Trucking Tips For Novice Drivers
Guest post by Larry Labelle
As an inexperienced truck driver, you are probably still learning a lot about the industry. In addition to all the necessary rules of the road, there’s a lot you need to know about the business that you may not have learned in trucking school. For drivers who have been on the road for years, all of this is second nature, but it may take you a while to become fully acclimated to all the ins and outs. Sometimes, however, learning by experience can be painful. Rather than get an education through an aching back, an angry customer or a moving violation, consider the following advice from veterans of the road and you’ll feel like an old pro in no time.
Because you will probably spend most of your workday behind the wheel, you might not believe your job requires a physical fitness regimen. However, regular exercise is crucial for keeping your mind alert and for avoiding fatigue when you’re driving for hours on end. Just 15 minutes of exercise twice a day can make a huge difference in how you feel. Your diet also is important — always remember to eat a balanced meal when you’re on the road, and try to make breakfast your biggest meal so you can stay focused for more of the day. Don’t think you can get away without sleeping, either: Studies have shown that the driving skills of someone who has been awake for 24 hours are comparable to someone who’s drunk.
There were more than 3,600 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses in 2014. The sooner you can adopt safe driving habits on the road, the less likely it will be that you will be involved in any kind of collision on the road. Inexperienced drivers like yourself are anxious to make good time, but speeding or otherwise aggressive driving only put you at greater risk for collisions or getting pulled over. Also, make sure you always get out and look for obstructions before backing out of a parking space. Regular inspections of your truck’s brakes, tires, reflectors, oil level and fuel level are also good driving habits to get into early in your career.
Manage Your Time
The trucking business is all about timing, and the best way to make your life as a trucker difficult is to be late. Be sure to leave early whenever possible to give yourself plenty of time and account for the inevitable traffic jams you’ll run into along the way. If your route is going to take you through a major metropolitan area, do your best to time it so you’re passing through town when traffic is going to be light — not at 7 a.m. or 5 p.m. Sitting in traffic doesn’t just waste your time, but fuel, too. One useful tip that many veteran truckers live by is getting used to going to bed early and rising in the middle of the night. When you hit the sheets at 6 p.m. and hit the road by 3 a.m., you not only put yourself in position to avoid a lot of traffic, but you also make it easier to find a place to park at a truck stop or rest area before they get filled.
You’re out there on the road all by yourself most of the time, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Successful truckers know that forming connections with other truckers and co-workers is a big part of a successful career. Get to know your dispatcher and make sure you have a good working relationship with him or her — you’ll be more likely to get good loads as a result. Make sure you have a good relationship with your company’s safety officers, because you never know when you might need their help. Finally, form bonds with veteran truckers out there on the road. An experienced mentor is a great source of advice and encouragement when things get tough out there, which they almost certainly will sometimes.
The trucker life is not for everyone, but it can be a rewarding, highly satisfying career for the right person in the right circumstances. By paying attention to these simple rules, your first year behind the wheel will go by smoothly and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a long career on the road.
Larry Labelle is Marketing Manager for Verduyn Tarps, an international leader in the tarp system industry. Labelle utilizes his creativity and background in sales to deliver solutions for the company’s branding, message and marketing strategy.
Thanks, Larry. You can also get an idea about the trucker’s life in Detour, A Big Rig Thriller. A novel, it gives an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a working trucker.