According to the Virginia Employment Commission, heavy and tractor-trailer truck driving industry is the 6th most prosperous industry in terms of projected job growth up to 2024; from now until then, Virginia expects to add nearly 2250 new truck drivers to its workforce.
Hampton Roads is one of the many communities in the state that will benefit from this influx of new driving jobs, but you won’t be able to just walk into these positions. Truck driving is a surprisingly complex job that requires significant training in order to meet industry safety and performance standards.
Commercial Truck Driver Licensing
Driving a truck is not the same as driving a car. There is a separate licensing system in place to reflect that. There are three recognized classes of commercial vehicles in Virginia, and each type requires drivers to pass a specific combination of written and on-road tests in order to obtain the correct commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate it. The classes are as follows:
- Class A includes vehicles that are towing one or more other vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR for short, a manufacturer-determined figure that indicates the maximum allowable weight the vehicle can safely reach when fully loaded with items or passengers) and which reach a gross combination weight rating of more than 26,001. This is the gold standard of commercial licenses and allows holders to operate things like tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks, and livestock carriers. It can also be extended to cover some Class B and C functions with additional training later, making it the best license to start a trucking career with.
- Class B covers single vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 or more. A vehicle still falls into this category if it is used to tow another vehicle with a GVWR of less than 10,000, but only if it’s the only one being towed (for example, a single small trailer attachment instead of a convoy). Some of the most common Class B vehicles are smaller box trucks and dump trucks.
- Class C regulates vehicles with less than a 26,001 GVWR that are designed to carry 16+ passengers at one time or will be used to transport hazardous materials. This license is less commonly needed in the realm of truck driving, but drivers can still choose to attain this license to diversify their skill set and make themselves a more valuable asset to their employer in a pinch.
Other Rules and Regulations
In addition to obtaining the correct license, truck drivers must abide by many other strictures. It’s imperative that you follow the general rules of the road extremely faithfully so that other drivers around you can successfully predict what you are going to do and stay out of your way. You’re also responsible for performing regular safety checks on your vehicle to make sure that everything stays in good working condition.
You can be held accountable for anything from the usual driving infractions (think distracted or impaired driving and road rage scenarios) to ones specific to commercial driving (making false records in logbooks or driving over the legal limit of on-road hours per day). Penalties can include hefty fines or even the loss – temporary or permanent – of your commercial license, so you have to know your stuff inside and out and remain vigilant at all times.
Getting the Training You Need
The most obvious thing a prospective commercial truck driver would need to learn in formal training is how to operate their vehicle, and that is indeed the focus of driver training programs. However, the standard truck-driving curriculum also includes soft skills like methods for dealing with teen or elderly drivers and appropriate ways to interact with police and traffic control staff. Further, it covers all safety laws and potential legal liabilities and even teaches prospective truckers some industry-specific business-related knowledge, such as how to properly use their logbooks to account for their time on the road and how to drive in a fuel-efficient manner.
Further, although truck-driving education is largely transferable across state lines, there are benefits to receiving training in the primary area in which you’ll be driving. Local instructors are intimately familiar with specific local laws about things like lighting, height and weight restrictions and required equipment that you might otherwise overlook. Don’t assume you know everything – it’s always best to opt for additional training if at all possible.
If you think you’d like to begin training for one of those aforementioned Hampton Roads trucking jobs, you won’t have to look too far from home. You can learn everything you need to know to obtain a Class A CDL at Advanced Technology Institute’s specialized commercial driving campus in Norfolk, VA. Contact us today to hear more about how our highly qualified instructors can help you achieve your career goals.