Have you ever asked yourself “What is OTR Trucking?” The term typically stands for “Over-The-Road Truck Drivers”, otherwise also known as long-haulers or long-haul trucking. These kinds of truckers are on assignment for months and deliver various types of freight arriving from overseas. Additionally, they have the freedom to travel anywhere in the U.S. and even Canada. OTR Trucking is perfect for those who enjoy sightseeing and love the open road. Though, new drivers will need to possess certain skill sets and licenses for OTR trucking. Read on to find out more about how you could become an OTR driver today.
Weighing Your Options
With any trucking job, a driver can encounter several challenges along the way, but the job also comes with its abundant perks. To make a proper decision on whether or not OTR trucking is right for you, here are some aspects first-time truckers should know firsthand.
How Many Miles Are Covered By An OTR Driver?
Most of the time, OTR drivers will travel long distances to deliver fresh vegetables, machinery and vehicles arriving from overseas. According to CloudTrucks, they typically will travel more than 3,000 miles but on average it can range between 1,200 to 1,400 miles. Though, if you’re a loner and enjoy traveling, this is the job for you.
About the OTR Driver’s Salary
In addition to taking advantage of the open road, an OTR truck driver gets paid by the mile, rather than the hour. Despite the fact that your earnings can vary from company to company and the materials you haul, OTR trucking can become a very lucrative business. In 2021, the Bureau of Labor reported that an OTR Truck Driver in the U.S. makes $48,310 annually. Experience also has a lot to do with pay increases as well. Many long-time drivers can make up to $73K though.
Driver shortages have even led trucking companies to hand out all kinds of incentives for new drivers, including sign-on and safety bonuses. A little extra money in your pocket can go a long way for any trucker.
What Kind Of Qualifications Do I Need To Start OTR Trucking?
New drivers first have to obtain the necessary skills and licenses to become an Over-The-Road-Truck-Driver. They don’t need any type of college background but they will need to meet the basic requirements of proof of Identification, having a clean driving record, and decent medical qualifications.
New drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). In some cases, new drivers attend an Independent Truck Driving School, while others are hired into a trucking company that pays for their training.
Though, some states do require you to pay a road test fee and complete their own trucking course. If first-time drivers decide to stay OTR drivers long-term, they can obtain additional licensing and endorsements to haul more hazardous materials, such as school buses and tank vehicles. According to CDLjobs.com, drivers can obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP), which you’ll only need for two weeks before taking the road skills test and earning a CDL. Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License can allow a driver to start applying for OTR jobs right away.
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The Pros Of Being An OTR Driver
When it comes to “over-the-road truck driving”, there are several benefits to living life on the road.
- Job Security: Given that there is a high demand for drivers interested in long-haul trucking, these types of jobs are almost always hiring. Trucking companies are always on the hunt for fresh, new talent to add to their workforce.
- A Very Lucrative Business: Obviously, long haul drivers are paid more money than regional and local truck drivers.Truckstop.com reports that OTR drivers receive higher pay than those that do local or regional trucking. Not to mention, trucking companies nowadays are handing out bonuses and incentives right and left.
- You Make Your Own Schedule: In addition to getting paid the big bucks, OTR truckers don’t work a typical 9 am to 5 pm job. Instead, they have the freedom and flexibility to choose their own hours. The job allows long-haul drivers the chance to enjoy new places, sights, and food, all while working from the comfort of their truck cabin.
- Travel Around The World: Drivers also have the open road at their beck and call. They get the chance to see the world in a way that very few people do. As an OTR driver, you can mix business with pleasure.
The Cons Of Long-Haul Trucking
While “over-the-road truck driving” has its endless perks, it also comes with some challenges to look out for.
- Working Hours Compliance: When it comes to a driver’s wage earning capacity, keep in mind that you can’t exceed the hours of service rules as stated by the FMCSA. These regulations dictate that a long-haul driver can work for a maximum of 14 hours after taking 10 hours off for a break or sleep. However, a driver can only drive for 11 of those 14 hours.
- Away From Loved Ones: While being on the open road seems like a dream come true for some, it can be lonely at times. According to CDLjobs.com, drivers are often away from their families for long periods of time and may find it difficult to adjust to the loneliness. Fortunately, some trucking companies allow you to bring your family and pets along for the ride.
- Detention: Another challenge a new OTR driver may encounter is “Detention”, which occurs when a route is delayed due to inclement weather, road work, or even a severe car accident. Not only can it prevent a driver from delivering the cargo on time, but it can also negatively affect your pay. In the end, it pays to stay up-to-date on all the latest delays and unfavorable weather conditions along a driver’s route.
- Poor Infrastructure: Speaking of delays, even poorly paved roads can directly affect an OTR trucker’s job. The U.S. Department of Transportation states that a large percentage of all major roads in America aren’t in good condition.
Understanding the pros and cons of being an OTR driver can really help first-timer truck drivers make an informed decision about the job. Though, they should also be prepared to handle any challenges that come with OTR trucking.
Required Gears and Equipment for OTR Trucking
Here are some essential items to take with you while living life on the road and on the go.
1. Tire Chains:
An over-the-road truck drivers might find themselves in need of tire chains when dealing with inclement weather conditions. Tire chains can improve the overall traction and control of the truck, especially when driving in snow, ice, or over slippery surfaces.
2. Tire Pressure Gauge:
An OTR driver must use tire pressure gauges to ensure that the truck’s tires are properly inflated. Like with any vehicle, pressure gauges keep the truck safe, improve fuel efficiency and extend the life of your tires.
An OTR driver might need a high-quality, and compact flashlight when traveling on dark roads at night. A good flashlight must be durable, have at least 5,000 lumens, and long battery life.
Should a new driver’s truck break down or experience a disturbance, it’s a good idea to bring work gloves to do repairs. They also help with the loading and unloading of cargo.
5. First Aid Kit:
In addition to carrying a flashlight, OTR truckers should make sure they have a first aid kit on hand. Be sure to bring along items like packs of aspirin, tweezers, a pair of nonlatex gloves, and bandages for any type of emergency.
6. Clean Clothes:
It’s best to treat your OTR trucking assignment like an extended vacation. Always carry a suitcase full of clean clothes to make sure you have enough to wear throughout the duration of your job.
7. High-Visibility Jacket:
It’s of great importance that OTR truckers choose a high-visibility jacket that’s durable, comfortable, and has a good amount of visibility during low-light conditions. A high-visibility jacket is especially useful for drivers when they’re making repairs to their trucks at night.
8. Cargo Control Products:
Of course, OTR truckers should always have on-hand cargo control supplies like tie-down winches, flatbed straps, truck tarps, and edge protectors when hauling materials, especially for long distances. These tools will help any new driver work more efficiently, safer, and smarter. More importantly, having a wide assortment of cargo control products can ensure the best type of cargo securement. Thus, a long-haul trucker can save tons of money on replacements and earn more money for delivering high-quality products.
9. Cleaning Supplies:
With the emergence of Covid-19 and Monkeypox, it’s important for drivers to carry cleaning supplies with them. Plus, no one wants to live and breathe inside a dirty truck cabin for several days.
10. Portable Cooking Appliances:
With an OTR driver being on the road all the time, it can sometimes become a pain to search for healthy food options along your route. Be sure to take with you portable cooking appliances like an electric skillet, slow cooker, and travel stove.
11. Extra Food:
There’s no doubt that being on the open road for several hours at a time can make anyone hungry. Be sure to take some fruit, vegetables, and water with you on the road. A few packs of beef jerky don’t hurt either.
12. Cell Phone And Charger:
At some point, OTR drivers will need to call their families, talk to their bosses, or phone in an emergency. New drivers should always have their cell phones charged. Plus, turning on a little music doesn’t hurt while driving.
13. Roadside Emergency Kit:
While the open road can be a great adventure, it can also be unpredictable. Should a new OTR driver ever find themselves weathering through a severe storm, have on hand these roadside emergency items like extra batteries, road flares, and cones.
The Ultimate Trucking Job
Becoming an OTR truck driver can be a rewarding career. Though, new drivers must have a strong backbone to deal with the ups and downs of the job. If you’re someone who loves going on a new adventure, can be self-disciplined when need be and is eager for a new challenge, then OTR trucking is the job for you.