If you’re reading this, you’ve probably either gotten your CDL or are thinking of obtaining one to start a new career as a truck driver. Congratulations, and welcome to the industry. There are a few things you’ll need to know as a new truck driver before starting the job. Make no mistake, trucking is a challenging job and lifestyle. Your first year as a new truck driver will be the most difficult one, and you won’t be racking up the big bucks just yet. You’ll be getting used to the job, getting familiar with the trucks, and becoming accustomed to the lifestyle. With time and experience, and these helpful tips, you’ll become more comfortable with the job and happier with the lifestyle. Here are seven things to know as a new truck driver.
Seat time is the goal
Your main goal in the first year is to build up as much experience as possible. In the beginning, the wages will probably be lower than you hoped. Chances are that the senior drivers get the longer miles and the better runs which pay more. If there is a difficult or ugly run, the company may end up giving the job to the rookie.
You shouldn’t have high expectations right out the gate, but you should prepare and know that experience will make things better.
Since you probably won’t make great money the first few years, have a medium-term financial plan and be prepared for a thin living at first. Remember that the more miles you cover and the more seat time you accumulate, the better your standing becomes over time. The secret that everyone knows in this industry is that experience is everything. With more experience you’ll get better behind the wheel, you’ll make more money, and you’ll enjoy your job more.
Meals can be challenging
One of the biggest changes in the lifestyle for new truck drivers is meals. It can seem like the only option is to eat at restaurants and diners but avoid the temptation to eat out for every meal! It can end up breaking the bank and adding too many inches to the waistline. Many truckers have embraced making their own food, and some even say it’s essential. Find out what sorts of kitchen amenities are available in the cabins you’ll be working in. Even if you don’t have a full kitchen, investing in a crockpot or microwave is a great solution.
Crockpot cooking is perfect for truckers because it is simple, quick and healthy.
There are literally hundreds of crockpot recipes you can find, and you don’t have to be a master chef to do it.
It’s not just experience you want to build, but safe driving also. Nothing will hurt your young driving career’s image more than an accident within the first few months. The goal for the first year should be no accidents. Take all the safety precautions required by your company and additional ones even if it takes extra time. It’s better to be late on a run than to have to explain why the truck is damaged. Companies will require you to complete a pre-trip inspection and that you fill out your logbooks. Don’t skimp on these! These tools and procedures will help you keep on top of things and prioritize safety and compliance.
Prioritize your health
Another big change to your lifestyle will be the sheer number of hours you’ll be spending behind the wheel. Doctors remind us that sitting still for long periods of time isn’t good for the body. While the trucking schedule doesn’t make it easy to maintain healthy habits, the good news is that it is still possible. New truck drivers should realize exercise won’t happen automatically and make the time to exercise regularly. Once you’ve committed to an exercise regimen, you’ll feel strange when you skip a day. You can do simple exercises or weights in the cabin itself or go for jogs and runs during mid-day breaks.
A trucking lifestyle can take a toll on mental health as well as physical health. You’ll be away from home for weeks or more at a time and it may be difficult for new truck drivers to get used to this. It is natural for loneliness and homesickness to creep in. While depression or anxiety is not uncommon among drivers, there are people and places to talk to for help. Regularly connecting with your family can make all the difference.
Have long-term career goals
Since you’re new to truck driving, it would be good to start thinking about career goals in general. How long do you want to drive for your current company? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Many drivers consider whether they want to eventually be owner-operators or team drivers.
Get to know the organization you’re working for and check out any opportunities for professional development or networking.
More than anything, you’ll want to connect with other drivers and learn from them. Talking to experienced drivers will give you an idea of what to expect in the future. Better yet, find a mentor! Most likely this person will be a veteran driver with whom you can check-in periodically about how your career is progressing. Think beyond just the current job.
Just because you’re thinking about the long-term doesn’t mean you should forget the present. Bringing professionalism to your job everyday will make you feel good and help impress the right people as well. Make a good impression with your supervisors, fleet managers, dispatchers, and anyone else you work for. It has less to do with making them happy than it does with making sure they know you’re a reliable professional who can be counted on. Always be on time and don’t refuse a run on your first year. Refusing a run so early in your career gives a bad image to your work ethic.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and listen to advice from anyone willing to share it, but make up your own mind in the end.
New truck drivers should make sure they are being treated with respect and dignity, and professionalism goes a long way toward that.
It’s a mental game!
Adjusting to any new job and career can be difficult, but being a new truck driver is uniquely challenging. There’s the skill of navigating the road and the equipment, along with the social component of dealing with new people, and the lifestyle of being away from home. Of course, your first year will be the most difficult one, and there will be times you think it is becoming overwhelming. One of the biggest pieces of advice veteran drivers give is to hang in there. Things really do get better and easier with time. Experience will make the job easier and more enjoyable. Having the right attitude during the first year will make all the difference. Keep these important things in mind, focus on building experience, and know that it gets easier with time.
7 Things to Consider Before Becoming a CDL Truck Driver
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