Truck driving sits well for those seeking job growth

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Trucking is a growing industry with the potential to put employees in the driver’s seat of their own careers.

Truck drivers roll into a coveted spot on the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s Hoosier Hot 50 Jobs list, projected to grow from a total of 45,004 positions in 2012 to 49,651 jobs in 2022.

As a driver for RG Transport, a truckload carrier unit of Red Gold, Chris Welborn hauls tomato products for the company, along with other various categories of freight. Although he attended Indiana University, Welborn says a high school degree or equivalent is the standard requirement for becoming a commercial truck driver.

Welborn launched his trucking career with Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider in June 2000.

“Schneider had an academy where you could train to drive a tractor trailer and earn your commercial driver’s license,” he said. “In exchange for the training, you committed to work for them for a period of two years. I worked in their specialized flatbed division.”

In a nutshell, Welborn says trucking boils down to being able to handle freight deliveries in a safe and timely manner.

“Of course, there are other details involved,” he added. “Some jobs may require a driver to unload freight at customer facilities; others may require the driver to ‘drop and hook’ — drop a loaded trailer and pick up an empty one. It varies greatly from company to company, and customer to customer.”

Question: What kind of training is required to be a truck driver?

Answer: “Most companies require new drivers to attend and complete a certified training program. There are many driving schools that train new drivers in mechanical operation of the vehicle, safety measures, rules of the road and basic operation. Then you go on the road with a driver/trainer. The time a new driver spends with a driver/trainer depends on the skill level of the driver and varies by company. Many large companies have their own schools.”

Q: Do you need special licensing to drive a truck?

A: “To operate a commercial vehicle, you must have a Class A commercial driver’s license. You may also be required to have additional endorsements attached to your license, like a HazMat endorsement for hauling hazardous materials, or a tanker and doubles endorsement.”

Q: Are there limits to how long you can drive at a stretch?

A: “Trucking is not a 9-to-5 career. Driver hours are dictated by the Department of Transportation, and the hours of service are very explicit. A driver can only drive 11 hours in a consecutive 14-hour period of on-duty time. After that, a driver must take a continuous 10 hours of off-duty time before resuming the next 14-hour work period. It can seem complicated, but with experience, it’s manageable.”

Q: What kinds of jobs are available for drivers in the trucking industry?

A: “Opportunities abound for commercial drivers of all skill levels. There is a nationwide shortage of drivers. Almost every company in the Indianapolis area is looking for drivers, especially over-the-road. Over-the-road drivers are away from their home bases for varying periods of time, from a few days to several weeks depending on the company and the individual driver. There are local opportunities as well.”

Q: What kind of job security and benefits do you have as a truck driver?

A: “If you’re a safe and reliable driver, job security is a non-issue. If you can do the job, you have a job. Benefits vary by company; most offer health and retirement plans.”

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: “There’s a definite sense of freedom, especially if you’re driving over-the-road. There are no time clocks or supervisors looking over you. On the flip side, you’re away from home. That can be hard, especially if you have a family.”

Q: What skills and characteristics are needed to be successful in your line of work?

A: “You need to be patient and even-tempered to do this job. Things happen daily that are out of your control. You have to be able to let things roll off your back. Also, many loads are time-sensitive, so being on time is really important.”

More about Chris Welborn

Age: 47.

Title: Truck driver for RG Transport.

Education: Attended Indiana University.

Family: Wife, Gina Cerimele; daughter, Lilia Kozloski.

More about truck drivers*

Average salary: $38,470.

Education/training: Certification.

Major industry: Transportation, distribution and logistics.

Related occupations: Bus driver, transit and intercity; delivery services driver, industrial truck and tractor operator.

2012 employment: 45,004.

2022 projections: 49,651.

Annual growth: 10.33%.

Annual change: 1,185.

*Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Hoosier Hot 50 Jobs

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