Many jobs in the truck transportation and warehousing industry require only a high school education, although an increasing number of workers have at least some college education. Increased emphasis on formal education stems from increased complexity in the industry. Nearly all operations involve computers and information management systems. Many occupations require detail-oriented persons with computer skills. A growing number of employers recommend some form of formal training either in-house or through trade or union programs. Although the Federal Government does not mandate these programs, the trend is toward certification and standardized competency.
Whereas many States allow those who are 18 years old to drive trucks within State borders, the U.S. Department of Transportation establishes minimum qualifications for truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require truck drivers to be at least 21 years old, have at least 20/40 vision and good hearing, and be able to read and speak English. They must also have good driving records. In addition, drivers must have a State commercial driver’s license, for which they must pass a written examination and a skills test operating the type of vehicle they will be driving. Individual companies often have additional requirements applicants must meet.
Some truck drivers enter the occupation by attending training schools for truck drivers. Schools vary greatly in the quality of training they provide, but they are becoming more standardized. Many employers and some States support these programs.
Some large trucking companies have formal training programs that prospective drivers attend. Other companies assign experienced drivers to teach and mentor newer drivers. Local trucking firms often start drivers as truck driver helpers. As they gain experience and demonstrate their reliability, they receive assignments with greater earnings or preferred work schedules. Because of increased competition for experienced drivers, some larger companies lure these drivers with increased pay and preferred assignments. Some trucking firms hire only experienced drivers.
Some long-distance truck drivers purchase a truck and go into business for themselves. Although many of these owner-operators are successful, some fail to cover expenses and eventually go out of business. Owner-operators should have good business sense as well as truck driving experience. Courses in accounting, business, and business mathematics are helpful, and knowledge of truck mechanics can enable owner-operators to perform their own routine maintenance and minor repairs.
Unskilled employees may work as helpers, laborers, and material movers in their first job. They must be in good physical condition because the work often involves a great deal of physical labor and heavy lifting. They acquire skills on the job and often advance to more skilled jobs, such as industrial truck operator, truck driver, shipping and receiving clerk, or supervisor.
Office and administrative support jobs in the truck transportation and warehousing industry require good typing skills and familiarity with computers. Shipping and receiving clerks watch and learn the skills of the trade from more experienced workers while on the job. Stock clerks and truck drivers often advance to dispatcher positions after becoming familiar with company operations and procedures.
While some vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers learn the trade on the job, most employers prefer to hire graduates of programs in diesel mechanics offered by community and junior colleges or vocational and technical schools. Those with no training often start as helpers to mechanics, doing basic errands and chores such as washing trucks or moving them to different locations. Experience as an automotive service technician is helpful because many of the skills relate to diesel technology. Experienced technicians may advance to shop supervisor or parts manager positions.
For managerial jobs in the truck transportation and warehousing industry, employers prefer persons with bachelor’s degrees in business, marketing, accounting, industrial relations, or economics. Good communication, problem-solving, and analytical skills are valuable in entry-level jobs. Since trucking and warehousing firms may rely heavily computer technology to aid in the distribution of goods, knowledge of information systems also is helpful for advancement. Although most managers must learn logistics through extensive training on the job, several universities offer graduate and undergraduate programs in logistics. These programs emphasize the tools necessary to manage the distribution of goods and are sometimes associated with the business departments of schools. Managers hired for entry-level positions sometimes advance to top level managerial jobs.
Some college graduates and persons without a college degree enter sales or administrative positions. Marketing and sales workers must be familiar with their firm’s products and services and have strong communication skills.