Tried and True Tips for First-Time Truckers

Congratulations! You passed driver’s school and you landed a new job as a trucker. You’ve packed your gear, grabbed your keys, and you’re ready to hit the road.

Or are you?

If you’re a first-time trucker, it can be difficult to adjust to your new lifestyle. Long hours on the road and limited interaction with your friends and family can be intimidating. You’ll need to make a lot of changes during the first few weeks and months as a trucker, but hopefully these tips and tricks will help you tough it out.

Adjusting to Life on the Road

The open road may seem like a vacation getaway compared to the typical office cubicle, but it isn’t always the breezy adventure you envision. You are responsible for shipping goods to people who need them, and if you’re not careful, you could put your vehicle, your cargo, yourself, and other drivers at risks.

As you make adjustments in your life, it’s important to keep the following suggestions in mind.

While on the Road

  • Take regular breaks. You may be mentally prepared to drive for 24/7, but physically, your body will need a break. Every few hours, pull over and take the time to stretch your legs. It may be tempting to haul your truck for longer, but taking regular breaks will increase blood flow to your body and brain, helping you feel more alert.
  • Bring healthy snacks. You will be spending a lot of time sitting, which means you won’t be able to hit the gym on a regular basis. While you can do a few exercises during your break time, a lot of your health will depend on what you choose to eat—gas station meals won’t always cut it.
  • Keep safety in mind. Your truck is likely double or triple the size of the other vehicles on the road. While this may make you feel like the king of the road, your safety and the safety of others should always be your top priority. Don’t forget to buckle up, and keep your distance when you drive.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Depending on the job, you may have to drive for most of the day to meet your destination deadline. For tighter schedules, it can be tempting to cut back on sleep. However, sleepy driving is dangerous driving. You need to be awake and alert whenever you get behind the wheel, so do yourself a favor and get as much sleep as you need.

While at Home

  • Keep your family in the loop. Truckers spend almost 300 days away from home every year, depending on the company and the demand for their goods. Your family will miss you, so take pictures and videos that you can share. Also be sure to call or text them during rest stops so they know you’re doing fine.
  • Communicate with your spouse. Good relationships are hard to maintain when you’re away for long periods. While you’ll want to keep the phone lines open for your family when you’re on the road, it’s also important to discuss important issues with your spouse when you’re at home. Be understanding of your spouse’s needs and never leave home under stress.

Adjusting to Your Truck

While trucks all function in the same way on a basic level, each truck also has its unique quirks and features that will make driving more interesting (or more difficult). It’s important to get to know your truck inside and out so you can spot potential problems before they happen.

  • Get to Know Your Blind Spots. Also known as the “No-Zone,” the blind spots on a big rig are much larger than those in a smaller vehicle. While some rigs warn other drivers about these zones, it’s still important to understand where your blind spots are so you can exercise appropriate caution.
  • Drive with a “Space Cushion.” No, a space cushion is not a comfortable cushion from space. Instead, it’s the extra distance you put between yourself and other vehicles. Trucks can’t stop on a dime, so give yourself extra room in case of an emergency. The amount of space you give yourself should depend on whether you’re driving at night, the quality of your brakes, and the size of your vehicle.
  • Be Careful With Curves. Professional truck drivers slow down for turns. If you turn too quickly, you could roll your rig. Allow for the distance and speed of other vehicles when turning across traffic. Because right turns are tighter than left turns, you may need to veer left before turning right to give your truck adequate space.

Have Fun!

While trucking might not be ideal for some, you picked this job for a reason, and it can be amazing when you approach it with the right attitude. If you’re prepared to make a few adjustments, you’ll be ready to face whatever the road brings your way.