Commercial truck driving is a diverse field with various routes and schedules that cater to the many needs of the transportation and logistics industry. Behind the wheel of many trucks are local truck drivers, who play a pivotal role in maintaining the economic engines of states and communities.
Individuals who are interested in exploring the open road can learn more about the life of a local truck driver — what they do, where they work, and the education and training required to become one.
3 Types of Truck Drivers
The primary categories within the truck driving field are over-the-road (OTR), regional, and local truck drivers.
The three types differ with respect to the distances they cover, the duration of their trips, the driver’s familiarity with specific regions or localities, and the nature of the driver’s interactions along the routes.
Long-haul OTR drivers often cover vast distances, traveling across the country from coast to coast. These drivers may be on the road for weeks at a time before returning home.
OTR drivers haul various products ranging from perishables to heavy machinery. They typically transport goods with wide delivery windows that can withstand cross-country travel. Due to the long distances and diverse routes they drive, OTR drivers often need to be adept at handling the different road conditions that occur when navigating through multiple states.
Regional Truck Drivers
Regional drivers typically operate within a specific U.S. region, such as the Midwest or the Northeast. Their schedules vary, but they may travel for several days to a week before returning home. Drivers who would prefer not to spend three to four weeks on the road at a time, as OTR drivers sometimes do, may find their calling in regional truck driving.
Like OTR drivers, regional drivers transport a variety of goods. Regional drivers need to be familiar with specific regional nuances, such as local traffic patterns, climate conditions, and regional regulations.
Local Truck Drivers
Local truck drivers generally operate within a 200-mile radius to cover a specific city, a group of towns, or a state. Their routes are compact compared to OTR and regional drivers — which means that local truck drivers usually return home daily after completing their rounds. Their shifts might be more consistent, often mirroring typical working hours, although some drivers might work nights or weekends, depending on the nature of their jobs.
Local truck drivers might deliver to specific types of locations regularly, such as retail stores, restaurants, or residential areas. They might handle goods like groceries, furniture, or packages.
Driving as a local trucker can be challenging and rewarding. While OTR and regional drivers may drive longer distances along a single route, local drivers need to be able to navigate off the highway on smaller local roads. Due to the frequency of their hauls, local drivers may also need to back into narrow loading docks several times a day, so it’s no surprise that local truck driving companies often require a minimum of 12 months of experience.
What Does a Local Truck Driver Do?
Local truck drivers, often referred to as local CDL drivers due to the requirement that they have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), help form the backbone of the U.S. ground-based logistics and transportation systems. Their role is essential to ensuring that goods — ranging from produce to propane to patio furniture — reach their intended destinations in a timely manner.
But what do the day-to-day activities of a local truck driver look like?
Work Environment for a Local Truck Driver
As mentioned above, local truck drivers primarily operate within specific areas, cities, or states, allowing them to return home more frequently than their long-haul counterparts. This offers a blend of the excitement of driving with the stability of local routes.
These drivers might work for retailers, distribution centers, or transportation companies, ensuring that shipments get from warehouses to stores or directly to consumers.
Local Truck Driver Job Responsibilities
With customers, businesses, and local economies relying on them, local truck drivers have many duties and responsibilities. Here are just a few of them:
- Safe operation. The safety of both the driver and other road users is crucial. A local truck driver must adhere to all traffic rules and regulations.
- Loading and unloading. Depending on the job, drivers may need to help with the loading or unloading of goods.
- Documentation. Drivers need to keep accurate records of their deliveries, mileage, and hours worked.
- Route planning. While drivers might have regular routes, circumstances like traffic conditions or construction might necessitate last-minute route changes.
- Vehicle maintenance. Regularly inspecting their vehicle and ensuring it’s in optimal condition is a critical part of a local truck driver’s job.
Local CDL Driver Education and Experience Requirements
Let’s turn now to the educational path and skills needed to become a local CDL driver. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates U.S. commercial driving standards.
For a person to legally drive a commercial vehicle, a state CDL is required. Individuals must pass their state’s CDL exam to legally operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the United States.
Commercial Driving Training and Licensure
The CDL test is designed to ensure that the driver possesses the necessary skills, knowledge, and understanding to safely operate a CMV. The CDL test typically consists of two primary components: a written knowledge test and a skills test. The requirements and specific content of the CDL test can vary slightly from state to state.
In all states, aspiring truck drivers typically need to attend a specialized CDL training program that meets the FMCSA’s entry-level driver training (ELDT) requirements. These programs meet federal requirements for new commercial drivers while preparing aspiring drivers for the CDL exam in their state. Certain types of commercial drivers may be exempt from these training requirements in some states, such as military or emergency drivers.
Skills Required of a Local Truck Driver
Given that local truck driving responsibilities can be varied and complex, this role requires many different skills. Consider just some of these necessary capabilities:
- Ease with driving and directions. Familiarity with local roads, addresses, and delivery spots is crucial for this type of driver. A strong sense of direction and familiarity with GPS devices can also make trips more efficient.
- Physical stamina. The job can be demanding, requiring physical strength and stamina for tasks like loading, unloading, and focusing for long hours on the road.
- Attention to detail. Whether it’s adhering to safety protocols, maintaining logs, or determining whether a loading space is clear to back into, many of the responsibilities of local truck drivers require precision and accuracy.
- Communication skills. Local drivers might have frequent interactions with business employees and managers, so they need to develop effective communication skills.
Job Outlook for Local Truck Drivers
Employment opportunities for truck drivers are on an upward trajectory. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of delivery truck drivers will increase 10% between 2022 and 2032, while employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers will increase by 4%. With the constant need for transporting goods and an economy that relies on timely deliveries, the demand for skilled local CDL truck drivers is expected to rise.
Start Your Career in Commercial Driving
Have a passion for the open road? Fortis is here to steer you in the right direction. The Advanced Tractor Trailer Driving program provides the in-depth knowledge, advanced skill development, and classroom instruction you need to join the next generation of licensed tractor-trailer drivers.
As a graduate of our commercial driver diploma program, you will be poised to operate vehicles of significant weight and play an essential role in the transportation economy. Dive into the world of commercial driving with us and embark on a fulfilling career as a local truck driver. Reach out today to discover more about our programs and upcoming start dates near you.
How Women Are Shaping the Future of Truck Driving
Take Your Trucking Career to the Next Level: Six Endorsements to Consider
Which Class of Commercial Driver License Should You Pursue?