Truck drivers looking to increase profit potential and run their own business can buy or lease their own trucks and become owner-operators. Like all truck drivers, they haul cargo, usually over long distances. Owner-operators not only fulfill all of the duties of truck drivers, they must also perform the tasks necessary to keep their businesses running.
Commercial Driver's License
Truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver's license. The specific requirements for a CDL vary by state but usually include passing a knowledge exam and driving test. Drivers may opt to get additional endorsements so that they are qualified for more jobs. For example, drivers with an "H" endorsement are qualified to transport hazardous materials. Drivers may be tested for drugs or alcohol at any time. Drug or alcohol use, multiple traffic violations or being convicted of a felony that involved the use of a motor vehicle will result in suspension of the CDL.
In many cases, companies required truck drivers to have at least a high school diploma. Some companies will hire drivers with only a CDL; however, many jobs require at least two years of experience. In addition, drivers must be in good health and pass a medical exam. They must have 20/40 vision and be able to see colors on traffic lights. Some medical conditions, such as epilepsy, will disqualify a driver from obtaining a CDL.
Truck Driver Duties
Truck drivers spend much of their time driving long distances. While some companies may provide routes for drivers to follow, many drivers plan their own routes. During the drive, they must obey all traffic and safety laws and report to the dispatcher if they encounter any problems. They may also load and unload cargo and inspect the truck and trailer for any problems before and after completing a route.
Truck driver owner-operators own their own business and must complete business tasks and fulfill driving duties. They must make sure that their truck is in good working order and make sure maintenance tasks and repairs are completed as needed. In addition, they must find clients to drive for and maintain their own accounting and record keeping.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, owner-operators earn a median of $37,770 per year, as of May 2010 data. Drivers are generally paid based on mileage and the type of cargo. They also often receive bonuses. In some cases, owner-operators will earn a portion of the revenue made from shipping.
Although truck drivers are often paid by mileage, they may not exceed the hours mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Drivers may not drive more than 11 hours straight and may not work for more than 14 hours in a row, including driving, loading, and unloading cargo. Drivers must take at least a 10-hour break before returning to work. Hours must be recorded in a log book. Drivers often spend several days at a time on the road away from home and may work nights, weekends and holidays. Drivers are often sedentary and face health concerns including obesity, high blood pressure and fatigue.