Driving is a necessity of everyday life for most Americans. It is a passion for some people. For others, it is a job—a life’s career. If you are considering a professional driving career, it is essential to learn about the best jobs, be aware of their requirements, and know what to expect from a typical day.
1. Truck Driver
The image of the semi-trailer truck driving down the highway is a quintessential American stereotype. It also represents one of the best paying professional driving careers you can find in the United States. It’s a simple fact: Trucks can move any kind of cargo, including other vehicles, and the ever-increasing need to deliver supplies nationwide and worldwide means that truck drivers are always in demand.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are almost two million heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the United States, and it is one of the most common jobs nationwide. The truck driving category is vast and encompasses many types of jobs, from merchandise or tanker deliveries to more specialized jobs, such as hazardous materials hauling, ice road trucking, or luxury car hauling.
Regardless of cargo or specialization, all truck drivers are expected to work long hours over great distances, often covering hundreds of miles in a single day. Truck drivers must follow all traffic laws and road safety measures, perform routine maintenance on their vehicles, and maintain an accurate and up-to-date log of their working hours. They are also often assigned to dispatches and expected to follow predetermined routes.
Although most truck drivers ride solo, some employers set up driving teams, allowing one person to drive while the other rests. This keeps the truck moving to its next destination with as few stops as possible.
On average, a truck driver in the United States can expect to earn between $40,000 and $50,000 annually. However, the actual wages and bonuses may vary greatly depending on the company you sign up with, your home state, the cargo type, and the distances covered. The vast majority of truck driving jobs require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) valid in your home state. Certain positions may have additional requirements depending on the cargo.
If you can withstand long and stressful hours away from your family and friends, truck driving can be a rewarding career with steady pay, many benefits, and high job security. It is also an excellent opportunity to travel and visit many states and locales; some jobs may even take you to Canada or Mexico.
2. Ridesharing Driver
Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft are incredibly popular, creating millions of new jobs and a reliable, low-cost alternative to taxis or carpooling. Becoming a ridesharing driver is relatively easy; there is no special training or requirement other than being age 21 or older, owning a relatively recent car—typically no older than 10 years, and possessing an auto insurance policy. It’s also a quick process; if you pass their background checks, most companies allow you to drive within 24 to 72 hours.
Pay varies, depending on the city and state. Each company takes a percentage from the fares you make. You must balance the earnings with the costs associated with driving your car for a ridesharing company. These expenses include gas, insurance, regular care and maintenance, repairs, and safety and protective accessories—high-visibility vests, custom-fit car covers from CarCovers, and road maintenance kits.
Keen knowledge of your local area and the ability to recommend tourist sights and dining establishments are big advantages as well. This helps you build a good rapport with your customers. Although balancing costs can be challenging, ridesharing drivers benefit from a strong support network and flexible schedules.
Whether you need it as a part-time gig or intend to make it a full career, ridesharing is a soaring sector of the professional driving industry and a viable option to consider if you live in or near a city or large urban area.
3. Courier Driver
Courier drivers, also called package delivery drivers, work for a company specializing in delivering postal packages, such as letters and parcels. Well-known global services include DHL, FedEx, or UPS. There are also many smaller companies operating on various scales, ranging from city-specific to multi-state regions.
Requirements may vary greatly, depending on the company and local or state laws. Some require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), while others require you to pass Department of Transportation certifications.
Regardless of the specific requirements, it is wise to get your state CDL, know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle—most UPS delivery trucks are manual, and be in good physical condition. Part of the job involves loading and unloading heavy packages and transporting them to your customers’ mailboxes, doorsteps, and warehouses.
Yearly salaries vary, depending on the location and the employer—research what employers in your area offer. If you work hard, it’s possible to make more than $65,000 a year. Individual companies also offer gifts and incentives if you keep your driving incident-free for a specific duration.
Work hours can be relatively long and stressful, with many delivery deadlines to meet, particularly during the holiday season. Expect to work long hours and to start early in the morning. However, if you enjoy the idea of delivering packages and working without supervision, a career as a courier may be an enriching experience with great pay and benefits. Don’t forget to carry some dog biscuits to get on Bowser’s good side.
4. Bus Driver
Whether you drive for the city as a downtown bus driver or a local school system as a school bus driver, there is a lot of demand for drivers qualified to drive passenger buses. Bus drivers have to pass one of the more stringent sets of requirements among professional driving careers, requiring a CDL and long hours of training, and the ability to pass rigorous physical exams and background checks. In many localities, they may require a high school diploma or a GED.
If the requirements seem daunting, it’s because bus drivers are responsible for the safety of many passengers. Bus drivers are required to be among the safest and most attentive drivers you’ll meet on the road, making it a stressful yet rewarding job. Although a bus driver’s yearly salary is around $33,000 a year, this figure may vary greatly, depending on your employer. Most bus drivers also receive comprehensive benefits, such as paid sick leave, vacation time, health insurance, and flexible schedules.
The Last Word
If you feel that driving for a living is your vocation, spending the time, money, and effort to find the right job and meet all the requirements may be one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Given the number of options, you can make professional driving a lifetime career or a lucrative side gig.