More than 8.6 million Americans work in transportation jobs, including more than 3 million truck drivers who move raw materials and finished goods around the nation. Long-haul truck driver is the most common job in transportation. Tractor-trailer drivers work in tandem with route planners, traffic dispatchers and traffic managers. Delivery truck drivers distribute cargo in a limited area.
Transportation Job Types
Long-haul truck drivers transport goods between cities and states, typically in trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds. Self-employed tractor-trailer drivers are called owner-operators.
Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers deliver merchandise to stores or customers' homes typically in one region or urban area. They drive trucks of 26,000 pounds or less.
Traffic dispatchers organize where truck drivers go. They stay in touch with the drivers, give them assignments, share traffic information and maintain tracking logs.
Traffic managers analyze data, work with vendors and set policies to help their companies efficiently deliver goods and maximize profits.
Transportation Education and Certifications
To get a delivery truck driver job or driver/sales job, you'll need a high school diploma or GED, plus on-the-job training. To advance and find transportation job opportunities as a long-haul tractor-trailer driver, you'll need a few years of related driving experience as well.
Pursuing a transportation career as a traffic manager requires a bachelor's degree, but some companies will hire someone with an associate's degree and several years of experience.
States have special license requirements or tests for truck drivers whose jobs involve hazardous material, tankers, and double- or triple-trailer trucks.
Transportation Job Market
Transportation employment for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is expected to increase 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average occupation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Light truck/delivery truck driver employment will increase 15 percent during that period, about average for all occupations, while driver/sales worker jobs will grow 10 percent, the BLS reports.
The median salary for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $37,930 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Dispatchers earned median salaries of $35,200. Light truck and delivery services drivers earned a median of $29,080. Driver/sales workers made $22,770.