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16 Different Types Of Truck Drivers Explained

types of truck driver

Driving trucks may be a lifelong dream for some people, while others simply prefer life on the road. Driving trucks requires numerous skills and presents many challenges depending on the type of trucking. Many modern trucks require specialized skills and licensing for the drivers tasked with driving these machines. We will look at some of the types of truck drivers performing key roles in our modern society.

Truck drivers have a varied and sometimes interesting profession. The job is integral to the smooth functioning of commerce, industry, and survival of the general public. From food to building materials, oversize loads, and other important freight, truckers need to have a wide range of skills.

1. Flatbed Truck Drivers

flatbed truck

Flatbed trucks range in size from medium load to heavy load trailers. Flatbed trucks are usually used to transport oddly shaped freight that will not fit in other trucks.

Drivers of flatbed trucks require expert knowledge for balancing loads such as pipes, large machinery, and other unusual freight. Flatbed truck drivers often must drive mechanical loads onto their flatbeds to achieve the right balance and positioning of the load. In some cases, loading the truck requires a winch to haul the load onto the flatbed.

Many flatbed trucks have adjustable suspensions, and the flatbed can be lowered or raised to accommodate certain loads. Consequently, many flatbed trucks do not have large ground clearance. This requires careful route-planning by the truck driver to avoid roads where obstacles such as speed humps, pavements, or uneven road surfaces can pose a problem for the load.

The wide range of skills required for drivers of flatbed trucks results in these truckers being paid more highly than many other truck drivers.

2. Long-Haul Truck Drivers

Long-haul truck drivers are known by a variety of names in different regions. Descriptions such as Over-The-Road or OTR truckers, or interstate truckers refer to long-haul truck drivers.

These truck drivers handle long-distance freight deliveries and spend many hours, days, or even weeks on the road while they head towards their freight destination.

Long-haul truck drivers usually drive trucks that have a compartment in the cab with a place for the driver to sleep. Many such trucks have services such as built-in propane gas cooking facilities and sometimes toilet facilities similar to RV’s to accommodate driver’s needs on the road.

These self-contained trucks are almost a home-away-from-home for the drivers and allow them to pull over on the side of the road to sleep, have a meal, or a bathroom break whenever they need it.

Long-haul truck drivers require a special type of person with the mental fortitude and stamina for long hours driving day after day.

3. Military Truck Drivers

The military requires truck drivers with a variety of skills. From basic freight transport to highly specialized freight transport, the military has scope for many truck driving opportunities.

From transporting food, medical supplies, hazardous material, explosives, and munitions to transporting heavy vehicles such as tanks and aircraft, a wide range of skills is required for the military truck driver.

Since some of the equipment used is highly specialized and not available to the public, the military provides the training necessary for the truck drivers working in this capacity.

4. Tanker Truck Drivers

Tanker trucks are designed to carry very specific loads, from inert materials to volatile fuels or hazardous chemicals and gasses.

Tanker trucks are engineered with special containers to prevent liquid loads from sloshing around in the container and unbalancing the load.

Some tanker trucks have multiple, separate containers, with each compartment intended for a different destination. This requires the tanker truck driver to know load balancing and plan his offloading sequence so the load at the back does not become unbalanced.

Most tanker trucks have pump systems to take on or deliver their loads. Some have metered pumps to deliver different quantities to different destinations. The tanker truck driver must have knowledge of the operation of this specialized equipment.

Driving a tanker truck requires a different driving skill-set to driving trucks with non-liquid loads. Inexperienced tanker truck drivers can easily roll a tanker truck over if they do not take steps to drive according to the load.

5. Heavy Load Truck Drivers

Heavy load trucks are designed for the transport of very heavy loads. They have specialized suspensions and are often loaded with a crane at the pickup and delivery point.

Heavy load truck drivers need skills to manage the loading and offloading of the freight and adapt their driving style to accommodate the specific load.

Route planning is a key skill required for heavy-load truckers. Some road surfaces are not capable of supporting heavy loads. Driving on these roads could damage the road surface and even damage the truck itself.

Planning routes for heavy loads often involves consultation with road traffic authorities and municipal road agencies, who can advise on the appropriate routes for the heavy load.

6. Oversize Load Truck Drivers

oversize load truck
An oversize load hauler truck trailer hauling a concrete pipe tube in Virginia.

Oversize load trucks are closely associated with heavy load trucking, but with the added component of a load that takes up a large portion of the road and could affect traffic in both directions on the road.

Oversize load truck drivers need management skills, problem-solving skills, and communication skills, in addition to exceptional driving skills.

Planning the transport of oversize loads often requires weeks or months of planning. Traffic authorities, municipal road officials, and electricity departments are often included in the planning of transporting these loads.

The oversize load truck driver needs to have good communication skills to coordinate with these authorities, and the entourage of vehicles requires to accompany the load.

Public roads often need to be closed to other traffic to accommodate the passage of the load, which requires the chase cars to go ahead of the load and coordinate the road closures. Some oversize loads are only allowed to be transported at night to minimize the traffic impact for other road users.

7. Dry Van Truck Drivers

Dry van truckers are often the first trucking job for many truckers. These trucks are used to transport dry goods such as boxed foods, tinned food, animal feed, fertilizers, and similar products. With the transport of these loads, there is not much special attention that the driver needs to give to the load.

Dry goods are most commonly transported in closed box trucks or truck trailers. The driver is not usually responsible for the loading or offloading of the cargo. This function is normally performed by the sender and the freight recipient.

Many truck drivers use a dry van trucking job as an entry point into the trucking industry and gain the initial knowledge needed to drive large trucks.

8. Hazardous Material Truck Drivers

Hazardous materials can take various forms, requiring the use of specialized trucks and skilled truck drivers to transport these loads.

Some hazardous freight requires tankers for transport, while others require sealed trucks to prevent gas leakage, radiation leakage, or other spills of dangerous cargo.

The truck drivers tasked with transporting these materials must have training regarding the correct transport of the hazardous material, correct loading and offloading procedures, and the steps to take in the event of a spill.

In some cases, the truck drivers must be familiar with the use of hazmat suits and need to have this equipment on the truck to attend to the cargo should there be problems during the transportation.

Hazardous material truck drivers are often required to have specialized driving licenses to transport this type of freight.

9. Overland Truck Drivers

Overland truck drivers are truck drivers that deliver freight to outlying, remote locations. This type of trucking requires a special kind of trucker. It is not the type of trucking job suitable for many people.

Overland truckers need high problem-solving skills and planning skills since they are often alone and need to solve complex problems regarding the freight, weather, or faults on their trucks on their own.

Mechanical skill and ingenuity and proper preparation of the truck, and carrying of additional spares, equipment, and tools to keep the truck moving are key aspects for the overland trucker.

Puncture repairs, changing truck and trailer tires are often all part of a day’s work for these hardy truckers. Handling adverse weather, such as snowstorms, heavy rain, crossing swollen rivers, or extricating a truck stuck in thick mud is part of the overland trucker’s job description.

10. Fire Truck Drivers

Fire truck drivers are an essential part of the service provided to the public by local fire departments. Similar to the military, fire departments use specialized vehicles that are not generally in common use publically.

This requires fire truck drivers to receive specialized training in the driving and operation of these trucks. Fire truck drivers are also qualified firemen but have received additional training for driving fire trucks, positioning the vehicles safely and effectively at a fire scene, and operating all the specialized equipment on the truck.

Fire truck drivers receive special training to drive large emergency vehicles safely at higher speeds and maneuver large vehicles in tight spaces.

11. Local Truck Drivers

Local truck drivers drive freight delivery vehicles in a limited area. These drivers deliver freight at short distances and can perform multiple trips each day to different locations.

Since these truck drivers deliver freight to businesses locally, it is often seen as a normal nine-to-five job, working normal office hours. This is because the senders and receivers of the freight keep normal business hours, limiting the times at which the driver can collect or deliver freight.

Local truck drivers will spend all day on the road, but they will only travel short distances for each delivery trip. Thus this type of trucking leads to fewer problems such as driver fatigue.

12. Regional Truck Drivers

Regional truck drivers generally perform mid-distance freight delivery. These are normally inter-city deliveries, where the driver may be on the road for a couple of days at a time. The driving time for regional truck drivers is seldom more than a day and an overnight haul.

Regional truck drivers haul freight over medium distances rather than long distances. Overnight courier services often employ regional truck drivers to deliver goods overnight from city to city.

13. Owner-Operator Truck Drivers

Owner-operator truck drivers are truck drivers that own the truck they are driving and work from contract to contract for hauling freight.

These truck drivers are often sought after to transport goods long distances, sensitive goods, or time-critical freight. Since these truckers drive their own rigs, they often take greater care with the trucks and the cargo, minimizing transport damage of the goods.

Owner-operator truck drivers will often take on trucking jobs that other transport companies decline due to the difficulty of the job.

Owner-operator truck drivers will try to plan return loads on a trip to make money from the return leg of the journey and the delivery leg of the haul.

14. Company Truck Drivers

Company truck drivers do not own their own trucks but drive trucks for a transport company. These truck drivers may specialize in various types of trucking or be used for general truck driving and deliveries.

Company truck drivers may be long-haul or local truck drivers or anything in between. Many new truck drivers look for driving positions with these companies to gain experience across a wide range of trucks and types of freight hauling.

15. Auto Truck Driver

Auto hauling trucks are specialized for transporting cars over long distances. These trucks have equipment designed to load and unload cars from the double-decker trailers.

These cars can be high-value loads, especially in the transport of sports cars or executive cars. The truck drivers employed to transport these cars will not be novice drivers since the consequences of damaging the load can be costly.

Auto truck drivers are often long-haul truck drivers that transport cars from ports to inland cities for car dealerships. Some car dealerships use auto truckers to distribute their stock across their country-wide dealer network.

16. Refrigerated Truck Driver

Perishable goods are often transported in refrigerated trucks. These trucks have specialized cooling equipment to maintain the correct temperature for the goods being transported.

Refrigerated truck drivers require the relevant knowledge for managing the refrigerated system on these trucks. Monitoring, repairs, and maintenance of the refrigeration system may be required on long-haul trips to prevent cargo loss.

Many of these trips may require non-stop driving to cover the required distance and ensure fresh goods delivery. In this case, two drivers may be used to tag-team the drive. The drivers will drive in shifts, with one person driving while the other rests or sleeps.

Conclusion
Truck drivers are an integral link in the supply chain that many companies and the general public rely on to receive the food and supplies they need.

Road transport is a key arterial service that our towns, cities, and ultimately the general public rely on to bring raw materials, food, and important products to where they are needed. In the past, truck drivers were considered to be low-skilled labor, but modern trucks require a high level of skill and management to operate.

The realization of the importance of skilled drivers has resulted in the trucking industry receiving recognition of their value to trade, commerce, and society in general. This has resulted in the improvement of the compensation offered to experienced and skilled truck drivers.

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