Newer truck drivers may be enamored by the relative freedom of driving an over-the-road load across the nation, but experienced truckers know that in order to rack up thousands of miles of safe and efficient hauling, planning and preparation are vital. Newer truckers sometimes underestimate how much prep work goes into a long distance trip, while experienced truckers know that a little extra preparation work beforehand can lead to a much better experience while out on the open road.
Plan What Needs To Come Along On The Trip
No matter how long the round trip is scheduled to be, experienced truckers advise to bring along at least two week’s worth of clean clothing. This eliminates the need to do laundry on the road, which is a time-consuming process that eats into rest and relaxation time. This also frees up the need to bring along laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and to spend money on the actual washing and drying of clothing. Speaking of clothing, it is advisable to bring along comfortable clothing to drive in, along with coveralls or work clothes that can be used in the event that the driver needs to perform a quick maintenance operation on the rig, or has to get under the truck for some reason.
Experienced drivers also recommend that truckers plan for non-driving time just as they would for behind-the-wheel time. Bringing along comfortable bedding, including sheets, blankets, and pillows, beats a sleeping bag any night. The idea here is to help make sleeping and resting time a pleasant experience, versus feeling like the trucker is camping in the back of their rig. Investing in average-quality or better bedding will help make downtime more enjoyable.
Other non-driving time activities should be prioritized including watching movies, reading, working on hobbies, and communicating with family and friends. By being able to effectively relax and recuperate after a long day on the road, truckers are generally safer drivers during times behind the wheel. Experienced truckers suggest buying everything that is needed before the trip (at a retailer like Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) to avoid the high prices that are frequently encountered at truck stops and convenience stores.
Prepare The Truck And Inspect It For Safety
Truckers can fill countless hours across a dinner table with stories of narrowly avoiding accidents, losing loads on the highway, and of dealing with the inevitable mechanical issues that all truckers are bound to face. One of the most common pieces of advice from experienced truckers is to check the vital components of the truck each time a break is taken. For example, the fifth wheel is certainly one of the most important connection points between truck and trailer, so checking it for proper positioning is crucial. Losing a trailer at sixty-five miles per hour can be catastrophic.
Brake lines are also important to check. Visually checking the hoses and lines for deterioration, cracking, or leaking of air or hydraulic fluid is recommended prior to each trip. Newer drivers are also encouraged to check to ensure that no one has tampered with the braking system, as veteran drivers have reported this issue for years.
Understand That Safety and Security Are All-Important
Safety to a trucker means driving in a manner that minimizes the likelihood of an accident. With truckers and truck driving companies under intense scrutiny by the likes of the DOT, it is crucial that new and veteran truckers remember to utilize safe driving practices.
Experienced truckers will caution that a tractor-trailer is the largest, brightest, most “invisible” vehicle on the road today. Commuters seem to weave in and out of the path of big rigs, brake hard right in front of large trucks, and generally expect an 80,000-pound vehicle to negotiate traffic as if it were a Prius. Knowing that drivers of cars seem to underestimate the time it takes to stop a tractor-trailer, it pays to leave lots of room and an “out” should traffic snarl right in front of the truck. Truckers learn quickly that it can take a significant distance to stop a loaded truck.
Lastly, the security of the truck and driver is ultimately the most important topic among truckers. Seasoned truckers know that it is never safe to pick up strangers, and that having an unknown individual in the truck can be a dangerous proposition. Likewise, parking in remote or desolate areas may make finding a place to park and position the rig simple, but there is no one to help if a dangerous situation presents itself. Park with other trucks in well-lit areas and the risk of danger is greatly reduced. Experienced truckers can impart a lot of valuable advice to newer drivers -but many of the most important lessons can only be learned from behind the wheel of a truck.