving (actual driving, not fueling or loading/unloading), a driver is required to take a 10 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.
  • Once an ELD is switched to Driving or On Duty (which may include fueling, tarping, or loading/unloading), the driver has 14 hours — including breaks — until they are required to take a 10 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.
  • A driver cannot exceed a 70 hour work week within 8 days or a 60 hour work week within 7 days, whichever was previously decided on. This includes Driving time and time On Duty. To completely reset the clocks, a driver must take a 34 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status, or they can gain back time at midnight when the 8th (or 7th) day falls out of the window.
  • When a driver switches to Driving or On Duty, before 8 hours is up, they must take a 30 minute break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.

It is very important to follow these regulations. These regulations were put in place for the carrier’s safety, along with the safety of other drivers on the road, and they can carry big penalties if they are not followed correctly.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may fine the driver or carrier anywhere from $1,000 to $11,000, depending on the severity of the violation. These fines can be per violation if there are multiple.

What Does A Common Day Look Like For A Regional Driver?

Drivers start their day by inspecting their trucks and trailers, checking their ELDs, and do some trip planning. They may need to check weather conditions, and any other safety conditions, along their route and plan accordingly.

Depending on what type of truck the driver is driving, they may have other responsibilities. For example, a flatbed driver may need to tarp, untarp or use tie down materials to secure their loads. Tanker drivers might need to pump out the material that was in their tank and wait for the inside to be professionally cleaned out.

Most drivers prefer what’s called a drop and hook when they arrive to the shipper or receiver because they are literally just “dropping” their full trailer at the location and “hooking” up to another one.

It is a quick process and allows for them to get on the road faster. If the driver has to sit through a “live load” or “live unload,” they may be sitting there for hours while their truck is being loaded or unloaded by others. Drivers that are paid by the mile are essentially not getting paid during this time, as they are not driving, hence why they prefer drop and hooks.

Some drivers may be expected to load and unload their own trucks or assist in doing so. Most companies offer a loading and/or unloading bonus to compensate for the physical labor. If the driver needs to sit through a live load/unload they might take that time to do some extra route planning. That might include meal breaks, dealing with weigh stations along the way, or stopping for fuel.

Once the driver has reached their limit for the day, they usually find somewhere to legally park their truck overnight. They may use a rest stop along an highway to park overnight and then use the bathroom or shower before they sleep for the night. When they wake up in the morning, after their mandatory 10 consecutive hour break is up, they hit the road again for another day of driving.

A lot of regional drivers have dedicated routes for the same customers. This provides the driver with some predictability. If a driver is working with the same customers often, providing great customer service and keeping them happy may lead to bonuses.

How Much Can A Regional Driver Make?

According to ZipRecruiter.com, a regional truck driver can average about $1100 per week. Larger companies in need of drivers may offer even more competitive rates which can add up to over $65k per year! The industry standard health and other benefits apply to regional drivers as well. Companies are also offering regional drivers sign-on bonuses, due to the nationwide CDL driver shortage.

The need for CDL drivers is only going to increase. In 2014, the projected 10 year job growth was 5%. As of today, there is a huge CDL driver shortage nationwide and companies are struggling to find qualified workers. 898,000 new drivers are going to be needed during the next decade, with half of that number replacing retiring drivers.

If a driver would like to spend time at home weekly, but also get to travel to different states while driving, and likes being on the road, then becoming a regional truck driver might be the right choice for them. Being a regional truck driver is like the best of both worlds between an over the road driver and a local driver.

Team Driver Jobs

The vast majority of OTR drivers will be required to have an Electronic Logging Device, known as an ELD, hooked up to their truck. The ELDs are in place to enforce certain DOT regulations drivers have to follow pertaining to their work day and the amount of hours they can put in.

These are called Hours of Service, or HOS, regulations. There are 4 statuses. Off Duty is when the driver is not working at all. Sleeper Berth is when the driver is taking a break or sleeping in the truck’s sleeping quarters known as the sleeper berth.

On Duty means the driver is working but not driving. This may include fueling, loading/unloading freight, doing an inspection, etc. Driving means just that — the truck is in motion and the driver is driving.

  • After 11 hours of driving (actual driving, not fueling or loading/unloading), a driver is required to take a 10 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.
  • Once an ELD is switched to Driving or On Duty (which may include fueling, tarping, or loading/unloading), the driver has 14 hours — including breaks — until they are required to take a 10 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.
  • A driver cannot exceed a 70 hour work week within 8 days or a 60 hour work week within 7 days, whichever was previously decided on. This includes Driving time and time On Duty. To completely reset the clocks, a driver must take a 34 hour break in Off Duty or Sleeper status, or they can gain back time at midnight when the 8th (or 7th) day falls out of the window.
  • When a driver switches to Driving or On Duty, before 8 hours is up, they must take a 30 minute break in Off Duty or Sleeper status.

OTR drivers that can maximize their earnings by becoming team drivers. These drivers are paid by the mile and then those earnings are split between them. Being a solo driver puts a lot of restriction on how much a driver can actually drive before they are required by law to take a break.

The reason that driving on a team is a great way for the drivers to make more money is because the team makes less stops. When one driver needs to take their mandatory ten consecutive hour break, the other driver will be driving and vice versa.

Team drivers can also still take advantage of very sizable sign-on bonuses that are split between them after a period of time or distance driven.

Owner Operator Trucking Jobs

Owner-operators can make a lot of money. Owner-operators are brought on by the company as contractors and bring their own truck. They may own it outright or they may be leasing it. They are essentially running their own business. They are responsible for their own license plates, permits, insurance, fuel, tolls, parking costs, and more, which can be seen as overhead for their business.

The national fuel-surcharge rate is the driving force behind the fluctuation of national per mile rates for owner-operators, so this will be something an owner-operator needs to pay a lot of attention to when negotiating rates with shippers or brokers.

Dealing with shippers directly is best for owner-operators when booking loads for themselves. This is because a broker is marking up rates to profit off of and take for themselves and that is money that could be going to the owner-operator if they were dealing with the shipper directly.

However, working with a broker is not always a bad thing. They have access to and relationships with contacts for many shippers in their network. It may get hard for a single owner-operator to keep track of trying to initially contact and then keep in contact with multiple shippers.

That is what a broker does and that is what their cut is for. Some brokerages even hire their own company drivers and have them on payroll and driving their trucks, as opposed to contracting with an owner-operator with their own truck.

Some companies may offer to cover some expenses like fuel or tolls as perks for contracting with them. Owner-operators can charge from $1.30 per mile to $3.00 per mile or more depending on their specialty/truck type and/or experience.

At the end of the year, owner-operators can make $150,000, the average reported by ZipRecruiter, to up to $200,000, which is what some companies say in their ads for owner-operators. Those figures may not include the expenses that it will cost to run the business, however.

Specialty Trucking Jobs

Specialty drivers who drive in a specialized niche can earn a lot of money. This is because a lot of the time, these niches may involve higher risk or dangers than a traditional driver gig. Below is a list of specialty drivers who make the most money. Keep in mind that to make the most money while being a specialty driver is to capitalize on long hauls and over the road trips!

1. Ice Road Truckers

This is perhaps one of the most dangerous trucking positions out there, but also may be the highest paying. Ice road truckers deliver goods and drive a truck over pure ice. It is extremely dangerous and takes a lot of precision and skill.

These drivers often only work 2-4 months as ice road truckers due to the season being that length. During this short span of time, these drivers can make on average $60k-80k per year, though there are some reports of ice road truckers bringing in as much as $250,000 during this season.

2. Oversized Load Haulers

Driving a truck hauling materials that are larger than the truck and may take up multiple lanes on the road takes a lot of skill. These drivers have to be very careful about the turns they make, the speed they drive, and looking out for other drivers as well.

Because of the extra skill and training needed, these drivers are paid at a higher rate. These drivers average about $70k per year and can make up to $90k per year.

3. Tanker Drivers

These drivers are paid well due to the fact they are hauling potentially hazardous materials such as gasoline or other liquid chemicals. Though, they could be even hauling just plain water.

They usually pump the liquid out of the tank when they arrive at their destination and may be exposed to fumes during this process depending on what material they are transporting. Driving with a dry load and a liquid that is sloshing around are very different. Tanker drivers can earn up $70k per year!

4. Hazmat Drivers

Hazardous material that needs to be transported is done so by hazmat drivers. This type of endorsement can tie in with being a tanker driver as some of the liquid can be classified as hazardous and will need a CDL driver with a hazmat endorsement to transport them.

Other hazardous material can include flammable gas, medical supplies, or even nuclear waste. These drivers also earn in the $70k per year range.

5. Car Haulers

Car haulers transport a bulk load of vehicles from one place to another. This can be for dealers, manufacturers, or they can even haul race cars or luxury cars. They are mostly OTR or regional routes. It takes a special skill set to inspect the cars before they are loaded on and not to mention actually loading up to 10 cars on and making sure everything is secure.

Most companies want to see at least two years of experience before they hire a car hauler. With a combination of special skills and experience a car hauler can potentially make $70k-100k per year!

6. Mining Industry Truckers

Most employees in this industry make a healthy living and truck drivers are no exception. Whether they are doing deliveries, pick ups, or other work for the mining industry, they are making good money. These drivers average around $70k per year and have the potential to make up to $100k per year.

Other Types of Trucking Jobs

LTL drivers may be able to maximize their earnings by consolidating loads. LTL stands for less-than-truckload. So an LTL driver may have multiple shipments in their truck with different destinations. These can be short hauls or long hauls and depending on the distance and size of the consolidated load, they may be able to make multiple trips per day.

Another interesting type of truck driver that may be able to maximize their earnings is a drayage container hauler. Rates may be going up for these drivers for a couple reasons. One reason is due to the obvious, the nationwide truck driver shortage. Because of the shortage, there are long waits at the harbors or railyards, which is costing companies big bucks in storage that they would rather save.

It may be more cost effective for these companies to just pay drivers a higher rate to haul their goods away. This can be driving up rates. These drivers can also capitalize on making multiple runs per day.

Other things to consider in regards to making the most money as a truck driver is whether the company has its own private fleet or not. For example, Walmart, a huge corporation, has their own fleet of company drivers.

They reportedly pay their drivers over $70k a year before bonuses. That is a very attractive salary for someone looking to become a truck driver. Something else to consider is whether the driver is a union driver or non-union driver, though that mostly applies to local truck drivers.

The general consensus is that OTR drivers make a lot more money than regional and local drivers. They traditionally average at least $50k per year. Adding on a specialty on to a driver’s experience can greatly increase their earnings as a truck driver.

There is a shortage of qualified CDL drivers and companies are struggling to find qualified drivers. The demand for CDL drivers is enormous. The projected 10 year job growth in 2014 was 5%. 898,000 new drivers are going to be needed during the next decade, with half of that number replacing retiring drivers. This may give drivers an advantage to negotiate higher rates with companies as they start their new career.