Skilled Trades

Interstate vs. Intrastate Truck Driving: Which Career Is Right for You?

Skilled TradesDecember 11, 2023

Truck drivers transport billions of tons of freight every year. While some truckers transport cargo across the country, others operate within a state. It’s important for prospective truckers to understand the difference between interstate vs. intrastate truck driving. 

Can a 20-year-old become a long-haul trucker? Do local truck drivers need a commercial driver’s license (CDL)? What’s the job outlook for interstate truckers compared with that of intrastate truckers?

Attending commercial driving school can prepare learners for a role as an interstate and intrastate driver. Before becoming a truck driver, prospective drivers must consider whether interstate or intrastate driving is the right fit.

What’s Interstate Truck Driving?

Truck drivers who operate in multiple states engage in interstate truck driving. Any route that crosses state lines counts as interstate driving, even if the trip begins and ends in a single state while passing through a different state. Interstate truck driving may also cross international borders. For example, truckers who transport goods between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada qualify as interstate drivers.

Long-haul truckers are interstate drivers who cover routes of 1,000 miles or more. Regional truckers stay within a 1,000-mile region that includes multiple states. Interstate truck drivers must hold a current CDL and follow federal trucking regulations. 

Interstate Trucker Duties and Responsibilities

Interstate truck drivers operate heavy vehicles across long distances. While driving, they must follow traffic laws and report any mechanical problems with their vehicle. Truckers must maintain their vehicle and log their hours to comply with federal regulations. They must also regularly inspect their cargo and make sure that it’s secure for transport.

Interstate Truck Driving Skills

Regardless of the distance covered, truck drivers need excellent road skills. Some interstate drivers operate regionally along a set route. Others must plan their routes; this requires organizational skills. Interstate truck drivers must follow federal regulations, which limit the number of hours they can drive consecutively and during the week.

What’s Intrastate Truck Driving?

Intrastate truck driving takes place within a single state. For example, local truck drivers who deliver furniture, transport packages from warehouses to customers, and collect refuse qualify as intrastate truck drivers. 

Intrastate truck drivers need a special driver’s license and strong road skills. Depending on the state, though, the regulations and licensing requirements may differ from interstate drivers.

Intrastate Trucker Duties and Responsibilities

Truckers who operate within a single state must safely transport cargo, follow traffic laws, and coordinate with a dispatcher on routes and mechanical issues. Their specific duties vary depending on the role. For example, delivery drivers load and unload packages, interact with customers, and keep records of deliveries. 

Intrastate Truck Driving Skills

While long-haul truckers drive mostly on interstate highways, intrastate drivers often operate heavy vehicles on urban and suburban roads. An attention to detail and an understanding of traffic laws help intrastate drivers operate their vehicles safely. 

Differences Between Interstate and Intrastate Truck Driving

Before becoming a truck driver, prospective truckers need to understand the differences between interstate vs. intrastate driving. The two professions have different licensure requirements and different regulations. Drivers may also operate different types of vehicles depending on whether they drive within a single state or across state lines.

Vehicle Type

While intrastate and interstate truck drivers may both operate semitrucks, the two roles often require different types of vehicles. In general, regional and long-haul vehicles that cross state lines include flatbed trucks, refrigerated trailers, dry vans, and tankers, as well as semitrucks. 

In contrast, the types of vehicles in intrastate trucking include box trucks, concrete mixing trucks, garbage trucks, and dump trucks. 

Commercial Driver’s License Requirements

Drivers need a CDL whether they’re engaged in interstate or intrastate truck driving. However, CDL requirements vary depending on whether the driver will cross state lines. 

Interstate truck drivers must be at least 21 years old. However, drivers can become an intrastate trucker at 18 years old. A CDL that covers interstate driving also requires the successful completion of an approved commercial driver training program. Intrastate drivers don’t need to meet this requirement. 

Interstate Commerce Rules

Drivers transporting goods across state lines need to follow federal regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate commerce and sets hours of service regulations. For example, interstate drivers can’t work for more than 14 hours without a break or drive for more than 11 consecutive hours. 

Interstate truck driving also comes with different insurance requirements. In contrast, intrastate drivers must comply with their state’s regulations and licensing requirements. 

Interstate vs. Intrastate Truck Driving: Job Outlook

What’s the job outlook for interstate vs. intrastate truck drivers? Demand for truck drivers continues to grow. Overall, heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers can expect 4% job growth from 2022 to 2032, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That means around 241,000 job openings annually. Delivery truck drivers will experience slightly faster job growth, growing by 10%  over the next decade. These intrastate truck drivers will see around 204,000 job openings annually.

Become a Truck Driver With the Fortis Commercial Driving School

Employment for interstate and intrastate truck drivers will grow over the next decade. The Advanced Tractor Trailer Driving program at Fortis can prepare you for the CDL exam and careers in trucking. 

At Fortis, learners build career-ready skills. You’ll learn how to operate tractor trailers, strengthen your technical driving skills, and qualify for a CDL in your state. Students leave the program qualified for jobs as an intrastate or interstate truck driver.

Recommended Readings
How Women Are Shaping the Future of Truck Driving
What Does the Trucker Shortage Mean for Trucking Students?
What Types of Jobs Can I Get With a Class a CDL?

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Interstate Truck Driver's Guide to Hours of Service
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers