Fuel for Thought

Professional Truck Driver?

By Greg Huggins
Posted Jan 28th 2023 6:46AM

You will often hear the term professional associated with many industries. Sports teams boast professional players all the time. With sports, there is a clear line that defines a professional player, transitioning into a paid position. A player moving from a college team to a paid professional team signifies the player has reached professional status. Similarly, once medical students become doctors and nurses they have crossed the line into being a professional.

Where is the dividing line in the trucking industry? When does a rookie/trainee driver become a professional truck driver? 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists several definitions for the word professional. Among these are : 

  • participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
    having a particular profession as a permanent career
  • engaged in by persons receiving financial return
  • following a line of conduct as though it were a profession
  • engaged in one of the learned professions
  • characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession
    exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

Based on the definitions of a professional, there really is not a clear line of distinction in the trucking industry, although one could argue that you will know one when you see or hear one. 

Whether you consider yourself to be a professional driver or not, you have most likely encountered one (no pun intended about the truck stop “lunch counter” crowd) or at least one that you considered to be one. Successfully completing a CDL school course to obtain a Commercial Drivers License does not make anyone a professional truck driver. Those basic skills tests required to obtain a CDL are akin to entrance exams, they allow someone to gain entry into the industry where they are supposed to further their education in the profession. 

If you consider yourself a professional truck driver, at what stage in your career did you achieve that status? Was it a certain point in time? Perhaps it was a particular mileage that you acquired? Maybe it was a gradual change to being a professional and the title was bestowed upon you by others in the industry? 

For the new drivers entering this industry, if they asked you when you became a professional truck driver, what goal would you give them to achieve professional status? 

If you look online, you can find several websites that will tell you the characteristics of a professional. Many of these can be misleading, or circular logic as many refer to professional attitude or professional appearance. In my opinion, you cannot define something with itself.  While there are certainly too many attributes to list here (the various websites do not agree on all specific characteristics), I have chosen a few that I would consider to be a trait, attribute or characteristic of a professional as it pertains to truck drivers. 

Attitude - This may be one of the most important traits. How you react to the everyday stresses of trucking can positively or negatively impact your growth.

Engagement - If you are just going through the motions to complete your job, then you are just a worker.

Competency - Incompetent drivers pose a safety hazard to other drivers.

Image - Whether you want to believe it or not, you will be judged by the image you present. Right or wrong, it is a visceral reaction. 

Improvement - Continuing your education within your industry better equips you for the ever changing environment of the trucking industry. A professional is more often proactive rather than reactive.

So, this is how I would start to define a professional truck driver, what is your criteria? Are you a professional truck driver? A novice? 

Back to the original question, when does a truck driver become a professional truck driver? 

See you down the road,