Truck drivers and those in the transportation and logistics industries have long known that trucks and their drivers are lynch pins in the system that moves goods across the country, onto store shelves, and into our homes. Critical shortages and bottlenecks in the supply chain recently have pushed these folks into the headlines.
Jobs in the Supply Chain, Part 1: Trucking and Logistics
Our three supply chain-related platforms -- DriverWave, WarehouseGig, and RetailGig -- aim to be your industry resource. So, in an effort to provide context and insight into finding careers that play an essential role in our lives, we’re running a series showing the many ways you can have a career that helps address gaps in the supply chain.
From Sea to City
The supply chain in the United States begins at one of the 20 maritime container ports in the United States in cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, and New York/ New Jersey. A maritime container port is a facility where cargo is offloaded from giant container ships onto trucks for eventual delivery to stores and homes. Some jobs available at this point in the supply chain include:
- Entry Level Truck Driver - At the beginning of your career you’ll likely start as a long haul truck driver. Small companies and larger trucking operations all start the majority of entry-level truck drivers with over the road routes. These routes, integral to the supply chain, can take you all over the country from port to warehouse keeping you in your truck for days or weeks at a time.
- Owner Operators - As an owner operator, you’re in charge of every aspect of your business from sales to customer service to delivery. Being your own boss means spending the week and weekend on the road more than you’re home to boost your take-home pay. A career as an owner-operator is not a short one. If you have plans to change directions within the next five years, this job may not be for you. But if you see yourself on the road for years to come, you may be an ideal candidate as an owner-operator.
- Company Drivers - Between entry level jobs and owner operator careers, most drivers will work as company drivers. After driving over the road for a couple of years, drivers may want to explore other options that provide higher pay and more varied experience without the substantial expense of buying and operating their own truck. The other types of routes drivers can work include:
- Local Routes - Drivers with a local route travel mostly within the area surrounding their home and rarely travel overnight.
- Regional Routes - Regional routes cover specific regions of the country such as the Northwest, Southwest, Mid-Atlantic and such. These routes usually have more home time than long haul routes.
- Trucking Managers - Trucking managers ensure efficient operation of the people and equipment within a trucking company. Trucking managers hire personnel, track shipping forms, maintain informational databases, and work with affiliated units such as legal, maintenance, and even advertising and marketing.
- Tanker Drivers - The supply chain isn’t just made up of solid material, tanker trucks haul oil, vinegar, alcohol, and even milk and fruit juice. A tanker driver may have a long distance or local route depending on the company and the driver’s experience. A job as a tanker driver includes hauling the trailer, and some tanker drivers are responsible for filling up tanks or emptying them. Sanitation and safety are very important with tanker driving, and delivery procedures often need to be documented and followed with absolute precision.
- Port Drivers - Port truck drivers take routes at places like rail yards and shipping ports. Depending on the company and the port, drivers may have to load or unload cargo. Much of the job is similar to other trucking jobs, except that the routes are in a smaller area and can be more targeted, making it easier for drivers to get home regularly.
Off (and On) The Rails
Second to trucking, rail is the most popular way materials and goods are moved through the supply chain across the United States. A Northwestern University Transportation Center study found that the freight rail industry weathered the pandemic better than other supply chain industries and was more nimble and reliable than other industries as well. Driving jobs in this link of the supply chain include:
- Railroad Van Driver - Railroad van drivers move train crew members between train destinations, their base of operations, the company headquarters, and the starting point of the train’s journey. Using a passenger van, a shuttle bus, or other similar vehicle, van driver’s schedules can include regular and on-call hours. Drivers can work directly for a railroad or for companies who transport crews for multiple rail lines.
- Fuel Delivery Driver - Using tanker trucks with specialized equipment for fueling and maintenance, fuel delivery drivers refill train locomotives along their journey. These trucks are loaded with fuel, sand, water, and/ or lube oil to service trains as needed along their routes. Drivers in this job work for companies specializing in direct fueling.
The Last Leg
The final link in the supply chain ends at your local store or even your door stop. This leg includes many of the jobs listed above on more specialized and local routes, but they also have a set of drivers strictly for this leg of the journey.
- Last Mile Delivery Drivers - Drivers working the end of the supply chain can be employed by the US postal service, one of the express carriers such as UPS or FedEx, or even one of the e-commerce companies like Amazon. Last mile delivery drivers transport goods using non-commercial trucks, delivery vans or personal vehicles. Some last mile delivery drivers simply deliver parcels to personal residences. Other drivers in more specialized fields such as appliances or furniture delivery, may be responsible for assembly and installation in customers’ homes.
- Dedicated Route Drivers - For drivers interested in predictable schedules and stable income, dedicated routes could be the key. These routes service the same companies or locations regularly and drivers are usually home each night. Companies can include food delivery operations such as Sysco, Performance, Sygma, and Lapari as well as department stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, or Home Depot.
Don’t let news about supply chain delays get you down. If you’re interested in a career with good pay, interesting work, and the ability to step up in a time of national crisis, working one of these great driving jobs along the supply chain could be your calling. DriveWave and our partner platforms, WarehouseGig and RetailGig, can help you find the match between your career interests and current opportunities in the supply chain.
Read Part 2 in the series, Jobs in the Supply Chain: Warehouse Jobs.