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A driver helper does whatever is needed to keep a truck running short of driving it. While the work can be summarized in a job description, many of the duties are left to the driver's discretion. Many driver helpers work the job as a way of getting a foot in the door of the trucking industry, though it can make a decent temporary or seasonal job.
Handling the Load
Most of a driver helper's work is physical, and his biggest job may be to help load or unload the truck. This may mean loading furniture or boxes on a hand truck, handling one end of particularly large items, or hand-carrying some items. Much of this depends on the type of cargo being handled; a helper on a moving van may be asked to roll up carpets and tie the load down in the truck. Loading the truck requires some intelligence and an eye toward maximizing the use of space. The helper also must make sure breakable items are protected from damage.
Driver helpers may be asked to give the driver directions to the next delivery point, and sometimes to speak with dispatchers if the driver's hands are busy. On long trips, a helper may need to converse with the driver. This not only gives the driver some company, but also helps keep the driver awake and alert on long hauls.
Backing a truck into a tight spot can be a daunting task, and the driver helper will likely help guide the truck to the loading dock. To guide a truck, the driver helper needs to be able to see the side-view mirrors at all times; if he doesn't, the driver can't see him either. The driver helper should know the turning and backing capabilities of the truck and driver, and be able to communicate his directions with understandable hand signals.
With high-volume delivery companies, a helper may assist the driver in customer service. During busy periods, a driver may handle some of the deliveries and the helper handle the rest. Even when customer service is not mentioned as part of the job, it's implied--a customer may want his delivery dropped in a specific location or in a certain manner. Because of this frequent contact with customers, a helper may be asked to wear a uniform and pay attention to his appearance.
A driver helper is often expected to help keep the truck clean. This may mean picking up the trash from the driver's compartment or sweeping out the cargo area.
Most of the work is outdoors, or sitting in the truck when en route to delivery points. Heavy lifting is required; often more than 75 pounds. Even though a good helper is valuable, he is low in the truck yard pecking order.
Drive or Not?
While driver helpers with the United Parcel Service won't drive the trucks, some companies--and some drivers--expect the helper to pitch in at the wheel. Some companies may require helpers to have a commercial driver's license.
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Al Bondigas is an award-winning newspaperman who started writing professionally in 1985. His print credits include the "Mohave Valley Daily News" and "The Mohave County Standard." Bondigas studied journalism at San Bernardino Valley College in California.