Individuals who drive tractor-trailers, also known as semi-trailers and semi trucks, deliver freight to businesses, warehouses, and manufacturing plants. Some drivers cover relatively short distances, such as in-town and in-state drivers, though many others make trips across an entire country to deliver shipments. Semi truck driving jobs attract many applicants because the education and training requirements can be met in as little as four weeks, job openings are usually abundant, and life on the road offers independence and a chance to travel to interesting places. An individual who wants to get started in semi truck driving should make sure he or she meets the physical requirements set by his or her country, complete training at an accredited driving school, and obtain a commercial driver's license.
Most countries establish strict physical requirements for truck drivers to ensure they will be safe drivers and able to handle the various tasks associated with transporting goods. In the United States, the Department of Transportation requires interstate semi truck drivers to be at least 21 years old, have at least 20/40 vision with or without corrective lenses, and possess good hearing. Individuals must be in overall good physical health, with no potentially hazardous health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some states have special regulations that allow drivers who are 18 years of age to operate trucks within state limits.
A person who meets the physical requirements can look for accredited local semi truck driving schools. Prospective truck drivers can perform Internet searches, browse phone books, and contact local trucking companies to find schools that meet accreditation requirements set by state and national organizations. Most vocational school programs and private facilities offer classroom and practical training, and take anywhere from three to eight weeks to complete. In the classroom, new drivers learn about safety regulations, laws regarding the transport of goods, the basics of diesel engine operation and repair, and defensive driving strategies. They are often required to pass a series of written exams to prove their comprehension of classroom material.
Practical training at a semi truck driving school involves several hours spent as a passenger and a driver in realistic settings. Individuals learn how to start trucks, check fuel levels, and safely operate the vehicles. After observing an instructor's skills on city streets and highways, students are usually given the opportunity to get behind the wheel themselves. Successful students are awarded certificates of completion, and can pursue their commercial drivers' licenses.
A driver in the United States is typically required to take a written and practical test administered by Department of Transportation officials to receive their licenses. Once a commercial license has been obtained, a person can begin applying to different semi truck driving companies. Depending on company regulations, a new driver usually rides alongside an experienced professional for a few weeks or months to get more familiar with the job before working alone.