A lot of rookies are going through driving school and getting their CDLs, which is great. Truckers move America forward, the more the better. However, trucking schools don’t cover everything. Some learning can only come from hours spent behind the wheel.
So in order to help the new drivers out, we put together a list of what they need to learn right out of driving school. This advice is actually from experienced drivers who have burned enough pavement to know a thing or two about what trucking is really like.
What New Drivers Missed In Trucking School
1. Don’t fully rely on your GPS
Millennials are known to like their technology, and that’s fine, but in this business, you may need an actual map sometimes. While Google maps can provide images of your route and accurate traffic information and GPS systems can take you on direct, fuel-efficient routes, the ability to read and follow a paper map will come in handy.
Check your route before blindly following directions, you don’t want to go through crowded downtown city areas or get stuck in a bad part of town. You also don’t want to spend 20 to 30 minutes going out of the way to loop your destination.
Also, what happens if your GPS loses signal or goes down? Then you will have to read a map to figure out where you’re going. Trust us, It’s a more useful skill than you think.
2. Know your limits and don’t go past them
If you’re tired or encouraged to drive past your Hours of Service (HOS) you can say no. It’s okay to stand up to dispatch to not get pushed beyond your limits. You can stand up for yourself in unsafe or hostile work environments too.
Your company has a safety department you can call if you’re unsure when pushed to do something illegal or work tired. Call them and see what they think. never drive tired, it’s dangerous. You can take the breaks that you need.
3. You’re responsible for yourself
You won’t have a manager checking on you in person all day to see if you’re actually working. You need to be professional and responsible for yourself and your schedule. Plan your day and route accordingly. You may have a lot of distance to travel in-between snack and bathroom breaks.
If you stop for a quick break don’t block the fuel island. Take care of business and move. Other people are waiting to fuel up and leave. Also, guys may suggest that you just go in a bottle on the road, but we don’t recommend that. It sounds distracting, and any form of distracted driving is bad.
Present yourself well. Walk with purpose, shower routinely, don’t wear sweats all the time. Having a good, professional attitude will help you build quality relationships with managers and shippers. It will also help interactions with DOT, CBP, and LEO go more smoothly.
4. Learn about backing up and parking
In school, you learn to back up with objects like garbage cans and cones. It doesn’t matter if you hit them, so there isn’t much pressure. It’s a totally different story in parking lots full of items that can break your trailer if you hit them.
Plus, some lots have incredibly weird layouts. Take your time and keep your cool. If you aren’t sure what’s behind you or think you might hit something then get out and take a look. It’s hard to back into spaces and takes a lot of practice. Other truckers would much rather you park at turtle’s pace instead of hitting their rig.
Also, be sure to never head down a road if you aren’t sure if it will have a place to turn around. Walk it first. There’s no headache like trying to back down a road. Remember, never back into traffic, always back out of traffic.
5. Stay calm and learn
You will get frustrated, you may get confused, and you might wonder why you are even doing this, but keep your cool. Just take a deep breath and relax when times get stressful. Overreacting or making a rash decision out of anger could total your career.
If you think you can’t handle something fresh out of school think about how to get through the situation or ask someone for help. No one becomes a super trucker overnight. Heck, there are no easy loads and it takes years of experience to be considered a road veteran. This is a career that takes effort and time.
Congrats On Passing School
We’re proud of you and we will be happy to see you out on the roads. Our economy needs truckers to keep on moving. Just remember to slow down and stay calm out there. Driving after school is a whole new world that you can only learn about by taking the time to get experience behind the wheel.
Please share any tips that you have for rookie drivers in the comment section below.