One major difference between carriers is the type of freight they move. You should be familiar with all of the trailer varieties and the amount of handling required for each type. A dry van and reefer may look similar, but the skills needed to attend to the product will be different and the delivery locations will vary.
A dry van is actually just an empty container with doors on the back. You will back into a loading dock and have the product handled by forklifts or possibly by hand. There are often pallets or other shipping items used for off-loading. If you add a refrigerated unit to the trailer it is called a reefer and it is used to keep the load cold or frozen for shipping. You will need additional training to deliver reefer loads so that you have an understanding of the temperature requirements. Also, the deliveries are often made to grocery warehouses or other huge facilities, which may require extended delays in loading or unloading. From bananas to shrimp, food products usually need extra attention en route.
Although they are similar to dry vans, intermodal trailers are often smaller and the container is designed to be put on railroad flatbed or possibly on a ship. These loads will send you to rail yards or shipping docks where you will leave the entire trailer for its next leg of the journey.
Some trailers are covered with a curtain so that the freight can be loaded from the side. Often large rolls of paper are loaded on these trailers, called softsides. The shipment can also be loaded from the back, but there is greater flexibility for the carrier to have the option of side loading or unloading.
A flatbed trailer is also a common sight on the highway. Flat bed trailers are often used for steel products, machinery and building materials; and can be loaded from the sides, the back or even with an overhead crane. The work involved in securing the load can be rigorous, and strapping and tarping the product might be a requirement of the job. Some specialized trailers include dropped decks, which are lower in the middle to accommodate large items with added height.
Most dump truck drivers transport either bulk products such as sand, fertilizer and road materials, or food items from the producer. Potatoes and green beans, corn and fruits, and vegetables loaded from the farmer's field are often put into dump trailers. At the destination, all you will need to do is pull some levers and the load slips out the back. You might also have hoppers with doors on the underside of the trailer allowing you to dump the load from the bottom.
Milk and dairy items are usually hauled in shiny, stainless steel trailers requiring the driver to pay special attention to cleanliness. Tank trucks also haul fuel and petroleum products, especially to gas stations or truck stops. Tanks can be difficult to haul if you are unaware of the way the moving liquid in the trailer affects your driving as it shifts during turning and braking.
Delivering autos may look like an easy way to make a living, but you will be expected to pay attention to any possible ways the paint could be damaged. Extra care must be given to securing the cars and covering them so they can be driven off the trailer at the dealer, ready to be delivered to the customer.
Household goods movers have the added responsibility of dealing with homeowners who are concerned about their family heirlooms. You might be expected to assist in wrapping and boxing everything from dishes to pianos if you choose to help families move from one home to another.
If you enjoy animals, you might want to investigate livestock hauling. You could deliver cows, horses, sheep or other animals in a trailer designed to accommodate live freight. You will have to help the animals on and off the trailer and might be required to check that they are still standing en route, making sure they're not crushed by the other animals.
These are just a few of the types of freight you might deliver. Some carriers specialize in expedited deliveries or special government loads, which require added security. You can also choose truckload shipments or less-than-load (LTL) freight, which might allow you to be home more often. LTL freight means that you will be stopping at numerous customers in the course of a day. These are all options to consider when choosing a carrier.
The more your learn about the carrier, the loads, the areas you will travel in and the amount of time you will be able to spend at home, the more prepared you and your family will be to adjust to your new career. Learn what your options are before you choose a carrier by understanding the differences between them.