Do You Know Enough to Be a Trucker?

By: John Miller
Image: 5m3photos/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The United States is crisscrossed with tens of thousands of miles of highway – and for about 3.5 million truckers, these vast stretches are home. Nearly three-quarters of freight tonnage that moves around America goes on 18 wheels, the big semi trucks that help form the backbone of the nation’s cargo transportation system. In this gear-grinding quiz, what do you really know about general trucking knowledge?

Each year, truckers move more than 10 billion tons of freight – sometime just across town, and often from one coast to the other. It takes skill and practice to operate these huge truck-trailer combinations without causing an accident. Do you know some of the basics of truck driving?

Steering these gigantic rigs on a windswept highway in January isn't just challenging, it's a responsibility that can have life-altering consequences for the driver and everyone else who shares the road. In short, driving a truck means balancing safety with deadlines and understanding the limitations of both driver and rig. Hope into the seat of this air-cushioned trucking quiz now!


This lifestyle is not for everyone. What does "OTR" stand for in the trucking world?

OTR, or "over the road" drivers are the ones who transport loads very long distances. OTR drivers know that they may not see their families for very long stretches.

It's a learned skill. Which challenge cause beginning truckers the most problems?

You can't just close your eyes and hope for the best. Backing up huge trailers takes a lot of practice, and it's a skill that you learn over many years of experience.

Some habits really matter if you want to stay healthy. If you often drive long distances, you should avoid what sort of foods?

Fast food is a trap that many truckers (and other people, too) fall into. If you're in trucking for the long haul, learn to eat healthy on the road or suffer the consequences later.

After you fill your truck with diesel, what should you NOT do?

Some truck drivers make a habit of leaving their rigs parked at the pump while they wander around inside the store. This is the fast track to making other drivers very frustrated and angry, because they want to fill up and get going ASAP.

If you're a brand-new trucker driver who lives in a colder region, you should try to AVOID taking your first real job in which season?

Truck driving is a tough business even when the weather is ideal. In icy, snowy winter time? Leave that stuff to the veteran drivers.

You need to be especially attentive of "grade" in which area?

Mountain driving is challenging for every driver pulling a heavy load. Steep grades test shifting and braking ability at every moment.

Tweaks will be necessary as you travel around the country. No trucker should hit the highway without what?

You're driving a huge rig for thousands of miles -- something is going to break. Be sure to pack a basic tool kit so that you can deal with minor challenges on your own.

It's going to happen … a lot. What should you do if another driver cuts you off while you're steering a big rig?

There are crazy or inattentive drivers all over the place. Don't let them get to you even if they cut you off … as a professional it's important that you stay calm and safe while driving your huge rig.

This habit can save lives. If you encounter conditions like ice, snow and rain, you should always to do what?

Yes, we know you have deadlines. But precipitation of any kind contributes to many scary driving situations. Slow down in poor weather. It offers more reaction time.

On dry roads, you should maintain how much of a cushion from other vehicles in front of you?

But more is even safer. The rough guideline is that you should maintain at least a three-second cushion between your truck and the vehicles ahead of you.

Otherwise, the couch potato effect takes hold. Which habit should you definitely maintain on the road?

You'll sit for endless hours in your truck. Once parked, you need to get that heart pumping with some exercise -- fail to do this and years later you'll reap the sad consequences.

The statistics don't lie. At which part of the road system should you be particularly attentive?

Intersections are where many of the worst accidents happen, as vehicles cross each others' paths. It's at intersections that drivers should be especially aware, particularly in big rigs that require extra braking distance.

It's good for your spine. What does it mean if a carrier has a "no touch" policy?

For drivers, it's a beautiful policy. A "no touch" carrier means the drivers don't load or unload cargo by hand. That job goes to laborers.

It's something you should do every time. What should you do before you hop in the driver's seat?

Tires are a truck's lifeline to the road. You should check your tires frequently … and your brakes, too. They are incredibly important to the safety of everyone on the road around you.

In many places, it's the law. As you ascend mountains in winter weather, you must put what on your tires?

Mountain weather wreaks havoc with trucks. That's why many states require truckers to put chains on their tires before entering treacherous mountain passes.

Backing up is hard work. What's the number one tip for backing up a heavy trailer?

Even experienced drivers struggle with backing up some days. Go slow, take your time and enlist the help of a spotter to aid you for this task. It might take you months or years to perfect this task on your own.

This act requires attentiveness. If you drop a trailer in a dirt lot, what should you do first?

Many trailers are so heavy that the legs will sink easily into a dirt surface. Prior to dropping the trailer, place a hard surface (like wooden boards) under the legs.

It's a basic rule of thumb in inclement weather. On a slippery hill, where should you aim your tires?

If the road is snowy, don't put your tires in the tracks of the person in front of you. Instead, shift your rig a bit to the side and make your own tracks for a bit better traction.

Know your alphabet! The 18-speed shifter is laid out in which sort of pattern?

The 18-speed transmission at your fingertips is fairly easy to learn. The shifter operates in an H pattern that will step you through the various gears.

If you often sleep in cold climates, which product is virtually a must-have for truck drivers?

You can't burn propane inside your cab, of course. But heated blankets are a great way to use very little power while staying comfortably warm in cold conditions.

It's a critical fact to remember. If you back up and turn the wheel to the RIGHT, the trailer will go _____.

Your trailer doesn't always cooperate the way you think it should. If you back up and turn the wheel to the right, the trailer will go left.

Right turns are hard work. How should you negotiate right turns in city traffic?

Right turns are, by nature, hard to execute with a big trailer in tow. On city streets, take these turns very slowly to avoid hitting things … like rushed drivers who try to dart around you.

If you're driving on an icy road, you should make sure the vehicle in front of you is how far away?

Icy roads can cause horrendous accidents, and your heavy rig can't stop quickly in a snowstorm. Give yourself at least a 10-second cushion from the vehicles ahead of you.

It's all about teamwork. If you see a driver passing you in the left lane, what should you do?

If another driver is trying to pass you from the left lane … let him. The sooner he can move back into the right lane, the sooner all traffic will begin flowing more smoothly.

You're backing up … but you aren't confident about your placement. What should you do?

Swallow your pride and just get out of the truck. Look around, drive a few more inches, get back out and look again -- it's a learning process and it's much safer than guessing.

The conditions are severe in January. Even in very cold weather, it's possible for what to happen to your truck going up a mountain?

Mountains place incredible strain on all parts of your rig. If your engine begins to overheat on the ascent, pull over and reevaluate your situation instead of pushing the machine to its absolute limits.

Many drivers do this as a mental exercise. If you need to visualize your trailer backing up, you can imagine what?

Visualization is a mental exercise that many people use for all sorts of complicated tasks. Backing up a trailer? Imagine a bird's-eye perspective and it may help you steer better.

It's a standard for these rigs. How many reverse gears do tractors have?

Typical passenger cars have just a single reverse speed. Big trucks, though, have three, although many drivers don't make use of all three.

It's just common courtesy. If you pull into a large, sparsely used parking area late at night, where should you park?

Because truck drivers like their space, too. If you pull in for the night in a place where there's lots of room and few trucks, give the other drivers some space. No need to crowd.

If you're "floating gears," what are you really doing?

Many drivers "float the gears" as they zoom down the highway. It basically just means they're shifting without using the clutch. Some drivers make this process look much easier than it is.

It's not a stand-in for regular brakes. What are the "jake brakes"?

You don't always have to use the service brakes to slow down. The jake brakes -- engine brakes -- are helpful in many places, particularly hilly areas.

Make yourself known. Before you back up, you should always do what?

This is a standard procedure for commercial drivers. Honk your horn before (and during) your backing up process, in hopes of keeping the attention of people in the area.

In slick winter weather, why is it important to keep the fuel tank topped off?

On slick roads, you want a good amount of weight on your drive tires. Keeping the fuel tank topped off adds weight at the front … right where you want it.

Where would you find "runaway truck" ramps?

Runaway truck ramps are a measure of last resort. In the mountains, it's where truckers aim their rigs if they've lost control, perhaps due to a brake malfunction.

Only a few people understand how to do this the right way. If you need help backing up a critical load, who should you ask to help spot you?

Backing up -- the bane of many drivers -- is hard work. If you need a spotter, ask for help from another trucker ... because a random person might actually make your predicament even scarier.

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