Surviving tips and advice for all newbie truckers to survive first year on the road
Your first year on any job is going to be bumpy for a while, and the same goes for your first year as a professional truck driver. You’re going to need some time to learn the ropes, but until you do you need to figure out a way to catch on quickly. Luckily, you have us and our trusty blog to help you through that messy first year of driving a truck.
Depending on the company you work with, you will have more or less control over the road you are supposed to take. That means that you might have to help plan the route.
This is a great chance to prove that you can operate in a timely manner. Both your employer and the person you are delivering goods to will appreciate you leaving and arriving on time.
That being said, it does not mean that cutting corners is advisable or even allowed. You need to work on your time management skills within the given set of rules which apply to you as a professional truck driver. This means that you have to plan your stops wisely and carefully, and always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. You will never be able to predict the future and be prepared for every situation, but it never hurts to have a plan. If you prepare for the worst and everything goes smoothly, you’ll end up with a bit of extra time and probably arrive a bit early at your destination (which is always better than being late).
Communication is Key
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to control and plan everything, things just take a turn for the worse. Even if you do manage to leave some extra time there is nothing you can do if a load takes 5 instead of 2 hours to be unloaded, or if your truck breaks down 100 miles from your destination. It’s not your fault the pump at the station is broken or you can’t pump fuel in your truck because there won’t be any diesel for another 3 hours. There’s really no need to panic about it. Take a deep breath, stay calm, and focus on the steps you can take to minimize the damage.
Whether the reason for the delay is your fault or not, your superiors and your dispatcher need to hear about it. Chances are they have come up against that issue a million times already and know how to guide you through the process and help. It’s important to stay calm and focused, even if the person you are talking to is upset. It’s most likely only their initial reaction, so don’t take it to heart because arguing will only make things worse. Instead, offer to help any way you can. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
This isn’t the only type of communication you should do while on the road, however. As a professional truck driver, you will be spending a lot of time away from your loved ones. You need to make an effort to keep in touch. Your family can give you the best support when you are stressed or lonely. And remember – they miss you too, and they want to see you and hear from you as well. With today’s technology, it’s very easy to communicate with your friends and family all over the country.
Be Prepared to Get Lost
Every truck driver gets lost on the road and you can expect it to happen more often in beginning. However, the most important thing to remember is to stay calm in those situations. If you start panicking, the only thing you will accomplish is to raise your chances of causing an accident. The first thing you should do is find a suitable place to pull over. Look at the directions again – there might have been a mistake with the directions your company gave you. You can always contact your dispatch and ask for help, but there are other alternatives.
You can call the shipper and ask for directions, but make sure you can explain your location to them. Also, don’t forget your trusty CB Radio! The trucking community can be very helpful, so don’t hesitate to contact a local driver. They will have useful advice because they probably know the area better than you.
You can always download offline maps, and use GPS to find your way. Just be careful when using those tools because they might not be suited for trucking purposes. For example, regular maps don’t have low bridges marked, which can cause a major issue for you.
Mind Your Health
Falling into the fast-food trap happens very easily when you’re on the road. Of course, it’s more convenient to just eat whatever you can find at a truck stop, but it often isn’t the healthiest option. Eating unhealthy food not only has a negative effect on your overall health, but it actually affects the way you drive. Food that is fatty and full of added sugar causes spikes in your cholesterol and blood sugar. That makes it harder for you to concentrate and stay alert. They also provide short-lasting energy. Usually followed by a “crash” that makes you drowsy. They make you feel hungry again really soon.
Opt for healthier options, such as cooking your own food on the road. It takes a bit more planning, but the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.
Besides food, you need to think about exercise. As a professional truck driver, you are going to spend a significant amount of time sitting. That is not something our bodies are used to or made for. Make sure you stretch when you’re on a break, and you can even incorporate some simple exercises to keep your core (back and stomach) strong. This will alleviate back pain, as well as make future trips a bit easier on your body.
Join a Community
The trucking community is huge, with an inexplicably large amount of combined experience. The chances of you being the only one to ever come up against a certain issue are virtually non-existent. Joining a trucking community, whether it be in the form of an online forum or a certain group on a social media network, can be highly beneficial. You will come across personal experiences of other truck drivers that might come in handy at some point, and you can ask for and give advice. Being part of a community is a tremendous help for any truck driver who is just starting out in the business.
All in all, the best piece of advice when it comes to surviving your first year as a professional driver is to be curious and try to learn as much as you can about the business, to stay calm and focused in stressful situations, and respect the promises you made both to your employer and the person you are delivering the goods to.