Duties and responsibilities
An over the road (OTR) truck driver is a driver who is responsible for driving trucks, which contain goods, raw materials, equipment and wastes, over long distances. The day to day duties are determined by their employer but there are many core tasks associated with the role that include:
- Safely transporting freight between various locations over long distances (e.g., country to country or state to state)
- Performing truck inspections before and after each trip to ensure that there are no safety issues or mechanical faults. This also includes maintaining the truck by washing it, cleaning it, monitoring and changing the oil and water and repairing the truck when needed
- Carefully planning routes, that avoid traffic, delays or unnecessary tolls, to ensure that deliveries are completed in a timely manner
- Maintaining a logbook that complies to state regulations that details hours traveled, rest periods, miles covered and expenses
- Notifying customers of any delays that affect delivery times
- Obtaining customers’ signatures upon completion of each delivery
- Assisting with the loading and unloading of the truck. This also includes being able to manoeuvre trucks so that they can safely and easily be loaded and unloaded
The great thing about a career as an OTR truck driver is that you do not need a college degree. Instead, you will need a high school diploma and a clean driving record. You will need to have attended a professional truck drivers school and will need a class A commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Skills and relevant work experience
To be a successful OTR truck driver, you need to have an excellent knowledgeable of road safety regulations and a knowledge of road signs. This can be achieved by work experience and by sitting the relevant exams to become a qualified truck driver.
As well as needed to have the excellent visual, hearing and physical health that meets federal regulations, over the road truck drivers must be able to concentrate for a long period of time as they will often be driving for prolonged periods of time on busy or difficult roads. As well as these skills and qualities, over the road truck drivers should also have:
- Time management and organizational skills as they will have to adhere to the deadlines of when they must complete the delivery of goods and materials
- The have excellent communication skills as they will need to communicate with dispatchers, supervisors and customers clearly and concisely
- Some basic numerical skills are required as OTR drivers will have to calculate the time it will take to get to a certain place. They may also have to take payments and record the quantity of goods being transported
It is no secret that truck drivers often have long working weeks. The Federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations restrict the hours that truck drivers can work in order to reduce accidents by keeping fatigued drivers off the road. As of 2011, OTR drivers are limited to working a 70-hour average work week. Truckers are, however, limited to an 11-hour daily driving limit and a 14-hour work day limit.
OTR truck drivers earn more than other truck drivers as they have to work longer weeks and for longer hours. PayScale predicts that the average salary for an OTR truck driver is $54,000 per year, with the lowest 10% earning less that $37,000 and the top 10% earning over $76,000.
Once OTR truck drivers have gained experience in the field, they could progress to starting their own businesses. This requires some commitment as more licenses are needed. However, as a truck owner, there is far more flexibility, various work opportunities and greater income opportunities.