From Rookie to Vet: Pro Tips for New Truck Drivers
It’s not uncommon for new truck drivers to enter into the industry full of excitement and intrigue as they anticipate getting behind the wheel on their first cross-country assignment. The thought of being independent without receiving constant instructions, criticism, or guidance at every turn is all too exciting.
Without a doubt, the independence along with the chance to see new places while earning a living all rank high in the allure of driving a truck. However, as with most professions, there is a learning curve and sometimes harsh realizations that there are also downsides to being a truck driver. Here are some trucking tips and tricks shared by veteran drivers that can help make a rookie truck driver’s life easier.
Top Ten Veteran Truck Driver Tips
1. Have Realistic Expectations
Don’t get discouraged when just starting out as a truck driver. Rather than expecting to start out at the top with your first driving job, think of it as an opportunity to build a strong foundation. There’s a lot to learn and get acclimated to in regards to safety guidelines. Focus on getting comfortable driving and being recognized as a safe and obedient driver.
2. Make Safety a Top Priority
It’s great to have career goals, but it can’t be emphasized enough to make safety a top priority. Practice the tried and true safety rule acronym G.O.A.L (Get Out and Look). Whether you’re heading out after a night of parking or backing up in an unfamiliar area, take time to physically get out of the truck and check for any obstacles. Staying accident-free is crucial in building a good reputation so you can climb the truck driving career ladder.
3. Set Career Goals
Think of the first 12-months as your learning curve as a truck driver. While you certainly won’t learn everything about driving, during the first year, you’ll become comfortable with the routine, gain confidence in driving and parking an 80,000 lb. rig, and probably log close to 120,000 miles. Pushing through this initial period will help you navigate towards those future career goals you probably put on the back burner.
4. Stick To It
Avoid the temptation to switch jobs during the first year. This is a common mistake among new drivers, and the trucking industry frowns upon it. Even if you find yourself employed by a company that doesn’t always value drivers to the highest degree, rest assured you’ll learn valuable lessons. Through your diligence and keeping your eye on the target (YOUR personal career goals), you’ll be able to achieve your biggest dreams and perhaps be sought after by those top paying carriers.
5. Maintain Mental and Emotional Health
An overall healthy well-being is important, regardless of one’s career. However, even though driving a truck several hundred miles in a single day certainly requires a degree of physical stamina, maintaining the mental and emotional aspects can be challenging. Along the way, you’re sure to meet new people, experience interesting places and witness breathtaking views, but you’ll also be alone during that time. Be sure to pack a special memento for those long hauls and find time each and every day to converse with family and friends via phone or video chat. Creating such habits will help maintain a positive mindset and prevent getting so lonely.
6. Personalize Your Truck
In addition to having a special keepsake, it’s important to make your truck comfortable by adding your own personal touch. You’ll be spending several hours and days in there, so think of it as your home away from home. Don’t stop with photos, add curtains and a comfortable mattress, anything to help promote a good night’s sleep. It’s also a good idea to designate a kitchen area complete with appliances. These upgrades will not only prevent homesickness, but will also allow you to avoid hotels and fast food restaurants.
7. Practice Great Communication Skills
Without a doubt, you’re going to encounter some hurdles along the way. For instance, a tire might blow out, or your planned refueling stop may be out of diesel for a few hours, maybe you’re delayed at a loading station for several more hours than allotted. Regardless of what occurs, it is crucial that you contact your manager with an update. Be sure to communicate with the utmost professionalism, courtesy, and honesty. This will not only help build your reputation but most likely together, you and your manager will find a solution.
8. Maintain Your Support Network
Venting to your superiors will not earn you any points. When it’s time for you to contact your loved ones that evening, you can let down your guard to those closest to you. Merely hearing the voice of that special someone will bring you a sigh of relief and, after a heart-to-heart conversation, you’ll feel reenergized to face the next day.
9. Self-Care Goes a Long Way
Even though your driving jobs will be on a timeline, don’t place your personal health or safety at risk. In addition to eating healthy and avoiding processed foods whenever possible, make time to exercise. This will keep you physically and mentally fit, and help counteract all those hours spent sitting and driving. Likewise, take regular breaks and make the most of all those new places you visit, even if it’s for a five-minute breather while you take in a sunset or stare at a vista. Also, permit yourself a special treat on occasion, whether you buy yourself a gift or spend a few hours at a spa. Only you know what rejuvenates you.
10. Read and Stay Up-to-Date
Whether its trucking news sites, trucking tips sites (like this one) or email newsletters (sign up here), take the time to keep in touch with the industry you’ve chosen to become a part of. You’ll not only stay up-to-date on things that are happening around the world of trucking, but you’ll also stay abreast of new policies, laws, and other important changes to the way this industry works. Being informed and aware will help turn you from a rookie into a veteran before you know it.
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