Long haul trucking can be a highly rewarding job. Experienced truckers have come up with a whole host of tips and tricks for newcomers to the industry. We’ve pulled some together here to show you the ropes.
Always Check Your Vehicle Before a Journey
Trucks are hard wearing machines, but that does not mean that they are impervious to damage or wear and tear. Check your truck’s brake lines, tires, oil and lights before every long journey. Modern trucks have great diagnostic tools, but you should not be afraid of getting your hands dirty every now and again to check for problems.
Plan an Itinerary
Don’t go into a journey blind. Creating a detailed itinerary before a journey can help you to plan out all sorts of important factors. Everything from fuel budgeting to prospective stops can be planned out in itinerary format. Employers will also be pleased that you are organized enough to create realistic journey plans that take into account variable factors.
Never Drive Empty
Once you have completed a leg of shipping work, it can be tempting to drive back home or to your depot without any return load. One of the cardinal rules of shipping work and indeed any driving work is this: never drive empty if you can help it. Fuel is one of the greatest costs for any operator-owner and driving home empty pretty much involves the wasting of fuel that could be used to haul a load. If you have no contract planned for your return journey, make sure to look at local load boards in order to find short notice jobs in the area. You want your truck to be empty as little of the time as possible.
Interestingly, trucker superstition round driving home empty has led to some interesting traditions. Some flatbed truckers strap cuddly toys onto their trailers in order to carry a nominal load and stave off the purported bad luck that an empty trailer brings.
Eat And Sleep Well
It is vitally important that you remember to look after your body and mind during a long haul journey. All too often, truckers can fall into a state of either lethargic stasis or caffeine fueled mania during long journeys. Eat plenty of fruit and make sure to take the time for a hot meal with plenty of liquids during your breaks. Keeping a flask of water with you in your cab is extremely important. Dehydration can slow down your reactions and make you less capable of monitoring the world around you.
A good rest is often hard to find as a trucker. If your cab does not have a bed that you can get to sleep in, you’ll need to invest in motel rooms for multi day journeys. Being well rested is important. Falling asleep behind the wheel of a massive HGV truck is, of course, incredibly dangerous. Exhaustion is one of the main causes of commercial vehicle crashes in the United States.
Take Regular Breaks
Truckers are required by law to take a 30 minute break if they have been driving for 8 hours. While this is a legal requirement, it is also not quite good enough for maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road. Most truckers try and take a short break after every three hours or so. Regular breaks help to prevent fatigue and complacency on the road. Most large trucking companies fit black boxes into their vehicles to monitor driver breaks. Usually, this is to ensure that they do take breaks. Companies cannot fire truckers for taking the breaks that they need to stay healthy.
During breaks, it is advised that truckers stretch out their limbs. Long hours of muscular inactivity can increase the likelihood of muscle cramps and nerve pain on the road. Some simple stretches are usually good enough to prevent any agony on the blacktop.
Don’t Chase Deadlines
If you have planned your itinerary well, you should have absolutely no need to regularly chase deadlines. Generally speaking, truckers tend to forget all the best practices that they have learned over the years when they are rushing across the country trying to make up for lost time. Deadline chasing tends to lead to a decrease in caution, the skipping of essential breaks and a great deal more speeding. If something is going to make you late, admit it to your contracting employer and let them know the realistic arrival time you are likely to make. Good employers know that you can’t control the weather or the traffic. Good planning will ensure that you do not miss deadlines due to things you can actively avoid.
During the Winter holidays, trucking companies may push their drivers in an effort to decrease delivery times. Despite this, deadline chasing is far more dangerous than a late package can ever be.