Online Transportation Certification Programs

The U.S. trucking industry has made an art form of getting things from here to there. The transportation and trucking industry has become an indispensable part of the U.S. economy, a legacy of the pioneer spirit that led people to settle all over the place. Shipping things by train may be cheaper, but for companies that want their product to reach all Americans, they need to distribute it via vehicles that run on highways, not rails.

Career Training in Truck Driving: Stepping Up to Big Rigs

A career in the transportation industry means earning a commercial driver's license (CDL). Most truckers get their truck driving training through vocational-technical schools. Some trucking companies offer paid CDL training in exchange for a commitment, usually for one year, to drive for them.

Training typically consists of learning to operate the truck, which sounds easier than it is. You'll need to know how to navigate in tight city streets and on highways and back up and maneuver with a trailer in tow. Training also includes inspection procedures, basic truck maintenance, proper loading of freight, and more.

Earning Your Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

To obtain a CDL, you traditionally must pass the CDL exam in the state in which you live. The exam usually consists of a written test, a comprehensive driving test to ensure you can safely handle a truck in real driving conditions, and a physical exam including vision and hearing tests. Some states also require that you complete a basic truck driving course. You should also be at least 18 years old, have a clean driving record, and have no prior felony convictions involving a motor vehicle, drugs, or alcohol. To drive commercial trucks across state lines, you must be 21 years old.

Hauling hazardous matter requires a CDL, regardless of truck size, and a hazardous materials endorsement. Receiving the hazmat endorsement usually requires that you be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check by the Transportation Security Administration. To maintain your CDL, you are required to pass a physical examination every two years.

Trucking Careers

In general you may be required to work your way up in the trucking industry. Initially that may mean working with an experienced truck driver to start. Trucking companies may not allow you to drive by yourself unless you have at least six months of this type of experience, and some require three to five years of experience. You may also have to start out as a relief driver, filling in for regular drivers who are sick or on vacation, before landing your own driving assignment. Experienced drivers who build a good reputation and maintain a clean driving record are generally the ones who may be considered for higher paying jobs involving heavy or specialized equipment, or for long-distance routes. Long haulers often work with a partner so that one can drive while the other sleeps, so the truck only needs to stop for loading, unloading, fuel, and food.

Trucking Job Prospects

Because trucking and transportation is so ingrained in the U.S. economy, there should be a constant demand for drivers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the industry should grow by about 8 percent over the next decade, which is consistent with the overall job market. Truck drivers earned an annual median salary of $37,560 in 2007.