rookie truck driver mistakes

Job growth among heavy truck drivers and tractor-trailer drivers is expected to grow by 21 percent by 2020 compared with 2010. As more people are looking toward truck driving as a prospective new career, it’s easy to forget some of the challenges and rookie truck driver mistakes.

Experienced truck drivers have been there and seen it all, especially if they’ve worked in the industry for 10+ years. Beginner truck drivers are more likely to make some rookie mistakes which could make their work slightly more difficult. You can avoid some of the common mistakes new truck drivers make by keeping in mind some of these helpful tips.

1. Have Clear Expectations About Life on the Road

Driving is a stressful job. The hours are long, the lifestyle can be tough, and it takes a toll on the body. One of the biggest impacts on lifestyle truck drivers often find is that they aren’t spending enough time with family. Despite this, truck drivers find that the many benefits outweigh these costs. They are happy with the job and find a way to manage the difficulties.

Experienced truck drivers will tell you that if you don’t make work-life balance a priority, it won’t happen. Spending time with family is one of the biggest factors which truck drivers consider while looking for an employer. Make sure you find one that doesn’t compromise the home life.

Health can also suffer since truck drivers often don’t find time to exercise, eat well, or rest enough. Company and federal regulations require rest breaks for all truck drivers, but also make sure you are getting your own personal quota of rest breaks in. Eating healthy food options can seem like a challenge but it is worth in the long-run. Do some research on how to get simple and healthy snacks or find the best places to stop for a meal that won’t break the bank or the waistline.

Drive My Way can help match you to companies that can help make family time a priority.

2. Know Your Value and Worth

A common rookie truck driver mistake is not knowing exactly how much they should be making and can be making. Sometimes companies will give overly optimistic promises of how much drivers can be making and that expectation does not match reality. Other times, drivers highly underestimate how much money they should be making and the perks and benefits they should also receive.

Make sure to do your research and talk to more experienced truck drivers. Consider asking them the following questions:

  • Which companies offer the best perks and salaries?
  • How many years until you can expect a significant promotion and pay raise?

Look into competitors and industry standard practices. Make sure you pick a company that values the same things that you value, whether it’s salary and benefits, schedule of hours, rest time, amenities, or something else.

Drive My Way can match you to companies which will be a good fit for your priorities and lifestyle.

3. Get to Know the Road

Okay, so you’re certified, and of course you know how to drive a truck properly, right? Experienced truck drivers will tell you that its more complicated than that. There are things that years on the road will teach you that training and certification simply won’t cover.

You don’t have a lot of experience yet, so try not to get too comfortable. These massive vehicles take some getting used to when driving in high-pressure situations like traffic or construction zones. For example, rookies miss road signs and truck speed limit signs more often than you’d think.

Similarly, how to pass properly seems like a no-brainer, but it can be tricky if there are too many cars eager to get further ahead on the road. While you don’t want to seem like a bully on the highway, you also want to make sure that you’re able to carry out your route properly and on schedule. The key is remaining calm and building comfort, while not becoming overconfident.

Remember that local directions may differ from planned routes, so pay attention and adjust your route when needed. Stay in contact with the dispatcher and keep them in the loop so they can help you. You may think you don’t need any backup, but if you get stuck in the wrong location and behind on your route, you’ll be kicking yourself for not asking sooner.

When in doubt, look to more experienced truck drivers to avoid new truck driver mistakes while behind the wheel.

4. Have a Positive Relationship with Management

Along with navigating the road, you’ll have to navigate the relationship with your employer. Many truck drivers believe that their relationship with the company can be filled with unnecessary stress and miscommunication. Take the time to make sure you are having a friendly but professional relationship with management, to the best of your control.

The most important contact would be the dispatcher. Having a good relationship with the dispatchers can make the difference between a successful route without any problems and a route with no support or backup if things go wrong. Make sure you’ve gotten clear route, map, and instructions from the company, and check-in with dispatch at the first sign of trouble.

Again, plan your route ahead of time: you don’t want to be stuck in Milwaukee in the middle of rush hour because you missed the turn 20 minutes ago. When interacting with management, make sure to remain organized as you document everything and follow proper guidelines. Filling out the right paperwork may seem like a hassle in the moment but will save you time and energy in the long-run.

Try to follow company policies and regulations on safe driving, rest breaks, being on schedule etc., but at the same time, make sure the company isn’t taking you for a ride or making you compromise on your values and goals. If things are not working out with your current company, Drive My Way can help match you with companies which will be a better fit for your needs.

With these helpful tips in mind you can avoid rookie truck driver mistakes and feel confident and in control as you start off a new career.


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