Being a new truck driver can definitely feel intimidating. You’ve likely recently gone through driving school and gotten your CDL. It’s possible you’re still looking for your first trucking job or you’ve gotten a job with a trucking company and have started training with one of their driver trainers. Wherever you may be in the process, there will be a time not too far in the future where you’ll find yourself behind the wheel of a truck, ready to embark on your new career as a solo driver. Driving school gives you a great foundation, but there’s a lot that truckers learn on the road and over time. Don’t make these common mistakes other rookie drivers make:
1. Driving too fast
Always stick to the speed limits. Speeding burns up gas unnecessarily and can put you at a greater risk of losing control. Slowdown in more congested traffic or when traveling on downhill roads. Don’t worry about how fast other motorists are going – make sure you’re driving the appropriate speed for the situation and for the weight you’re hauling.
2. Neglecting your physical and mental health
Your physical and mental health needs to be a priority – otherwise you not only put yourself at risk for a number of health issues in the future, but those can also have serious consequences while you’re driving on the road. Driving drowsy, which is a common symptom of not getting enough sleep at night, is one of the most dangerous things you could ever do. Driving while dehydrated is another good example of how not taking care of your physical needs can make getting behind the wheel dangerous for you and those around you. Make sure you’re setting aside the time to plan healthy meals, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and practice relaxation techniques to deal with stress and anxiety. Seek professional help when you need it.
3. Being overly confident
No matter how easily you flew through driving school and that CDL test, driving a truck takes some getting used to. It takes time, lots of hours logged and knowledge that can only be gained from first-hand experiences. You should absolutely be comfortable in the skills you’ve learned, but make sure you’re not overly confident on the road. Always take opportunities to learn and drive with safety as your priority.
4. Having unrealistic expectations
There’s a lot we love about trucking, but the reality is that this is also a job that requires a lot of hard work and the ability to adapt to the challenges of the road. Weather, traffic delays, construction and mechanical problems are things that every driver will have to deal with more frequently than desired throughout their career. Most of these issues will be unexpected circumstances and you’ll have to learn how to go with the flow. Stay positive and don’t let these details stress you out.
5. Not taking the job seriously
Not only is your job integral to how our communities function, but you have a lot of responsibility in your hands on the road too. Some of the most common safety violations truckers make are the simplest ones, such as driving too fast, skipping over routine vehicle maintenance, and ignoring standard highway safe practices. These mistakes can have big consequences, including death. Make sure you’re taking the job seriously by conducting every pre- and post-trip inspection, securing your loads properly, following mandated weight limits, checking weather conditions, and driving with caution, especially at night.
6. Being disorganized
Driving a truck is a lot more than just getting behind the wheel. You’ll need to keep track of your trip reports, logs, and other important documents. Depending on your tax needs, you’ll have to hold on to certain receipts. Some of these items can be scanned and stored electronically using apps, but you still need to figure out an organization system that works for you. Being disorganized may cause incorrect paychecks, equipment warranty issues, tax filing problems and more. Start good organizational habits now that will last you through your whole career.
7. Switching companies too soon
Driver retention is a big issue for the trucking industry and especially with new drivers. Why? It’s because there are a lot of trucking companies out there and we each offer different things when it comes to pay, benefits, and company atmosphere. It’s easy to get into a job as a rookie and feel that the grass may be greener somewhere else with more miles, higher pay, and better home time. A good rule of thumb is to commit at least a full year working for your first trucking company. Not only will this look better on your resume if you apply elsewhere because it shows you can make a long-term commitment, but also you may find that all those things just come with time. For instance, here at Carter, our drivers get access to pay raises the longer they’re working with us, plus you have additional opportunities to earn income through bonuses.
8. Not asking for help
Just because you’re a solo driver doesn’t mean you have to be out there doing it all alone. Many rookie drivers fail to ask for help because they’re embarrassed, they don’t know the answer, or don’t want to bug anyone for help. In reality, we all want you to succeed as much as you do. At Carter, we’re always here to answer questions and help our drivers navigate the ins and outs of this job. You can also feel comfortable asking your driver trainer or other seasoned drivers for their advice and input. These drivers have valuable information they’ve learned from their experiences that can be helpful to you.
Are you ready to take the next step in your driving career and looking for somewhere to stay? Come join the Carter team. Give us a call today to learn about all of our opportunities!