Skills Needed To Be A Truck Driver: Honk If You Have Them!

There are many skills that trucking companies want in the drivers they hire. Our article will show you what abilities you should acquire and how you can add them to your

By

Jacob Lee
October 30, 2023
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The skills needed to be a truck driver go beyond knowing how to operate a semi. Transportation companies look for distinct qualities in their workers. Without the right abilities, new and experienced truckers can have a hard time finding a carrier that will hire them. 

The American Trucking Association emphasizes a variety of skills needed to be a truck driver, such as:

  • Organization
  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Mechanical knowledge
  • Mastery of vehicle operation

These areas of expertise can be obtained from entry-level trucking jobs, continuous learning, and staying updated on trucking regulations.

Understanding the skills needed to be a truck driver will help you obtain the job you desire. 

An owner operator using their skills needed to be a truck driver while operating their vehicle

Important Skills Needed To Be A Truck Driver

Many people think that being a trucker is as simple as getting as commercial driver’s license (CDL). However, there are a variety of soft and hard skills that drivers must master if they hope to land the job they want. 

Organization

The open road can be quite unpredictable. Having good organization skills give truckers the ability to overcome any challenge that comes their way.

The benefits of good organization include:

  • Streamlined driving operations       
  • Stress reduction

An organized driver can effectively manage their daily tasks, from checking cargo inventories to compiling important paperwork. Truckers who are organized are less stressed as well. Knowing where everything is, be it paperwork or cargo items, can prevent last minute scrambles.

Stay organized with our truck driver paperwork organizer tricks.

Customer Service

While drivers might spend a significant portion of their time alone on the open road, the moments they interact with others can shape their professional reputation. Transportation companies want friendly truckers who are pleasant with coworkers and customers alike. 

Hallmarks of good customer service include:

  • Active listening
  • Polite mannerisms

When a customer voices a concern or provides instructions, truckers should pay close attention to their complaint. This will help them and their company resolve the issue. Polite mannerisms also go a long way. 

This includes:

  • Smiling
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Polite and clean language

With these techniques, truckers will make everyone they encounter feel comfortable and welcome. 

Mechanical Knowledge

While truckers don’t need to be mechanics, it’s essential to have a basic understanding about the vehicle. This skill allows drivers to identify problems with their semi and address them accordingly.  

Important mechanical knowledge to know includes:

  • Brakes
  • Tires
  • Lights
  • Fluids 

Drivers should check these parts on their semi before and after each trip. While major repairs should be left to professionals, drivers should know how to make minor fixes when necessary. This includes repairs like changing a tire, replacing a light bulb, or tightening a loose part. 

Our article on semi truck maintenance checklists will give you more information on what to look over before going out on the road. 

Mastery Over Driving Techniques

The sheer size and weight of semis make them difficult to operate. As a result, driving these vehicles requires a high level of mastery.

Important techniques include:

  • Using mirrors
  • Making wide turns
  • Braking properly 
  • Shifting gears

With larger blind spots, truck drivers must become adept at using their mirrors effectively to monitor both sides of their vehicle. This will help drivers stay aware of their surroundings while on the road.   

Due to their length, trucks require wider turns. Drivers must anticipate this by executing the maneuvers carefully. Knowing how to brake while operating a semi is another important skill. These vehicles are extremely heavy and should be brought to a stop gradually.  

Semis have more gears than regular cars. Efficiently shifting through them, especially on inclines or declines, ensures smoother rides and better engine performance.

Patience

Truck drivers are always operating on tight schedules. From unexpected traffic jams to unforeseen delays at loading docks, there’s always a chance for potential hold-ups. These delays can make truck drivers impatient. 

One way to stay calm is by anticipating  hold-ups. When truckers remember what can go wrong, they won’t be surprised by delays. Drivers can prepare for hold-ups by using traffic apps or listening to traffic reports that provide insight into road conditions.

Adaptability

Adaptability is a truck driver’s secret weapon against surprise events. Although preparation can prevent many headaches, there’s always a chance something unexpected happens. In these moments, the ability to quickly adjust and adapt is critical to timely and safe deliveries.

The best way to stay adaptable on the road is to maintain a calm demeanor. Adopting this mindset will help truckers go with the flow when a new challenge arises. Adaptability doesn’t only apply to things that happen on the road. Truck drivers should also be willing to learn new skills and techniques that will help them perform their jobs more efficiently. 

Navigational Skills

Many truck drivers are given a predetermined route by their employer, and GPS-enabled devices provide tremendous help. 

That said, they still need to have navigational skills at their disposal such as. 

  • Map mastery
  • Tech tools
  • Muscle memory

While technology is handy, understanding how to read and interpret a physical map can be invaluable, especially in areas with poor signal or if electronic devices fail. Nonetheless, drivers should still use GPS programs  to their advantage. These devices will help them travel from one point to another efficiently. 

The most important navigational skill comes from muscle memory. Drivers will become more familiar with their route the more they travel on it. This will give them insights on alternate paths that GPS’s don’t take into account. 

Focus

Another truck driver required skill is focus. The slightest distraction while operating a semi can lead to serious consequences. A focused driver will notice and react to potential hazards promptly. 

In addition to safety, staying vigilant on the road helps with efficiency. Being attentive means catching crucial details, like signs indicating detours or potential issues ahead. Focus can also help truck drivers load and unload freight correctly. 

Safety Conscious

Being safety conscious is essential when operating large vehicles that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Many transportation companies look for this truck driver quality during their hiring process. 

Truckers can exemplify their safety skills by:

  • Following traffic rules
  • Adjusting their speed to weather conditions
  • Driving defensively
  • Using turn signals
  • Utilizing safety equipment

Transportation companies want freight, truckers, and other drivers on the road to stay safe. Drivers with these qualities will stick out amongst other job applicants.  

Time Management

Each delivery comes with a unique set of schedules and deadlines. That’s why time management is one of the most important of truck driver skills and abilities. 

Good time management skills include:

  • Planning ahead
  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Allocating time for breaks

Before hitting the road, truckers have to consider potential traffic snarls such as road closures. Modern GPS devices and apps  often provide real-time traffic updates, which can be invaluable. Determining which deliveries or tasks are most urgent can help with managing time. This could mean dropping off a time-sensitive package before refueling or taking a break. 

While it’s crucial to stay on schedule, drivers need their rest. Truckers should factor in breaks during their work day to ensure they’re always at their best while behind the wheel. 

Learn how to make the most of your breaks with our truck driver rest stop tips. 

A truck driver checking their side mirror

How To Gain Desirable Truck Driver Qualities

At CDL school, truck drivers will learn many skills needed to be successful at what they do. However, many transportation companies expect their drivers to continue enhancing their real world abilities and experience. Fortunately, there are other ways that truckers can obtain these skills.

Entry Level Jobs 

For truck drivers fresh out of CDL school, entry-level trucking jobs are a great opportunity to hone their skills. Actual on-the-road experience allows drivers to gain more knowledge. 

Other benefits of entry-level trucking jobs include:

  • Building communication skills
  • Feedback and growth
  • Learning more about vehicles
  • Building connections

Regular interactions with customers and other employees helps build communication skills. Truckers will be able to carry this ability with them throughout their career. 

Transportation companies understand that new drivers will face many learning curves. Carriers will provide useful feedback to their truckers to help them perform better.

Although driving is the primary job, understanding the basic mechanics of the truck is crucial. Entry-level positions often provide firsthand experience in maintaining and troubleshooting common vehicle issues. 

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of an entry-level trucking job is networking. Drivers will meet different people within the industry during their travels. It’s possible they can meet a future employer or a professional who can give them useful advice.   

Read our article on rookie truck driver mistakes to learn what not to do when you’re out on the road.  

Continuous Learning and Training

Continuous learning and training is important for both experienced and new drivers. There are a few options truck drivers can tap into for their continuing education.  

These include:

  • Joining associations
  • Attending seminars and conferences
  • Reading industry publications

Organizations like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) can give drivers valuable information about their industry. Many of them offer online platforms where truckers access a plethora of courses tailored to their needs. 

Industry seminars and conferences provide insights into the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities in the trucking world. If a driver can’t attend one of these meetings, they can always go online and find an article on the topics that were discussed. Truckers should also take advantage of publications that provide current news on the logistics industry. 

Staying Updated On Regulations

Staying up-to-date on regulations in the transportation industry helps truckers expand and maintain their safety skills. Drivers that are well-versed in the latest guidelines will avoid penalties for themselves and their company. 

The best way for truckers to maintain their safety skills is by visiting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The agency is the primary regulatory body for trucking in the country. Their website provides updates, guidelines, and other resources for truck drivers to use.

Truck Driver Skills vs Requirements

It’s important not to confuse truck driver skills and abilities with truck driver requirements. Each are distinctly different terms. Requirements apply to all truck drivers, regardless of the company they represent. 

These include:

  • CDL
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) physical
  • Age limit
  • Background check

Every trucking job will have these requirements. On the other hand, skills can be different across professions. Some transportation companies want drivers that have many abilities, while others will hire less capable employees. Essentially, skills are fluid and requirements are rigid. 

And while skills are not necessarily super powers, that doesn’t mean that trucker drivers wouldn’t prefer to have those. In a poll conducted by truckdriversjobs.net, we found out the top super powers that truckers like you would like to have.

Truck Driver Super Powers

Super PowerResults
Invisible to the highway patrol62%
Ability to drive all day without bathroom breaks25%
Never have to deal with driver detentions13%
Results as of November 2023

What super power would you want? Let your voice be heard!

Survey 4 – Trucker SuperPower

ABCO Wants Your Truck Driver Skills and Abilities!

At ABCO, we recognize the dedication, expertise, and passion that goes into becoming an exceptional truck driver. We value the hard work you’ve put into honing your skills, and we’re eager to have professionals like you on our team. 

When you drive for ABCO, you’ll have access to competive salary and per-mile pay options. We also have resorts across the country that you can visit for free during your vacation time. For medical expenses, ABCO offers a variety of benefits that will maintain the health of you and your family. 

If you’re ready to join a company that appreciates you, then fill out your ABCO job application today!. You can also call our team at (866) 980-2710 if you want to learn about our opportunities. 

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