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What is a Yard Jockey? - Unloading details about the role

A driver uses a white terminal tractor to back an orange Schneider trailer into a tight trailer parking spot in a facility yard.
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August 23, 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

When people think of truck driving, often the picture that comes to mind is an over-the-road driver who spends days or weeks out on the road, crisscrossing the United States.

However, there are plenty of other driving careers that keep drivers busy without having to travel across the country. Drivers can work locally and stay close to home by becoming a Yard Jockey.

Yard Jockey drivers, sometimes called yard drivers or spotters, are local drivers who are essential to maintaining order at truck yards, factories and manufacturing facilities. But what is a Yard Jockey and what do they do?

What is a Yard Jockey driver?

A Yard Jockey is a truck driver who is responsible for moving trailers at truck yards, rail yards, factories, plants and warehouses. These facilities often have large yards and docks where trucks load and unload products and resources.

It is the Yard Jockey’s job to move semi-truck trailers to and from the yard and loading docks. These drivers help eliminate congestion in the yard and streamline the loading and unloading process by managing the trailers that are delivered to the facility.

A Yard Jockey wearing jeans, a neon safety vest and black baseball hat hooks up a white terminal trailer to an orange Schneider trailer.

Full list of duties

As mentioned above, the main responsibility of a Yard Jockey is to move trailers to and from the yard and loading locations. However, this isn’t the only job of a Yard Jockey. Drivers may also be expected to regularly complete the following tasks:

  • Assist with docking trailers.
  • Inspect containers and perform yard checks.
  • Perform preventative maintenance on machinery and tools.
  • Fill out necessary delivery forms and paperwork.
  • Fuel reefer trailers.
  • Clean out empty trailers.

What kind of equipment do Yard Jockeys use?

Unlike the average truck driver, Yard Jockeys don’t usually drive semi-tractors. Rather, they move trailers using terminal tractors, which are sometimes called spotter trucks, yard trucks or yard dogs.

A white terminal tractor truck pulls a Tanker trailer into a shop.

Terminal tractors differ from normal semi-tractors in the following ways:

  • Terminal tractors have a shorter wheelbase.
  • The cab only fits one person.
  • The door is in the rear of the cab to allow easy access to trailers.
  • There are windows on all four sides of the vehicle.
  • Terminal tractors come equipped with an integrated lifting ability and fifth wheel coupling, to assist with moving trailers.

Aside from driving a terminal tractor, drivers may also be required to operate warehouse equipment like pallet jacks or forklifts to help with loading or unloading trailers.

Do you need a CDL to become a Yard Jockey driver?

Although some companies do not require Yard Jockey drivers to have a CDL if they only drive in the yard, most companies do require their Yard Jockeys to obtain a CDL.

This is because companies want to make sure Yard Jockeys drivers know how to operate any equipment they may encounter in the yard and ensure they are skilled enough to back trailers into tight spaces or up to dock doors.

In addition to having a CDL, most companies also require drivers to have a high school diploma or GED, as well as a safe driving record.

Benefits of becoming a Yard Jockey driver

The Yard Jockey role is a perfect career for both inexperienced drivers and experienced drivers who are looking for a unique and convenient driving job with plenty of perks. Drivers who apply for a Yard Jockey position can expect to:

  • Get home daily: Yard Jockeys are local drivers that usually get home daily. This makes this position ideal for drivers who are looking to stay close to home.
  • Work predictable hours: Drivers in this role are usually assigned a reliable work schedule, meaning they will be assigned to drive specific days and times during the week.
  • Earn reliable hourly pay: Unlike over-the-road drivers, Yard Jockeys usually earn hourly pay. This pay structure, combined with a predictable schedule and weekly paychecks, means driver pay is reliable and consistent.

Join a company that backs their drivers

Get specialized paid training, earn reliable pay and get top-of-the-line benefits as a Schneider Yard Jockey. Get your career rolling and apply today.

About the author
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Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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