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11 truck driver skills needed to excel at your job

A Schneider truck driver placing a placard on their tanker trailer.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 

All jobs require a good understanding of the tasks at hand, but when it comes to transportation, what are some skills needed to be a truck driver? And how do they help in day-to-day life behind the wheel? 

In the list below, we’ve identified two sets of skill types that the most successful drivers possess. Keep reading to find out more information about important truck driver skills you should have. 

What are some important hard skills to have as a truck driver? 

Hard skills refer to the technical abilities that are needed for the job. These are skills that you will have to use every day to succeed in your role. 

1. Driving skills. 

Safe driving is the most important skill a trucker can have. Most companies will prioritize your ability to make the right decisions on the road and maintain a clean driving record above anything else.  

On top of basic driving skills, truck drivers are also expected to master more technical skills specific to driving a large vehicle, such as: 

For some examples of how you can improve your driving skills, check out our list of essential safety tips for truck drivers. 

2. Mechanical knowledge. 

If you want to be a truck driver, you'll have to get comfortable with the basic mechanics of a tractor-trailer. Though any big repairs are left to the dedicated mechanics, addressing simple mechanical issues is part of the day-to-day responsibilities of a truck driver. 

Some mechanical skills drivers should have include being able to: 

  • Conduct a comprehensive pre-trip inspection.
  • Inspect the pressure and tread depth of your tires. 
  • Chain tires in the winter.
  • Check and replace fluids. 
  • Diagnose issues with air brake systems. 
  • Ensure lights and signals are in working order. 
  • Understand the tractor’s heating and cooling systems.

3. Knowledge of regulations. 

As a truck driver, you’ll have to remain compliant with many rules and regulations to ensure the safety of yourself and others. In addition to your company’s own policies, you’ll have to be knowledgeable about state-specific traffic laws, job-specific regulations (e.g. HazMat regulations) and FMCSA and DOT guidelines.  

Many of these regulations will be covered in the general knowledge section of your DOT exam, so make sure to study ahead of time 

4. Route planning skills. 

While you may get a company-provided tablet to assist you with a lot of the planning, you still need to be able to: 

  • Plan your stops and where you’ll end your day.
  • Use various resources for directions (such as trip planning apps) to stay on top of potential traffic and weather delays. 
  • Update your ETA throughout the day.

To see how you can improve your trip planning skills, check out our list of the most important trip planning tips for truck drivers.  

5. Technical skills. 

While you don’t have to be a software engineer to be successful as a truck driver, you should be comfortable using basic computer programs and applications. Trucking companies use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to track hours of service, so being able to navigate these systems is crucial. 

What are some beneficial soft skills to have as a truck driver? 

Soft skills reflect your behavioral and interpersonal abilities in the workplace. While hard skills may seem more important for a job, having these soft skills is essential for building a successful career as a truck driver.  

6. Problem solving. 

As a truck driver, you will often make decisions on short notice. This is why being adaptable to the situation is one of the most important skills to have. 

When dealing with any of the following scenarios, it’s crucial to be able to think quickly, stay patient and make a well-informed, safety-focused decision: 

  • Unexpected traffic/construction
  • Inclement weather conditions.
  • Delays and delivery issues at a customer stop.

7. Communication. 

As a driver, it’s up to you to provide information about any delays or issues you encounter, so making sure you can explain things clearly is a great skill to have. Not communicating with a manager, customer or planner can lead to things like late deliveries and delayed assignments.   

8. Time management. 

Being able to manage your time is one of the most important factors in succeeding as a driver. By effectively managing your time, you can ensure: 

Some examples of how truck drivers can make the most of their time include: 

  • Keeping Hours of Service in mind at all times. 
  • Completing a thorough trip plan every day. 
  • Regularly maintaining and checking their vehicle to avoid breakdowns.
  • Staying organized.

9. Perceptiveness. 

To stay safe, being aware of what’s happening around you at all times is essential. Being perceptive allows you to keep track of other drivers on the roadways and maintain the safety of yourself and others. Even when you aren’t driving, knowing what is going on in your surroundings helps to make safe decisions. 

To maintain focus and stay observant at all times, you need to make sure your body is awake and alert. This means: 

10. Attention to detail. 

Being thorough and having the ability to notice mistakes are key tools to have as a driver. A few of the many things truck drivers must keep track of throughout the day include: 

  • Hours of Service regulations.
  • Trailer numbers.
  • Delivery instructions.
  • The condition of their tractor and trailer.

Especially when it comes to working with equipment, noticing a small mistake or issue can prevent a big problem in the future. 

11. Strong people skills. 

As mentioned above, being a good communicator is an important skill truck drivers need to have. However, having strong people skills goes beyond being able to communicate. 

Truck drivers with great people skills: 

  • Stay patient and flexible if things don’t go as planned while at a customer location.
  • Are courteous with people they interact with.
  • Actively listen when working with a customer or leader.
  • Are willing to help other truck drivers whom they cross paths with. 

The best truck drivers also guide newer truck drivers when they need help. 

Looking for more truck driver tips?

Check out more of our truck driving blogs, covering a wide range of topics to help you become a safer driver out on the road. 
About the author
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Sam started her career at Schneider in 2023. In her current role as a Recruiting Specialist, Sam is responsible for qualifying candidates, helping improve best practices and mentoring new hires. In her spare time, Sam enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with friends and family.

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