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What Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers Do

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a capacity of at least 26,001 pounds per gross vehicle weight (GVW). They deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.


Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers typically do the following:

Most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers plan their own routes. They may use satellite tracking to help them plan.

Before leaving, a driver usually is told a delivery location and time; but it is up to the driver to find a way to get the cargo there.

A driver has to know which roads allow trucks and which do not. Drivers also must plan legally required rest periods into their trip. Some have one or two routes that they drive regularly and others drivers take many different routes throughout the country. Some also drive to Mexico or Canada.

Companies sometimes use two drivers on long runs to minimize downtime. On these "sleeper" runs, one driver sleeps in a berth behind the cab while the other drives.

Some heavy truck drivers transport hazardous materials, such as chemical waste, and so have to take special precautions when driving. Also, these drivers normally carry specialized safety equipment in case of an accident. Other specialized drivers, such as those carrying liquids, oversized loads, or cars, have to follow rules that apply specifically to them.

Some long-haul truck drivers, called owner-operators, buy or lease trucks and go into business for themselves. They then have business tasks, including finding and keeping clients and doing business work such as accounting, in addition to their driving tasks.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition