Truck driving is not for the faint of heart. You must be able to manage your stress, time, and energy well to succeed. I have seen many, many times the simple mistakes that can be made when a driver gets cocky or is stressed or distracted. Accidents happen, people get hurt, and drivers lose their jobs. Depending on the severity of the accident, some even lose their license. It’s not something to take lightly. The following advice will help to keep you on the road and on track.
Stress management is very crucial. Whether it’s something as simple as changing the radio station or pulling off the road for 30 minutes, you must remember to take time for yourself, no matter how hot the load is. Many companies will tell you safety comes first, but then once you sit down in the driver’s seat, they tell you otherwise. “The load has to be there. Why are you not moving?” Don’t be afraid to tell them you’re tired. Talk to your dispatcher. If something is going on at home that you need to address, tell them. Most will work with you or refer you to someone you can talk to about what is bothering you. The main thing is to get it off your chest. Take a moment to breathe. Take a nap if you need to. Take a walk around the rest area or go inside the truckstop for a cup of coffee. It’s amazing what a little fresh air can do for your stress levels.
Sanitation is another issue on the road. Showers are available at most truckstops. I suggest you use them as often as you would at home. Trash should be thrown away, not thrown on the floor. If you smoke, ALWAYS crack the window. Not only does it decrease oxygen levels inside the truck, but it makes the whole truck smell like one big ashtray. And when your truck stinks, you stink. I can only tell you that the way people see your truck affects the way they see you, whether it’s a fellow driver or a customer makes no difference. Treat your truck as if it were your home and you are always expecting a houseguest. It makes a HUGE impact on your job and health. If you don’t, your customers will view you as unkempt and unprofessional, and are less likely to call on your company for future hauls. To put it simply, no loads, no paycheck. Your truck and your body should be kept clean.
The Hours of Service Rules have changed a bit since I first started driving. This greatly affects your time management. I find that it is easier to run all my daily miles at one time, stopping only for fuel, meals, etc. Then, when you are done for the day, you can sleep, shower, do laundry, whatever needs to be done. Don’t waste time stopping for long periods to watch a movie or do laundry or what have you. These things can be done during downtime. Running your logbook this way just makes sense. You wouldn’t do the same thing at home, so why do it on the road? The only exception to this system would be during a breakdown period, while the truck or trailer is in the shop. It is always a good idea to find out how long your vehicle will be in the shop so you know what things can be done during that time that you may not be able to do later. Another way to manage your time well, if you have problems making your morning appointments, is to arrive the night before to your receiver or shipper. That way, you can sleep until they are ready for you, and by the time you are loaded, you are also ready to begin your day. outbound logistics
Above all, make sure you get enough sleep. Currently, Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a total of 10 hours of downtime per 24 hours, with at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth (meaning go to sleep, not play video games and watch movies all night). Some people require less than 8 hours of sleep, but I don’t recommend any less than 6. You need to give your body time to rejuvinate, build your immune system back up, and release the stress of the day. Your body will thank you in the morning, trust me. You will be less likely to develop heart problems, diabetes, obesity, digestive problems, “brain farts,” and more. Your memory will improve, you will kick that cold faster, and you’ll be in a better mood (which is always nice for everybody around you).
Keeping yourself safe is another issue close to my heart. As a woman, I was doubly concerned about personal safety, and took any precaution I could to make sure I made it to my next destination alive and in one piece. As you travel, you will notice the places that are safe to park and those that aren’t. I do NOT recommend parking on an exit ramp. At any moment, someone could lose control of their vehicle while exiting the highway and hit you, causing serious injury/death to themselves and/or you. NEVER do this. If you must park off the highway, use the re-entry ramp on the other side, and use extreme caution when entering the highway again. Remember that the truck you are in can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs, and will take some time to get up to speed. Those yield signs are at the end of the ramp for a reason.
Parking at a truckstop is a bit of a touchy subject. Some places are safer than others for various reasons, from lighting and security to location and size. You can usually determine which ones are safest by asking, or by taking a look around as you pull in. If you don’t like the looks of it, or have heard stories about the location, get out of there. Certain areas are prone to crime, especially around truckstops and rest areas. The same goes for parking overnight at a customer location. Downtown areas should be avoided unless you are inside a gated property with security patrolling the area. If you must park there overnight, check with the customer first to be sure it is safe and parking is available. If you have internet access in the truck, you can also check online for articles concerning the location. If you have any doubts at all, wait until morning, or go in just before your appointment time. Your life is not worth any load, no matter what the monetary value.
There are many things I could tell you that will help you, but what I have given you are the basics for beginning a great career. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask another driver for help. Just be careful which one you ask. They’re all opinionated, and have something to say. I find that it is easier to talk to a driver face-to-face than it is the CB, such as the restaurant, laundry or game room. Here, they are more relaxed, and are likely to give you good advice, or at the very least, be honest with you. You won’t have the entire parkinglot trying to tell you how to do your logs for the day, either. Just be friendly and professional, and they will be friendly to you. If not, then move on. Don’t mess with a grumpy driver. You’re likely to get an earfull.
I hope that the new driver who reads this will gain some valuable insight into the world of truck driving. As I said, it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the stress and the learning process, you’ll be fine. God speed, and drive safely; Teacher’s Pet.