Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a capacity of at least 26,001 pounds per gross vehicle weight (GVW). They deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers typically do the following:
- Load and unload cargo
- Drive long distances
- Report to a dispatcher any incidents encountered on the road
- Follow all applicable traffic laws
- Inspect their trailer before and after the trip, and record any defects they find
- Keep a log of their activities
- Report serious mechanical problems to the appropriate personnel
- Keep their truck, and associated equipment, clean and in good working order
Most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers plan their own routes. They may use satellite tracking to help them plan.
Before leaving, a driver usually is told a delivery location and time; but it is up to the driver to find a way to get the cargo there.
A driver has to know which roads allow trucks and which do not. Drivers also must plan legally required rest periods into their trip. Some have one or two routes that they drive regularly and others drivers take many different routes throughout the country. Some also drive to Mexico or Canada.
Companies sometimes use two drivers on long runs to minimize downtime. On these "sleeper" runs, one driver sleeps in a berth behind the cab while the other drives.
Some heavy truck drivers transport hazardous materials, such as chemical waste, and so have to take special precautions when driving. Also, these drivers normally carry specialized safety equipment in case of an accident. Other specialized drivers, such as those carrying liquids, oversized loads, or cars, have to follow rules that apply specifically to them.
Some long-haul truck drivers, called owner-operators, buy or lease trucks and go into business for themselves. They then have business tasks, including finding and keeping clients and doing business work such as accounting, in addition to their driving tasks.
Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and machinery used in construction, farming, rail transportation, and other industries.
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians typically do the following:
- Read and understand operating manuals, blueprints, and drawings
- Perform scheduled maintenance, such as cleaning and lubricating parts
- Diagnose and identify malfunctions, using computerized tools and equipment
- Inspect, repair, and replace defective or worn parts, such as bearings, pistons, and gears
- Overhaul and test major components, such as engines, hydraulics, and electrical systems
- Disassemble and reassemble heavy equipment and components
- Travel to worksites to repair large equipment, such as cranes
Heavy vehicles and mobile equipment are critical to many industrial activities, including construction and railroad transportation. Various types of equipment, such as farm machinery, cranes, and bulldozers, are used to move materials, till land, lift beams, and dig earth to pave the way for development and construction.
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians repair and maintain engines, hydraulic systems, transmissions, and electrical systems of agricultural, industrial, construction, and rail equipment. They ensure the performance and safety of fuel lines, brakes, transmissions, and other systems.
With many types of equipment and mechanical and electrical systems, service technicians use diagnostic computers to identify problems and make adjustments or repairs. Although the use of computerized testing equipment, such as tachometers and dynamometers, is common, technicians also use many different power and machine tools, including pneumatic wrenches, lathes, and welding equipment.
Service technicians also use many different handtools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches, to work on small parts and in hard-to-reach areas. They generally purchase these tools over the course of their careers, often investing thousands of dollars in their collections.
After locating malfunctions, service technicians repair, replace, and recalibrate components such as hydraulic pumps or spark plugs. This may involve disassembling and reassembling major equipment or making adjustments through an onboard computer program.
The following are types of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians:
Farm equipment mechanics service and repair farm equipment, such as tractors and harvesters. They also work on smaller consumer-grade lawn and garden tractors. Most mechanics work for dealer repair shops, where farmers increasingly send their equipment for maintenance.
Mobile heavy equipment mechanics repair and maintain construction and surface mining equipment, such as bulldozers, cranes, graders, and excavators. Many work for equipment wholesale and distribution shops and large construction and mining companies. Those working for the federal government may work on tanks and other military equipment.
Rail car repairers specialize in servicing railroad locomotives, subway cars, and other rolling stock. They usually work for railroad, public and private transit companies, and rail car manufacturers.
For information about technicians and mechanics who work primarily on automobiles, see the profile on automotive service technicians and mechanics.
For information about technicians who work primarily on large trucks and buses, see the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.
For information about technicians and mechanics who primarily work on motorboats, motorcycles and small all-terrain vehicles, see the profile on small engine mechanics.