6 Types of Truckers & Trucking Jobs

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The trucking industry is essential to a stable economy in the United States. There are various types of truckers that allow businesses and governments to thrive. These professional haulers are uniquely qualified to handle particular goods and different types of trucks. Whether the materials are sensitive, oversized, or hazardous, a trucker specializes in moving that cargo.  

Here we’ll review some of the most prominent types of trucking jobs, their CDL classifications, and what trucking jobs offer drivers the highest earnings.  

1. Dry Van Trucker

Dry van truckers transport dry, nonperishable, easy-to-move cargo. It’s often packaged and hauled in a single rectangular trailer attached to a semi-truck. This position is a great starting point for new commercial drivers as they’re not required to unload the goods they transport on their own. The trailer is easy to load through the back door and doesn’t require extensive knowledge about how to safely secure goods. 

What CDL License Do You Need?

Dry van drivers need to obtain a Class A CDL, which gives them the ability to drive interstate. Depending on the cargo, you may need a Hazmat (H) endorsement. 

2. Flatbed Trucker

Flatbed trucks are different than tractor-trailers in their shape and cargo. Their open-air trailer carries oversized or awkwardly shaped machinery, vehicles, or dry goods. Drivers must have specific experience and skill to take on flatbed hauls.  

Flatbed truckers need to be experts at securing difficult cargo using chains, come-a-longs, straps, tarps, and other tools. They also need background knowledge about the goods they transport. The advanced skills required for flatbed hauls mean these types of truckers are often paid more. 

What CDL License Do You Need?

Flatbed truckers need a Class A CDL. A Class A CDL accounts for the combined weight of the truck and trailer. Endorsements for this type of trucking vary by cargo. When moving hazardous materials, drivers need an (H) or (X) endorsement. 

If a tank of liquid is placed on a flatbed, the trailer is considered a tanker and requires a Tank (N) endorsement. Flatbed drivers should ideally hold CDL endorsements for Tank (N), Hazardous Materials (H), or Hazmat/Tanker transportation (X). 

3. Tanker Trucker

Tanker haulers are some of the most in-demand types of truckers. As a tanker trucker, you primarily haul liquids or gases in a cylindrical tank attached to a trailer. The trailer beds or flatbeds hold the tank horizontally and are usually classified as a type of semi-truck. 

Like flatbed haulers, tanker drivers require special skills. Drivers are responsible for chemicals that can be environmentally hazardous or even deadly if released. Therefore, tanker truckers must be extremely well-versed in offloading liquids, record-keeping, transportation laws, and reading gauges.  

However, not all tankers carry such sensitive materials. Some hold products like milk or sugar. These are the most common types of tankers and cargo:  

  • Food Tankers: Liquid dairy products, alcohol, vegetable oil, fruit juices.  
  • Fuel Tankers: Petroleum-derived products like gasoline and jet fuel. 
  • Chemical Tankers: Ammonia, chlorine, hydrogen fluoride. 
  • Dry Bulk Tankers: Sand, cement, sugar, chemical powders, plastic pellets. 

What CDL License Do You Need?

Tanker truckers need a Class A or C CDL. A Class A license accounts for the weight of the trailer and the tank in tow, while a Class C license with the proper endorsements permits drivers to move materials that are classified as hazardous. Tanker haulers will need a Tank (N) endorsement or an (X) endorsement if transporting hazardous materials. 

4. Heavy Haulers

Some compare heavy haulers to flatbed truckers with an oversized load. However, the differences are apparent in trailer design and cargo. Heavy haul trailers are built to carry items like large construction equipment, blades, or solar panels. Trailers intended for heavy hauling include: 

  • Two-level trailers or step-decks 
  • Flatbed trailers with removable goosenecks 
  • Lowboys  
  • Telescopic or extendable trailers

Drivers should be comfortable operating these vehicles. Because of the extra weight, steering, wide turns, and hills are more difficult to maneuver. That’s why heavy haulers depend on a team of route planners, loading specialists, and pilot vehicle drivers to ensure safe delivery. 

What CDL License Do You Need?

Most heavy haul drivers must hold a Class A CDL. Class A licensing allows drivers to carry a higher weight than B or C classifications.  

Additionally, many drivers need to obtain a heavy haul permit. Requirements vary by state, but a permit will always be required for freight weighing 80,000 pounds or reaching a width of 8 feet and 6 inches. 

5. Long-Haul/OTR Truckers

Long-haul or over-the-road (OTR) drivers carry cargo from coast to coast. Truckers are considered long-haul drivers when they can’t make their trip in a single day. Trips can require over a week on the road. However, the types of truckers that make long-haul trips usually find the travel appealing. Long OTR trips might require two drivers to share a cab so they can switch off driving and get to a destination more efficiently.  

What CDL License Do You Need?

A Class A CDL is the only licensing you need to start this type of trucking job. 

6. Refrigerated Freight Hauler

Refrigerated freight haulers carry food products that need to be kept at a low temperature. Refrigerated trailers, also known as reefers, may operate locally or cross-country. Reefer drivers need additional skills to monitor temperatures and identify technical issues. Minor repairs may be necessary to prevent the cargo from perishing.  

Managing time and distance specifications are crucial, especially in hauls that have freezer containers on board. The sensitive nature of reefer deliveries means these types of truckers earn more.   

What CDL License Do You Need?

Typically, reefer drivers require a CDL classification based on the type of truck they’re driving. A refrigerated truck/trailer combination requires a Class A license, although drivers can operate refrigerated boxes or straight trucks with a Class B. 

5 Most Profitable Trucker Jobs

Now that we’ve discussed some typical trucking jobs, let’s examine the industry’s highest-paying trucker jobs.

1. Ice Road Trucker

Ice road truckers earn an average of about $60,000 per year. While this may seem low for such a high-risk occupation, the season only lasts 3 or 4 months. Many ice road truckers continue to work throughout the year, allowing them to earn a potential six-figure income. 

Ice road trucking can be dangerous and difficult. These types of truckers drive across frozen roads in sparsely populated areas. Most ice road truckers have years of experience, and even then, companies report a particularly high turnover rate. Still, if you’re up for the job, you’re in for a satisfying paycheck.  

2. Oversize Load Trucker

Another type of trucking job is an oversize load trucker, also referred to as a heavy hauler. These truckers transport huge payloads that can be difficult to maneuver, such as large construction equipment and windmills. The national salary average is approximately $55,000 per year

Oversize load truckers need additional certifications and knowledge to deliver their load safely. Naturally, large loads pay more per mile.  

3. Luxury Car Hauler

Luxury auto hauling is another one of the most profitable trucking jobs. Many drivers are paid per vehicle in addition to mileage. Owner-operators in this field have an even higher chance of earning a six-figure income. Their contracts average between $75,000 and $110,000 annually.  

Transporting luxury cars can be demanding. Companies expect their drivers to have specialized training and experience moving expensive cargo. While there aren’t any additional required certifications, a clean driving record is imperative to your success. 

4. Hazmat Hauler

Hazmat haulers transport materials such as gas, flammable liquids, and chemical substances. The sensitivity of the cargo means the driver needs extensive training and an H or X CDL endorsement. As a result, these drivers receive a higher pay rate. For instance, the average pay range in California is between $61,723 and $81,025, similar to the national average. 

5. Owner-Operator

Owner-operators are usually trucking industry veterans. After learning the basics at a trucking company, truckers can choose to invest in their equipment. Then, they can operate independently or rent to trucking companies.  

Unlike other trucking jobs, owner-operators are responsible for maintenance and upkeep. The costs, along with the initial investment, may deter some drivers. Despite that, successful owner-operators are some of the highest-paid truckers out there. 

Does learning about the various trucker types and their earning potentials stoke your interest in joining this high-demand industry? Browse Hale Trailer’s inventory to see the types of semi-trucks available for the kind of trucking that interests you most.   

Serving Truckers Since 1972

Hale Trailer has long-standing roots in the trucking community. At just 25, Barry Hale began renting trailers from his home in New Jersey. He grew the business quickly, expanding into buying and selling used trailers with customers like Merrill Transport.  

Since 1972, Hale Trailer has specialized in giving truckers what they need. That’s why we’re one of the most trusted trailer dealers in the United States. With 13 locations, we’re equipped to handle the trailer needs of any fleet. Contact us for a trailer quote today! 

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