6 Tips for the New Truck Driver
Hello, Ashleign here.
One day I woke up and realized that my cooshy desk job wasn't really what I wanted. I had been working in the IT field for 5 years and then the unthinkable happened. I was laid off from my job. I started filing resumes in several companies hoping to spring back into action as an IT professional. What I didn't realize was that the job market for IT was already saturated with people just like me.
I have always wanted to a be a truck driver. When I was a kid, I used to go next door to a freight yard and jump into the trucks. I would play for hours, at least until I was told to leave. I enjoyed sitting under that huge wheel and imagining the amazing opportunities I could have seen on the road.
If you are reading this, you are probably in my old shoes. It can be overwhelming at first, but not if you pay attention to these 6 tips.
Tip #1 Persistence
Remember that anyone can learn to drive a truck. From the old to the young, most people entertain the idea of the open road and the amount of money you can make. Being persistent helps you overcome the initial fear of driving a big rig.
Adopt a "Will-do" attitude. Is that right? Will-do? You might ask. A can-do attitude is for customer service agents and car salesmen. You are neither. You are training to be a truck driver.
In my experience, I felt overwhelmed with the idea of backing a 53 foot trailer in a 12 foot wide alley. I found myself scared to come back the next day to training. I would say to myself " I cannot do this." "This is too hard." "This is too scary."
Day one, I was discouraged. The thought of shifting 10 gears in an 80,000 pound vehicle terrified me. I persisted. I changed my way of thinking after that day. I began to tell my self, "I am doing this." "I will learn to drive this truck." "I am still terrified, but I will do this."
After I adopted the "Will-Do" Attitude, I found myself wanting to learn more, and teach as well. I picked up the knowledge, I applied it, and I assisted others in learning it as well. I was a natural. To think I almost gave up the first day.
To think, I nearly gave up!
Tip #2 Nothing good ever happens fast in a big truck.
And by that I mean take your time. You are responsible for your life, and your load. "Nothing good ever happens fast in a big truck," was told to me when I was training. It has helped me beyond all recognition. Slowing down, and taking your time, will help you prevent accidents and injuries. Along with slowing down, comes focus. Focus on your load, use your mirrors and always maintain a safe distance from obstacles and other vehicles.
If you are ever in doubt while backing. Get out and look, before making the mistake of backing your trailer into a brand new Peterbilt 579, or a wall that will do nothing but piss off your employer. The latter might get you brain damage from a swinging winch bar.
Tip #3 Turn that CB off.
Nothing is more frustrating to a new driver, than to have another driver critique your driving or backing skills. Especially while you are doing either. Turn your cb off, when you pull into deliver or when you pull into a truck stop.
I cannot prevent you from purchasing a CB, but I can tell you that nothing good comes from directions on a CB. Truckers will sometimes purposely back you into things to have fun. Trust no one. Trust only yourself, and those that care about your equipment.
From IT to Driving in NYC
Tip #4 Companies
Selecting your first trucking company can be a little tricky. Most of them will claim they have the best benefits and will promise you home "Almost" every weekend. I cannot explain enough how some of the things a recruiter will tell you is "questionable."
So I have comprised this list of what you should look for in selecting your first company.
- Benefits - Most companies will have full-time benefits from Dental to Vision to Medical. The difference is in the numbers. Pay attention to how much these benefits will cost you before filling out an application. Some are free, some are most definitely not.
- Mileage Pay - The competitive pay for new drivers today is starting at .33 cents per mile on average. If your company pays less than this, you will find yourself working harder, longer and cheaper than if you had just gone to the trucking company down the street. Companies will buy you with free benefits, and other highlighted FREE services to coerce you into accepting lower mileage pay. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS. It is usually accompanied with a BONUS that you will only receive half.
- Team Driving - Some of you will buy into the idea of team driving. Most companies will say "Hey! Come team drive, You make money when you are sleeping!" These companies generally will pay you $.17 per mile whether you are driving or not. Most of these companies will pair you with another driver, and put you to work immediately. The problem is, you are neither the supervisor or the subordinate. Absolutely nothing is stopping your Teammate from sitting at a truck stop all day and making you do all the driving.
- Sign-on Bonus - Sign on bonuses are a way of roping you into 6-12 months of work. As many of you may know, trucking has the highest turn-over rate than any other commercial industry. Companies will offer you Hundreds and Thousands of dollars for you to receive when you begin employment. This money comes with a contract. You must work out 6 months or 12 months or this money will come from your last few paychecks. When you receive a bonus, you get half after taxes. The company will sometimes pay this money without taxing it. They will give you half, and bank the rest. When you quit before your 6 months or 12 months, you must pay the full amount back.
Tip #5 Training
You've selected a company, now you are to begin training with that company.
Most companies will have you with a trainer for 3-5 weeks depending on your ability and company policy. Avoid companies that throw you into a truck with inexperienced drivers.
I have comprised a list of things you will need to begin training at most companies:
- Toiletries - This should be a no brainer, yet it is very important. You need to lightly pack a small bag. This bag should be no bigger than an average carry-on bag that you might take on a flight. It should be big enough for one change of clothes and toiletries such as shaving cream, shampoo, body wash, toilet paper, etc.
- Luggage - You will need between 7-10 days worth of clothes in a very small piece of luggage. You need to pack for all seasons. Winter and Summer. It can get very hot and very cold at any time.
- BedTime- Most trucks now have twin mattresses in them. The bunk bed sleepers in which you will be training, has a Twin, and a mini twin. You will most likely be sleeping on the mini-twin. Buy two sets of twin sheets and a blanket. Trucks that feature an APU can get very cold at night. Bring a pillow or two as well with pillow cases.
- Footwear - In many cases tennis shoes are allowed, but you will also need a pair of ankle supporting shoes or boots. If you are going to be a flatbedder, invest in a good pair of boots, and save your receipts to write-off on your taxes. Anything purchased for trucking is tax deductible.
- Truck Atlas - Nothing Fancy, but it needs to be a Truck Atlas. Normal Car Atlases will not work.
- Headphones - The chances of your trainer being loud or disruptive is pretty high, you will want to tune them out when you are in your off time. Headphones help.
It is a tight space in a big truck for one person. It gets extremely tight when there are two people. Respect your trainer's space, and maintain your own. Do not leave trash or obstacles that could potentially piss-off your trainer. Remember that you only have to survive 3-5 weeks with this man or this woman.
Get out of the the truck and away from your trainer if you are allowed to do so. This can only build your relationship with your trainer. You do not have to be around them 24/7. Enjoy your training as I did.
Tip #6 The Comfort of Home
For the next several months you will be figuring out your situation. Think about the things that make you happy. For example, The one thing that makes me extremely happy is having access to my computer. I did not have the money to fork out for a gaming laptop, so I brought a TV and my PC from home and installed them in the truck.
Before this action, I was questioning my ability to continue trucking. The time away from home, and the time away from my joy, was eating me alive. After having installed the computer, I have enjoyed myself on the road, and it has strengthened my ability and my wallet.
Find something from home that makes you happy, and you will be happier on the road.
For people with families, be sure to stay in constant contact with your loved ones. Single Truck Drivers have the highest success rate. Married Truckers have a very high divorce rate.
Do not team drive with your girlfriend or boyfriend. It will end your relationship.