Tips, & Tricks, For Surviving
Your First Year On The Road!!!
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The reason for writing this post, is so that other new drivers like you might read it and hopefully gain some insight into what it's like when you're out there running solo. I also hope that I can share some techniques and principles that you can use to save yourself some grief, or at least make the grief easier to bear, so here goes:
Fact: You are going to get Lost So here
are some Tips to help you handle it.
Tip # 1. Relax, and don't panic. Getting in a panic will only get you lost more, believe me. Plus, driving in a panic will only increase your chances of having an accident, so chill out. Find a safe place to pull over and look at your company directions again. Your company may have a special macro to send for directions to your shipper or consignee. If so, send it.
Tip # 2. Don't use Google Maps or a car-based GPS for navigation unless you know for sure you're taking truck routes. If you use any car-based GPS long enough in a big truck, I promise you that you'll regret it. Think about how much fun it would be to get routed into a residential subdivision in say, Atlanta, and find yourself dead-ended in a cul-de-sac and have to turn the rig around in it without taking out someone's mailbox or hitting a parked car. It's not fun, so don't trust your car-based Garmin, 'cause I promise you it will put you in the wrong places from time to time.
Tip #3. Another trick is to call the shipper or the consignee. Also, if you have a CB Radio, call out to a local driver and ask him where to go. I had a helpful local guy get me to a consignee in Dallas when every tool I could think to use did not work. Remember, every driver gets lost once in a while. Just keep a cool head, pull over and get your bearings. And above all, if you have to turn the truck around, find a safe place to do it! Many accidents happen when drivers panic, get in a rush, and either turn around in a space that's too small to turn around in or fail to see an obstacle.
Tip #4. Look up your route in your road atlas and note the cities where you will have to change highways. Familiarize yourself with your route as much as possible before you begin your trip. This will lessen your chances of even getting lost in the first place.
Tip # 5. Get as much sleep as you can - you're going to need it!
Nothing feels worse to me than knowing I need to drive 500 miles that day and I'm already beat because I had such lousy sleep the night before. Rest is your best ally when it comes to safe driving.
Tip # 6. If you're tired and you get to a shipper for a live load that will take a couple of hours, get your butt in that bunk and stretch out! Even 10 or 20 minutes of shut-eye will help you. Just remember, any kind of rest is better than no rest. Still, there will be times when you get really, really tired.
Tip # 7. When you do get over-tired, pull the truck over in a safe place and get out of it for a few minutes! Take a walk around the truck, check your lights and tires, go into the restroom and splash some water on your face. Do some jumping jacks, anything to get the blood flowing and your eyes open! Stop at the truck stop and get some coffee. Whatever you need to do to revive yourself, do it!
Anything is better than falling asleep at the wheel of a truck! If you do, it could take your life or someone else's. Also, don't abuse energy potions or caffeine! There are diminishing returns on all of the high-energy stuff out there, meaning it only does so much for so long, then you're going to crash, and crash hard. The stuff may keep you awake, but you will not be alert. There is a difference.
Tip # 8. Above all, don't take anything illegal. It will get you unemployed, in jail, or worse. If you need to sleep, do it. If you are going to be late, call or message your company and tell someone. Remember, my friends, being late is better than you or someone else being dead. Enough said.
Tip # 9. Communicate with everyone consistently and professionally.
There are going to be days out there when things don't go as planned. In fact, you will find that is very often the case in trucking. Your shipper takes 6 hours to load you and you only had 2 hours to sit in their dock before you are late on that load. You pull into your assigned fuel stop to fuel and you're told that there is no diesel, nor will there be any for at least 2 hours. You're 20 miles from your pickup in Dallas and one of your drive tires blows up like a hand grenade, slinging rubber all over the road and making you limp along the road to the next exit. You get to a stop in Scottsboro, Alabama, check in with the security guard, get back in your truck to pull into the dock, and the entire electrical system in your truck goes dead. Things like this can and will happen out on the road.
When things like that happen to you, keep your cool! Your company knows that these things happen, and they are likely ready and willing to help you out of a jam if you are honest about where you are, what happened, and what you can do as a driver to offer a solution. Don't just call your manager and complain. Flat out, no one likes a crybaby, so don't be one.
What your managers need to hear from you is the truth in a calm and professional tone. Never, never, never call your dispatcher or driver manager and go off like a loose cannon. I guarantee you will not make friends that way. Simply put, if you are pain in the @** to someone, it's going to come right back at you in one form or another. If you do have an issue with a load or some difficult circumstances, and you tell your company right away, be honest about what is happening, and work together with your manager on a solution. If you do that, you are much more likely to get some help, develop good relationships within your company, and find out what to do the next time you are faced with the same problem.
Tip #. 10. Treat yourself well, because you're the only you you've got.
You need to treat yourself well out on the road. You're working hard out there, so when you get a chance, give yourself a break. Take in that tourist attraction you wanted to see. Go to Iowa 80 Truck Stop and look around. Step up to the truck stop buffet once a week, sit at the counter and swap lies with other drivers. You'll here some very interesting stuff there. Even if most of it isn't true, it's sure to be entertaining.
Once you make it to even 6 months in this tough industry, you will have realized that no one has handed you your success. You will be successful in the trucking industry only through your hard work, your commitment to safety, your positive attitude, and your ability to adapt to a difficult but rewarding lifestyle. I can tell you this, after 3,000 miles of driving last week, my paycheck was very rewarding. Yours will be too. Good luck out there, be safe and well!
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