Dangers of being a Truck Driver

Truck driving, like any profession, has risks. There are steps you can take to reduce the dangers of being a truck driver. The best rule of thumb? Think it through before you take action. Sounds simple, but taking an extra moment to slow down often makes a big difference. Even pausing for a few seconds can be enough to clear your head and really think through your choices. Here are the top 8 dangers of being a truck driver.

1. Driving tired or distracted

In 2007, the FMCSA did a study to determine causation of CDL Accidents. The number one cause? Driving tired or distracted. These two categories made up 40% of accidents that were labeled with a critical reason. Nearly half of the large truck accidents may have been preventable by extra sleep or improved focus. Need more convincing to get your sleep? As you’ve likely experienced, driving tired often leads to more distracted driving. Even 1 extra hour or a few 20 minute power naps can have a big impact on your ability to calmly make decisions on the road or to notice all the details of the road conditions

The FMCSA is exploring changes to HOS rules that would allow drivers flexibility to split their 10 hours in the sleeping berth however they want (within reason). The FMCSA is expected to share additional information as soon as the next six months.

As a driver, the best thing you can do is prioritize your sleep. Know your limits, and pull off when you need to. If you’re feeling sleepy, drink water and take a short break if you can. A short slow down will let you keep driving safely in the long run and reduce one of the biggest dangers of being a truck driver.

2. Driving too fast for conditions

All professional drivers know that the weather and road conditions can have a big impact on your route. There is a lot of pressure to meet drop times and make the most of your miles. It’s easy to tell yourself that going a little faster won’t be a problem. It’s much harder to convince yourself to slow down and carefully evaluate the conditions.

Road conditions are one of the dangers of being a truck driver that you can’t control. But, you can control how you react.

More experience and time on the road will sharpen your ability to assess the roads and traffic to make safe driving decisions. 

3. Avoid unsafe areas at bad times and stay alert in truck yards and loading docks

As any seasoned driver knows, there are some places you just don’t want to visit outside of daylight hours. Of course, as a seasoned driver also knows, you don’t always know where those areas are, especially when you’re driving new routes. As a general rule, spending nights at the shipper or consignees lots is safer than most truck stops. If you are driving somewhere new or you don’t know the area, call ahead by a few hours. The receivers can tell you if it’s safe to park and sleep there or if it’s a “daylight only” situation. If the area isn’t safe enough for a sleep stop, calling ahead should give you enough time to find somewhere nearby that is safe to rest.

4. Always do a circle check

Circle checks are a small step that can save a lot of time and energy later. Sure, spending 20 minutes on a walk around every time might seem like a pain, but it’s saving you much larger headaches down the road. A circle check is meant to inspect your rig for any damage or issues that need attention before departure. Want to make sure you’re covering all the steps? Smart Trucking has a good basic guide to the D.O.T. pre-trip inspection to make sure you get where you need to go without any surprise maintenance issues. 

5. Use the buddy system for some repairs

Getting pinned under a rig is enough to give any cdl driver second thoughts about the job. Luckily, it’s preventable.

If you have repairs to make under the trailer, bring a partner. They can immediately assist if something goes wrong.

Be particularly careful when pinning up. Now, there are some repairs you may feel comfortable taking on by yourself. A word to the wise. Unless you’re a properly trained mechanic, don’t mess with the brake chambers. Let a professional mechanic take care of any problems with the brake chambers, and you’ll thank yourself later. 

6. Use caution on trailer decks and loads

It’s tempting to climb up the back of your rig. You might just be going up for a quick fix after all. It’s easy to use that logic, but the consequences can be terrible. One slip or fall from your rig can lead to serious injuries.

Instead, carry a ladder with you when possible or wait to climb until you have the proper equipment. Use extra caution on trailer decks and if you’re standing on a load, especially for with a flatbed truck. 

7. Open your doors one at a time in case your load has shifted

moving truck with white boxes in a garage

Even when you have checked your load before departure, things may shift while you’re driving. The vast majority of the time, you could open both doors of your trailer at once and there would be no problem. But, Murphy’s law says that the one time your load will shift is when you have the heaviest haul.

Save yourself the problem. Open doors one door at a time. That guarantees that your load won’t fall out if things have shifted in transit.

8. Other drivers

In a perfect world, we would all be responsible for our own safe driving. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and we all share the road with a lot of other drivers.

Other drivers are one of the big dangers of being a truck driver. Be alert to your surroundings and the other vehicles around you.

As a professional driver, you’re much more aware of passenger vehicles than most of them are of you. That said, these drivers (and other cdl drivers) can be a danger to you on the road. While there are likely more than a few driving tips you’d like to give to passenger vehicles on sharing the road, you have to watch out for yourself. Pay attention to your surroundings and leave plenty of space between vehicles. 

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team trucking jobs

Have you ever heard of any other situation where you have to live with your work partner for extended periods of time? Team trucking is one of the few jobs where you spend an enormous amount of time with the same person you work with. You’re not only sharing a work space, but also a living space.

This can provide many challenges, and could go really well or not so well. It depends on who your driving partner is, and how well the two of you can work together. We spoke with two different team drivers, Anthony and Christine, about their separate team driving experiences, what they have learned, and what advice they have for other drivers.

From solo to team driving

Anthony Futrell is currently a driver for a private company based out of Philadelphia. Like many others, he was a solo driver for many years before he decided to try out team driving. Earning more money was definitely a big factor in Anthony’s decision to become a team driver, and he considered it for about two years before making the switch. For Anthony, one of the big difficulties in being a team driver is not trusting your partner’s driving skills. Specifically, Anthony was previously paired with a driver who was less experienced.

“I wasn’t able to sleep when it’s my turn to sleep while the other person is driving,” he told us. “I had to get up and show him how to do things,” shared Anthony.

Similarly, Christine Milner was a team driver in the past and has been paired with both men and women drivers. “Team driving can be a good thing, but can also be a nightmare,” she reminds us. “As a woman driver, it’s difficult to be by yourself, and having a partner can provide a lot of help,” she told us. “It’s good to know that if something happens to you, somebody is around.” This was a big factor in her decision to be a team driver, along with the opportunity to make more money.

Christine was paired with male team drivers in the past, which can be a hit-or-miss experience. “You don’t want to be driving with a male partner who you don’t really know,” she cautions us, adding “Do I have to sleep with one eye open?”

Pairing with driving partners

Both Anthony and Christine found that having the right driving partner is what makes or breaks the team driving experience. Most companies find you a partner, but unfortunately some companies still don’t match partners in the best possible way. “All they do is give you the phone number and tell you to call them,” Anthony shared about his experience. “I’d rather have a profile about the person. Hopefully you can sit down and get to know each other.”

In addition, sleep has been a concern for Anthony more than once in the past as a team driver.

“One time I had a partner who could never drive at nighttime. He could only drive during the day. Had no idea it was going to happen before we got started,” shares Anthony.

Christine had poor experiences, but especially with males she was partnered with, including trainers. “At first I didn’t care who trained me—but that turned out to be a nightmare, and I asked to switch my trainer.” Even when she was paired with a woman driver, she found it hard to do some basic things because of disagreements.

“It was hard to keep the truck as clean as I would like. Hard to stop and do my laundry at night. Felt like I was always rushed to the other person’s schedule,” shares Christine.

The health and hygiene issues aren’t specific to women drivers—Anthony also had trouble coordinating about them. “You want to have a partner with healthy habits. Who takes care of themselves,” he shared.

team driving jobsAdvice for aspiring team drivers

Both drivers we spoke to had plenty of advice to share. Christine specifically had advice for women drivers who are thinking of team trucking jobs. “Some male trainers will be inappropriate and imply they can help you in return for some favors, so you have to be careful about that,” she cautioned. She also advised her fellow women drivers to develop a strong sense of self-esteem to thrive in the still male-dominated industry.

“Just be smart. Focus on yourself, believe in yourself, and don’t fall for any shenanigans,” advises Christine.

In addition, Anthony suggests doing a lot of research. “Find out if they had any tickets, any accidents, or anything like that. How long have they been driving? Can they drive during both day and night?” He also pointed out that not everybody is ready for the switch to team driving, especially if it doesn’t work out with the partner.

“It’s better if I get my sleep while knowing that no one else will get in an accident. You won’t have that worry in your mind while you’re sleeping,” says Anthony.

The lure of earning more money may not be worth the hassles of having some driving partners. “Even though it’s more money, it doesn’t guarantee personal safety and mental health. I’d rather be a happy driver even if I’m paid less.”

Ultimately, Anthony and Christine both said that finding the right partner is what makes team trucking jobs successful or not. “It’s different for everybody—it all depends on who you are in the truck with and what kind of morals they have,” Christine told us. Anthony reminded us, “I was always told that when you love doing your job, you’ll never work again.”

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Life is a highway… at least that’s what the song says. But for many truck drivers, that lyric couldn’t be truer. Life IS the highway for many. Truckers have countless hours alone in the cab of the truck. They can cover hundreds of miles of pavement every day. This time behind the wheel gives drivers plenty of time to spend listening to music. We asked our readers to tell us about their favorite music to listen to while driving. Here are the best truck driving songs that our Facebook followers mentioned.

Truckers and Their Tunes

There are countless “trucker” themed music compilations available for drivers. A quick Google search results in thousands of results. You can find CDs, playlists, YouTube videos, streaming channels, as well as an endless trucker-friendly podcasts.

Drive My Way Poll

Here’s what our truckers had to say when we recently polled our drivers on Facebook.

Songs that Remind them of their Families

Music can transport you to another place, just by listening to a song. The lyrics can put you in a better mood, make you feel happy or sometimes make you feel sad. Some truck driving songs can remind you of your family and friends who aren’t out driving with you.

Old School Country

Johnny Cash is always a popular selection on truckers’ radios as well as other old school country artists like the Possum himself—George Jones. A good guess would be to also find plenty of Willie and Waylon and the others from the same time. These old school country songs cover a lot of ground—just like most truck drivers. They can be about rebellion, lost loves, and there’s plenty of songs simply about having a good time.

Trucker Songs about Long Haul Driving

A classic in this conversation is East Bound and Down. The song was written for the movie Smokey and the Bandit in 1977. It’s a great song about a day in the life of a long-haul driver. “We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there” are perfect lyrics to sum up an over-the-road driver’s life. Hopefully without any Smokies to slow you down.

Religious Song Choices

Some drivers let us know that they fill their time on the road listening to Christian music. There are so many choices for singers and songs in this genre. Listening to Christian or other religious songs while driving can help drivers reflect and be happy while driving. There’s plenty of genres of Christian music available, from true church music, to soft rock to even Christian metal. Sometimes these spiritual or religious choices are perfect truck driving songs to get a driver through their day.

Hard Rock for the Win

Drivers mention many singers and bands that put out hard rock and metal music. These are always going to be popular choices for favorite trucker driving songs. Louder songs can help you pep up and stay alert. AC/DC, Metallica, and Five Finger Death Punch were some choices that our drivers put on their lists! The loud guitars and drums, combined with aggressive and catchy lyrics might be perfect to help a driver concentrate on the road when there’s been miles and miles of nothing to look at for hours.

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daylight savings time tips

There are only a few things you can count on to happen every single spring. Changing weather, taxes, and Daylight Savings Time. We can’t do much for the weather, and hopefully your taxes are already in progress (or will be soon!). As for Daylight Savings Time, mark your calendar for Sunday, March 8. The official change happens at 2:00 AM on March 8. This time of year we’re all “springing forward,” so we lose one hour during the night. 

Daylight Savings Time impacts all drivers on the road and it’s more important than ever to be alert. Start planning now so you’re ready to handle the HOS difference if you’re driving at night or to hit the road refreshed when you wake up on Sunday. Here are the places where Daylight Savings Time has the biggest impact and some Daylight Savings Time tips.

1. Sleep

sleeping puppy

As a driver, you may already feel tired and road weary, especially near the end of a shift. And that’s not to mention that your hours may not exactly fit within a “9-5 job.” With this in mind, even a one hour difference can seriously throw off your natural body rhythms. 

To help yourself adjust, consider eating your last meal an hour earlier and trying to fit in an “extra” hour of sleep. Be particularly careful about phone time on March 8. Turning off that screen at least an hour before you plan to go to bed will help your body go to sleep more easily. And when you wake up in the morning, try not to drink too much extra caffeine. It might temporarily boost that alert feeling, but it will be harder for your body to adjust in the long run. Instead, boost your energy by drinking extra water and adding a quick workout or stretch when you stop. 

2. Safety

Daylight Savings Time affects everyone on the road. Sleeping one hour less means that everyone is also less alert. It takes most of us about a week to adjust to the time change, not just one day. Accidents increase by just over 6% for the week following the start of Daylight Savings Time in the Spring. Even if you’re a very safe driver with a clean record, leave a little extra space on the road during that second week of March and practice good driving habits

3. Plan Ahead

These Daylight Savings Time tips are all about preparation. Make a point of marking the date on a calendar. Before you go to sleep before the time change:

  • Make sure you set your clock ahead. Cell phones will typically do this automatically, but manually reset your other clocks. 
  • Double check your route. Not all states observe Daylight Savings, so look at your whole route if you’re driving OTR.
  • Review your pickup times, delivery times, and ETA.

A little planning ahead of time will make sure that you’re up and driving without any slowdowns on Sunday morning. 

4. ELDs

Most ELDs now automatically take care of DST, but you may find that you need to work an “extra” hour. Or, if you’re on your break when the clocks change, you’ll resume an hour “later” than you would. Remember, hours of service rules still apply. 

For example, if you have a night shift from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM, your log will show that you worked a 7 hour shift. If you start a 10 hour break at 8:00 PM on Saturday, you will have to finish your break at 7:00 AM on Sunday morning because of Daylight Savings Time.

If you are exempt from using an ELD, make sure you understand your employer’s expectation on logging hours ahead of time.

 

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cdl training

Thinking about getting your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and pursuing a career as a professional truck driver? The first thing you need to do is learn to drive a truck. There’s any number of course options available to help you accomplish this. There are hundreds of locations across the country. Some companies even offer their own training programs to get you started. There are so many options it might get overwhelming to get started. However, if a packaged training and a guaranteed job afterwards sounds good to you, start here. When it comes to taking a company sponsored CDL training, what exactly do you need to know?

What is Company Sponsored CDL Training?

There are various levels of what that sponsorship might mean. Company sponsored CDL training does not necessarily mean it’s at no cost to you. Some carriers will train you for free, and even pay you a small wage during the training class. That usually comes with a requirement for you to work for the carrier for some time once you get licensed. But then it might have an automatic repayment program in place once you’re officially driving for them. Some carriers may charge a reduced rate for the training, and will guarantee a job for you after graduation, but they don’t pay you while you’re in school. Other programs will simply pay your tuition to a local training program, and then hire you drive for them once licensed.

You need to be clear from the start about what you’re agreeing to do in exchange for the company sponsored CDL training. Ask questions first, so you’ll have less regrets later.

Sometimes FREE might not always mean what it seems. There might be strings attached, so make sure to do your research and know exactly what you’re agreeing to do after the training is finished. Knowing that you’re making a first step to a new career, it’s worthwhile to make sure you know exactly what to expect once you have your CDL.

Pros & Cons of Company Sponsored CDL Training

When working through a tough decision, there’s always positive and negatives to either choice. Choosing the type of CDL training you’re going to pursue is no different. Regardless of what program you choose, ensure that you’re fully prepared for the training and have thoroughly investigate all of your options.

Finding a program that is properly accredited and has great reviews might seem hard to find, but keep looking, there’s a good one out there for you.

PROS 

  • No out of pocket money for tuition
  • Paid while in training:  “earn while you learn”
  • Using company equipment to learn
  • Guaranteed job after graduation

CONS

  • Training might not be where you live
  • Expenses incurred during training
  • No exposure to other types of driving
  • Might not have exposure to modern equipment
  • Committed to working for the company when you graduate

New drivers have plenty to think about after they’ve got their license. Now they need to focus on getting miles logged and learning the ropes of the road. Getting that time in the seat and getting experience on the road is a crucial next step. From there driver need to continually hone their skills as they work through their CDL trucking careers. The training is just the start, but once trained, a new driver will be well on their way to a life over the road from here.

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Thriving since 1998, PKG Express is a family-owned and operated transportation solutions provider. They know that maintaining excellent relationships with customers begins with developing a company culture that values its employees.  Harold ‘Duke’ Williams and Chris Williams started PKG Express in order to demonstrate their passion for the trucking industry as entrepreneurs. Duke had over 15 years of experience as a driver himself, and they started PKG Express with just one truck. They have since grown the company from one truck to a medium-sized fleet, servicing customers across the nation.

PKG Express and Drive My Way

Partnered for Success

PKG Express partnered with Drive My Way to hire and retain quality OTR drivers for their quickly-growing fleet. Bobbi Williams, the Safety Director and daughter of Duke and Chris Williams, oversees PKG Express’ recruiting and retention efforts with an ongoing goal of keeping drivers safe and happy at work.

“Our owner would never ask a driver to do something that he has not done himself or would be willing to do himself. He has over 40 years of experience in the trucking industry and has put in the work to get where he is now. He respects drivers and holds them to the same standard he holds himself,” Bobbi shared.

PKG Express has worked hard to create a great culture for its truck drivers and also for its employees. They demonstrate that they care, provide opportunities for growth, and work hard to maintain the family atmosphere.

One of PKG’s drivers Billy shared, “I’ve driven for PKG starting as a company driver working my way up to becoming an Owner Operator. I like the family-like atmosphere and how the owner is a loving, caring, and understanding person even though he has a business to run. He was a driver who started a company and I have a lot of respect for him because of situations he has helped me out with in the past when he did not have to.”

As the Safety Director, Bobbi also works hard to demonstrate she cares. Overseeing the safety and recruiting efforts for PKG Express is no simple task, but Bobbi loves her job because she is in a position to help others. Bobbi has rebuilt driver safety manuals, safety programs, and recruiting efforts and has been diligent about asking the drivers for their feedback throughout each process.

Another driver named Kim shared, “I like PKG Express because I don’t feel like a number. I feel like I have a voice and PKG listens to me even if they’re not able to change something I think they should. They at least take my opinion into consideration. I also love how understanding and family-oriented they are.”

PKG Express remains dedicated to its customers, drivers, and entire staff. They are looking forward to continued success and growth going into the future!

PKG is Hiring OTR Dry Van Drivers

Drivers have new equipment, consistent home time, competitive pay, and full benefits. Learn more about the position details and apply.

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trucking career

Many people consider trucking as a career, but few actually make the leap. Bret Kubin is someone who did. He left the safety of a comfortable job because he was intrigued by the idea of becoming a trucker. Bret originally worked in the insurance industry and hadn’t considered a trucking career until a friend suggested it. Now, he’s left insurance behind and is a full-time trucker. We had the pleasure of speaking with Bret about his story, and he shared advice for those who are also thinking of pursuing a trucking career.

Bret Kubin

Before his trucking career

Bret was working in the insurance industry on a 1099 job and had about six years of experience under his belt. A friend told him that he should consider a trucking career to earn more money. At first, Bret wasn’t thinking about making a move. However, his friend talked to him about it again, and Bret decided to look into trucking more.

He started by researching the industry before making any decisions. “I went into one of the trucking schools and talked to the instructors. That really changed the way I looked at things, and I became very interested,” Bret recalled.

If you’re considering driving as a career, you may want to consider this method of research before deciding. Bret decided to give it a try and went to a driving school.

“After that, I realized I can really make a living through this. I got my first driving job soon there after and didn’t look back,” shared Bret.

Getting started in the trucking industry

Pursuing any new line of work can’t be easy, but Bret shared that the people in the trucking industry made it easier.

“People are there to help you,” he shared. “They’re not there to test you or fail you. This isn’t like you’re going to Harvard or something. This is something where they want you to know the ins and outs so that when you’re stuck or need help, you can guide yourself to the right place.”

Along with help from others, Bret said that having the right attitude also helped him. Mostly, he emphasized the importance of learning and being humble.

“You have to go with the flow. Keep learning and be open to new ideas. Understand that you’re not going to know everything right up front. The other stuff comes naturally after that,” said Bret.

Bret Kubin

Bret’s advice to truck drivers

Bret was happy to share advice with other truck drivers who are new to the industry or those considering joining the industry. He shared the importance of developing the skills. Even though he hadn’t been a driver before, he knew he had a skill set that could make him valuable.

“I’m 50 years old. I knew that throughout my career I’ve developed skills I could bring to the table. I knew that I had people skills, the ability to learn, and the ability to adapt to new systems,” shared Bret.

Knowing your strengths, while also being humble about what you don’t know is the balance that Bret advises. In addition, Bret emphasized the importance of not going at it alone. While trucking is often thought of as a solo endeavor, it’s important to find friends and a support system. His advice is to help each other out.

Bret shared, “It’s good to have a buddy system. Even if you go into trucking alone, talk with other people. Talk with managers and driving instructors, and that will help.”

Developing and keeping the right attitude

While the first few months of being a truck driver can be stressful, Bret reminded us to stick with it and not let small obstacles get in the way.

“When you have a few bad days, negative thoughts are going to run through your mind, but you have to stop yourself right there. Some people don’t know how to do that. You have to be able to stay with the now,” advised Bret.

It’s important to remember that not everything will go according to plan in the beginning, and that there will be many struggles. Knowing that there will be roadblocks can help you manage them and maintain a positive attitude toward the job and career.

Finding a trucking job

find-cdl-truck-driver-jobsBret credits Drive My Way with helping him stay on top of his career preferences.

“The good thing about Drive My Way is that it’s always there, even when you aren’t looking for a job. It’s updating and is 24/7. You can apply for one company and then don’t have to worry saving the application or where you put it. Drive My Way keeps it right there to use again. Applying is easy. Going back to look at what you’ve done is easy. It’s always there for you, and it’s easy access,” shared Bret.

Bret’s story from insurance to trucking is inspiring for many people. While many fret over career and job choices, Bret had the courage to take a risk and try something new. It gives inspiration for those who are already truck drivers, those who are hoping to be, and those who have never considered a trucking career before. Bret credits his positive attitude and the help of others in the industry for getting him adjusted and comfortable with his new role as a truck driver.

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The CDL Drug test and alcohol tests are a standard part of the trucking industry. If you have a CDL job, you’ve likely had more than a few already. For as common as they are though, there are still a lot of questions about how it all works. Get in the know and don’t get caught unaware the next time your employer asks for a random sample or you are preparing to start a new job. Here are 5 of the most important facts about the CDL drug test and alcohol tests.

1. CDL 101: What is the CDL Drug Test and Alcohol Test?

CDL Drug Test

Most drug tests are urine tests that are given at a specific collection site. The most common type is called a 5 panel test, and it detects marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, and PCP. Most of these substances leave traces that could show up in a urine test long after the effects you can feel have passed (more than 30 days for some!).

CBD oils and lotions can register on these tests, even if there is little to no THC in the product. Make sure you’re in the know on what you can use.

In addition, if you take prescription medications that could register on a drug test, make sure you have written verification from your prescribing doctor that you are able to safely operate a commercial vehicle while taking that medicine. 

Alcohol Test

Alcohol tests are typically done with a breathalyzer. Drivers cannot work or remain on duty with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. That’s much lower than the allowed limit for drivers of passenger vehicles. For both men and women, that could mean that even one drink puts you in danger of exceeding the legal limit.

As someone who drives a commercial vehicle for a living, the standards for you on the road are higher than for other drivers both on and off duty. In addition to a lower allowed BAC, commercial drivers are not allowed to have alcohol within four hours of starting their shift. If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI even in your personal vehicle, you must report it to your employer and may face significant consequences for your job.

2. When you can be tested

All trucking companies are required to request a drug test from their drivers prior to employment. Drivers may then be submitted to a random drug test annually for the duration of their employment.

The FMCSA requires companies to test 50% of their number of driver positions annually, so your odds of getting tested are not small.

You also may be required to take a drug test if you’re in an accident. The federal law depends on the type of accident you’re in and particularly whether you receive a citation. The FMCSA laws on this are actually pretty clear cut. However, some companies have stricter requirements, and it’s not uncommon for a company to ask for a CDL Drug Test after every accident. (This may be an insurance requirement or simply to encourage safer driving habits.)

3. How the test works

The most common form of drug test is a urine sample. Typically, the sample is collected and then processed in a lab. It is split into 2 samples: A and B. Sample A is tested. If the sample comes up positive, and you think it is an error, you have 72 hours after learning the results to request that another lab test Sample B to confirm the results. If you take prescription medications that may have triggered a positive result, take action immediately to share the doctor’s note.

 

4. Who gets my results (is this related to the Clearinghouse?)

A positive test result will be shared with your employer, but CDL Drug tests are otherwise confidential. They are, however, on your permanent record in the Clearinghouse.

Future employers can ask to see previous drug and alcohol tests, and past employers must share that information.

While it might seem strict, this rule is in place for driver protection. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, tracking the tests can identify this and help the driver get assistance. Substance abuse may also point to a larger conversation about mental health. Truck driving is a hard, and often lonely career. Know that you are not alone, and get to know your resources

5. What happens if I refuse or fail?

Failing a drug test doesn’t automatically mean losing your job, but it is serious. The results of your test will be shared with your employer. It is up to your employer to decide the consequences. That said, the DOT does require that drivers are not allowed to operate a CMV after failing a drug test. In other words, if you are permitted to stay with your company, you won’t be driving. Whether you are at risk of losing your CDL license also depends on your company and the type of accident.

If you refuse to take a drug or alcohol test, that will also be noted on your permanent record. Just like a positive result on a drug test, refusal to complete a drug tests forces you off the road immediately.

You will then need to complete a formal Return to Duty (RTD) process before you are eligible to drive again.

Operating a CMV while on drugs or under the influence of alcohol is dangerous. While these regulations might seem overly strict, prevention is always better than fixing damage when it comes to safety. Staying away from these substances while on the job protects your life, your job, and the lives of everyone else on the road. 

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dealing with homesickness over the road

A professional truck driver might spend a significant amount of time away from home. They miss out on family events, children’s milestones, and spending time with their friends. After driving for a while, it can become a part of a driver’s normal day-to-day reality. But for a new driver, or a driver new to being gone for days or weeks at a time, homesickness over the road can be a tough thing. If that’s something you’re dealing with, here are 4 helpful tips for dealing with homesickness over the road.

1. Recognize the symptoms of homesickness when they start

Feelings of anxiety or sadness can strike without warning. Or feeling sad when you’ve packed up and headed out for another week away from your family. One of the best ways to deal with homesickness is to recognize and acknowledge it as soon as it starts. Missing your home and family is normal. For many drivers it’s a reality of the profession. So it’s important to know that everyone feels this way sometimes, and it doesn’t help to try and push the feelings aside and not deal with them.

2. Stay busy with a new hobby

Find ways to keep yourself busy when you’re not driving. Picking up a new hobby is a great way to keep your mind busy. Learning how to do something new can help boost your mental state and drive away feeling of anxiety. Photography, staring an interesting collection or even picking up an instrument are great hobbies for truckers. Keeping your mind busy when you’re away from home can be a great help to your overall mental health.

3. Take your family with you

Make your home away from home, feel like home. Bring the family along with you over the road! Keep a few favorite pictures in the cab of your truck. Skype your family into scenic stops along the way. Or have them call you from special family gatherings or school milestones you’re going to miss. Make plans to call and check in each night when possible. Sometimes virtually being there with your family can be enough to help squash some of those feelings of homesickness while you’re away. In addition, some trucking companies also let you travel with your spouse. If this is important to you, be sure to ask this question when going through the interview process.

4. Travel with a pet

Bring your dog with you! If your carrier allows you to drive with your dog, bring him along. Travelling with a pet can help your well-being in many ways. It give you someone to talk to during the day, a reason to get some exercise each day, and a way to be social in an otherwise isolated environment. Having a constant reminder of home with you as you drive can help reduce those feelings of homesickness.

Also, by bringing your dog along with you, you have a perfect opportunity to interact with other drivers.

Having your dog with you when you’re at a truck, makes for an easy conversation starter with other truckers. Everyone loves to talk about their dogs and ask about other people’s dogs. This ensures a few times each day you’ve got a built-in reason to strike up a conversation with someone, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

As mentioned above, everyone gets sad and feels lonely sometimes. With any changes to your overall mood, it’s smart to be honest and open about your feelings. If you notice your feelings of homesickness are turning into something more extensive, be sure to reach out and tell someone. A little bit of homesickness vs. about with depression, could be better addressed with an honest conversation with your doctor.

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truck driver tax deductions

Tax season is right around the corner. It may not be your favorite time of the year, but we want to help make it as painless as possible. Truck driver tax deductions are a great way to save money on taxes. There are three golden rules of filing taxes. 

          Step 1. Find your Form      

          Step 2. Save Money with Truck Driver Tax Deductions

          Step 3. File before April 15

 

The money you spend for work on the road might increase the money you get back from taxes. So, keep a careful record of any costs you have that are job related. Staying organized might bring you a big payoff in your taxes. Remember, if you have any questions or doubts, ask a professional. The Trucker’s Report made this list of trusted sources who know trucking. Many tax companies offer a first free conversation that can clear up your concerns. You can also use services like Turbotax or H&R Block to make filing easier. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Find your Form

If you are a company driver, you will likely receive a W-2 form by the end of January. A W-2 form reports a trucker’s income and annual wages. Most company drivers will then use the information from the W-2 to fill out a 1040 or 1040A for taxes. There is also a simplified version of this form called the 1040EZ, but you must meet several requirements:

  1. Make less than $100,000 annually
  2. Have a tax status of single or married filing jointly
  3. Choose not to itemize deductions

There are several trucking deductions that are likely to save you money, so consider carefully before choosing the 1040EZ.

If you are an owner operator, the easiest way to report your income is with a 1099 form. The 1099 form is used to report miscellaneous earned income. If you made the leap to become an owner operator, it’s important to stay very organized. This form allows you to carefully itemize the costs of your work and deduct them from your taxes. That’s money back in your wallet!

Step 2: Save Money with Truck Driver Tax Deductions

This is the good stuff. Claiming work-related tax deductions is important. It reduces your adjusted gross income, and that means you pay less in taxes. 

Here’s how it works: John makes $75,000 annually as a company driver (his “gross income”). He is able to claim deductions for licensing fees and other work expenses that total $6,500. Since John already paid $6,500 for these expenses and wasn’t reimbursed, he can subtract $6,500 from his total income. Now, John only pays taxes on $68,500 (his “adjusted gross income” or AGI). A lower adjusted gross income means you pay less in taxes. You report your gross income and then calculate your adjusted gross income on your tax forms, but only the adjusted gross income is taxed. 

Now, let’s find those truck driver tax deductions!

Who can claim these deductions?

Some tax breaks apply to only owner operators. Others are specific to company drivers. In general, local drivers can’t claim these deductions. To claim these deductions you must have a “tax home”—a place the IRS can contact you. Usually this is your home address. A good rule of thumb is that you can’t claim anything your company reimburses you for (you’ve already gotten that money back).

Here is a quick look at the deductions you might qualify for. Click each category for more details if you’re not sure whether you can claim that deduction on your taxes.

 

Deduction Category

Owner Operators

Company Drivers

Cell Phone Plans & Internet Fees
Medical Exams
Licensing Fees
Food on the Road
Truck Repairs/Maintenance
Association Dues
Personal Products
Fuel & Travel Costs 

(different for owner operators & company drivers)

Non-trucking Standard Deductions

Key Non-Deductible Expenses

We’re all for saving money, but there are a few common costs that are NOT deductible. Drivers are NOT allowed to deduct the following things from their annual income.

  1. Expenses reimbursed by your employer
  2. Clothing that can be adapted for everyday wear
  3. Commuting costs to the company headquarters. However many companies WILL reimburse for commuting costs to the truck yard. If you’re not sure, ask your company.
  4. Home phone line
  5. Owner Operators CANNOT deduct the time spent working on their equipment
  6. Owner Operators CANNOT deduct the income lost as a result of deadhead/unpaid mileage. But, Owner Operators CAN deduct the expenses incurred to operate the truck during that time such as fuel, tolls and scales. etc.
  7. Owner Operators CANNOT deduct for downtime

The 9 Deductions You Should Consider (the nitty gritty details) 

1. Cell Phone Plans & Internet fees

cell phone

No driver spends a significant amount of time on the road without using their phone and internet a lot. Luckily, the IRS agrees. Since most drivers use their phone for both personal and professional purposes, you are allowed to deduct 50% of your phone and internet costs. You can also deduct the entire cost of a new phone or laptop that you bought this year. Communication and technology costs add up and now you can show it in your taxes!

2. Medical Exams

Did your employer require a health exam? Deduct the out of pocket cost! Did you see a doctor for a work-related issue? Deduct the out of pocket cost! Normally medical expenses are not tax deductible, but in this case, they are actually considered business expenses. Your health is a top priority, and it’s nice to have that recognized during tax season.

3. Licensing Fees

Any costs that you pay to get and maintain a CDL license can be claimed! In addition, if your employer requests that you continue your education, all those costs are also deductible. Company jobs that offer to pay for your schooling have never looked so good!

4. Food on the Road 

Drivers who are spending long hours on the road away from home are allowed to deduct a “per diem” rate of $63 per day. The IRS understands that you’re spending a lot of time behind the wheel and food costs add up! For each day you are on the road, you are allowed to deduct $63 dollars from your annual income. If you plan to claim per diem rates, get to know the details. Local drivers are not allowed to deduct food costs because you are able to eat at home after your route is complete. 

5. Truck Repairs/Maintenance

Any expenses you paid to repair or maintain your truck that were not reimbursed can be claimed! Whether you are a company driver or an owner operator, cleaning and maintenance costs are deductible. This could include truck parts, cleaning supplies, etc., but NOT the cost labor if you repair the truck yourself. 

6. Association Dues

Most drivers are required to be part of a union or other collective trucking group. Any required fees to take part in these groups is deductible. If you are part of additional trucking groups that are not required by your employer, you may still be able to deduct the cost. You can claim this deduction if you can demonstrate that it helps your career or is a regular membership in the trucking industry.

7. Personal Products

Personal products are typically the small purchases (that really add up!) that are necessary on the road. It could include food storage (think a cooler), logbooks, a flashlight, specialized clothing, electronic equipment you need for the road (ex. A GPS), and much more. Keep careful track of all these little expenses because they add to a big total, and you can deduct them on taxes!

8. Fuel & Travel Costs

If you own your own truck, you can claim the exact number of miles you drove on the job. You can also claim vehicle related costs including maintenance (see above), insurance premiums, and loan interest. 

For most drivers, if your fuel costs are more than $100 out of pocket and your company does not reimburse you, you can deduct the expense. You can also claim any costs from toll booths, parking, and lodging that are not reimbursed by your employer. Especially with changing fuel prices, this is often a huge money savings on your taxes!

9. Non-Trucking Standard Deductions

In addition to the trucking specific deductions you get to claim as a trucker, don’t forget about the common deductions that aren’t related to your work. These could include things like child tax credits, lifetime learning credits, and child or dependent care among other things. 

Back to the deductions chart.

Step 3. File before April 15 

It’s time. You’ve added costs and finished the paperwork. You’ll know by the time you submit your forms whether you need to send a check or will be getting a refund. You can file your taxes electronically or by mail as long as they are submitted by April 15. 

And with that, kick back and relax! Your taxes are done for another year!

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