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Local Truck Driving Career Overview

Commercial truck driving careers include a variety of options and types to suit your individual goals and personal preferences. If you’re interested in driving a truck for a living but want to be able to return home every day, consider putting your driving skills to use in a local truck driving career.

Keep reading to learn what a career in local truck driving looks like, how local driving differs from OTR truck driving, and some of the pros and cons of the job.

What Is Local Trucking?

Local truck drivers usually drive a set route hauling cargo to and from the same depots within a day’s drive of their homes. These routes are generally short distances within a nearby city or urban area and involve a set schedule, which may include working as many as 10 to 14 hours per day.

Local drivers work as solo drivers for a regional trucking company, shipping company, or manufacturer. Local trucking might involve driving a light truck, delivery truck, or tractor-trailer, depending on what needs hauling. The license and endorsements you need will depend on the types of vehicles you’re required to drive.

As well as driving, local trucking often involves loading and unloading cargo several times a day, making deliveries, tracking inventory, and interacting with customers and shippers.

Local Trucking vs. OTR Trucking vs. Regional Trucking

The primary difference between local truck driving jobs and OTR or regional trucking is the distances covered. OTR and regional truckers are often away from home for days or even weeks traveling cross country. They may sleep in the cabin of their truck and drive overnight if required.

Local trucking is, by definition, local. Drivers are much more likely to spend each night at home and work set (often daytime) hours with weekends off. This schedule makes it an appealing option for drivers with families and other home commitments.

Local trucking may also be more physically demanding than OTR or regional trucking jobs because the nature of your load is likely to be different. OTR and regional trucking jobs are more likely to involve transporting shipping containers or else specialized cargo such as liquids, gases, or hazmat that are unloaded using special machinery. Local trucking is more likely to involve items like furniture or foodstuffs, which must be unloaded manually at several stops during the workday. There’s a lot of in-and-out of your vehicle with local driving.

Pros and Cons of Local Truck Driving

Local truck driving jobs have distinct advantages and disadvantages depending on your life, family, and financial circumstances. Below are some of the pros and cons associated with being a local truck driver.

Pros of Local Truck Driving

  • Staying local means a healthy work-life balance and nights at home with the family, as well as the likelihood of weekends off. As #TheHelpfulTrucker says on YouTube, “I’m one of those guys who can’t be away from his family for very long periods of time, so being a local truck driver helps me to satisfy that.” He also points out that being close to home is great if he needs to meet his wife in the daytime or if an emergency arises.
  • Set routes allow you to become familiar with the customers and learn route shortcuts to make your day easier.
  • Fixed hours are good for drivers who like security and routine. Shifts are often in the daytime to correspond with business opening hours (although early starts around 4:00 am or 5:00 am are common).
  • Pay is usually hourly, which is good if you get stuck in traffic or a load/unload takes longer than expected. Most companies also pay local drivers overtime after 40 hours, which isn’t common in other truck driving jobs.
  • You’re never far from a mechanic if there’s something wrong with your vehicle.
  • Local truck driving is a much more active job than many trucking careers, which can help you stay healthy and fit.

Cons of Local Truck Driving

  • You might get bored driving the same short routes regularly, and there’s less opportunity to see the country.
  • You often have less earning potential than a longer-distance driver.
  • Because local truck driving is a very competitive market for job seekers, it may be harder to find a position than it would be for more regional or long-haul jobs. Companies may also require candidates to have a year or more of commercial truck driving experience.
  • It’s more physically demanding, as you’ll often need to load and unload freight throughout the day.
  • There may be more traffic delays in urban areas where local truck driving jobs are located.
  • Many drivers report driving 50 hours per week, minimum. Long days navigating traffic can be exhausting.
  • Parking and backing up into tight urban spaces is a common complaint of local drivers.

Is Local Truck Driving a Good Fit for Me?

#TheHelpfulTrucker explains some of the pros and cons of his local driving job: “One benefit of my local truck driving job is that I’m never dealing with a dispatcher because I’m running the same route every day—pick up from the same place and drop off to the same place. I do that twice a day. [One con of my local truck driving job] is seeing the same exact stuff every day. It could be overwhelmingly monotonous. And with local truck driving, you gotta get started early in the morning regularly. Another con about being a local truck driver is that you’re up against the clock all the time on most days. With local, five days a week, when you get done, you’re tired and you don’t have a lot left.”

Do Local Truck Driving Jobs Require a CDL?

Local truck drivers need a commercial driver’s license (CDL)—whether that’s a Class A, B, or C depends on the job and the type of vehicle. However, earning a Class A CDL will enable you to drive any of the vehicles you’ll encounter in a local truck driving job unless there’s also a specific endorsement required, so it makes sense to pursue this licensure when you’re just starting and not sure what trucking career you will end up in.

You’ll need hazmat or tanker endorsements if the local driving involves transporting hazardous materials or liquids. Similarly, you will need a passenger endorsement if your local driving involves transporting people.

Local Truck Driving Salary

Many local truck drivers report earning less than OTR or regional drivers, while others note that higher-paying local jobs are out there if you can find them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), light truck drivers—which may encompass local truck driving, depending on the truck—earned an average annual wage of $41,050 in 2020. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (generally OTR and regional roles) earned an average salary of $48,710.

According to Zippia, the average annual salary for a local truck driver in the United States is $54,884, or $26.39 per hour. Salaries vary by state, with Rhode Island having the highest average annual pay at $66,454 per year.

How to Find a Local Truck Driving Job

For local truck driving jobs, your current location is important unless you want to relocate. After all, dozens of local trucking job openings in Kansas City won’t help you if you’re committed to living and working in Portland.

You can search for and apply to local companies directly. Do an Internet search for “trucking companies near me” to see which companies may be hiring in your area. Check out the careers page on the company website or find the contact details for the human resources or recruiting department to determine where to send your resume and letter of interest.