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What is Over-the-Road (OTR) Trucking & How to be an OTR Driver

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 1.9 million people were heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in 2020. These dedicated drivers move the freight that powers the economy and makes modern life possible. Due to supply chain disruptions and mounting pressures in the trucking industry, there is a shortage of long-haul truck drivers for over-the-road trucking. What is OTR trucking? Read on to learn about over the road trucking, the benefits and challenges of the job, and how to become an OTR driver. 

What is over-the-road (OTR) trucking?

What is over the road trucking? Over-the-road trucking, also known as OTR, is the transportation of freight over long distances. OTR trucking often crosses state lines and sometimes crosses national borders. 

What does OTR mean in trucking? An OTR truck driver may drive for weeks at a time and sleep in the truck’s cabin or at hotels along the route. OTR truck drivers may travel alone or as a team of two that trades out driving responsibilities. Operating in shifts can ensure compliance with driving regulations and save time on the road. 

OTR trucking hauls lots of different types of freight including consumer goods, construction materials, machines, vehicles, and more. 

OTR Truck Driver Responsibilities and Qualifications

An OTR truck driver’s responsibilities are to deliver cargo safely and on time, maintain contact with a dispatcher, regularly inspect the trailer, track driving hours, and follow all of the pertinent cross country hauling laws. 

In order to be an OTR truck driver, individuals must have a clear driving record, meet specific physical requirements, pass the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation exam (FMCSR), have a high school diploma or GED, and hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). 

There are three classes of CDL:

Class A CDL

This is the most common class of CDL license. Class A CDL are required to drive vehicles such as tractor trailers, tankers, flatbeds, and livestock trailers that weigh 26,001 pounds or more. 

Class B CDL

Class B CDL are required to drive vehicles like buses and heavy duty trucks that do not involve trailers and weigh more than 26,001 pounds. 

Class C CDL 

Class C CDL are required to drive vehicles such as HAZMAT trucks, tank trucks, and double trailers that weigh more than 26,001 pounds or tow a vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds. 

OTR vs Local vs Regional Trucking

OTR, local, and regional truckers haul similar types of freight, but they differ on the distance traveled, equipment used, and potential income. 

OTR vs Local Trucking

Local trucking covers shorter distances and therefore pays less than regional and OTR trucking. Local trucking routes are usually limited to a 200 square mile zone, often transverse smaller local roads, and typically involve multiple stops. 

OTR vs Regional Trucking

Regional trucking transports freight within a specific area of the country like the Midwest, North, or South. In comparison to OTR, regional trucking pays a little bit less, but drivers spend less time on the road for each haul. For regional trucking, assignments usually span a few days at a time.  

Pros and Cons of OTR Trucking

Pros

  • According to ZipRecruiter, the average national OTR trucking salary is $63,888 per year, with the highest earners making around $94,500 per year. 
  • It is relatively easy to become an OTR truck driver.
  • There are many opportunities for advancement by enhancing your CDL with additional certifications.
  • Industry standards are improving to increase driver safety and well-being. 
  • The lifestyle of spending many days on the road can be enjoyable for many drivers. OTR drivers get to see many parts of the country.
  • OTR jobs offer the most variety of all of the trucking jobs.  
  • OTR truck drivers are in high demand, and therefore have job security. 

Cons

  • For some drivers, the lifestyle of spending many days on the road can be challenging. 
  • Logistics delays can sometimes negatively impact drivers’ schedules and pay. 

How to be an OTR Trucking Driver

The easiest and most straightforward way to become an OTR trucking driver and quickly acquire jobs is to work with a trusted logistics company. Not every OTR truck driving job is the same, so it is important to work with a company that values you, respects your hard work, and has relationships with a vast network of shippers. You can advance your career with First Star Logistics.  

First Star Logistics is a unique, asset-based global logistics provider with more than 60 years of experience transporting freight. 

First Star Logistics is always searching for experienced drivers across the entire nation. If you are interested in OTR truck driving for First Star Logistics, submit an online driver application today!