You passed your CDL training, got your license, and scored a truck driving job. Life is sweet, but you’re not the “king of the road” yet. There’s still a lot to learn in your first year out. Here are ten truck driving tips that will make you a better truck driver.
1. Truck Driving Is Physically and Mentally Demanding
There’s no question that truck driving is physically demanding. But it isn’t only physical; it’s mental as well. It requires you to keep a good attitude and the right mindset.
As you start your new trucking industry career, you will likely ask questions like, “How can I get better at truck driving?” “What is the hardest thing about truck driving?” “What should a truck driver not do?” Is driving a truck difficult?”
Don’t let inexperience and doubts about your ability keep you from doing your job well. Stay physically and mentally fit.
2. It Takes a Year to Get Comfortable
The first year is the hardest. It takes time to get used to the job, learn the rules and regulations (including the “rules of the road”), and improve your driving skills. Face each challenge as it comes, relying on your driver training to see you through.
3. Priority #1: Stay Accident-free
Truck driving is a deadline-driven job. You will feel constant pressure to deliver on time. But as a truck driver, you are not just carrying tons of freight. You also bear a great responsibility: staying accident-free. Make safe driving your number one priority. Slow down, follow the speed limit, fasten your seatbelt, make safe lane changes, and look out for yourself and the safety of others.
4. Expect the Unexpected
Each time you get behind the wheel is a new experience. You never know what could happen. Weather conditions can change quickly and become hazardous. There’s heavy traffic on roadways. Your rig could suffer breakdowns. The list goes on.
Prepare for the unexpected by looking ahead (and behind you), watching for blind spots, and paying attention to road conditions at all times.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Driving a truck isn’t easy, and some tasks are harder than others. Backing up a trailer is probably one of the hardest, as is double-clutching and downshifting. Every time you head out is an opportunity to practice. They say practice makes perfect—you’ll get plenty of it your first year.
6. Take Care of Your Truck… and Yourself
Your truck is your home away from home, so take care of it. There’s a reason DOT requires pre-trip inspections.
Take care of yourself as well. FMCSA limits the amount of time you can spend driving. Supplement that with breaks and get plenty of rest. You’ll be more alert, think clearly, and respond quickly.
7. Pack Like a Trucker
Pack the essentials that you will need for whatever time you’re on the road. That includes trucking permits and credentials, toiletries, and clean clothes. Other items include a flashlight, tire pressure gauge, cell phone charger, snacks, and water. Make a list, so you don’t forget.
8. Plan Your Career Goals
Truck driving opportunities are everywhere these days, but don’t let the lure of a few more dollars in your pocket tempt you into jumping from one job to the next. “Job hopper” is not the reputation you want. If you’re in this for the long haul, make decisions based on the best interests of your career.
9. Live Within Your Means
As a rookie driver, you won’t make as much money your first year, so keep a close eye on expenses. That means not eating out every meal, as tempting as it may seem. Also, take advantage of the amenities truck stops offer (e.g., showers, lounge, fitness centers, etc.) and ask for CDL discounts.
10. Learn from Experienced Drivers
Experienced drivers can be a wealth of knowledge who can help you avoid mistakes they made. Sit down, buy them a cup of coffee, and listen to their advice. In time, you will display the traits of a truck driver and become someone others look to.
In the meantime, follow these truck driving safety tips. Your best days lie just down the open road.