Truck driving is not a job most people can handle – you have to be thick-skinned, patient, and your own biggest fan. It’s a tough job—but that’s why you chose it.
You just completed your CDL, or are about to, and you’re preparing for your first job as a professional driver. Whether you’re a young driver or an adult in the midst of a career change, rookie drivers still have a lot to learn after they leave the CDL classroom.
This will likely be your hardest year behind the wheel. You will have to adjust to the job, lifestyle, truck and trailer, with more to learn than what was taught in the classroom. Plus, favorable loads and routes are usually given to more experienced drivers, but at least you get to drive the roads less traveled and scenic routes. Fortunately, since this is considered the hardest year, it will only get easier.
To make this transition from rookie to a veteran driver, here are some tips to keep in mind to make the process as fast as possible.
Accumulate as much seat time as possible.
With any career, your first few years are all about gaining experience. Seat time means experience, so pile it on when you are young and get the handle of truck driving as fast as possible. You have entered the industry at a great time because there’s currently a severe driver shortage. Many companies are lowering their experience standards in order to keep up with orders. This means that the faster you rack up experience, the more likely you will be able to land a job at a great company with benefits early in your career. You have the ability to advance faster and at a younger age than many drivers before you.
Take this time to learn from your driver-trainer, if assigned to one. They’re experienced drivers, experienced enough for the company to trust them to train their next generation of drivers. Ask them questions, learn from their insight, and keep an open mind during this learning period.
Take your time, drive slowly, and cover your bases when on the road to avoid accidents. Your employer understands that you’re new, but multiple accidents—or even one—can accumulate enough costs in damage to cost you your job. Accidents are inevitable, but make sure you’re covering your mental checklist to ensure you’re not at fault when they do occur.
Right now, your reputation carries the typical inexperienced, rookie stereotype.
Mistakes and challenges are bound to happen, this applies to anyone, anywhere. From NFL rookies and politicians to doctors and wall street executives—we all make mistakes. A mistake is only a mistake if you fail to learn from it and the only way to turn a bad experience into a good one. Sure, you might be embarrassed from a fender bender or a misstep during the unloading process, but 99 percent of things don’t matter. There’s a good chance that a vendor isn’t going to care about that one mistake you made if you execute 99 other drop-offs perfectly.
Make sure you phone ahead of time to make the transfer easier, try to talk to the receiver and get directions—it stinks getting lost in a big vehicle. The last thing you want to do is to be stuck in a residential neighborhood in your truck. When you arrive, park on the street and meet with the receiver. Ask them to show you around the unloading docks so you know what you will be working with. Also, you will likely only work with one to two spotters majority of the time, so take note of any hazardous areas a scout might not be able to see during the unloading process.
Health is important in any industry. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating right, getting adequate exercise, and taking care of yourself mentally. A lot can go wrong on the road, and an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to a constant feeling of fatigue. Take care of yourself and get through the first year, it will fly by faster than you expect.