18 Wheels Going Where?

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Truck drivers transport all nature of goods and freight across our great country. Some trips can be short, like a load of corn from an Iowa field delivered to a grain mill ten miles away. Other trips can cross the entire nation, such as lettuce grown in southern California and then trucked to the northern tip of Maine. Regardless of the distance these tractor trailers travel, they are the reason we have the abundance of foods and products we want and need all year round. The post office might say rain and snow will not stop them, but the truck drivers in this country personify that ideal; they even deliver on weekends.

When it comes to hauling pretty much anything, anywhere, an 18 wheeler is the preferred mode of transportation for getting the job done. Though there are other ways to move product, trucks can deliver to regions and areas planes and trains cannot. Even if the product begins a trip via air or rail, chances are it finishes the trek in the trailer of a semi for final delivery. The versatility of trucks is rather broad. Semi truck trailers come in many shapes and sizes and are designed for hauling dry goods, liquids, grains, rock, boats, houses, lumber, heavy machinery, and even vehicles and other semi trucks.

The trucking industry is constantly growing and therefore in need of more truck drivers. With the population booming and production of goods on the rise to meet market demands, there is consequently more of everything to haul. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trucking industry is on track to add as many as 330,100 jobs by the year 2020. That's an increase of 20% from the already existing 1.5 million or so current trucking jobs. Truckers are a well paid, making an average of $37,930 a year according to CNN, with the top ten percent making upwards of $58,000 per year.

Becoming a truck driver doesn't happen overnight however. To get a commercial driver's license, or CDL, one must complete a course and pass the required CDL skills and written tests. Most CDL training classes take about eight weeks and you must be at least 18 to enroll. Even then 18 year olds with a CDL can only operate a semi truck in the state (intrastate) that the CDL was issued. To drive outside of the state (interstate) in which the license was issued the CDL holder must be at least 21 years old. Most trucking companies require their drivers to be at least 23 years old and have one year of experience before being eligible for employment, but there are companies that hire new drivers to help them gain the experience needed to move on to bigger and better driving jobs.

The exams to acquire a CDL include a skill and written test. The skill test is a behind-the-wheel style test for the potential CDL candidate to showcase what they learned during the training course they took. Handling a vehicle that large with an attached trailer is rather tricky, and they must be able to show they have the competence and skills required. The test often covers such things as backing, hooking a trailer, and highway driving. The written test challenges the student to remember the numerous rules and regulations that every truck driver needs to know and are subject to. Once an individual passes both of these tests they can begin their new career as a truck driver. But their education and training doesn't necessarily end there - if they wish to drive trucks that transport hazardous material or pilot big rigs hauling over-sized loads they are required to pass additional tests and training to ensure they understand how to safely operate and transport the equipment.

So, as you're driving down the highway and see a semi, ask yourself "18 wheels going where?" From field to mill, intrastate hauling and interstate transportation, semis move the products we need to where they're needed. The drivers are strictly licensed and skilled at their profession, and make every effort to transport their cargo as safely and efficiently as possible. Trucks help power and sustain our great economy, and by transporting the tremendous volume of goods they carry, they make our lives easier to live.
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