Are Truckers Unskilled Workers or Skilled Workers?

by American Trucker

Sign of An American Trucker

Sign of An American Trucker

Maneuvering an 18-wheeler through the city streets of Chicago, Detroit or one of the colonial-time cities of New England can test the patience of the most experienced truck driver.

Handling a rig that is 70 feet long, 13 1/2 feet high and weighing 40 tons is tough enough . . . add hundreds of other vehicles into the scenario, along with hundreds of pedestrians and all kinds of various distractions and obstacles . . . it is no wonder that our men and women truckers are referred to as “professional.” However, does it really require any skill to operate a commercial motor vehicle? According to the U.S. Department of State and the Wage and Hour Division . . . it does not.

In fact, these departments consider the skill of a professional truck driver, equal to the skills of a janitor and a telephone operator. No matter what a person’s job is, work is honorable. Regardless, should the performance of a professional trucker be equal to that of a short-order cook? As far as the law is concerned, professional truck driving requires no skill. These laws are contradictory of each other.

To begin with, the term “professional” is defined as: “A member of a vocation founded upon specialized and educational training.” It further refers to being “Engaged in one of a learned profession.” CMV drivers are always referred to as a “professional” by trucking companies and trucking organizations alike. CMV driving jobs are always referred to as “careers” by companies and job placement services.

Thus, we have a profession within a career . . . which equals professional.

The term “unskilled” is defined as: “Lacking skill or technical training” – “Requiring no training or skill” – “Exhibiting a lack of skill.” It is further described as: “Not having, showing or requiring special skill or proficiency of any kind.” These two terms, professional and unskilled, contradict each other when we look at the professional truck driver. Jobs are also considered unskilled when the worker can “Learn to do them in 30 days or less.”

Granted, a person can go it alone and not attend a CDL training school and take the written tests and borrow a friend’s semi rig for the driving test, and achieve the CDL on their own . . . the problem with this is . . . nobody will hire them. In order to be considered for hiring by the trucking companies, one has no choice but to attend “specialized, educational training.” Courses often consists of 160 hours of technical training within a minimum of three weeks, followed by further technical training with a professional driver-trainer for another three weeks or longer. I’m no mathematical genius, but last time I checked, a minimum of three weeks of CDL training and another minimum of three weeks of real world driver training, equals more than 30 days. Furthermore, since truck drivers are classified as unskilled workers, why then, is the CMV driving test called a “skills test?”

When you break down the systematic order of a professional truck driving career, you arrive with many variables that only points to one main aspect: skill. So why does the Wage and Hour Division label truck drivers as unskilled labor? For the true answer, one must look at the entire scope of global economics.

The law of supply and demand dictates the survival or non-survival of
unskilled workers. In today’s technological world, companies now consider their most valuable assets as being the knowledge, network and skills maintained by their employees. This is what is known as “Human Capital.” Just as machinery became more sophisticated and raised productivity in manufacturing, workers with knowledge and skills raise productivity across the ever expanding world economies . . . at least in theory.

According to U.S. Census data, more than 70% of American adults are classified as unskilled workers. This large majority of unskilled labor is the driving force in keeping company and corporate expenses low, resulting in higher business profits. This corporate greed is further expanded through such programs as NAFTA. By opening the borders into America, the United States would become flooded with more unskilled workers, thus continuing the demand for low wages and cheap labor. Therefore, all the discussion for increasing trade, is actually an attempt to maintain the usage of unskilled labor which in turn, will lead to further profit making for big business.

By increasing the supply of unskilled labor, wages for workers in the United States will be reduced even further. These lower wages are a by-product of increasing the unskilled work force. It is basic economics: increase the supply of something . . . and you lower its price. Not only does this help with business profit increase, consumers also benefit from the usage of unskilled workers. It is a global exploitation of the unskilled laborer. By classifying professional truck drivers as unskilled, their wages remain low, thus providing higher profit margins for the employer, and helping to stabilize the global economical impact on all developing countries.

In order to present an awe of working to help the unskilled, Congress will step up from time to time and raise the minimum wage. This in fact, further hurts the unskilled worker. Lower-skill workers become less employable when the minimum wage rises. Studies have shown that when the minimum wage goes up, businesses will change what workers will be hired. If they are now going to be forced to pay higher wages, companies will let their unskilled workers go, and replace them with more highly-skilled workers in order to achieve a higher productivity. Research consistently demonstrates that higher minimum wages lead businesses to hire skilled workers at the expense of unskilled workers. Therefore, by raising the minimum wage, the act ends up actually hurting the very people it was meant to help.

Unskilled workers are also subject to a much larger risk of unemployment during recessions than are skilled workers. Workers classified as unskilled, earn less income and leads to something we see in the trucking industry all the time: employee turnover. High turnover can be harmful to a company’s productivity if skilled workers are leaving, but those classified as unskilled labor are seen as employees that can be easily replaced.

If professional truck drivers suddenly left the trucking companies, does the Wage and Hour Division believe that they could be easily and readily replaced? They possibly could be . . . at the expense of public safety.

As advocates and organizations constantly scream about safety, professionalism and proper educational and technical training, how can the American trucker be classified as unskilled? It has nothing to do with safety . . . it has everything to do with global economics and the exploitation of cheap labor.

By Carl S (American Trucker)

Comments for Are Truckers Unskilled Workers or Skilled Workers?

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Jan 07, 2023
Definitely Skilled
by: The Crazy Trucker

Most of them lol.

Dec 08, 2019
by: Johnny Applegate


TRUCKING requires many SKILLS and to be labeled under a general classification as UNSKILLED is preposterous and personally damaging.
It is NOT a "everybody welcome" venue.
It is NOT a unemployable solution.
If you smoke Marijuana and really like Alcohol, STAY OUT of Trucking.
If you need constant hand holding, STAY HOME.
If you get lost within a few miles of your home, STAY HOME.

I began my "career" in Trucking in late 1998.
Driven from Pond to Pond and covered almost all States from '99 - 2017.
Never been to Canada or Mexico.

There are transferable SKILLS learned in Trucking that are useful in many related and unrelated venues as well SKILLS brought into Trucking therefore WE ARE NOT UNSKILLED!

Trucking does require "paying your dues" which, like many other venues, is/are required to succeed.
NOTHING is the only Free THING.
All other THINGS require WORK and DILIGENCE.



Oct 30, 2015
Not at all offended... NEW
by: Anonymous

...because I know that the people that make these claims couldnt even start my truck, let alone drive it.

If it were an experienced trucker making these claims, I would have issue with it but I still would not stress over it.

Too many "drivers" out there really suck at driving. It is probably one of the toughest jobs and lifestyles to choose in this crazy world we live in.

People can say what they want, but they are speaking as they wear and hold things a driver brought them and they are speaking out of complete ignorance.

That is much like the dog that bites the hand that feeds it....

Jun 21, 2015
Review NEW
by: Anonymous

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Jun 15, 2014
Offended about the Label NEW
by: lostdorsai

I am NOT an owner or owner . operator of a tractor trailer rig,
I have known some that are and am HIGHLY OFFENDED that truckers are classed as semi skilled or even unskilled workers,
Let these paper-oushers strap on an 18 wheeler and try to do the job!
They don't think that it takes skill and intelligence to dirve a rig and deliver cargo to the right place and on time then lets see THEM do it! As the little boy said it? Put their dough where their blow is!
Just my 3 cents!
I have a pen-pal whose UNCLE is or was a truck driver for many years.
Hard, difficult and STRESSFUL JOB!
(aka BATMAN)

Jan 27, 2013
Unskilled Drivers NEW
by: Brian

Wow isn't it amazing how us professional drivers are unskilled labor once we are in the driver's seat. When I first started driving I was very unskilled in the art of manuerving a semi-and a 53' trailer. Sure I could keep it between the ditches fairly well on an interstate that is. Then when I got off of that big road I was terrified trying to make the turns and reach the customer's dock. Let's not even mention the backing in tight places not even intended for a sleeper truck and 53' trailer. Of course it takes skill to accomplish this and yes in time one seems to become more at ease and less stressed. To consider the professional driver as unskilled is a slap in the face to us all, we are skilled and I find it very insulting to say we are anything less. This is the most unrespected skill in our country and we are being treated like second class citizens so trucking companies can profit more along with corporations that need their product shipped but want it done for free. Why do you think they do not have their own trucks and deliver their product themselves? The reason being is that they would need skilled drivers to do that for them and they would have to pay a liveable wage to get it done. I myself have worked as an electrician for many years where I am considered as highly skilled. Let me just say this and I mean it, It takes just as much skill to drive a truck if not more than it does to be an electrician, and I am proud to say that I can do both. I am more than unskilled labor whether I'm driving or doing electrical work and it burns my hide to hear my fellow professional driver is considered unskilled just because economics 101 wants it that way. I'll close for now as I am getting p'oed just thinking about the sacrifice the professional driver makes and in return gets no respect, only foul mouthed that drivers are a dime a dozen. What a slap in the face of hard working men and women trying to make a living and without them there would be no ecomomy for the rich or the poor. Thx for letting me ramble.
Brian Davis/professional driver

Jun 24, 2010
by: joe .t

exactly right, Carl. but this is no accident. it's a racket that makes some carriers richer by compressing deiver wages - and the fed is their partner in promulgating the draconian rules that exonerate the employers.

these rules are promoted by both parties in power so blaming it on idiots, control freaks or liberals is a waste of good gun powder. in my experience, bureaucrats love to indulge fatcats because it justifies their jobs, assures them retirement and protects them from the voters.

when jefferson warned that democracy's survival depends upon eternal vigilance, i now think he was talking about our own bureaucrats more than foreign morons.

Jun 08, 2010
Thanks for reading
by: american trucker

Thanks John H.
I will be posting more.
I'm working on my book and will be posting often.

American Trucker

Jun 08, 2010
Well said!
by: John Hulligan

A couple of things that "ordinary' Drivers may not realise is that as a "Professional Driver" (and here a CDL Driver IS classified AS a "Professional Driver" ) and speeding tickets you get are automatically DOUBLED from that of an "ordinary" licensed driver due to this thought that as a Pro you SHOULD know better!
Oh! Yes as an aside- when i first started driving the 18-wheelers throughout the 48 States I was often laughed at being a British Citizen about our so-called 'Small commercial trucks" in the U.K and Europe?....The rigs over here ARE bloody big!... Normal control tractors ARE by the very nature of the beast..FAR too much Horse-power!!- and the trailers ARE longer than the European Trailers.Tell me?--how many Truck Drivers out there actually FILL these damn! long trailers?..unless you have a light load? very few!!. Lets take the weight aspect? The normal total all-up weight is 40 tons? right? and in the U.K. its 38 tonnes? You have only 2000 lbs in your Ton's over here-The U.K. has 2240lbs in a ton!! That comes out at 85,120lbs against the US 80,000 total load! PLUS our trailers are usually only 40ft-NOT 50+- our Tractors are normally Forward-Control(over the cab) and a much smaller Engine is used for economy-this is compensated by a greater range of gears including twin Axles and a splitter box!..Oh! yes and it appears that nowadays the total weight limit is 44 tones as standard!..i.e 98,560 total weight!(49.28 US Tons)
You may think driving and maneuvering around Chicago/New York etc is difficult? and it IS!! very difficult!..try weaving you way thro some of the time City streets/roads in Europe =especially where the road are scarcely wider than the bloody Tractor & Trailer!
Regards John H

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