What’s A Yard Driver?

Yard dog. Yard jockey. Hostler. Spotter. They go by many names. While over-the-road (OTR) drivers travel long distances, yard drivers work within yards or terminals.

If you’re considering a trucking career, you know there are many different driving jobs out there. Which truck driving job is right for you? Should you become a hostler driver or an OTR driver? In this article, we’ll share why OTR may benefit you in the long run. 

Keep reading for key distinctions in pay and perks between driving in a yard and hauling freight across the country. 

What Does A Yard Jockey Do?

The responsibilities of a yard jockey vary. Their main job is to move trailers around a facility. Yard jockeys take trailers where they need to go for loading, unloading, coupling or cleaning. Organizing incoming and outgoing trailers comes first, but many hostler drivers also fuel trucks and wash trailers. 

The day-to-day of a yard jockey driver can feel repetitive. Some people crave the rhythm of doing similar tasks again and again. Having a predictable routine can make you feel comfortable. Yet, many drivers find predictability dull. You may prefer the variety of driving to new places and visiting unique destinations.

What Does A Yard Jockey Drive? 

A hostler is a type of tractor, but it refers to the driver too. Hostlers, or yard drivers, operate trucks with smaller cabs—and no sleeper berth. 

Often, these trucks have integrated lift and coupling capabilities. These features make moving trailers easier. They may also have a sliding door in the back for easy trailer access.

Yard Jockey Pay 

Yard jockeys are usually paid hourly. While you’ll have reliable pay, you’ll miss the opportunity to influence your earnings as a yard driver. 

Becoming an OTR driver may be a better fit if you’d like to be in charge of your income. As an OTR driver, you get paid per mile, which allows you to influence your earnings and make more on the road.

Do You Need A CDL to Be A Hostler Driver? 

Do hostlers need CDLs to do their jobs? That depends on the company. Most trucking companies require all yard drivers to have a CDL. Yet, you might not need one if you only operate on a company’s private property. 

Earning your Class A CDL is a good idea, even if your heart is set on being a yard jockey. With a CDL, you’ll be ready should you ever want to haul freight off the lot.

What’s It Like to Be An OTR Driver? 

OTR drivers get to travel across the country, see new sights and influence their pay. As an OTR driver, you’ll be responsible for picking up and delivering freight safely and on time. You will work with dispatchers to get details about your load. Then, you’ll schedule your days based on when the load needs to be delivered.    

No two days are quite the same as an OTR driver. You could start your day somewhere warm and end your day needing a winter jacket. You’ll haul freight through the countryside and major cities. OTR driving is an excellent fit for independent people who are excited by new challenges.

What Does An OTR Driver Operate? 

An OTR driver operates a tractor-trailer with a sleeper cab. Your truck’s cab may be 48” to 80”, depending on its make and model. You’ll relax and sleep inside your truck when you’re on the road.

Cab layouts vary, but you will have a bed and places for appliances. Prime Inc. trucks have a 1500-watt inverter and an auxiliary power unit (APU). You can hook up appliances (hello microwave!) and power other items, like a laptop or hair dryer.  

OTR drivers are usually out for three to four weeks at a time. Since you’ll spend a lot of time in your cab, you can personalize it and make your truck feel more like home.

OTR Driver Pay 

You can influence your earnings when you’re paid for every mile you drive. Instead of earning an hourly rate, company OTR drivers get paid per mile. OTR drivers earn more than yard jockeys. And, if you’re willing to drive as a team, you can make even more! 

Company teams support each other by taking shifts driving. Together, you can drive more collective miles each day. At Prime, company teams are eligible for bonuses when they hit a certain number of miles. (That’s more money in your pocket!) 

Do You Need A CDL to Be An OTR Driver? 

You must earn your Class A CDL to be an OTR driver. The Prime Driver Training Program helps you get your CDL. Start with your learner’s permit and lean on our team until the final training mile. After you pass the CDL exam, you’ll get paid to complete the rest of your training.

Follow these steps to earn your CDL with Prime:

  • Apply today. You can apply to drive for Prime online. You can also call our Recruiting Department at 866-290-1568.  
  • Get a permit. First, you’ll obtain your CLP (commercial learner’s permit) in your home state. Once you pass the permit exam, you’ll send a picture of your Class A permit to your Recruiter. 
  • Go to orientation. Your Recruiter will schedule you for orientation at Springfield, MO; Pittston, PA; or Salt Lake City, UT. Typically, you’ll be sent to the location nearest you. Once you arrive, you’ll complete a handwritten application and preliminary driving test. You’ll begin training with simulations and classroom instruction.
  • CDL instruction. Once orientation is over, you’ll train one-on-one with a CDL instructor. You’ll practice operating a truck and doing things like backing up. 
  • Take the CDL exam. When you’re ready, you’ll take the Class A CDL exam. If you pass, you’ll be eligible to be a company driver. 
  • TNT training. Now that you’re a CDL holder, the next stage of training is team driving. You’ll team up with a trainer and complete at least 50,000 team miles over three to four months. 
  • Upgrade! After going through the final training phase, you’ll be eligible for an upgrade review. You can drive solo, partner with another driver as a team or become an independent contractor.

Drive for Prime

Yard jockeys may have predictable hours and responsibilities, but being an OTR driver offers a sense of adventure and challenge. You’ll have the chance to make more money as you haul freight to and from customers. You’ll also appreciate the freedom of the road and having more control of your schedule. 

Whatever decision you make, know that drivers keep our country running. No matter your role, you play a part in helping our communities thrive. Take the first step in your driving career and join drivers who are making a difference every day. 

Apply online today for OTR or yard positions and start your training process. We can’t wait to see you at orientation. 

Rather talk to a person? Call our Recruiting Department at 866-290-1568 for questions about becoming a company driver. 

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