Trucking companies (AE) or haulage companies / hauliers (BE) accept cargo for road transport. Truck drivers operate either independently – working directly for the client – or through freight carriers or shipping agents. Some big companies (e.g. grocery store chains) operate their own internal trucking operations. The market size for general freight trucking was nearly $125 billion in 2010. Since 2005, the trucking industry has decreased by 1%.
In the U.S. many truckers own their truck (rig), and are known as owner-operators. Some road transportation is done on regular routes or for only one consignee per run, while others transport goods from many different loading stations/shippers to various consignees. On some long runs only cargo for one leg of the route (to) is known when the cargo is loaded. Truckers may have to wait at the destination for the return cargo (from).
A bill of lading issued by the shipper provides the basic document for road freight. On cross-border transportation the trucker will present the cargo and documentation provided by the shipper to customs for inspection (for EC see also Schengen Agreement). This also applies to shipments that are transported out of a free port.
To avoid accidents caused by fatigue, truckers have to keep to strict rules for drivetime and required rest periods. In the United States and Canada, these regulations are known ashours of service, and in the European Union as drivers working hours. One such regulation is the Hours of Work and Rest Periods (Road Transport) Convention, 1979.Tachographs record the times the vehicle is in motion and stopped. Some companies use two drivers per truck to ensure uninterrupted transportation; with one driver resting or sleeping in a bunk in the back of the cab while the other is driving.
Truck drivers often need special licences to drive, known in the U.S. as a commercial driver's license. In the U.K. a Large Goods Vehicle licence is required.
For transport of hazardous materials (see dangerous goods) truckers need a licence, which usually requires them to pass an exam (e.g. in the EU). They have to make sure they affix proper labels for the respective hazard(s) to their vehicle. Liquid goods are transported by road in tank trucks (AE) or tanker lorries (BE) (also road-tankers) or special tankcontainers for intermodal transport. For unpackaged goods and liquids weigh stations confirm weight after loading and before delivery. For transportation of live animals special requirements have to be met in many countries to prevent cruelty to animals (see animal rights). For fresh and frozen goods refrigerator trucks or reefer (container)s are used.
In Australia road trains replace rail transport for goods on routes throughout the center of the country. B-doubles and semi-trailers are used in urban areas because of their smaller size. Low-loader or flat-bed trailers are used to haul containers, see containerization, in intermodal transport.