Long haul trucking or over-the-road (OTR) trucking is a highly lucrative and rewarding career path that involves transporting supplies across vast distances. It offers a great sense of independence and freedom, and is a perfect fit for those who are passionate about driving and those who like spending long hours alone on the open road.
However, before you embark on this journey, it’s crucial that you understand what this job entails and what you need to prepare for. In this blog post, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to become a successful long distance driver.
What is Long Haul Trucking?
Long haul trucking is a form of freight transportation in which supplies and goods are transported over long distances and across states. Long haulers typically drive about 500 miles per day, whereas short haul truck drivers generally move loads within a 150 mile radius and within the same state.
Because long distance truck drivers cover vast distances, they are away from home for weeks at a time.
Demand for Long Distance Truck Drivers
Truck drivers are not only transporting medical supplies, vehicles, gasoline and construction materials, they’re also hauling food, clothing, toys, trinkets and the like.
According to Statista data, the e-commerce market revenue in the United States was forecast to continuously increase between 2023 and 2027 by a total of 551.9 billion U.S. dollars (+54.59 %). Because of the demand for products, there’s a demand for CDL truck drivers to move those products across country.
And per BLS.gov, the job outlook for Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers is projected to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031. And each year 259,000 truck driver jobs is projected through 2031.
Also, according to Zippia the average age of truck drivers is 47 years old. We averaged the age data of other professions from BLS.gov, which is 42 years old. Truck drivers in the United States are older compared to other professionals and as they retire, a large portion of jobs will open up.
Long Haul Truck Driver Requirements
The first step in becoming a long haul trucker is to find out the requirements for the job. You need to be at least 21 years old and possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with endorsements for driving the type of vehicle you plan to operate.
To get your CDL, you’re required to successfully complete an Entry-level Driver Training (ELDT) as mandated by the FMCSA.
Additionally, you’ll need to undergo a physical examination to ensure you meet the necessary health requirements. The Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates specific vision, hearing, and physical fitness standards that you must meet to operate commercial vehicles.
Know the Costs of Getting a CDL
Another vital factor to consider is the cost of getting your CDL. You can expect to spend between $3,000 to $7,000 on a reputable training program, depending on your location and the school you choose.
Fortunately, there are different funding options to help you pay for truck driving school, such as the Pell grant, unemployment grant or grants for veterans. Also, trucking associations and some organizations offer scholarships to get your CDL.
You’ll also need to have a clean driving record and be insurable, which means you may have to pay higher insurance premiums.
Prepare for Life on the Road
Being a long haul trucker can be a gruelling and lonely job, so it’s important to prepare mentally and emotionally. The job is physically demanding and requires long hours of sitting and driving, often through difficult weather conditions.
As well, long distance drivers often face a common frustration – driver detention. And given the hundreds of miles you need to drive each day, you’re often away from home for weeks at a time.
Truck drivers also don’t get overtime pay for overtime hours worked due to an outdated law. Let’s hope the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act and the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act will be passed, which will help to improve driving conditions for truckers.
Life on the road for OTR truck drivers, when ill-prepared, can be very challenging. All of the above mentioned contribute to low truck driver retention, which also contributes to the driver shortage.
As a result, you’ll need to set the right expectations for road life. You’ll need to get plenty of rest before and during your trips to avoid fatigue. You’ll also need to learn how to manage your time effectively, as you’ll be responsible for planning your routes, scheduling stops, and completing all your deliveries on time.
Know Your Equipment
As a long haul trucker, you’ll be in charge of your truck and all its equipment. You’ll need to have a good understanding of how to operate and maintain your vehicle and its various components.
This includes knowing how to inspect and maintain your tires, brakes, and other essential parts to ensure your vehicle is safe and roadworthy.
You’ll also need to keep your truck clean and organized, as it will be your home away from home during long trips.
Find a Reputable Long Haul Trucking Company
Finally, it’s crucial to find a reputable long haul trucking company to work for. Research different companies and their hiring policies and benefits to find the best fit for your needs.
Look for trucking firms that offer competitive pay, good insurance coverage, and regular time off. This information can be accessed by networking with current drivers in the company, and reading the employee reviews, salary and employment benefits on job sites like Indeed or Glassdoor.
Also, see if they offer programs for new drivers, such as mentoring or additional training, to ensure that you continue to grow and develop as a long haul trucker.
Salary of Long Haul Truck Drivers
Although the OTR trucking job can be difficult because you’re often on the road away from your family, you’re dealing with delays and road conditions, the salary of long haul truckers is higher compared to other drivers.
According to Glassdoor, the estimated total median pay for a long haul truck driver is just over $86,000 annually. The salary range between the 25th and 75th percentile of all pay data for the long hauler is between $69,000 to $109,000 per year.
Long haul trucking is a challenging but rewarding career that requires a significant investment of time, effort, and money. However, with the right training, preparation, and research, you can become a successful long distance driver and enjoy a great career on the open road. Remember to stay alert and focused while driving, plan your trips well, and maintain your equipment to ensure a safe and successful journey.
Marina was in corporate communications for over 15 years before becoming a freelance writer. She's been writing about transportation, and the supply chain and trucking industry for over five years. Her father was in the trucking and logging business which exposed her to the industry. Her passions include travel, nature and entrepreneurship.