Trucking Basics

Learn the basics of the trucking industry to ensure business success

The trucking industry is the life blood of the United States economy. Truckers transport every type of freight imaginable, from livestock to groceries to cars. Working in trucking requires tremendous dedication, as truckers often spend several days to weeks on the road, living in their semis and truck stops. Although we tend to associate trucking with semis carrying large freight, many truckers transport smaller loads with smaller trucks and trailers.

Despite the long hours and heavy travel time, trucking is ideal for anyone interested in job freedom. Whether you're interested in starting a trucking business or working for an established trucking company, you must obtain a special license to drive a truck that will haul loads in excess of 26,000 pounds. Once licensed, you'll be able to get start your trucking career.

Consider the following when learning about the trucking basics:

1. Get certified to drive for freight companies with a commercial driver's license (CDL).

2. Learn more about the workhorses of the industry, long haul trucking companies.

3. Ship small loads of freight with the help of a hot shot trucking company.

Obtain a commercial driver's license to get started in the trucking business

Prior to 1986, there were no federal requirements for operating a commercial tractor-trailer. Many states had no requirements at all, and anyone with a driver's license was technically qualified to operate a semi. Federal legislation, aimed at improving highway safety, established minimum national requirements for commercial driver's licenses.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for issuing, administering and enforcing safety and hazardous materials regulations. The agency provides information about the history of the CDL program, including a quick reference fact sheet. CDL Digest offers current CDL information for free. The company provides links to the CDL issuing agencies in all 50 states.

Take your freight far working with long haul trucking companies

Long haul trucking is a common mode of ground transport. Large freight trucks usually have a sleeper cab, allowing drivers to live in their vehicles for extended periods of time. The only stops they make are for food, fuel and loading and unloading of freight.
U.S Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook provides current long haul trucking employment information. This is a great resource for learning about the types of trucking jobs available and their respective salary ranges. Top USA Jobs provides a list of long haul trucking jobs available in the United States. The database groups jobs by state and category.

Haul smaller loads with a hot shot trucking company

Hot shot loads are smaller than loads carried by full-sized semis. Hot shot truck companies often ship cars and other passenger vehicles for auction services. This type of ground transportation is popular, as it saves money when a load doesn't fill an entire semi.
  • If you are interested in trucking, be prepared to stop at weigh stations along interstates across the country. New technology allows trucks to weigh in motion as they drive, reducing or eliminating time spent pulling off of the road. Using this service requires transponder equipment, similar to toll road express passes. Consider using this service to save time and money.

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