Individual Career Stories
Detailed info from people on the job
The globalization of the economy continues to fuel the movement of passengers and cargo around the world every day by air, truck, bus and rail. Whether it is people traveling by plane over the Atlantic for vacation or freight being delivered to businesses across the country, all are part of the transportation industry that is essential to our world. A wide variety of transportation occupations exists for individuals interested in this career field working for private businesses as well as local, state, and federal governments. Many jobs are highly focused and require specialized training programs such as an airline pilot flying a commercial plane or a locomotive engineer operating a freight train, while others such as a bus driver may only require a commercial driverís license (CDL) and a period of training.
In order to successfully move people and cargo from one point to another, most transportation jobs have physical requirements which may include a strong stamina and the ability to stay alert, as well as good hearing, eyesight, and vision. In addition, individuals should be safety-conscious, have a good driving record and a strong attention to detail, and have an aptitude for geography in order to read maps and directions. Most occupations also require strong customer service and communication skills in order to effectively deal with passengers. Mechanical and engineering skills, along with computer and electronics skills are also very useful to possess for many positions.
Educational requirements vary by occupation, although all jobs require individuals to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Most occupations have a period of on-the-job training, with some requiring applicants to have completed a specialized training program, such as required for air traffic controllers or pilots. Many of these programs are offered through community colleges or vocational schools. In addition, state and federal governments establish qualifications and standards for some occupations, such as the requirement for bus drivers to have a commercial driverís license (CDL), or locomotive engineers to complete a formal engineer training program and licensure test.
A variety of career options exist for working in the air, truck, bus, and rail transportation industries. The following are a few examples of job choices in these fields:
- Air traffic controllers work within the National Airspace System (NAS) to manage the movement of air traffic to ensure safe distances between planes both on the ground at airports and in the air. The most important job of an aircraft controller is safety, although they are also responsible for directing planes to minimize delays. Commonly working in teams, controllers track planes visually and using radar, and also consider the impact of weather on the flights. Most air traffic controllers are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- Bus drivers provide transportation each year to millions of passengers, from daily city commuters to sightseers on a tour, to children traveling on a school bus. The two main types of careers for bus drivers include transit or intercity bus drivers who transport passengers within a State or along routes within the country, as well as drivers of chartered excursions and tours; and school bus drivers, who transport children to school and other educational activities. The safe operation of these vehicles is essential at all times.
- Railroad engineers, also called locomotive engineers, operate trains that carry passengers or cargo, either locally or across the country. They drive different types of locomotives such as electric, diesel-electric, steam or gas-turbine-electric. Some of the job responsibilities include checking the condition of the train prior to departure, controlling all aspects of the train such as throttles and brakes, switching cars around for freight transfers, and having a complete knowledge of their routes and weather conditions.
- Tractor trailer drivers, or heavy truck drivers, operate trucks or vans with a minimum capacity of at least 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight (GPW). Most of these are long-haul drivers, delivering and picking up goods over very long distances that can run for several days. Truck drivers deliver a huge assortment of goods, from food to automobiles. The majority of the work consists of driving, although some drivers may be responsible for unloading or loading cargo.
What People Love and Hate about Transportation Careers
Here is a selection from Inside Career Info's Career Reports of what people love and hate about their transportation jobs:
- "not having someone looking over my shoulder all the time. I was not confined to an office or factory and got to spend lots of time outdoors. I got to meet a great many interesting people and see interesting places. There is a great deal of personal satisfaction operating the vehicle and delivering the load."
- "driving down the road and watching the day break, the sun rise."
- "being my own boss while I am on the bus. I work outside of four walls. I am outside without being out in the weather. I see different people every day while they are driving around. I get to interact with the children but don't have to for more than one and a half hours in the morning and the same in the afternoon."
- "we have a few hours off between our bus routes during the day."
- "having to deal with crazy drivers, especially on weekend or holiday nights."
- "being at the site of an accident or seeing one. I wish I could explain to drivers what they are doing wrong, before they get into trouble, because it's not pretty."
- "having children not behave, be disrespectful or unreasonable. That is not very often but can be very disruptive when it happens."
- "we have to be at work very early in the morning. Also, in the winter, we have to get there earlier so we can warm up the bus and make sure all of the snow is off of it."