After earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL), there are many career decisions you will be able to make. Before deciding what type of freight you want to haul and what company you will work for, one of the big-picture choices is what length of route you are interested in. There are three main categories: local, regional, and over-the-road/OTR.
It’s most common to start out with over-the-road trucking because you will gain the experience that the majority of local and regional companies look for. However, some shorter routes do hire new drivers and it can also be helpful to think about your long-term career goals when starting out. Understanding the differences between local, regional, and OTR hauls can help you plan for your future as a trucker.
OTR is what most people imagine when they think of a trucking job. It involves spending multiple weeks at a time on the road hauling goods and materials. The length of each route varies, but you can expect to travel throughout all of the continental United States. Some companies even travel into Canada or Mexico, although there are additional considerations for international routes.
Over-the-road jobs are the most common for new drivers because they give you time to get more comfortable handling a semi-truck. Local and regional jobs often require you to handle difficult driving conditions more often such as night driving, navigating a city, and potentially backing into loading docks or businesses without loading docks multiple times a day. OTR will give you exposure to all of these, but it is more spaced out. For this reason, many local or regional carriers will prefer to hire drivers with one year or more of over-the-road experience.
- Higher pay, especially for specialized freight or experienced drivers
- See the country while earning high pay
- Most typical of the trucking lifestyle, which many drivers who thrive in OTR jobs find exciting
- Time away from home
- May not be ideal if you don’t enjoy the lifestyle of long-haul trucking
Examples of OTR Jobs
- Dry van
- Reefer trucks
- Flatbed trucking
- Any freight that must travel a long distance to reach its destination
In most cases, the day-to-day life of a regional trucker is fairly similar to that of an OTR driver. The difference is the regional routes involve less time on the road at once, usually 1-2 weeks. Many of these jobs allow you to be home every weekend. The routes run through one region of the country. West coast runs are one example.
- Pay is usually greater than local jobs
- More home time than OTR
- Still involves some travel and aspects of the trucking lifestyle
- Often more competition for jobs than OTR
- Will typically pay less than OTR
- More likely to have a set “routine,” which can be a pro or con depending on your preferences
Examples of Regional Jobs
- Linehaul driving for less-than-truckload (LTL) freight
- Many types of freight that travel OTR also have regional routes available (dry van, reefer, flatbed, etc.)
Local driving jobs allow you to stay close to home. They are more competitive and often require more experience before you will be hired. This is because most local positions require a great deal of city driving and you will need to know how to maneuver a large vehicle in tight areas.
- Home daily or nightly
- Ability to become familiar with the routes and routine
- Competitive hiring processes
- Lower pay than OTR or regional, although this can change with time and depend on the company
- Traveling the same routes every day can become boring, depending on your personality/preferences
Examples of Local Jobs
- LTL pick-up and delivery (P&D)
- Delivery trucks
- Passenger-carrying jobs (shuttles, limousines, buses, etc.) with the appropriate endorsement
- Some types of specialized freight
Start Your Driving Career
No matter what type of route you are interested in, Phoenix Truck Driving School can help you get started. We offer programs in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and can get you on the road and earning in as little as four weeks.