Truck driving seems simple enough. You may figure that once you’ve passed your tests, gotten your license, and acquired your first job that you’ve done everything that’s needed to be a success in your field. However, the truth of the matter is that truck driving is full of ins and outs that may not be readily apparent to a new driver. From adapting the right mindset to giving yourself a little leeway when it comes to the learning curve, there are aspects of the job that aren’t as evident. If you’ve recently begun your career in truck driving, here are some important things you should know to get you cruising down the road.
Truck driving sometimes has a high learning curve and it can take some time for you to feel like you’ve really gotten a hold of what you’re doing. There are a lot of rules to truck driving that are different from regular vehicles. That’s on top of the different ways these vehicles handle when compared to a traditional car. Keep in mind that trucks require a much greater stopping distance and take longer to turn, as well. It may be hard for you to get a grip on the unique handling needs of a truck at first but if you stick with it and don’t beat yourself up over smaller errors, you’ll have a much better shot as a driver.
You’ll also need to get familiar with the ins and outs of trip planning. This will take a while to master and comes with its unique brand of frustrations. If you don’t have your trip planned out well enough, you’ll find yourself losing valuable time and progress to missed directions and mistakes. If you do make the occasional mistake, know that it isn’t the end of the world as even the most senior drivers occasionally mess up. It’s all part of the learning process and you need to give yourself adequate time to learn.
Understanding Your Surroundings
Depending on your carrier, you’ll be doing a lot of cross-country travel and it’s important for you to know where you’re going and what’s in the area. It can help occupy your downtime but also give your some familiarity with where you’ll be transporting your cargo. Maybe one week you’re going to visit Lansing, MI for your travels and then next, you’re up in Myrtle Beach. It may be a boon to you to know a bit more about where you’ll be staying and what there is to do in your area.
Becoming better at researching your destinations will trickle over into your personal life, too. If you want to spend some of your days off by going to explore Henry County, Georgia or scoping out what St. Louis, Missouri has to offer, your research skills will make it easier to get the most out of your time. It’s always a plus when your work skills are applicable to real life, and though it may not seem it at first sight, truck driving is one of those jobs that will teach you more than you anticipate.
Flexibility is Key
Much like any other job, truck driving can (and will) require some creative improvisation to get the job done correctly and on time. Roads are full with unpredictable variables. These can range from inclement weather conditions (nobody wants to drive through a snowstorm, but sometimes it’s got to get done) to road work slowing up the flow of your progress. Being able to adapt, shift course, and stay on schedule is a must in the truck driving industry.
For clients, things like weather and road work read more as convenient excuses than a legitimate reason for lateness. Perhaps you’ll have to stray from the original route you had decided on. Maybe you’ll need to make use of a crafty detour or some unobstructed back roads. Oftentimes, you’ll have to do this on the go, so if you’re too rigid in your plans, it’ll lead to some big frustrations on your end. Remain flexible and you’ll start to see that switching things up isn’t the end of the world—it just may take you to new places you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Aim to Be Accident-Free
All too often, tractor trailer accident negligence is inevitable, especially in the careers of veteran truck drivers. However, it doesn’t reflect well on a new driver if the beginning of their career is checkered with accidents and mishaps. It will make it much more difficult down the road to be selected to work with the top carriers in your field.
One of the biggest ways to avoid accidents with your truck is to use the GOAL method, which stands for Get Out And Look. You should make use of this method if you ever have any doubts about your surroundings, especially when it comes to backing up. There are numerous potential “strike points” on your trailer that are gaping blind spots. By getting out, gauging the distance you have to work, and assessing the situation, you’re much less likely to cause any unnecessary fender benders. Also, if you ever have to pull over on the side of a road or highway, always remember to place hazard cones to alert oncoming drivers to your presence.
The Way You Act Matters
Truck driving can be as enjoyable or as strenuous as you make it and your attitude can make or break your standing in the industry. The top carriers want to work with good, pleasant drivers who don’t just get the job done, but have a great time doing it. If you approach your job with a negative mindset, it’s going to cloud your way of thinking and could drastically impact your performance. Someone with a careless attitude isn’t going to get far in the trucking industry so don’t let yourself be the one who develops a bad reputation.
On the other hand, being a driven, high quality driver can open many doors for you. Talk to seasoned drivers and ask them how they got to the positions they are in. Chances are, it wasn’t by spreading negativity to their cohorts and superiors. It was through a can-do attitude and the dedication it takes to really excel as a truck driver. By speaking to veterans in your field, you’re able to get a sense of what does and doesn’t work in the industry.
Make the Most of It
Keep in mind that you won’t get everything down pat right away. You’re a new driver and while there’s plenty you can learn from your educational resources, some of the tools of the trade can only be taught by the road. Come prepared, always be willing to get better, and have your list of places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast handy because you never know where your travels are going to take you. Truck driving is a rewarding job that comes with some unique perks. It also rewards its hardest workers with greater successes so get out there and see what this career path has to offer to you.