Six Tips for New Drivers
You've completed your CDL training and are now ready to start your life as a truck driver. While you may be mechanically prepared to start driving, CDL classes don't train you how to live as a truck driver and most of that learning comes from experience. The first year of driving can be challenging, so we've compiled a list of tips to help you transition easier into a truck driving career.
Always check the weather radar
Always check the weather radar for any lane or route you've been assigned to. Driving in inclement weather can be scary, and you don't want to be surprised by heavy rain, hail, snow, or other dangerous weather out in the middle of the road. If you know bad weather is coming, inspect your truck for proper driving conditions including tire tread and tire pressure, and pack an emergency kit for times when you may be stuck in bad weather for a while. Knowing when bad weather is predicted for an area you'll be driving through will help you be prepared to keep yourself and the drivers around you safe.
Pay attention to the road and drive safely
Distractions, road conditions, and other drivers can all pose a hazard on the road for truck drivers. Although it is not illegal to have your phone in your hand in some states, placing your cell phone somewhere you won't be tempted to look at while driving can prevent distracted driving. Looking out for drivers who may also be on their phone or driving erratically can help prevent an accident. Try to avoid switching lanes as much as possible as it can be difficult to see vehicles in your mirrors or blindspots. Finally, be aware of debris or animals in the road, but don't try to suddenly swerve to avoid them as it can be dangerous for both you and other drivers.
Save your money
Eating out and buying food on the road can be tempting. It may seem easier to avoid cooking and stopping at a fast food restaurant instead, but the money you spend on food on the road can add up quickly. Prepare at home and buy enough food to last you through the week. Research tools for the best price, and don't spend money on things you don't need. Making an investment goal like buying a house can also keep you on track for saving the money you earn.
It's always better to be a couple hours early than even just a minute late. While driving to a new place, it can be tempting to stop and sightsee or take breaks at rest stops. City driving can also get complicated if you don't have a proper or reliable GPS. Make sure you are prepared to resist unnecessary stops or detours and arrive at your pick-up or unload station early or on time. If you know you are going to arrive early to pick-up your load, call the shipper and request an earlier pick up time. This may not always be possible but when it is, you may be able to also arrive at your drop-off location earlier and complete a job in less time. Being early or at least on time can build a trusting relationship with your dispatcher (fleet manager) and make you more money in less time. Just make sure you are following the legal regulations for drive time and plan ahead.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
You won't know all the answers when first starting your new job, so don't be afraid to ask other drivers or your fleet manager for help. People who have been in the industry for a long time can provide helpful advice that comes from experience. Don't be afraid to look to a mentor for help; it's better to ask questions than incorrectly assume you know the answer.
Take care of your physical and mental health
Your physical and mental health should have equal importance when starting a truck driving career. The first year of trucking will be difficult, and you will have to get accustomed to sitting for long periods of time, not having access to the healthiest meals, spending alone time with yourself for hours, and sometimes missing family activities. Exercise when you can even if that means going for a walk before bed or bringing small weights with you on the truck. Ensure you get enough sleep and never drive exhausted. Know that although senior drivers may be getting better lanes/routes now, it only takes time before you will be getting those, too. Your physical and mental health may be tested in the first year, but you will learn how to adjust and turn truck driving into a long lasting career. Hang in there; it will get easier.