10 Things Truckers Learn In Their First Year

The first year as a professional driver is often the hardest to handle – you’re still learning the ropes, and you’re low on experiences that can help you navigate life’s many potholes.

Luckily, there are seasoned vets who can share what it’s like that first year to help give you some foresight as to what you might encounter. Here’s one man’s experiences, as he posted in the Reddit Truckers forum:

“I became a truck driver back in Feb. of 2017 by joining a Mega willing to train me through their program. I see a lot of posts on this awesome sub where people ask ‘this and that’ about their first year, wanting to know if trucking circa 2018 is for them.

Well, I can add what I’ve learned and hope this is helpful to someone who is either trying to get into the road game or is in the middle of their first year.

In descending order of importance:

10: Everyone is out to get something from you in one way or another. Everyone.

If you drive for a mega with a mentor/trainer/whichever, they’re training you for the money and chances are they’re going to exploit the situation, be it keeping you on the truck longer than you really need to be, using your ELD login to squeeze in more hours, some may even try to trick you into staying on the truck longer. Once you get your own truck, your dispatcher may try to find ways to exploit you for different things.

But chances are, the company is exploiting them, too. The trainer/mentor thinks he’s getting over on you, but the company’s business model suggests that he’s effectively training his replacement should he ever get 1 preventable accident too many. Meanwhile, the greedy dispatchers are greedy because the company is forcing them to compete with one another while making them manage more trucks than they can effectively handle because it’s “cost effective.”

Everyone is screwing everyone over; trucking is just one of those kinds of industries.

9: The money is THERE

Believe it — I have four years of college education; maxed out at 39k income on my best post-grad job with 4 years experience. I made 52k in year one as a driver.

8: Murphy’s Law is Absolute

No matter how well or not-well you were trained in semi-school or how well prepared you believe yourself to be, SOMETHING is going to happen out there during year one that you just didn’t expect.

7: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

I used to have a lot of trouble backing into both docks and truck stops, especially during my first solo runs. I would get out and ask another, more experienced driver for a spot and they would not only help, they would offer tips on how to back. After doing this for awhile, I didn’t need to ask for help. As a result, I help anyone who asks me…which leads me to…

6: Truckers are a brotherhood

We’re largely in competition with each other, but I can remember very few instances where I’ve had a confrontation with another driver, or another driver was rude to me. It’s the opposite; when you walk into a truck stop lounge or sit at the Driver’s Only section of an Iron Skillet, drivers chat and joke as though they’ve known each other for years. Drivers who are military vets seem to bond especially fast.

5: Finding parking for 10-Hour break doesn’t have to be hell

Truck stop full? Learn to navigate around strip mall lots, shopping plaza lots, and Walmart parking lots so you can park in the rear; out of sight is out of mind. Hell, I’ve never been kicked out of Walmart lot and I’ve never heard of someone being kicked out of a Walmart lot. I’ve asked a Walmart manager why that is and she replied ‘The longer y’all stay, the more money y’all spend.’

4: You will come across a jerky Yard Dog, but don’t take it personally.

They’re paid to not only move trailers around the yard, but to keep the truckers in line while they’re in the yard. Sometimes, they have to be jerks in order to do their job; it’s that simple.

3: Contrary to popular belief, ELD is your FRIEND

There’s not much to say about ELD that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it simple and say that no, not everyone wants to drive 16-17 hours a day and only sleep for 5. If some trucking companies had their way, those are exactly the kind of hours everyone would drive.

2: Respect is not given NOR earned; it’s demanded

The world doesn’t respect truckers, eh? Truth is, most professions aren’t “respected,” especially in the U.S., unless they’re super-profitable. I get more respect as a truck driver than I did as a teacher for that very reason, I think.

Shippers/receivers, dispatchers, trainers/mentors will try to screw you over, but you don’t have to let them. Stand your ground, being respectful as you do so, and you’ll be surprised how often you’ll get what you need when it’s otherwise being denied to you.

1: America is beautiful

The high-hills of Washington state, the Arizona plateaus, the mountainous PA views…the sight of lightning scattering across the Wyoming plains at night… the U.S. has some sights which will not only confirm to you that there is a God who created it all, but that He holds you in his favor because you’re in a position to witness it.”

-ivyentre

If you’re a professional driver, what would you add to this list as something you learned in your first year?

*Slightly edited for language and clarity.

Beat The Heat – On The Road In Warm Weather

The temperatures have peaked, the pavement is hot and the smell of sweat and BBQ fill the air.  It’s Summer!

While it’s nice to see the sun and spend time with family on summer vacations, those that have to work in summer months face heat hazardous that can make professional driving a pain. Taking precautions to not only protect yourself, but also your vehicle as well are important to your survival of these sweltering summer days.

The most important component of these scenarios is obviously YOU, the driver. Top tip #1 – stay hydrated. This really isn’t just a summer months kind of tip either – staying hydrated while driving is always important as it helps avoid fatigue, dehydration and a whole host of other issues caused by not having enough fluids in your system. Bring water bottles with you in your cab and pack hydrating fruits such as watermelon or strawberries to snack on.

In addition, pay special attention to the signs of dehydration like dizziness, disorientation, and extreme sleepiness.  If you experience any of these symptoms, pull over immediately and re-hydrate and rest to avoid any potential accidents.

When it comes to your rig, there are a few key parts to check that can be adversely affected by heat.

Battery

Heat is a notorious drain on batteries, so make sure you’re not heading out on a long trip with an old half empty battery or you probably won’t be making it back.

Fluids

All of your fluids deserve your attention before any trip, but in hot weather your coolant should be checked frequently. Heat evaporates liquids, so also check your motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, etc. Make sure you also check when you get to your destination – remember, it’s always better to be too careful, than not careful enough.

Tires

Checking your tires is another any-time-you-leave kind of check, but in high heat weather, it’s even more important. Temperature fluctuations, especially sudden ones, can be hard on your tire pressure. Avoid blow outs and potential accidents by tending to your tires regularly.

Taking these precautions when driving in the heat can prevent accidents and damage to your vehicle. Taking care of yourself by staying hydrated, checking the necessary mechanics and fluids, and making sure your tires are in good shape are the basic steps you need to take when planning to hit the road during the summer.

How To Combat Road Rage

Just because you’re a professional driver doesn’t mean your immune to frustrations and anger produced from dealing with other bad drivers and road hazards. Whether you’re yelling at the person in front of you for going 20 miles under the speed limit, or you’re honking at the car in front of you who cut you off, road rage affects us all. This is why it’s important to understand what causes road rage and how we’re able to avoid it.

Aside from the normal external factors that inspire a bought of road rage , internal factors like hunger, fatigue, and stress can affect our attitude on the road too. Add to that time constraints and the concept of making deliveries on time, and you are facing an assured increase in agitation.

While we can’t promise you we’ll be able to prevent ANY road rage, there are a handful of ways you can deal with it more effectively and prevent yourself from becoming too worked up.

  1. Leave as close to on-time as possible. This may seem like a no-brainer, but being uptight about your schedule is always better than worrying that you’re going to be late for the duration of your drive.
  2. Calm yourself with music that soothes, rather than stresses.  Avoid heavy bass songs or tempos that are too fast.
  3. Deep breathing will help lower your heart rate and reduce your anxiety.

And lastly, if you can’t seem to calm yourself down, pull over and find a place to get out. Sometimes walking away from our stressor, in this case driving, is the only way to reset yourself and find balance again.

We have to understand that road rage is not only  bad for our health, but that’s it dangerous to ourselves and others. So stay calm, and carry on for your piece of mind and safety.

How To Deal With Being Away From Home

Extended time away from home is a primary concern for a lot of truckers – it means long stretches of time away from loved ones, and a sudden shift in the lives of your family’s day to day routine. For both parties, the one on the road and the one at home, navigating this period can be tricky – but, there is hope. With the below tips and reminders, long haul assignments won’t seem so scary:

Understanding Roles & Expectations

In a lot of instances, drivers are the primary breadwinners of their families, so the pressure to succeed and earn is heavy on their shoulders. Equally as important is the roll of whomever is staying at home to tend to the family and insure the home base is running smoothly. Respecting the stress and weight of the demands each role is vital to communicating effectively about what to expect during this stressful time and any expectations that may need to be met.

Communicate

These periods of separation when on the road can be made even more stressful if communication is not clear and consistent with your family. Be sure to include your partner in any decisions you’re making about employment and assignments so they feel like you’re all on the same team. And conversely, home base partners should be open and honest about how they’re feeling and any decisions they need to make about family life so that the driver is included and still considered present, despite their absence.

Support

The decision to leave home and family behind to support spouses and kids is not a decision many drivers make lightly.The decision to put their comfort aside for the betterment of the family is noble, and supporting them emotionally in making that decision is very important. Communicate frequently, and often, and let the driver know how much their sacrifice means to the family. Being reminded of your “WHY” is always a great motivator to continue on in tough times.

Equally is important, is support for the caretaker at home. Being the family manager is stressful too, and feelings of abandonment can quickly creep in if drivers aren’t good about praising the work also being done at home. Remember, they’re just as lonely, and deserving of praise as the breadwinner.

Trust

Trust is a must. If jealousy is a problem before heading out on the road, you may way to consider staying home. Having to worry about partners expectations and emotional issues due to jealousy can be distracting and cause drivers to perform poorly, which impacts everyone negatively. Having trust and nurturing it by communicating honestly and openly are the only ways to enduring these long stretches between home visits.

In the end, surviving long hauls and time away from home comes down to understanding, communication, support and trust. Be good to each other, support each other, and most importantly, don’t waste any time you do have together.