You’ve entered into a potentially lucrative market: truck-drivers continue to be in high demand, many companies are recruiting, and wages are competitive. Even so, surviving your first few months out on the road can be the toughest hill to climb. To maintain the momentum and excitement you feel after earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL), make these three tips part of your everyday routine.
Make health and safety your first priority
Your loaded rig can weigh up to almost 80,000 pounds, which means you’re wrangling a behemoth every time you get behind the wheel. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 4,440 fatal crashes involving either buses or large trucks in 2016. These crashes didn’t just involve vehicles, they involved drivers and passengers too. Everyone else on the road is counting on you to perform routine safety checks and walk-arounds, drive appropriately in adverse conditions, and get the rest you need. All of that keeps the road a safer place for everyone.
Becoming a trucker puts a significant strain on your health by encouraging a lack of exercise, poor diet, and irregular sleep patterns, which can impair your driving ability and your overall quality of life as well. The most obvious and important health and safety tip is to pull over and nap when you are tired, even if it’s just for a short while. Supplements, energy boosters, and even illicit substances won’t make you a better driver — they wreak havoc on your body, increase your risk of a crash, and put you at risk for a range of health problems. Taking a few extra minutes out of each day to plan ahead and eat healthy food while still getting as much exercise as possible can make all the difference in your ability to continue on your career path.
Learn to park it “like a glove”
Ace Ventura may have made parking a big vehicle in a tight spot look easy, but in real life this takes practice. Becoming skillful and efficient at backing up a truck is one of the most important things to work on in your off-time, because chances are good that several times each week you will wind up trying to squeeze into a dock while a bunch of impatient people sit behind you and your tight schedule slips further and further behind. Staying cool under pressure and becoming competent and comfortable in reverse will help build your reputation as a quality driver, enabling you to land more senior driving positions as your career develops.
Build your support team
A common complaint in this job is its isolation, which can lead to depression and compound issues stemming from poor diet and lack of sleep. It’s important to consider yourself as a roaming command center, which means you’ll need to build a top-notch support team. It’s good to have experienced drivers on speed-dial who can give you advice in the event of a sticky situation, as well as some trusted semi truck repair services along your destination.
Emotional support should never be discredited, so make sure you have a pool of friends and family to contact, even if only briefly, on a regular basis to give you a laugh, boost your spirits, and help you remember what it’s all about. It’s also good to have phone numbers for professionals at the ready, like a primary care physician in your hometown or a truck accident lawyer in California. One of the best tips of all is simply to be prepared, with tools, resources, and the means to get information at your fingertips right when you need it.