So, you want to be a truck driver? Have you thought about what it takes to be a truck driver, but most importantly, a professional one who is in it for the long haul?
I know a few things about preparing for and having a successful career in the trucking industry. I’m not just a school owner, I am a driver. I have had my Class A CDL for over 40 years and during that time, I’ve been an owner-operator, pulled a refrigerated trailer, done local delivery, and worked as a dispatcher for a fleet of over 20 trucks. While I’m no longer a full-time driver, I occasionally get behind the wheel of my 73’ rig and drive across the country. These occasional road trips allow me to understand the demands of today’s truck drivers, and in turn, pass along that valuable information to my students who will be the future drivers of tomorrow.
After logging many miles on the road, here are a few things to think about when making your decision to be a truck driver or instructing your students.
Top 10: What You Need to Know
- Be on time. Dispatchers value a driver who shows up to work on time. Once you start your day, don’t worry about delays that are beyond your control. If you start your day with enough time to get on the road, good carriers will not push you or give you a hard time.
- Do your inspections. A lot of your co-workers will not do their inspections, and some of them will give you a hard time when you’re doing your job and they aren’t. While tempting, do not engage with them in these instances. Go about your pre-trip as you were taught at the truck driving school. Besides, the pre-trip routine is a federal regulation so there’s no way of getting around it.
- There’s no whining in the trucking industry. Every day you will be confronted with problems or issues at every turn – trucks break down, there’s traffic congestion, unpredictable and volatile weather, and shippers will delay you. Don’t complain to your dispatcher Deal with it, professionally of course. It’s good practice to communicate with your dispatcher effectively and without any emotion. This professionalism will go a long way in how you will be treated.
- Plan your trips. Parking is tight out there, so don’t expect to find a spot readily available when you need one. Parking is at such a premium that there are apps available for truckers to find and reserve a parking space, even at some truck stops. Learn from your trainers on how they figure out where to park. While their experience will provide insight, you need to come up with a system that works best for you.
- GOAL! (Get Out And Look). Backing accidents are the number one problem for new drivers. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens to everyone. Being safety minded is a good quality. So, get out and look before backing that truck up.
- Maintain your following distance. Discipline yourself and commit to a proper distance. In heavy traffic that means you must run 3 or 4 mph slower than traffic flow to keep your following distance. Embrace new technology applications that automatically keeps the distance for you.
- Slippery when wet. Bad weather. It happens. Being mindful of safety regulations before being faced with hazardous road conditions, will better prepare you when they do occur. Take your time, and even stop when conditions warrant.
- Safety “Seal of Approval”. Work for an established carrier with a good safety record. Employment with a well-established, safety-minded carrier will ensure you have access to properly maintained equipment. One other thing, your paycheck will not bounce.
- Expect to be recruited. With the driver shortage these days, chances are you will be approached at truck stops by a carrier or by other drivers convincing you to go to work for another company. Do not believe their claims as they are probably receiving a commission for recruiting you. Some companies pay up to $2,000 for the referral. Consequently, there will be false claims being made.
- Stay healthy. Stay fit. Save money. Invest in a small refrigerator and buy your own food versus eating at restaurants. You will realize the return-on-investment with more money in your wallet and feel physically better through a healthy diet. If you are a local driver, pack your lunch in a cooler. Also, remember to stretch and do your exercises every day.
This guest post originally appeared in CVTA’s Get-in-Gear Summer/Fall 2017 edition.
Bill Collins is the Owner of Interstate Truck Driving School.