When most people think of truckers, the lifestyle they envision is one of OTR Trucking. OTR is short for “over the road,” but who decides what that means exactly?
Over the road trucking is a major employment industry in the United States today. No matter what any industry produces, their goods must travel around the nation to reach their final destination. Truck drivers make this happen and serve as the backbone of American transportation.
These drivers are out on assignment for weeks or months at a time, living primarily over the road. Rather than transporting goods locally or within a defined region, travels might take truck drivers across the US and Canada.
OTR trucking jobs are perfect for someone who enjoys being alone on the open road and seeing the sights that come along with it.
Truck Driver Qualifications and Training
A college degree is not typically required for OTR truck drivers. Instead, you will need a Class A CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). Some drivers go through an independent truck driving school and then find a job after graduation, while others are hired by a trucking company who then pays for training. Either way, you will not be permitted to drive until you are fully trained and licensed. Each company also sets its own minimum age and other requirements for its drivers.
To become an OTR driver, you first need to meet the basic requirements to operate a commercial vehicle. Take a look at what your state requires for a commercial driver's license (CDL). Requirements typically include:
- proof of identity,
- a clean driving record,
- the ability to meet medical qualifications, and
- passing both written and skills tests.
In some states, you'll also need to pay a road test fee and complete a professional trucking course.
Next, get your commercial learner's permit (CLP) and decide whether you want to pursue additional licensing that grants you endorsements to drive hazardous materials trucks, tank vehicles, school buses, and more. You only need to have a CLP for 14 days before you can take the road skills test and earn your CDL.
With a CDL in hand, you can start applying for OTR jobs. In most cases, you'll need to apply for entry-level jobs in your region. Before applying, learn more about the endorsements necessary and that make sure you live within the required area.
Benefits and Challenges of OTR Trucking Jobs
The benefits of being an OTR driver are numerous. Since there is such high demand for drivers interested in these positions, these types of jobs are almost always available. Trucking companies are frequently looking to add to their workforce and offer competitive salaries, benefits, and bonuses to people who are dedicated to their team.
OTR truck driving jobs are structured differently than most other careers. Instead of getting paid by the hour, most drivers get paid by the mile. For truckers, it’s not the time, but the productivity that counts. The more miles you cover, the higher your paycheck will be.
The amount of money you earn changes significantly depending on the trucking company you work for and what types of loads you carry. Truck drivers have seen salaries rise steadily over the past couple of years. According to the Bureau of Labor, the average annual pay for an OTR Truck Driver in the United States during 2018 was $43,680 a year, up from $40,260 in 2015. However, many veteran drivers can earn salaries in the $70,000 range. Like most jobs, drivers will see significant pay increases as you gain experience.
In addition, largely due to a driver shortage, trucking companies pay sign-on bonuses to attract new drivers and safety bonuses to incentivize good driving. Both of these bonuses can help boost your annual pay.
Long Haul Regulations
When considering your wage earning capacity keep in mind that a driver cannot exceed the hours of service rules established by the FMCSA. These regulations stipulate that you can work for a maximum of 14 hours after taking 10 hours off for rest or sleep. You can only drive for 11 of those 14 hours, though.
Over the course of eight consecutive days, you must stop driving after 70 hours on duty.
You can restart your eight-day work period by taking off at least 34 consecutive hours.
Truck drivers have much more security than other industries across the US. Since there is a shortage of truck drivers, there will always be new positions available. Trucking companies are always on the lookout for new drivers, especially ones with experience and a good safety record, and are willing to offer higher salaries and bonuses to draw in new talent.
See the Country
The other advantage to long haul trucking jobs is that the road is your office. For many drivers it also is a chance to enjoy the sights, the food, and the culture of places all over the country. If you are single, young, and adventurous, you may find that this kind of lifestyle suits you perfectly.
Being Away from Home
The downside of OTR trucking jobs is that if you have a family, this kind of travel can be incredibly difficult for you, your spouse, and your children. Being away for extended periods puts great strain on family relations. Some truck drivers also have a hard time adjusting to so much alone time. To keep drivers from missing their families and getting burnt out too quickly, some trucking companies allow your family (and even your pets) to travel with you.
Is OTR Trucking Right for You?
You can find your place working OTR jobs if you are determined. Some people are very well suited to this type of work and enjoy the benefits that come along with it. It definitely takes a special type of person to be able to handle all of the unique challenges encountered with this job.
Truck driving jobs are all about time management and problem solving. All trucking jobs create a unique challenge for you as a driver. Traffic, weather, road work, and detours due to construction or special events are all part of what you should plan for when creating your OTR route. You can save hours of delays and wasted time with effective planning. You can work to improve your mileage (and therefore salary) by getting better at time management and carefully thinking out your game plan before setting out each day.
Truck Driver Lifestyle Pros and Cons
Long-haul drivers enjoy a unique lifestyle that's very different from the routine of local truckers and delivery drivers. OTR drivers don't usually return home at the end of the workday. Instead, you'll typically work for multi-week stretches and return home for a few days or a week per month. That can add up to being away from home for over 300 days per year.
In addition, OTR drivers virtually never work standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours. You can typically design your own schedule, which means you can drive through the night if you like peace and quiet or follow the sunshine if it boosts your mood. Many OTR drivers work in teams, which means you'll get to know your partner very well.
Long-haul drivers are on the road for much of the year, and this can translate to substantial freedom. If you'd rather not work behind a desk or report to work at the same place every day, you'll appreciate the variety and independence that each day on the road brings.
Over The Road Trucking Companies
OTR truck driving jobs are some of the most rewarding and exciting careers available. These jobs allow you to see the United States in a way that few people do, exploring small towns, big cities, and picturesque landscapes that most people need vacation time to enjoy.
Which OTR trucking company you choose is a personal decision, but here are some contenders for you to consider:
An excellent company for any OTR driver, Covenant Transport is a particularly nice choice for those interested in team driving. The company offers a team matching program for solo drivers looking to team up, along with substantial teaming bonuses. You can drive your choice of an automatic or manual transmission truck. Haz Mat drivers get extra pay and Covenant offers generous bonuses. With full benefits and guaranteed home time, you can’t go wrong with this company.
Melton Truck Line
Tulsa, OK-based Melton Truck Lines offers truck drivers top pay and benefits, free on-site clinics and dentists, performance and referral bonuses, rider and pet programs, and much more. If you are interested in joining a flatbed trucking company, this is the leader for you.
Roehl Transport features late-model equipment and excellent benefits including profit sharing, a 401K, and passenger options for family members and pets. In addition, the company offers a novel pay plan with practical miles and pay increases every quarter. Based in Wisconsin, this small company features 127 tractor trailers and a variety of route types from which to choose. OTR drivers are typically out for 11 to 14 days and then home for three, although the company’s flexible schedules let you choose the home time that best fits your needs.
Swift Transportation has one of the largest fleets in the industry, with more than 16,000 company drivers. The company is committed to driver development from hiring through retirement, and even has its own trucking schools for those looking to enter the business. With excellent pay and benefits, dedicated routes, and a variety of equipment, Swift Transportation is a wonderful choice for both new and experienced OTR drivers.
USA Truck remains a top destination for new drivers, but the company is actively working to recruit experienced drivers as well. Providing transportation and logistics services to the continental United States, Mexico, and Canada for more than 30 years, USA Truck continues to put its employees first. Look for competitive pay, bonuses, extensive benefits, and a dedication to your work-life balance.
Find OTR Trucking Jobs
You can quickly apply for trucking jobs no matter what your experience or criteria are. You can apply directly online through websites that cater to the trucking industry, such as CDLjobs.com. This site allows you to research OTR trucking jobs quickly and easily, with clear and direct communication to dozens of trucking companies seeking OTR drivers and without the hassle of needing to apply to dozens of individual trucking jobs.