Driving a large haz-mat truck is not easy. At present, there are over 300,000 trucks drivers that are currently operating in the US but for every ten male drivers, there is atleast a single female driver that deals with long distance carriage of hazardous material. The average salary of an ordinary trucker can vary anywhere from $35,000 to $62,000 per year depending on the distance that the material is hauled and the experience of the driver. However hazardous material hauling is of a completely different nature and haz-mat drivers easily get paid double that (averaging about $60,000 or more per year). The type of truck that is used for hauling dangerous chemicals is dictated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Furthermore, all drivers who handle such material have to get additional training in loading, unloading, completing the paperwork and accident management in case of accidents.
How to be a truck driver: Basic educational degree
If you have already decided that you want to be a truck driver that deals with hazardous materials, then you will have to complete your high school or your GED. Please note that this is not essential but most jobs do prefer candidates that have finished their basic education.
Commercial Driver’s License Application and Exams
To be a haz-mat driver, you will also need to study further and this is possible only with a basic high school degree. This is not essential but it will help you to get your commercial drivers license. Commercial driver’s license holders are allowed to transport or haul 26,000 pounds or more in weight as in hazardous materials. For the commercial license, you will have to sit for a test and pass it by verifying your knowledge of the rules and regulations. Once you information is verified and you pass the test, your personal information is recorded on a national databank and the drivers are then registered with each state that they are licensed to work in. There are very strict regulations that are enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Organization that require drivers to be over 21 years old and to pass a physical examination every 2 years. Along with good health, good hearing, 20/40 vision and a 70-degree field of vision is required. Drivers should also be free of any felony convictions, drug history, DUI history or hit and run history. To be a haz mat driver, you will also need to take on additional Haz-Mat certification. Originally, this involved a simple written test which was easy to pass. However, in recent years, federal authorities have tightened the process and the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA will pass a potential driver through a stringent FBI background check and evaluation before evaluating them for the final test. This additional certification is tacked alongside your CDL.
Hiring and job requirements
The exact job requirements of different firms will vary considerably. The U.S. Department of Transportation has stated that only 11 hours – 14 hours of total driving time is allowed for all drivers. If you have passed your basic degree, the company will usually train you in their local trucks and vans. Drivers will receive additional training in the classroom so that they can work with the trucks safely. Haz mat drivers have to be trained extra so that they know how to deal with the material that they are hauling. They are also responsible for packing and ensuring that the material does not shift around during transport. They should be carrying details about the material that they are hauling along with antidote information in case of leakage.
Ordinary hauling companies do not deal with hazardous material. There are special companies that deal with this type of cargo and they hire a large range of drivers who will haul the material over a longer distance.
The responsibilities of the driver are critical. If the material is not packed according to standards, then the driver has the right to refuse damaged goods. He is also supposed to carry out proper blocking and bracing of the product, safely transport the goods, keep shipping papers and emergency driver information handy. Placards have to be placed all around the truck to ensure that other drivers and vehicles know that the truck carries hazardous material.
As a driver, you will also have to follow special route around cities when you are carrying dangerous material. This is tracked through the GPS system that is attached to your truck.
Drivers who have to haul hazardous material may also have to complete regular certification about their driving credentials. The driver is also responsible for reporting leaks, accidents or other problems that may occur during transportation of the material.