Driver leaving a warehouse

If you’re interested in hitting the open road as a heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver, Pennsylvania is a great place to work.

The state ranks in the top five in the U.S. for the highest employment level in this occupation, employing just over 82,000, or about 14 for every 1,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal agency that tracks labor growth.

And the job outlook for this career remains promising over the next decade. The BLS projects employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers will grow 5% from 2018 to 2028 nationally, about as fast as the average for all occupations. That translates to about 100,000 new jobs.

“The transportation industry is a strong industry,” says Judy Wechter, site administrator for PA CareerLink Lancaster County. “CDL drivers are still on the high-priority list for occupations in the state of Pennsylvania.”

Truck drivers are essential to the economy and a key component of the supply chain, ensuring the transport of goods throughout the U.S. Trucks move roughly 71.4% of the nation’s freight by weight, according to the American Trucking Associations.

And Lancaster County is at a great location for East Coast transportation, with its proximity to multiple industrial parks and distribution centers, Wechter says.

Based on data collected at the county CareerLink center for the fiscal year beginning in July 2018 and ending in June 2019, 80% of local jobs in the industry fall under transportation and logistics. That not only includes behind-the-wheel careers but also behind-the-scenes careers, like tracking and scheduling. So even if you’re more comfortable with a computer than a steering wheel, there are career opportunities for you in transportation. Other jobs in that sector tracked by the local CareerLink center fall under business management and administration, IT and marketing, Wechter says.

“Think of a truck you see on the road then go to their website and learn what they are doing,” she suggests. “Go and see the jobs posted and read those descriptions.”

Most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers attend professional training schools where they learn not only how to maneuver large vehicles but also the laws related to interstate trucking. All long-haul truck drivers must hold a commercial driver’s license. In Pennsylvania, you must be at least 18 to apply for a CDL for driving within the state and 21 for state-to-state driving.

CDLs are issued in three classes based on such factors as type of vehicle and weight. 

CLASS A covers combination vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. 

CLASS B covers single vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds. 

CLASS C covers single vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds if the vehicle is: transporting hazardous materials requiring placarding; is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or, is a school bus. 

If you want to be behind the wheel, but long-haul trucking isn’t your thing, a CDL license can open up other career opportunities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are a few:

Bus driver: Employment for school and special-client bus drivers is expected to grow 4% from 2018 to 2028, the BLS predicts, while job growth for transit and inner city drivers (which includes charter bus drivers) is expected to grow 6%.

Diesel technician: Diesel service technicians and mechanics inspect and repair buses and trucks. A CDL is often required since they may have to test-drive the vehicles. Employment is expected to grow 5%.

Construction equipment operator: Constructing roads, buildings and other structures requires heavy machinery. While operating construction equipment doesn’t necessarily require a CDL, transporting it from one job to another might.

Limo driver: Federal law requires that limousine drivers who transport more than 16 passengers must have a CDL. Projected job growth for chauffeurs is much faster than average, according to the BLS.