7 Surprising Things About Semi-Trucks

Semi-trucks are the undisputed kings of the American roads. Often traveling by packs, they shuffle the basic commodities that we need – and the caprices that we desire – from one place to another. It can be said that without these trailers, the world will go to a grinding halt. Pay homage to these great big vehicles by wrapping your head around these 7 surprising things about semi-trucks.

semi truck facts

  1. Semi-Trucks are Larger than Life.

They are not called eighteen wheelers for nothing. Whereas the traditional car only weighs 5,000 pounds, a semi-truck has a legal weight of 80,000 pounds or 40 tons. The legal weight per axle comprises of the following:

  • Steer – 20,000 pounds
  • Drives – 34,000 pounds
  • Trailer – 34,000 pounds

A semi-truck, also known as a tractor-trailer rig, is insanely long as well. The length can vary according to the cab that is driven. But on the average, it spans anywhere from 70 to 80 feet in length.

As for the height, the standard semi-truck stands a statuesque 13 feet, 6 inches tall.

  1. They are Astonishingly Expensive As Well.

Brand new cabs of semi-trucks cost anywhere from $130,000 to $180,000. The buyer has to pay an additional $30,000 to $80,000 for a new trailer.

  1. Semi-Trucks Have Countless Gears.

The average 18-wheeler has 10 forward and 2 reverse gears. This is just the most common count though, as there are semi-trucks that have 9, 10, 13, 15 and 18 gears.

In order to shift, drivers have to employ the double-clutch technique. In a semi-truck, the clutch is depressed twice to match the gears to the truck’s rpms.

In most cases, the driver makes use of the ‘floating’ method, wherein the clutch is only used to start and stop the vehicle.

  1. It Takes a Lot of Time to Stop a Semi-Truck.

A semi-truck takes 40% more of the time used to stop a common car. This figure largely varies though, depending on the road conditions and the weight of the load. The braking time can be further modified, especially if the driver is bobtailing – or driving without a connected trailer.

The vehicle’s halting process can be owed to its three braking options: the drive axle brake, the steering axle brake and the trailer axle brake.

  1. The Number One Cause of Semi-Truck Accidents is Jack Knifing.

Jack knifing is a braking accident wherein the attached trailer of the semi-truck swings out. It then comes to rest, setting out on a 90-degree angle from the truck. Not only can it hit the driver, it can hit several cars along the way.

jack knifed semi-truck

And that’s not the end of it. It can get worse, especially if the driver is going at a very fast speed. The semi-truck can roll over, thereby leading to a possibly lethal accident.

Apart from faulty braking, jack knifing can also result from driving on a low-friction surface or quickly entering a curved pass. Use of engine retardants can lead to this fatal accident as well.

  1. Most Semi-Trucks Can Be Found Within 3 States.

Out of the 1.9 million semi-trucks in the United States, a third of the population can be found in California, Florida and Texas.

  1. Semi-Trucks are Associated with More Whopping Figures.

Semi-trucks are associated with more whopping figures. Here are some of them:

  • 2 million – total number of semi-truck drivers in the United States.
  • 140 billion miles – the annual driving length of all the semi-trucks in the country.
  • 13 billion tons – the total weight of goods (so far) that semi-trucks have delivered throughout the United States. When compounded, this averages to about 60,000 pounds per American.
  • $255.5 billion – the value of the 13 billion tons of goods transported by American semi-trucks.

How to Get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

A Commercial Driver’s License, also known as a CDL, is a must-have for all truck driver hopefuls. Here, you can learn about how to get one – so you can jumpstart a career in truck driving.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License?

A Commercial Driver’s License is a requirement for Americans who wish to become truck drivers. This entitles the bearer to perform the following activities:

  • Operate a commercial vehicle weighing 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Transport hazardous materials with warning placards, as per Department of Transportation statutes.
  • Transport 9 or more passengers (paying customers) or 16 or more passengers (nonpaying clients.)

Before Getting a Commercial Driver’s License

Before you can apply for a Commercial Driver’s License, there are other things you need to accomplish. First and foremost, you need to obtain your state’s CDL manual, as requirements vary per state.

Next, you need to decide the vehicle you want to operate. Do note that there are three types of CDLs and other endorsements. The CDL you will get will depend on the vehicle you want to drive. Endorsements are needed if you plan on operating a specialized truck (i.e. tractor trailers, school buses or tanker trucks.)

how to get a commercial driver's license

How to Get a Commercial Learner’s Permit

Now that you have an idea of the truck you want to drive – as well as the state requirements – you can start with the process of applying for a Commercial Learner’s Permit.  This will give you the opportunity tp drive your vehicle of choice on public thoroughfares, granted that you are chaperoned by a CDL holder.

The steps to obtaining a learner’s permit are as follows:

  1. Fill out a Commercial Driver’s License application form. You can obtain this from a Department of Motor Vehicles branch near you. It is recommended that you apply for a CDL in your home state, even if you wish to practice in another location.
  2. Review your CDL Manual and accomplish the test/s, as prescribed by your state. The general passing rate is 80%.
  3. You might also be asked to present your proof of identity and residency. At the same time, the DMV will check your driver history for the past decade, across the 50 states.
  4. Submit documents that show that you are ‘medically qualified’ to obtain a CDL. This physical exam is usually conducted by the Department of Transportation. The following conditions will render you ‘unqualified’ for a CDL:
    • Inability to hold a steering wheel or operate foot pedals
    • Use of insulin
    • Lung and heart problems
    • Hypertension
    • Epilepsy
    • Mental disorder
    • Color blindness
    • Poor vision
    • Hearing problems
    • Alcoholism

Skills Test

If you have been in possession of your learner’s permit for 14 days, you can proceed with the skills test. Depending on the state, you might be required to undergo a training program.

Remember: Whatever the requirements might be, make sure to review your Commercial Driver’s License manual prior to taking the test.

commercial driver's license exam

Before you can get your CDL, you need to undergo a 3-part skill test. The exam will cover the following topics:

  • Vehicle Inspection
  • Basic Controls
  • Road Test

Some states permit the use of a training aid to help the examinees remember the parts of the vehicle inspection list.

Do remember that taking the skills test does not guarantee passage!

How to Get a Commercial Driver’s License

Once you have passed the skills test, you can finally get your Commercial Driver’s License.

To get your well-deserved certification, you need to take the necessary documents to the DMV counter for processing. Some states release the license on the exact same day, while some send the certification through mail.

Important: Make sure to check the documents before you leave! Check your name, birthday and other particulars to see if they are correct. If there is an error, you will need to pay a certain fee to have it fixed.

How to Become a Truck Driver

A truck driver is responsible for the transport of goods from one location to another. He oftentimes navigates through different cities, even through different states. Interested in pursuing this challenging career? Then read on to learn more about how to become a truck driver.

Job Description

As it has been established, a truck driver is in charge of delivering freight from one area to another. At times, he has to pick up the goods as well. Depending on his job description, a truck driver might be tasked to load the truck he operates.

In most cases, it is the driver’s responsibility to plan the route he has to take. While spanning long distances, a truck driver is expected to adhere to all traffic laws.

Some truck drivers have to transport chemicals and hazardous materials, so they are expected to take special precautions when hauling their freights.

To ensure the smooth flow of the delivery process, a truck driver is expected to maintain the records of their driving times. He also needs to inspect his truck before and after a trip, apart from maintaining its cleanliness and orderliness. In case he finds any problems, he has to report it to concerned personnel.


As of 2012, the employment rate of truck drivers is at 1.7 million. 34% of the population is employed in generalized freight trucking services, while 13% work for specialized freight trucking industries. An estimated 8% of drivers work for merchant wholesalers.

What it Takes to Become a Truck Driver

Truck driving requires more than just schooling and certification. In order to become a successful truck driver, you need to possess the following skills:

  • Hand and Eye Coordination. Aspiring truck drivers must be able to coordinate their eyes, hands and legs simultaneously. This will give them a faster reaction time while driving.
  • Stellar Physical Health. Federal regulations bar individuals who have medical disorders that might get in the way of driving. Such conditions include hypertension and epilepsy, among many others.
  • Good Eyesight. Truck drivers are required to have good eyesight. As per national regulations, the driver should have 20/40 vision within a 70-degree field, per eye. He should also be able to appropriately tell all the colors of the traffic light.
  • Good Hearing. A truck driver must have good hearing. He should be able to hear a forced whisper in one ear, at a minimum distance of five feet.

How to Become a Truck Driver

Requirements are not too stringent for truck driver hopefuls, but applicants are expected to have a High School Diploma or equivalent.

Apart from this minimal educational requirement, the U.S. Department of Transportation usually requires candidates to attend truck driving schools. Applicants can enroll in community colleges or private truck driving schools.

In such institutions, students are taught on how to drive through freeways and crowded thoroughfares. They are briefed on the laws and statutes concerning truck driving as well.

The course can last from 3 to 6 months. At the end of schooling, the student will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Commercial Driver’s License

Apart from a high school diploma and driving school certification, an applicant is also required to own a commercial driver’s license or CDL. Requirements vary per state, although most involve a written exam and a driving test.

Drivers transporting hazardous materials, on the other hand, are required to have a hazardous materials endorsement.


Once hired, a new truck driver will usually undergo on-the-job training for 1 to 3 months. This will cover the nature of the truck, as well as the materials that need to be transported. The training period also involves trucking with an experienced driver, with the newly-hired employee at the passenger seat.

Work Schedule

Long-haul driving can be physically taxing. In order to prevent accidents and injuries that might stem from these, truck drivers are limited to working for 14 straight hours or 60 hours in a week.

Driving should comprise 11 hours of the workday, with the 3 remaining hours for other activities such as cargo loading/unloading. Between work schedules, the driver should enjoy a good 10 hours off.

Job Outlook

Like most jobs, the truck driving industry is expected to rise at 11% from 2012 to 2022. The high demand is associated with the growth of the economy and the increased need for goods. With the current trends, more and more truck drivers will be needed in the oil and gas industries.