Truck drivers today look much different than they did 30 years ago. More and more people from all over the world are becoming part of the truck driving industry, using their skills to transport essential goods all across the states, but do you have to speak English to be a truck driver in the U.S.?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an organization that aims to improve highway safety, specifies that all commercial vehicle operators must be at least 21 years of age, have residency status in the U.S., and be able to speak conversational English.
Speaking English is a necessary skill in the truck driving industry to be able to communicate effectively with people at different drop-off points. As someone who has been in the trucking industry over 30 years I can tell you that even though it’s required by the FMCSA many slip through who cannot speak conversational English.
The rest of this article will discuss whether you need to speak English to be a truck driver and why English proficiency is important for truck drivers.
Do You Need to Know English to Be a Truck Driver?
As it turns out, you do need to know English to some degree to be a truck driver. The level of proficiency must be conversational for several reasons.
Conversing with the Public
As a truck driver, you’ll need to be able to communicate with your employer, others on the road, and the people at the drop-off point.
You’ll need to understand your instructions from your boss clearly and be able to fully comprehend everything that is expected of you, both legally as a truck driver and as an employee of the company.
Responding to Official Inquiries
Sometimes, a police officer might pull a truck driver over. In this circumstance, it’s very important that the driver be able to converse with the official properly. Additionally, the truck driver will be required to speak with other officials while travelling or during audits or inspections of the company they work for.
Understanding Traffic Signs
All traffic signs in the U.S. are written in English, and some have English text on them. Understanding these road signs is very important to ensure that the driver can understand and recognize any potential hazards on the road and navigational signs.
This ensures that the driver is capable of staying safe while driving with precious cargo.
Entering Data on Reports and Records
Truck drivers have to handle a fair amount of paperwork, all of which will be provided in English. Understanding and accurately filling out this paperwork is important since the truck driver’s information reflects on the company.
Drivers may have to deal with invoices or inventory sheets and will need to understand English well to be able to read these documents.
Why English Proficiency Is Important for Truck Drivers
Contrary to popular belief, being a truck driver isn’t just about being on the open road for 8 hours a day; drivers have to keep inventory of what they’re transporting, fill out logbooks, plan their trip, talk to security, check items, and read paperwork.
As a truck driver, you will be responsible for getting the cargo from point A to point B, but that’s not all you’ll be doing.
Before the trip, you’ll have to make logbook entries, read paperwork regarding load and content, inspection forms, and directions to delivery or pick-up locations.
During the trip, you have to operate various instruments labeled in English, read traffic signs with variable messages, pay attention to the radio to listen for different weather or traffic conditions, and communicate with other drivers and dispatchers.
Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll need to read and verify forms and documents, talk to security to gain access to the facility, communicate with the company representative, and comprehend and sign paperwork.
Yes, truck drivers spend a lot of time on the open road, but there’s a lot more communication and logistics that go into the job than you might think, and there are lots of regulations and rules to abide by that require proficiency in understanding English.
It may seem a little odd on first impression that truck drivers who spend most of their time on the road are required to demonstrate conversational English to be certified, but in reality, truck drivers have a lot of obligations and responsibilities while transporting goods to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
Before, during, and after the ride, drivers use English to communicate and understand directions, making knowledge of the language essential to keeping drivers safe and informed while on the road.
While it’s certainly possible and acceptable to get along just fine without English in most other areas of life in the U.S., truck driving simply becomes unsafe when the driver isn’t able to understand English.
Speaking English not only helps the driver do their job better, but it also makes the road a little bit safer for others.
- Robinson, Michael (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
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