We’ve all seen the huge double decker trucks barreling down the highway with smaller cars hanging, what looks like precariously, from the trailer. These are known as car haulers, and they are a very specific sect of commercial truckers tasked with moving cars across the country.
Nearly every car at your local dealerships have been on one of these trailers. Also, people pay a high premium to move their antique and extremely valuable cars without the stress and devaluation that comes with thousands of miles on the road.
That being said, car hauling can be a very lucrative profession. The value of the cargo necessitates drivers of the highest quality.
How to Become a Car Hauler Trucker?
1st Step – Obtain Your CDL
The Class-A CDL (vehicles over 26,000 pounds) is the only option that will allow you to become a vehicle transporter.
2nd Step – Get Over-the-Road Experience
Once you have your CDL, try to gain at least 2 years of OTR experience – this is what most insurance companies want before you can haul cars.
Although, when reviewing a few job classifieds, some companies were looking for 1 year OTR experience with a clean driving record.
3rd Step – Get Car Hauler Training
If you want to specialize in hauling vehicles, training is required given that you’re responsible for expensive cargo.
You can either get on the job training with a car hauling company or you can go to school and learn how to become an auto hauler.
Training typically takes 4 weeks, where you’ll learn things like:
- How to properly load and unload vehicles
- How to space vehicles
- How to configure decks for transport
- How to properly strap your load
Note, in addition to all of the above:
- You must be at least 21 years of age
- You have a clean DOT and background check
To begin moving cars, any company will require a high school diploma or GED. This is the minimum standard of education necessary to be trusted with thousands or even millions of dollars of cargo and equipment.
Furthermore, employers expect an extremely clean driving record. Some companies may ask for your assent to random or scheduled drug screenings. Staying clean is a measure of your respect for your position and others on the road.
Also, some corporations will issue mandatory bonds for new employees. This is to cover their liability in case of theft or damage to the cars due to driver error.
If you are an independently contracted driver, companies may require additional insurance as a pretense for being trusted with the trailer. Truckers are expected to take long shifts, especially on cross-country trips.
Work hours are limited to 70 hours per week with a rest period of 34 hours to immediately follow. 11 hours is the daily limit, with a mandatory 30 minute break required after 8 hours. Truck drivers work hard for their pay. These are the expectations for most car haulers as well.
Auto Hauler’s Job Responsibilities
A car hauler’s job is a bit harder than that of the average trucker.
Unlike most cargo, the cars being transported are exposed to the elements. That means the driver must be extremely careful to avoid all scrapes, scratches, and debris. Some errors are unavoidable but the open air trailer adds a few complications.
Secondly, most car haulers are expected to load and unload the vehicles themselves. This process requires additional training. As mentioned above, getting specialized training for this is important.
Previous experience with heavy machinery can prove to be very helpful. Making sure all cars are properly secured is absolutely vital. Thorough adherence and total diligence are necessary, as losing a piece of this cargo is extremely dangerous to everyone on the road.
During undocking, cosmetic damage could cost you a portion of your pay. Having a perfect loading and unloading routine is paramount to your success.
Loading and unloading cars can necessitate a bit of physical exertion. So it’s best to stay in shape to maintain this vital ability.
To get an idea of what an auto mover needs to do, check out the 3 minute video below of a trucker showing how he loads vehicles on a car carrier:
When delivering cars, maintaining deadlines is also a challenge.
People are expecting their new cars to be delivered, as ordered, by a specific date and time. Likewise, classic cars, and supercars are needed in tip top condition for car shows, conventions, and festivals.
Maintaining a schedule within the strict safety guidelines goes a long way.
Car Hauler Salary
The median pay for a vehicle transporter is $73,000, and a reported high income of $120,000 according to Glassdoor. Check out our complete guide on truckers’ salaries.
Starting salary of a fairly new car transporter is just under $60,000.
For owner operator transporters, insurance premiums, bonds, and damaged loads can heavily influence profits. That being said a successful driver can make extra money by consistently delivering loads on time and in perfect condition.
Some trucking corporations pay a specific rate per mile, anywhere from $4 to $5 per mile. This means you can make a good amount for a long drive, but it also requires being away from home for long periods and extended time behind the wheel.
Other employers pay a percentage of gross load per run – average is around 25%. For example, if a load is worth $12,000, then your take is $3,000.
Certain contract haulers receive a commission based on the value of the cargo. For a load of exotic supercars, it makes sense to contract the best of the best due to the increased rarity of the goods. Some cars are totally irreplaceable, so with a good reputation you can make more money moving the scarcest vehicles.
Also, most companies offer a decking and undocking bonus. That means being able to load and unload the cargo safely will earn you a bit of extra cash. This saves them an employee at two locations. Knowing how to do this will put you ahead of the pack.
Car hauling is a sub-industry of general trucking. Experienced car haulers make a living by ensuring safe delivery of their cars free of all cosmetic damage that cuts into employer’s profits or their insurance premiums.
Employers want safe and experienced drivers with knowledge of safely loading and unloading cars to the platform. Shadowing or training with an exemplary car hauler can be invaluable.
Specializing in vehicle transporting can be lucrative, although you have to put in hard work, and may sacrifice family time as you’re required to move vehicles cross-country.
Becoming and being a successful car hauler is not easy. However, there are few jobs that pay as well and offer the same options with just a high school diploma.
If you find the correct employer and establish a reputation of safety and care for the cars on your trailer, you can make a decent living. If you like cars, you may come into contact with some rarities.
There is no substitute for patience, a thorough commitment to safety, and a desire to learn at every turn.
Geoff is a freelance writer with 20+ years of experience in driving trucks and buses, dispatching, supervising, and training commercial driving teams. His expertise is writing topics on the transportation and trucking industry, and information technology trends.