You’ve got your license, but do you know how to cope in your first year as a new truck driver?
From preparing a toolkit to investing in a heated blanket, there are many top tips you’ll discover that nobody told you about when you started out.
That’s why we’ve put together the 18 most important, yet wholly untold, truck tips for new drivers.
How to Survive Your First Year: 18 Unmissable Truck Tips
The first year is the hardest, so make sure you follow these tips to take the pressure off.
1. Keep Your Diet Healthy
It’s tempting to stay on fast food and grab whatever is easiest to cook. However, keeping your diet healthy will make you a better truck driver.
A healthy diet will keep you alert and fit. Junk food makes you tired, and let’s not mention the inevitable weight gain you’ll experience from daily takeout.
2. Take Pride in Your Truck
Keep your truck clean on the outside and inside. Take time to check it over and have a stock of cleaning supplies onboard, too.
Your shippers will notice a dirty truck. If you can’t look after your vehicle, how can they trust you with their goods?
A clean truck will impress, and earn you a reputation as a good driver.
3. Don’t Take on the Weather
Never, ever, ever take on the weather.
Whether it’s snow, ice, hail, heavy rain, or hurricanes, don’t ever rush. Take your time. If the weather is too dangerous (see: hurricanes), don’t drive.
You may face a reduced fee for a delay, but that’s less to sacrifice than your life.
4. Have a Toolkit at All Times
Be prepared on your rig at all times. Have a standard toolkit, including all tools for basic mechanical repairs, so that you’re ready if anything happens. Being stocked up will help to reduce any delays, especially if you learn basic maintenance and repair tricks too.
Your toolkit also needs to include things for your own safety. For example, invest in a heated blanket to minimize the risk of hypothermia on very cold nights. Remember also to have high visibility jackets, flashlights, and basic water and food stores with you at all times, too.
5. Find a Hobby for Downtime
Don’t lose your mind out on the road. Find something you can do that’s portable and gives you something to do in your downtime.
For example, you could take up knitting, sketching, reading, or even playing the guitar. Whatever it is, invest in the tools that’ll make you look forward to picking it up at the end of a long driving day.
6. Get Off Your Butt
We know it’s tempting to sit down when you’re not driving, but you should resist the urge. Stand up and move about as much as you can, to prevent stiff muscles and even repetitive driving injuries.
Find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, too. It could be as simple as a ten-minute cardio routine when you wake up and when you stop again. Anything that keeps you active, maintains your muscle tone, and keeps your blood flowing will help keep you fit.
7. Avoid Spending a Dime at Truck Stops
Prepare ahead of your trip with easy-cook food and supplies. Truck stops are always overpriced and don’t supply anything you can’t get from your local store before you set off.
Spending money at truck stops eats into your earnings. In your first few years of driving, you’re not going to make the big bucks. You need to create a savings plan early in your career.
8. Have a Pre-Drive Checklist
Write a checklist of everything you need to have stocked on your rig and all the vehicle and load checks you need to complete before you set off.
Keep this list in your truck at all times. This routine will help you avoid mistakes that can happen when you’re getting comfortable with the job.
9. Invest in Decent Insurance
Did you know that you need different types of insurance depending on what you are – and aren’t – hauling?
Driving your semi without a trailer requires bobtail insurance. There are more details here about what that is and why you need it alongside your standard insurance.
10. Keep Your Personal Goals in Mind
The road gets long and lonely. Avoid any growing frustration by keeping personal goals in mind. What are you saving up for? A car, a house, a vacation of a lifetime?
Knowing what you’re driving trucks for will keep you going in the hard and lonely times.
11. Have Cleaning Supplies at All Times
Always have cleaning supplies inside the cab of your truck. There is nothing worse than a smeared windshield on an 18-wheeler.
At the very least, include window cleaner, rags, and wet wipes to clean up any spills.
12. Be Polite (Even When Your Shippers Are Jerks)
Shippers are under a lot of pressure and sometimes that turns them into jerks.
Keep your temper and be polite with them – even when they’re being impossible to deal with. You’ll gain a reputation for being unflappable.
13. Make It Through Your First Year
Truck driving isn’t for everyone, but give it a full year before you consider giving it up.
You may find you enjoy working in one season over another. This could give you future goals for working only part of the year on longer drives.
14. Earn Your Run
As a new truck driver, you’re going to get the runs nobody wants and that pay less.
Don’t get frustrated when you regularly see senior truck drivers getting all the best work. They’ve earned it. You need to put your hours in and earn a reputation before you can climb the ladder.
15. Stay in Touch with Family
Whether you’re leaving a spouse and six children or your mad Aunt Maud back at home, make the effort to stay in touch.
It’s hard after a long day of driving to find the energy to call, and that’s OK. You don’t need to do it every day, but make sure you set aside time during your run to speak with those nearest and dearest to you.
16. Be Considerate of Other Truckers
This should go without saying but it’s something many new truck drivers forget in their eagerness to prove themselves.
Let faster trucks pass you on the highway. Don’t park at the pump and hold everyone else up behind.
Simple behaviors like that will go a long way to building a reputation as a good and considerate truck driver.
17. Take Pride in Your Personal Hygiene
Don’t be that guy who doesn’t shower for an entire run.
It might only be you in the cab for days on end, but even you can’t handle that ripe smell after a day or two? Shower and stay clean as you would at home.
Showering is also a good way to restore your mental health. It will make you feel better after a particularly long day.
18. Stand Your Ground with Safety Concerns
There’s no one else watching out for you. If you don’t agree with the safety of a situation, even when loading and unloading, stand your ground.
It’s better to be firm and rub people up the wrong way than to cause yourself an injury that ends your trucking career.
Finally: Keep Your Paperwork in Order
These truck tips will help you to stay focused and enjoy your first year of driving.
However, there is more to being a truck driver than sitting behind the wheel. From driving logs to safety checklists, paperwork is easy to miss, and that could land you in hot water.
Check out our paperwork templates for drivers to make sure you’ve got everything covered.