It was once said that “Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect, and passion in their operation.” In the context of professional truck driving, this quote was never truer. The skill drivers gain through experience has led them to become knowledgeable masters of their trade. Most rookies simply do not have the driving experience and history to say the same. The following are 10 important things experienced truck drivers know that rookies do not:
1. Stay Healthy & Rest Up
Since the job of a professional truck driver is often sedentary, it takes a concerted effort on a driver’s part to stay healthy and get enough rest, which experienced drivers make a priority.
- Eating healthy, even on the go. Although it’s harder to eat healthy when on the road, drivers can still buy pre-washed and cut fruit or opt for grilled meat as an alternative to fried items.
- Drivers are making time for exercise. Understandably, this can be challenging. Experienced drivers are creative with this. They use folding bicycles that can be stowed in their berth and then use them when they park at a truck stop. They can also pack running shoes they can walk or jog with when stopped or purchase some weights and then secure them within the truck until using them.
- Getting adequate sleep. Drivers do this by investing in the right mattress and pillow for their sleeper berth. They might also include items like a portable fan or heater to ensure comfort when resting. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving and then at least a 10hour break after 11 hours of driving. A wise driver takes advantage of these breaks to rest.
- Drivers are keeping the mind engaged. Hours of driving can make the mind wander. To keep it engaged, experienced drivers will commit to keeping their minds engaged by listening to audiobooks, language tapes, or music along with other tricks to keep their brain healthy.
2. Understand the Importance of Pre-Trip Inspections
Skilled drivers with experience understand the importance of their pre-trip inspection. The following are elements that should always be considered a part of any standard pre-trip inspection. An experienced driver goes over their truck with a fine-tooth comb before they leave on any trip, checking the following:
- Brakes/Parking Brake
- Hitch/Coupling Area
3. Keep Safety Before Anything Else
Above all else, experienced drivers understand the importance of staying safe and getting back home to their loved ones. Professional long-haul truck drivers are often hauling over 10,000 pounds, making safety more than a priority; it’s a necessity. Skilled drivers understand that the following should always be adhered to by any professional driver who wants to stay safe and keep others safe on the roadways:
- Wear their seatbelts. Experienced truck drivers are strapping when the truck is moving.
- Avoid using their cellphone. In many states, the use of cellphones while driving is illegal. Driving while using a phone is considered distracted driving and is extremely risky according to the United States Department of Transportation. If this behavior is risky for nonprofessional drivers, just imagine how cell phone use impacts big rig driving.
- Obey speed limits. Professional drivers accept speed limits and obey them.
- Maintain enough stopping distance. Drivers know how much space is enough to leave between them and other cars, which should always be adhered to.
- Avoid drug and alcohol use. Drugs and alcohol impair a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely and should be avoided at all costs.
4. Know That People DO Call the 800-Number on the Truck
A wise driver will always remember that other drivers can and do call the 800-number listed on the back of their truck. A driver who is behaving recklessly or endangering others can be fired if they are reported via the 800-number. Rookie drivers should remember that the 800-number is always prominently displayed on the back of their truck and drive accordingly.
5. Respect the Shipyard and Customer Location Rules
Each customer has its own location rules that indicate how a driver should operate their vehicle while in the shipyard. These location rules could include the following:
- Using appropriate speed.
- Adhering to loading and unloading instructions of the protocol.
- Conversing with receivers and shippers appropriately and professionally.
- Understanding that they are a guest in the customer locations
6. Always Give The Trailer a Second Look
Even if they have already inspected their trailer before leaving, an experienced driver rechecks their trailer again when it is left for any period. They will also look over their shoulder before moving to ensure that their trailer is performing as it should.
7. Maintain Industry Relationships
There are many avenues of growth within the trucking industry, a great deal of them come through industry relationships. An experienced driver will never burn bridges with those within the industry. They understand there might be a need for a recommendation or job one day. They also aim to leave in good standing with former employers.
8. Ask for Help When Necessary
Even the most experienced driver will occasionally need help. They know when it’s time to ask for help and understand, asking for help doesn’t make them look foolish or hurt their ego. Seeking help is often about safety and the desire to learn the answer to a question they can use at another point in their career. It’s always about growth, which is something a skilled driver understands. Sometimes, rookies are hesitant to ask for help for fear they will be harshly judged for “not knowing” something, but everyone must learn. At some point, everyone is new. Therefore, a wise driver, whether they are new or experienced, will ask for help when necessary.
9. Understand That Changing Carriers Isn’t Always Advantageous
The adage “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence” applies here. While the lure of employment incentives might entice rookie drivers to change carriers, experienced professional truck drivers understand that most times, they are better off staying with one carrier and moving up within that company instead of bolting for every new offer. There are specific situations where moving carriers help a career. It’s important to research it in depth before making a move because in most cases, staying put will end up being the best move career-wise.
10. Pay Attention to The Monthly Earnings Over Weekly Take Home
The last way experienced drivers understand the industry more than rookie drivers is by paying attention to their monthly, not weekly earnings. In professional truck driving, weekly earnings can be up and down a bit and vary. It can be difficult to use weekly earnings to judge overall income. Instead, a driver should consider their monthly income to predict their ongoing income more adequately.
Rookie drivers can learn a lot from experienced truck drivers who have been in the industry for years. A wise rookie will embrace their knowledge and shared experience and learn from those who have gone before. The 10 points listed above showcase the expertise experienced truck drivers have when compared to rookies. Any rookie driver who wants to understand these points better should seek out a skilled, experienced driver to learn more about these critical elements of the professional trucking industry.
Are you an experienced truck driver? Share a tip or trick only seasoned drivers would know.
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