At times, drivers can slowly develop habits or thought patterns that hinder their growth as a professional. An example of a limiting thought is thinking that because you have years of experience and know how to drive, you don’t have anything else or very little left to learn. However, in all actuality, while your skills and experience behind the wheel provide a solid foundation for your career as a truck driver, there is always something new to learn, review, or develop in your profession. Therefore, check out the tips for drivers that we’ve compiled below. Even if some of our suggestions seem obvious and straightforward, let them serve as helpful reminders for you as you start out the new year.
Maneuvering an 18-wheeler is complicated, so take your time. Whether you are just starting your career or you are a 30-year veteran, take care before merging or changing lanes, and never back up without practicing G.O.A.L (Get Out And Look). Wouldn’t you rather explain why you’re late than attempt to justify why you wrecked your truck and caused an accident? Take all of the precautions necessary to avoid an accident. Thus, adjust your speed for the conditions, leave plenty of room between you and the vehicles around you, be aware of your surroundings, and do not participate in any actions that take your COMPLETE AND TOTAL attention away from the road. Out of all of our tips in this article, the safety tips are undoubtedly the most obvious and the most important, but unfortunately, they are also the most forgotten and least used at times. Remember to never compromise your safety or the safety of others for the sake of cutting corners to save time or because you made the choice to be complacent.
Go the Extra Mile
Through hard work and dedication, you can prove your worth to your employer. Give 110%, so that your fleet manager, dispatcher, and/or terminal manager know that they can count on you. If you establish a reputation as a reliable and diligent driver, your bosses may turn to you for critical loads. Better performance almost always equals better miles. In almost any career the difference between being mediocre and being great is the little bit of extra effort that is given when it really counts.
Manage the Clock
Understanding your hours of service and proper trip planning are crucial skills needed if you are going to be a truck driver. The different between a truck driver and a true professional is their ability to legally manage and effectively maximize their work hours. Your timeliness sets the tone for your interactions with your carrier, your customer, and your receiver. Being reliable and on time not only effects your current dispatch, but it also greatly influences your success on your next load and possibly the success of your entire pay week. So, pay close attention to the clock, give yourself some leeway when scheduling your day, and always communicate early and often whether you are running early and especially if you are running late.
Plan Your Day to Park Safely
Any experienced truck driver can tell you how frustrating it is trying to park after a certain hour at truck stops. Depending on the season, day of the week, time of day, and your location, truck stops can fill up quickly, leaving drivers hunting for less than safe alternatives, losing time, sleep, and possibly putting themselves at risk. If possible, trip plan and arrange your schedule so that you take your breaks when there are fewer drivers in the truck stops. Doing this can save you time, money, stress, and frustration.
Avoid Heavy Traffic
Avoiding traffic is easier said than done, and of course all drivers (professional or not) would prefer to avoid traffic. However, consider traffic management when scheduling your drive times and planning your routes. For example, you can bet on packed roads at rush hour (about 6:00-10:00am) in and around cities. If possible, plan your day around this time or if possible plan a different route that is safe for trucks and does not put any additional miles on the load. Avoiding bumper-to-bumper traffic helps prevent frustration, delay, and reduced the chance of being in a traffic related incident. This type of planning might mean you have to take a split-break or drive in the early morning hours, but if you safely execute a proper trip plan, your efforts will pay off when you breeze past Chicago or Atlanta with the wind in your hair.
Know When to Rest
Again, the title of this paragraph is “Know When to Rest” not, “Know Your Limits.” If you push yourself to your limits, you have gone too far because your limits constantly change with the different variables and conditions you constantly face on the road. It is expected you will work hard and do your best but know when it is time to rest and the time to rest comes before you have maxed yourself out to your limits. When you’re trying to reach a destination, it can be tempting to just keep moving no matter what. However, you need to give your mind and your body time to rest and recover from long hours on the road. Never skimp on a good night’s sleep, and don’t attempt to “push through” feelings of exhaustion. Recognize when you’re feeling tired, plan to stop, and then rest. Driving when tired can be comparable to driving drunk, and coffee, caffeine, or energy drinks are not substitutes for sleep. Never risk your own safety or the safety of other drivers.
Maintain Your Health
If you are not careful, life on the road can lead to a very unhealthy lifestyle through little sleep, lots of fast food, a lack of regular exercise, etc. After all, for the majority of your day, you will be sitting and driving. If you don’t make time for healthy habits, your body and mood will be a reflection of poor health decisions. So take care of yourself! Fuel your body with nutritious snacks, drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, stretch your legs, embrace a workout routine, and don’t skimp on sleep.
Focus on the Task at Hand
We know how tempting it can be to glance at your phone and read a text message while driving. What if you need to check the weather forecast? What if your daughter sends you a picture? What if your snack falls off the passenger seat? Don’t give into the temptation of these distractions while driving; they can always wait until you have a chance to pull over. Keep your attention on the road at all times, safely mount your phone and your GPS unit, and always use a headset when talking. Staying focused and “hands free” can help you stay incident free.