If you’re looking for a rewarding and financially secure career opportunity, consider a life on the road as a truck driver. You can travel around the country, escape the monotony of a 9-to-5 job, and listen to your favorite music and podcasts all day long. To help you get started, we’ve identified three rookie truck driver mistakes that new drivers often make within their first six months on the job. Learn how to avoid these mistakes before you hit the road. You’ll save yourself a world of trouble!
Rookie Truck Driver Mistakes
#1: Getting Lost
As a new driver, it’s guaranteed you’ll get lost. From high up in the cab, it’s surprisingly easy to miss exit signs. Google Maps won’t tell you when you’re about to hit truck-restricted routes. Heavy rain makes it easy to take a wrong turn. It happens. The best way to handle it is to keep your cool and be prepared. Panicking will only lead to accidents, miscalculations, and incorrect judgements (source).
What to Do When You Get Lost
As soon as you realize you’re lost, find a safe place to pull over. Look at your company directions again and check to make sure you typed the address in correctly. Then, find out where you are and where you need to be using your mobile device or road atlas. Your company may have a special, location-tracking software like MacroPoint that will send information about your location to your shipper or consignee for directions. If so, use it. You can also call the shipper or consignee for directions once you know and are able to describe where you are. If all else fails and you have a CB radio, call out to a local driver and ask him or her where to go.
How to Avoid Getting Lost
The best way to avoid this rookie truck driver mistake altogether is to properly plan your trip and route beforehand. Use a Rand-McNally Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas to find the most practical and time-efficient routes, while avoiding truck-restricted roads. Every truck route on it is highlighted. Low bridges are even listed so you can plan around them. Be sure to plan your fuel stops according to company policy to avoid accidentally stranding yourself. The key is not to rely on Google Maps or a car-based GPS alone for navigation. They will eventually try to take you where your semi truck cannot go.
#2: Being Unorganized
Time and money management, paperwork, and varying road rules are all part of the job as a truck driver. Common rookie truck driver mistakes include neglecting your time log, going over on your time log, forgetting to keep change for unexpected tolls and unloading fees, and miscalculating traffic or terrain times. These can lead to frustration and stress on the road. Know that ignorance of local and state laws will not excuse a driver or get him or her out of an expensive fine. It’s best to prepare, be aware, and get organized.
How to Avoid Being Unorganized
Do your homework. At a minimum, rookietruckdriver.com suggests that you understand the rules that pertain to your hours of service, any Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations you might have on your load, and the equipment-related requirements for your assignment. Know how to load the freight in order to comply with weight limitations and how to adjust weight between axles.
As a truck driver, you’ll need to complete paperwork for each load you haul, as well as paperwork required for hours of service. It’s best to complete these as you go, rather than trying to remember it all at the end of the week. Not completing this paperwork properly may result in a withheld paycheck or a hefty fine (source). Finally, don’t forget to track your expenses for tax purposes and proper reimbursement. Good time and money management on the road, coupled with a good attitude and an ability to adapt to changing situations, can make a world of difference in this rewarding career.
#3: Not Taking Care of Yourself
One of the worst rookie truck driver mistakes is not taking care of yourself while on the road. In this career, as in others, you might have to work when tired or stressed. Pick-up and drop-off times often change; it’s not unusual to drive late for a pickup at one a.m. Traffic, drastic landscape and weather changes, law enforcement, dispatchers, and homesickness can also contribute to your stress levels. Always remember that your semi truck has the potential to cause massive injuries and, in extreme cases, death. If you’re distracted or overly tired while driving, you’re creating an unsafe situation. Make sure to get adequate sleep, eat well, and take breaks when needed. No work assignment is worth the risk. Plus, when you’re well rested it’s easier to practice patience (as a driver you’ll spend a lot of time waiting on others) and stay professional in all situations.
How to Take Care of Yourself and Stay Safe While on the Road
Always plan for a good night’s rest when you can. When it’s not doable, pull over or plan for a 10 to 20 minute nap right before or after your live load. Any rest is better than none. Also, don’t abuse energy drinks or caffeine. They work in a pinch, but they only work for so long – and then you crash. Large amounts of caffeine might keep you awake, but you won’t be alert. There’s a difference. If you realize you’re going to be late, call or message your company and tell someone. As long as you don’t make it a habit, they should understand.
When you need to, pull over and stretch your legs, take a shower, and grab a bite to eat. Go to the grocery store and pack lunches instead of always eating fast food or gas station snacks. It’s more affordable. Plus, better nutrition will help you feel healthier, more alert, and ready for the unexpected. Experienced drivers know the importance of taking care of themselves. Do you?
Learn More at Truck Dynasty Driving Academy
Rookie truck driver mistakes are bound to happen. That’s why choosing a comprehensive truck driving school to obtain your CDL is so important. The right school can effectively prepare you for what lies ahead in your career. At Truck Dynasty Driving Academy, we offer our students a curriculum that includes classroom training, basic skills and range training, and safe and proficient city and highway driving techniques. Contact us online, give us a call at 417-831-8188, or fill out an application today for more information. In as little as four short weeks, you could be on the road to financial security and a rewarding career.