The start to any career is intimidating and filled with uncertainties. This certainly rings true for rookie truck drivers; not many careers put people behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound 18-wheeler.

It’s completely understandable for rookie drivers to experience nervousness on their first drive and even throughout their first year. But do not worry, your training, surrounding teams, and colleagues have your back. Follow these goals in your first year to ease your way into the truck driver’s life.

Prioritize safety

Safety should always be of the utmost importance and is vital in your first year. A costly accident can take a mental and career toll on first-year drivers, leaving them nervous on the road and causing a blemish on their driving resume with the accident overshadowing their little experience.

Transport companies understand that rookie drivers may take longer to reach their destination. You’re not the first rookie driver on the staff and will not be the last. Plus, all seasoned veterans start as rookies and all have had their missteps. No one’s progression is linear.

Emphasize priority over speed, but still, try to remain timely. This may require you to leave earlier than most, but a successful first year will lead to a successful career.

Effective time and mile management

Avoiding heavy traffic is the key to effective time and mile management. This involves planning ahead and staying updated on traffic conditions, weather, or upcoming jams. For instance, planning ahead will help drivers miss traffic jams and the headaches that come with them.

Improving loading and unloading makes life easier for both the driver, vendor, and customer. Veteran drivers usually call ahead and ask vendors and customers for the best routes to their loading docks and what the driver should do to make the process easier. Effective communication is key. Rookie drivers will not be immediate pros at the technical side of loading and unloading, but doing what they can to ease the process will only help them improve more quickly.

Learning to park at night is surprisingly challenging. Parking spots for the night fill up quickly and can leave drivers frustrated and frantically searching for a place to bunk up. Rookie drivers should aim to park for the night early and leave earlier in the morning to avoid this problem.

Regulations require truck drivers to log their time. Rookie drivers should make it a habit to log their time and jobs ASAP rather than waiting until the end of the day. That way the logs are more accurate and make life easier for the logistics and office staff.

No driver is a pro in their first year but effective time management will come with persistence and experience.

Talk to industry veterans

Veterans are seasoned for a reason—they’re good at what they do. Like rookie drivers, veterans were young once but are happy to see new drivers entering the industry. Get to know industry veterans and pick their brains for tips and tricks while on the road. The more experienced truck drivers on the road, the more everyone benefits.

Communication and Teamwork

Communication is a top priority in any industry. Both team and solo drivers should keep communication open with their colleagues, customers, and companies. If a rookie driver is on a team, it’s vital that they work together and communicate effectively to improve the team’s efficiency. This includes communicating time, updates on road conditions, mentioning any problems with the freight, and more. Each driver is affected by the team’s overall effectiveness and communication will benefit everyone involved.

Rest

It cannot be emphasized enough how important rest is for truck drivers. Drivers should always plan ahead and scout places to stay for the night, even if this involves calling it quits a little earlier than anticipated. The LAST thing you want to be doing is operating an 80,000-pound vehicle while sleep deprived. Like we said at the top, safety should be your utmost priority and driving while sleep deprived is definitely not safe.