Regardless of the industry, starting a new job is always a challenge. And it gets even tougher when it involves operating heavy machinery. So, if you’re venturing into the world of hauling trailers, congratulations on taking the giant leap into an exciting new career! Now that you’re all set to tackle trucking assignments, it’s important that you know what to expect in your new workplace.
First things first, trucking is not for the faint-hearted as you’d soon find out. It’s a job that cannot be mastered after a few days or weeks. Every day spent behind the wheels of a big rig brings with it a new set of challenges. And if you aren’t both mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with it, you may find yourself without a job even before the first year rolls by.
The First Year Is Usually The Toughest
Your first year will certainly be the hardest one. You will have to make some adjustments, learn how to manage your schedule, and gain invaluable trucking experience. This requires lots of discipline and organization on your part. Trucking is a lot more than just driving: you will be your own secretary by learning to manage your time and plan your trips.
As you navigate your way through a trucking career, here are a few tips to prepare you for the tough job ahead and ensure you are ready for anything.
Manage Your Time Efficiently
To give yourself a better chance of excelling at your job, take time to research your route and create a detailed plan for your time on the road. Find a map of your driving route and carefully outline every trip, locate rest stops, best parking spaces, gas station, and areas with the most efficient facilities.
If you’ll be traveling through very busy cities with intense traffic, see if you can find alternative routes to avoid the heavy traffic. Knowing all these before you leave for every journey will tremendously reduce driving stress, help you have a much smoother trip, and you will adapt to life on the road much faster.
The prospect of starting an exciting new job is enough to get anyone all fired up, and as a rookie trucker, you may be tempted to prove yourself by taking on high mileage jobs with short turnaround. This is the easiest way to get burnt out before you even get started—it takes some time to develop the physical and mental stamina required to last much longer on the road.
You can’t build a ton of on-the-job experience in a couple of months. Ask any veteran truck driver, it takes years of disciplined truck driving to rack up an amazing all-round trucking experience.
Get Plenty Of Rest
Truck driving requires that you spend long stretches of time driving a massive 18-wheeler, and that is no easy job. To ensure that you are always alert with a sharp mind and clear eyes, you need to get as much rest as possible. While planning for every trip, make sure you include break and rest times in your daily schedule. Take time to determine how many hours you will drive during the day before stopping for a rest break. This may sound unproductive, but it’s actually the opposite.
Getting enough rest will give you the mental and physical stability that driving a big truck requires and it’ll eliminate the need to suddenly pull over for a quick nap because you can’t seem to keep your eyes open anymore. When you are behind the wheels of a large truck, you have to vigilant and any distraction can be disastrous.
It’s important that you end your trip early in the evening to get a good parking site and have a great night rest in preparation for the next day’s journey.
Also, note that with an early and restful night sleep, you will get up and leave early enough to beat the morning rush hour traffic which may otherwise slowdown your trip and mess with your scheduled time of delivery.
Don’t Expect To Get Rich
It’s easy to think that since you’ll be putting so many hours of work in trucking, you will receive large paychecks and meet all your financial goals. Sorry, but it really doesn’t work that way and you probably won’t get rich as a truck driver. The time you put in doesn’t equal fat paychecks, as you will soon find out, and you need to come to terms with this if you are to thrive on the job.
According to a 2018 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, which is the most recent data available, tractor-trailer truck drivers earn an average of $45,570 as annual wage. This should give you an idea of your standard take-home as a trucker.
Learn To Manage Stress
Plenty of stress comes with truck driving. When you sign up to be a truck driver, even as a rookie, prepare for the stress and challenges that will come your way every day.
If you are not used to being away from home and your family for long hours and several days at a time, you will need to adjust to that. This will probably put a strain on family/friend time; you might worry about your family or loved ones while on the road.
You will also face the challenges of meeting deadlines and the frustration of not finding parking. Trying to fit your large truck into a small space will bring its own kind of stress, along with getting stuck in traffic when you have a big delivery to make.
Driving professionally for a living comes with “tonnes” of challenges, and since you don’t operate in an office or a typical workspace, managing stress can be harder.
To help you combat stress, plan out each trip in advance, as earlier stated. By properly planning every trip before you set out, you can make your journey clearer and know what to expect especially when you’re going someplace new. This can drastically reduce stress.
Master Parking Your Rig
Truck parking is one of the most exhausting and frustrating things about driving trucks. Some days you will easily find a spacious parking spot. Some other days, you may have to carefully navigate your truck to fit into a narrow space, and on some very bad days, you will be left with no parking space at all.
When it comes to overnight parking, the best strategy is to start looking early. It can be difficult to find decent parking spaces around 7pm during the summer and 6pm during the winter. During these times, parking spaces get filled up very quickly. Hence, you need to secure parking much earlier so you can get enough rest and leave early the next day.
Parking your truck early removes the tension that comes with desperately looking for a non-existent parking space when everywhere is filled up. Plus, it gives you more time to recover from a long day on the road and to regain your energy in preparation for what’s ahead.
With a little scouting and planning, you can locate truck stops and rest areas along your route and get there on time for stress-free parking and a much-deserved night rest.
Be Kind to Dispatch
It’s important to always communicate with your dispatchers, and ensure you’re building good rapport with the dispatch team. This will make your first year much easier—the more dispatch gets to know you, the more they’re able to know your preferences, strengths and weaknesses. This allows them to communicate more effectively with customers on your behalf and help create better scenarios for everyone.
Trucking can be both exciting and difficult. If this is the career for you, then go for it—just be sure to take some extra steps to ensure it’s a great experience. Happy trucking, and, as always: stay safe out there!