I've written many blogs covering a wide range of topics over the years. For a long time, I have felt that I wanted to write about how to flourish as a truck driver during first year and beyond. Now, I am finally doing just that...
I hope to communicate the most important topics every new driver and even seasoned drivers should consider when they hit the open road. Truck driving can be such a fun and exciting job. But it can also be a very tough and confusing job. If you work on the key points listed below, you'll find yourself on the road to success in trucking.
Promises and Your Word
I personally believe that from the time you get your 1st load assignment to 4 years later when you've gotten your 100th load assignment, the promises you make to your DM (or Fleet Manager, but I will stick with "DM" for Driver Manager going forward), will most certainly determine your success in the industry.
When I mention promises, I'm talking about when you receive a load assignment and you press "OK" or "load confirmation" that you can indeed get to the shipper and receiver ON TIME and safely.
When you send your load confirmation you are ensuring to not only your DM but to your entire company, the shipper and receiver that you will and can make it on time. You're basically giving "your word" that you can do this. All too often, young drivers don't understand how important this is. It's vital to your success as a truck driver.
As a new driver, your DM will hopefully understand you have a huge learning curve and you will make mistakes.
But you need to ask yourself...
- Are you learning from those mistakes?
- Are you becoming a better trucker because of your mistakes?
- Or are you continuing to make the same mistakes over and over?
You build trust with promises kept. You build confidence with your management team when you give your word that you can do something, and then you do it.
One thing I would highly suggest to a new driver: pay attention to how many miles your company expects you to run in a day.
Is it 550 miles a day? Maybe 600?
I cannot stress enough how much having an understanding of this expectation will help determine your successes and failures. If you understand how many miles per day your company expects you to run, and you do it, most load assignments with any reputable company will reflect in their load assignment the expectations of your arrivals to the shipper and receiver.
It's truly one big math game. If your company expects you to run 550 miles a day, their load assignments are built with that in mind. Pay very close attention to this when you're out on the road.
Remember, when it comes to trucking there's no one holding your hand out there. But if you start to break your promises and your word, you will very quickly have a boss that is calling you over and over. Isn't a huge part of the reason that all of us that got into trucking is the excitement and freedom of the road, and also the ability to be our own boss to a certain extent? It was and is for me. This is why I love trucking and enjoy it so much. Keeping your word and keeping your promises will find you in a great state of mind and also in a great situation with your trucking company.
Keep Cool & a Positive Attitude
I consider myself an extremely happy person. I'm able to control my emotions and anger. And one thing is for sure - your emotions will be tested out on the road.
This test will be with the daily 4-wheelers and yes, other truckers, that will try your patience. Just when you think you've seen it all out there on the road, the next day comes and you see even more.
Keeping a positive attitude is vital to being successful.
You're now a professional truck driver, and your goal should always be to remain a professional and to never engage in any type of road rage. To some of you this may come very easily. To others, you may have to work on it.
Please remember, the person in the other car is someone's mother, father, grandma and grandpa, sister, brother and cousin. No matter what the other driver does, stay calm and remember that to even get a sniff at one million safe miles under your belt, you need to keep a level head.
Home Time Expectations
Last but not least, we have home time expectations. Misunderstanding how home time works is a big part of the turnover in trucking. When you're in class and learning to drive a truck, it's exciting. Then, you pass the CDL test (I remember that feeling from over 4 years ago like it was yesterday) and you're now on your way to becoming a trucker.
The huge challenge now arrives. You'll have expectations about coming home and what home time means to you in the future. Most of the time there is a significant other or family members at home that want to see you. You'll face pressure from all sides to make it home and questions such as, "When are you coming home?"
The first year is by far the toughest. Many times you will not be able to give your family an honest answer. You may have a good idea when you can make it home, but anyone who has been in this business long enough understands that home time is never guaranteed. However, good companies will ALWAYS get you home at some point.
But the first year will come with some home time disappointments. I am not in any way suggesting your company doesn't want you home. Not at all. But, if you came from a regular 5 or 6 day, 8 hour job and went home every day, we all know trucking isn't like that.
So please remember that in the 1st year, you may not have a lot of say in your home time. But after your 1st year, the opportunities open up. Maybe a Dedicated position where you are home every weekend will open up? (Home every weekend usually means less money though, please see my previous post on OTR and Dedicated). Or maybe a flatbed job, driving from one coast to the other for a month, then a great 4 days off with family.
I will end this part by mentioning the quality of home time trucking affords. If you spend 2 months out on the road and your company offers one day off for every week out, you just accrued 8 straight days off with family. As long as the company stands by the policy, 8 days can be a great vacation! Now some companies will not let you do that. Some companies have a policy of a maximum of let's say, 4 days off, no matter how long you stay out after a month. Keep that in mind when trucking.
If you follow my advice above, you'll be on your way to flourishing in any type of truck driving job. Don't forget that when you worked that 8 hour day job, you came home every night. But with trucking, when you are home, you are home 24/7 to enjoy your family, friends and children. If you're off for 4 days, I would suggest that 4 full days off with no work, is better quality time vs. a few hours at home every night when you are tired from something such as an assembly job.
I hope this helps! Trucking can be a lot of fun, but it's all what you make of it. If you try to work on the above to the best of your ability, I think you will find trucking is a great way to make a living.
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