Truckers keep our nation’s economy moving. Semi-trucks transport over 70% of our country’s freight. In many cases, goods and materials are hauled in dry vans, which are what many people think of when they think of a semi-truck. For food and medication, refrigerated trucks (reefers) are also common. In addition to these more well-known types of transportation, there are a variety of specialized trucking jobs where drivers haul unique freight. Due to the additional training and skills these jobs require, drivers often earn high pay.
Some types of specialized trucking:
There are more than 250,000 livestock-transporting trucks in the United States according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These vehicles haul animals such as cattle, chicken, horses, pigs, or even bees across the country. Overall, cattle haulers are the most common.
To be able to succeed as a livestock trucker, drivers need to understand how to care for the animals they are transporting. In many cases, they will have previous farm experience.
Livestock transport is often seasonal in nature. Additionally, it is subject to regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in addition to needing to follow guidelines from the FMCSA and Department of Transportation (DOT). Certifications beyond a commercial driver’s license (CDL) may be necessary depending on the type of work.
Fun fact: the first semi-truck ever invented was made to haul cars to buyers without causing unnecessary wear and tear. Over the years, the act of transporting cars to dealerships has become more advanced. Instead of moving one vehicle at a time (as was the case for the first semi-truck), specialized car haulers typically have an open trailer with several vehicles.
Car haulers need to know weight regulations to avoid large fines for noncompliance. They also need to understand how to safely load and unload the cars and inspect them for damage. Since this type of freight is highly valuable, truckers who haul automobiles need to build a strong reputation. Many of them are owner-operators with extensive experience.
Hazardous materials (hazmat) include any substance that is potentially dangerous to humans or to the environment. Gasoline is one of the most common types of hazmat that has to travel by semi-truck. Without fuel tankers, gas stations would be severely negatively impacted within less than a week. Jobs hauling gasoline require both the hazmat and tanker endorsements, which together are known as the X endorsement. In fact, many hazmat jobs require both, not just gasoline.
Motor carriers who handle hazmat prefer to hire drivers who have experience with non-hazardous freight first. These hauls are high-risk and it’s important that drivers have a strong safety record.
How to Start a Specialized Trucking Career
Are you interested in a trucking job and think you might want to try something more specialized? First things first, you’ll need to earn your CDL and may need endorsements as well, depending on the type of driving.
For the most part, you should plan to start with a traditional over-the-road (OTR) driving job to get experience before you apply to specialized companies. It takes time to get used to trucking in general, and most motor carriers with unique freight will require you to have prior experience and a strong record of safe driving.
There may be some exceptions to this rule if you have prior experience in a related non-trucking industry. One example of this is if you have a background in farming and want to transition into livestock hauling after earning your CDL. You shouldn’t count on getting a specialized job right away even in these circumstances, however, and it’s important to make a realistic plan.
If you attend Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, our job placement assistance team can help you consider your options for building industry experience.
Earn Your CDL and Endorsements
Our program can get you on the road and earning in as little as four weeks and we offer three endorsements: hazmat, tanker, and doubles/triples. We aim to give our students valuable skills that they can continue to use throughout their trucking careers, no matter which niche they eventually choose.