great truck driver

Whether you’ve recently begun your CDL trucking journey, or you’ve been driving for 20 years, you probably have the goal of being a great truck driver. Truckers enjoy the freedom and independence that the road brings, and along with it the opportunity to really succeed at the job and strive for improvement. Drivers know that nothing beats the pride and dignity that comes from a job well done, and the knowledge that you’re doing honest work to provide for themselves and their families. Whether you’re a rookie driver or a veteran, there’s always room for improvement. Here are five secrets to becoming a great truck driver.

1. Safety

Veteran drivers all keep coming back to this point: safety is a driver’s number one priority.

Truck driving can be a dangerous job considering freight and road safety. Drivers are responsible for maintaining the safety of their freight, themselves, and other motorists on the road. Remember that other drivers may not be familiar with the challenges and differences in driving a truck, so you may have to go out of your way to ensure their safety as well. Safety also involves having a good mechanical aptitude in case you need to troubleshoot equipment issues while on the road.

Truly great drivers take their safety department’s concerns seriously and do the due diligence to maintain safety. Pre and post trip inspections form the backbone of safety, but it can and should go much beyond that. Maintaining a safe and accident-free record will also clear the path for continued professional success with that carrier. If you’re hoping to switch to another carrier or become an owner-operator one day, a strong safety record will be essential.

2. Build relationships

Truck driving is often considered to be a solo gig- it’s just you and the open road. But drivers are actually in constant communication with others, whether it is dispatchers, fleet managers, or other drivers. You’ll also interact with shippers and receivers, and other reps from your own carrier or others.

The secret is that you need all these people in your corner to be successful.

So, a truly great truck driver seeks to build relationships with all these colleagues.

No man is an island, and no one does it alone, so seek to build a network of people you can communicate and work well with. Always strive to be courteous and respectful to everyone and try to be easy to work with. While trucking can be challenging, avoid projecting your negativity on colleagues since it may come back to bite you. In addition, great drivers need to avoid negativity from others impacting them, since the job is too important to be affected by someone’s bad attitude.

3. Prioritize health

Great drivers are the ones who don’t let the challenges of the job negatively impact their health and lifestyle. It’s no secret that truck driving is considered an unhealthy profession. Between the schedule challenges and sitting behind the wheel for hours at a time, it can take a toll on the mind and body.

Great truck drivers know that these aren’t excuses to neglect their mental and physical health.

Truck drivers can take simple measures to improve their diet and find time to exercise regularly. Some drivers cook in their cabins, or find small snacks to continually munch on, instead of relying on the greasy truck stop food. Similarly, finding about 15 minutes to exercise everyday can make a big difference in a truck driver’s lifestyle. Not having access to a gym shouldn’t be a problem since many exercises can be done in or around your truck, or in parking lots. While a trucker’s schedule is rarely regular, making sure you get proper sleep will help keep you alert and allow the body to rest and mind to feel fresh. Great truck drivers are the ones who are happier because they found a way to prioritize health despite the obstacles.

4. Professional attitude

The difference between a good truck driver and a great truck driver probably boils down just to attitude. Companies are looking to hire drivers who have certain characteristics. They want to make sure drivers can be reliable, responsible, honest, and work hard.

However good a driver’s record, credentials, or skills are, there’s no substitute for good character.

Keeping this in mind, make sure you’re always on time. Being reliable shows everyone that you take the scheduling seriously and can be depended on to make deliveries on time. Timeliness will also shine through when you’re looking to get promotions or raises or looking for a better driving job elsewhere.

A professional attitude also means not complaining too much, or at least too loudly and to the wrong people. While trucking can be frustrating, complaining to your colleagues only reflects poorly on yourself instead of anyone else. Find a different outlet for complaining about work and maintain a professional attitude to distinguish yourself from other drivers. Working hard means sometimes taking the appealing runs or working extra when no one else can. Yes, it’s a sacrifice and you can’t do it every time. But whenever you do take that extra step, it will be noticed and will probably help in the future. Truck driving has become a more professional job, whether the general public realizes it or not. Treat yourself with respect and dignity, and maintain a professional attitude through all the troubles, and others will probably do the same.

5. Don’t forget life outside of trucking

Here’s a big secret to becoming a great truck driver: don’t think of trucking all the time.

Work-life balance is important in any profession, and it’s no different for truck drivers. In fact, there’s more of a risk that trucking can become all-consuming, so it’s important to know when to hit the metaphorical brakes and rest. Great truck drivers make sure that they find enough time to spend with their families. Even while away from home, you can Skype with the kids or enjoy a virtual date night with your partner. Finding a job with good home time will allow you to take a break from trucking, refuel and energize, and then return.

Even while on the road, great truckers will find hobbies to engage in. Some truckers like photography or cooking. Others have gotten into reading or audiobooks. Some others are passionate about travel or exercise.

Whatever your passion is, don’t leave it by the wayside just because you’re a truck driver.

Engaging in hobbies and leisure will help ensure a sound body and mind for work-life balance. Not only will you reset and forget the stresses of the job, but you’ll be better prepared for them when you get back to work. Remember: trucking isn’t everything!

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trucker datingTruck drivers who travel long distances have a very tough schedule and a very stressful job. Driving all of those miles without getting any time at home for a week (or more) can take a toll on all of their personal relationships. This type of schedule is even tougher for the trucker who’s starting, or looking to start, a new relationship. So, when talking about trucker dating, how can you maintain an over the road relationship?

1. Technology Can Help

There are many things you can do to stay connected with loved ones while away… innovative ways to connect beyond just phone calls.

Open lines of communication are key to any good relationship. Plan for a video call once you’re parked for the night. Download an easy to use app for your phone, such as Skype or Facetime. These allow you have a face-to-face conversation, even if you’re thousands of miles from home. You can share your location’s current view and can see your partner’s face and surroundings. You could even virtually have dinner together this way. Not quite as good as being there, but so much more personal than just a phone call or a text.

2. Make Your Time Together Special

During the week, spend some time planning out your time together. It’s always a great mood booster to have something to look forward to! Maybe it’s a romantic restaurant that you both love, a nice hike in a local park to relax and unwind, or maybe a fun night at a local music event. No matter what the plans are, put some thought into making it special, and it will make the time pass more quickly until you’re together.

3. Trust is a Must

Keeping your eyes on the road could have a few different meanings when dating. Certainly, the obvious one of not being distracted while driving. It also can mean that during downtime at rest stops or when parked for the night, don’t let wandering eyes lead to trouble in your dating relationship. Building trust early is so important, especially when trucker dating. Don’t give your partner any reason to question your dedication, and vice versa. Be honest and trustworthy, and your significant other will do the same.

As a truck driver, the prospect of dating can be daunting. Travel schedule, time away from home, long hours during the day and sleeping at truck stops can make things tough for any relationship. But making the most of the technology options available, keeping focused on your job and your health in your downtime, and always having something special to look forward to with your partner can make things easier. And knowing there’s a trucker dating community out there who have successful relationships at home while out on the road. Keeping your relationship healthy can lead to a healthier life overall for any trucker.

Long Distance Date Ideas

Looking for more ideas to keep your relationship strong while you’re over the road? We’ve got you covered.

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If you’re thinking about starting a new career in trucking, then you’ve probably been learning about how to enroll in CDL classes. The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is what the Department of Transportation requires all drivers to obtain before being able to drive trucks professionally. Programs which offer CDL classes include community colleges and technical schools. CDL training usually lasts several weeks and includes behind-the-wheel training and classroom preparation. Eventually, truck drivers will take a series of written exams and skills tests to be officially granted a CDL permit. The permit is the first step to finding your first driving job with a trucking carrier. Here’s everything you need to know before taking CDL classes.

What is the CDL?

Students who want to become professional truck drivers must earn a Class A CDL. There are many other classes of the CDL which we detail further below. The type of CDL you obtain will determine what kinds of trucks you’re permitted to drive. The first step is to make sure you qualify. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets the minimum standards that states must follow regarding the CDL, but it is the responsibility of the state to administer the license itself. Thus, some of the requirements vary some state to state. Each state is in charge of the application process, license fee, renewal procedures, and renewal cycle.

Requirements

There are some universal requirements in order to qualify for the CDL. Applicants must be 18 years old and must have a valid driver’s license from the state where they are training. They must also submit driving records from the past 3-5 years. Different states may have slightly different physical requirements to evaluate medical fitness before applicants can qualify for the CDL.

Most CDL programs or trucking carriers want a clean three-year motor vehicle record

This means no speeding tickets, DUIs, accidents, or suspensions in that time. Some companies will be more lenient than others and may encourage you to reapply in the future. Applicants must also pass a drug screening, physical examination, and background check.

Training

CDL classes will provide a mix of classroom studies and hands-on driving training. Students are expected to gain familiarity with the machinery and concepts on the road. Driving topics and techniques that are covered include close quarters driving, city driving, highway driving, road signs and rules, turning and backing-up the truck, and others. Classes will also cover a range of other helpful topics such as trucking industry information, safety and first aid, materials and cargo, state and federal laws, trip planning and routing, managing logbooks, and more. Coupling and uncoupling a trailer is another unique skill you might learn in most programs. Finally, understanding pre- and post-trip inspections is another essential skill you’ll learn.

CDL Classes

There isn’t just one CDL. There are three CDL classes which are required to operate different types of motor vehicles. This will determine what kinds of trucking jobs you can take. The three CDL classes are:

  • Class A: required for any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided that the GVWR of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Vehicles requiring a Class A license are primarily tractor-trailers for long-distances.
  • Class B: required for any single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,000 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVWR that does not exceed 10,000 pounds. Vehicles requiring a Class B CDL license may include buses, dump trucks, tow trucks, delivery trucks and garbage trucks.
  • Class C: Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that does not meet the criteria of either Class A or Class B, but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, or is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act

In addition to the license, a CDL holder can complete and pass additional testing to receive certain endorsements. These prepare you for specialized trucking jobs. You can gain them along with your CDL or add them later along the way. The endorsements include:

  • T: Double/Triple Trailers- requires knowledge test only
  • P: Passenger- requires knowledge and skills tests
  • N: Tank vehicle- requires knowledge test only
  • H: Hazardous materials- requires knowledge test only
  • X: Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements- requires knowledge test only
  • S: School Bus- requires knowledge and skills tests

Finding a good CDL program

In order to complete CDL classes, you need to find a solid program. You’ll need to consider the quality of training and the cost and practicality of the program before you apply. Most CDL classes are offered by dedicated truck driving schools or community colleges. Some carriers may offer to help you obtain your CDL in return for committing to working there for a period afterwards.

Make sure to consider all your options before deciding on which type of program is best for you

Location and cost are definitely factors- ideally you want to find classes close to you, but if there is a better program further away, it may be a better choice. The cost of a good program is considerable- you can expect to pay between $4,000 to $10,000 for CDL training. There are plenty of grants and other financial aid options available since there is a shortage of drivers, so be sure to do your research before dropping a pretty penny.

The quality of training is the most important thing to consider. Remember that a good program length is several weeks, or about 160-200 hours of training.

If you find programs offering a CDL within a week or two, it’s probably too good to be true

You also want to make sure you get enough behind-the-wheel time in your CDL classes, although observational time is beneficial also. The student to instructor ratio and the quality of the instructors are strong indicators of the quality of the program. Good instructors are usually former/current drivers or industry specialists. Many programs will have some sort of job placement or networking service which can help you land that first truck driving job. You can read more about how to choose a CDL driving school on our previous post about the topic.

Taking the tests

Once you’ve completed your training in CDL classes, it’s time to proceed to the exams. You’ll get the Class A CDL by passing a series of written exams, which differ by state. In most states, these include tests on General Knowledge, Air Brakes, and Combination vehicles. In addition, you must pass a CDL driving test. Usually this is a three-part exam which includes a pre-trip inspection test, basic control skills test, and driving test. This skills test must take place at either a state CDL test site or an approved third-party test site in the testing state. Once the skills test has been passed, a driver can be issued an actual CDL license from that state.

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The truck driver shortage is showing no signs of stopping any time soon. In order to fill the open jobs, the pool of drivers needs to find ways to grow. This is attracting many new job seekers to enter this hot job market. Women are entering training programs and getting their CDL endorsements. So, for women truck drivers seeking their first trucking job, what can they expect?

Training is Important

Women trucker drivers go through the same training and licensing requirements as men do. The difference might be that women might look for programs that have women included in their advertising, websites, and in their list of instructors or staff. Or even a program that has a course specifically geared towards women. This might differentiate a school that will offer a program that will be a better fit for a woman entering the industry vs. one that doesn’t feel welcoming or respectful of women in a trucking job.

Male-Dominated

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up about 6.6% of all truck drivers. And that number has been fairly steady (4.5% – 6%) over the past 15 years. Something women truckers can expect to find is that it is a still a HIGHLY male-dominated profession. Women truck drivers might frequently find that she’s the only female trucker at a truck stop. And she could be the only one in the lot waiting on loads where all the other drivers are men. Women trucker drivers also find that truck stop showers and parking lots might be places to use extra caution at night.

Physical Job

Life on the road is a physical job, and it’s important to stay healthy. Part of that is being prepared for the physical demands of the job as well as the mental aspects as well. Many of the today’s trucks have features and improvements that make them easier to drive and maintain.

But there are other aspects of the jobs that demand women truck drivers stay in good shape. Cleaning out trailers, moving loads around, covering and tacking down cargo, are all things a driver might have to do daily. And this job can be very stressful, so maintaining your mental health is important too. You can find a great ebook resource for staying healthy on the road here.

Whether it’s the lure of the freedom of driving a big rig along miles of open road after years at a desk job, or a change of pace once the kids have moved out, being a CDL truck driver can be a great career for a woman. If you’re looking for a perfect fit truck driving job for you, start here and complete a profile. You can list all your driving preferences and we can help match you with an opportunity tailored specifically to you.

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truck driver exercise

A career in trucking gives drivers freedom and flexibility and can be deeply rewarding. At the same time, it has been called “the most unhealthy occupation in America”. And that’s coming from Siphiwe Baleka, trucking fitness guru at Prime. Any job which requires sitting down all day for hours and unpredictable schedule and breaks, can start to take its toll on the body.

Lack of exercise can contribute to health issues like obesity, chronic heart disease, and diabetes. According to a 2014 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nearly 69% of long-haul truckers are obese.

Frequent and regular exercise can help both body and mind, and significantly reduce health risks such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Although a trucking career doesn’t make it easy to find time and resources to exercise, the good news is that with a few lifestyle changes you can implement daily exercise into your schedule. The secret to truck driver exercise is that you don’t need a full-gym or endless hours to remain active. Here’s everything you need to know about truck driver exercise.

How should truckers exercise?

Finding the time for 2-hour workouts isn’t feasible for most over the road truckers. So, keep it simple instead. Studies show that even 15 minutes of exercise every day can dramatically improve health and reduce risks of disease.

Regularity is more important than intensity, so make sure you exercise for at least 15 minutes a day, no matter what. Most fitness plans and tips are designed for people who have steady access to a gym.

Truck-stop gyms are a great idea, but you don’t get the chance to stop there every day. Use a truck-stop gym whenever you can find one, but don’t let the absence of one be an excuse to remain sedentary. Your daily, regular exercise plan can be entirely in-cab and gym-free, with a truck stop gym as an occasional luxury when you have access to it.

So, what kind of exercises are best for truck drivers? Basically, your entire exercise plan can be a combination of outdoor cardio, body weight exercises, and simple equipment you can carry in your truck.

Cardio

An overlooked component of any exercise plan is cardio. Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, cardio is essential to raise the heart rate. You don’t need a gym for running or jogging- there are plenty of running trails you can find during mandated rest time. Even if you can’t find any trails, there’s nothing stopping you from going for a quick jog around the truck stop, or around your own truck. Did you know that about 32 laps around your truck is 1 mile long? Bicycling is another great option if you can spare the cash. Either full sized bikes or folding bikes can be brought along on your truck. Take these out for a spin whenever you find good bike trails. While biking or running, remember that pushing the heart rate up is the goal.

If you’re not big on running or biking, walking is a great alternative. But walking isn’t really exercise, right? Think again. Recent studies have shown that walking has almost all the same health benefits as running and can help improve mood and mental health as well. Other benefits of walking daily include improved circulation and immunity and strengthened bones and joints. Walking won’t raise the heart rate as quickly, or help you shed as many pounds, but it’s a slow and steady way to improve mind and body for years.

Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just maintain the shape you’re in, cardio is a crucial part of any exercise plan.

Just remember to keep moving at a regular pace to raise your heart rate and re-hydrate afterwards.

Body weight exercises

You don’t need a gym to stay in the shape, you just need the resistance of your own body weight. Nothing beats the tried-and-tested method of push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges. There are many different programs and apps for body weight training, and most of them involve some pushing, pulling, or squatting. This can be adapted to whatever equipment is available: your truck and the area around it.

Start with the basics, and then add variations, length, or repetitions to build strength over time. Here’s where to start:

  • Push-ups: you can start with the classic but add variations by doing them on an incline or decline surface; make them more challenging by placing your hands closed
  • Pull-ups: great for muscles in your back; install a portable bar near your truck to aid in pull-ups
  • Sit-ups/crunches: these are essential for the abs and core; you can add holding a ball or small weight for added challenge during sit-ups, or bring your elbow to opposite knee for oblique crunches
  • Planks: will strengthen your back and core; great for stretching after crunches
  • Lunges: will work your legs, especially along with cardio; don’t forget the back leg during the lunge
  • Squats: make sure your knee doesn’t bend in front of your toes, or you could damage the knees
  • Tricep dips: an effective arm work-out; you can do them on the ground or by using your bunk as support to lower your body by bending at the elbow; try a variety of angles

Simple equipment

While you can’t take a full-sized gym with you on the road, carrying these few small items that can make your exercise plan more effective. Ask other truckers and fitness experts for recommendations and shop around for the best deals. Make sure you become comfortable with this equipment at a local gym before investing money in them. There are hundreds of online work-out programs available on each of these for inspiration:

  • Dumbbells: these are cheap, effective, and easy to store. Dumbbells are essential for simple weight training, so make them part of your daily routine. Build strength over time with higher reps and sets, or heavier weights
  • Kettlebell: it’s a cast-iron ball with a handle which comes in various weights. There are dozens of kettleball exercises you can check out online, with tons of variations to add over time
  • Jump rope: people underestimate the work-out which a jump rope can provide. You can start slow and simple, but within a few weeks you’ll have built speed and rhythm. Along with getting cardio, it promotes good posture, balance, and flexibility
  • Resistance bands: rubber or elastic bands which you can hook to your truck or hold with your feet. Stretch them repeatedly to work your muscles. These are popular for whole body workouts

Is that it?!

That’s it! Well, not exactly. An important point to remember is that none of this will help you stay fit, or deliver health benefits, if you forget the other components of staying healthy. Exercise only works in conjunction with a proper diet and plenty of sleep. Stretching before and after exercise is important for everyone, but especially for truckers who spend hours behind the wheel. Along with legs, stretching hands and neck will help relax your muscles after long periods of driving.

And that’s it! The sky is the limit with exercise, so there are infinite possibilities of variation and intensity just with these few simple exercises.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t need several hours at a full-size gym to get a good work-out.

Short 15-minute high-intensity workouts of cardio, body weight exercises, and simple equipment is the best for truck driver exercise plan given their schedule and working lifestyle.

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cdl driving school

If you’ve decided to become a professional truck driver, finding the right CDL driving school is crucial. Enrolling in a training program is a big investment, and you want to make sure you select the right school for you. Pick a school that will set you up for acing the CDL exam the first time. Here are four factors to consider when choosing a CDL driving school.

1. How is it licensed?

The most important thing to consider is how the training program is licensed by the state’s Department of Education or Department of Motor Vehicles. Only pick a school which is licensed by state regulators so that your credentials will be accepted by all trucking companies. A licensed CDL is the requirement all truck companies look for when hiring new drivers. In addition to being licensed, some driving schools may be certified by third-party organizations. Consider it a bonus if your driving school is aligned with one of these associations. They help ensure that the school meets their additional training standards, which may be higher than those by the state. Three of the major professional driver organizations are the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA), National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools (NAPFTDS), and the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). Ideally, your driving school is certified by at least one of these.

Do some research into what types of licenses the driving school offers. Your license classification will depend on what kind of driving you want to do and the type of truck you want to drive.

Class A certification is the most common and popular, as it is for any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. With a Class A CDL you may be able to drive tractor trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tractor-trailer buses, tanker vehicles, flatbeds, and more. Class B is for a single vehicle with GCWR of 26.001 pounds or more, including straight trucks, most buses, box trucks, and dump trucks. Class C certification is less common and usually for small hazmat vehicles, passenger vans, and small trucks towing a trailer. In addition to the CDL, you might need special endorsements to operate special types of vehicles such as hazmat or tanker endorsement. Think about what kinds of trucks and jobs you want and match them with a CDL driving school which offers those endorsements.

2. How good is the training?

There’s no point investing time and money into a CDL driving school if the training isn’t exceptional. Fortunately, there are some indicators of good programs which you can investigate before enrolling.

One of the most important numbers is the student-to-instructor ratio. A ratio of 3 or 4 students to one instructor is ideal.

You want to be able to benefit from having a few other students in the program to learn along with. Don’t settle for anything beyond a 1-5 ratio. Do some research who the instructors are. Ideally, they are former drivers or current drivers who are teaching as a side gig. Great instructors are skilled drivers but also experts on industry trends, federal regulations, and can give you perspective of the job and lifestyle. There’s no substitute to being taught by someone who has years of hands-on experience in the industry.

Another important metric is the time behind-the-wheel (BTW) where you’re controlling a real truck and not a simulator. There’s no point enrolling in a program if you don’t get significant amount of actual drive time. The more drive time, the better. A solid program will offer at least 27 hours of BTW time for each student. Observation time is important as well- your learning can benefit from watching others drive also.

Don’t forget to consider the program length. Strong programs will be around 160-200 hours in length- that’s about 4 to 5 weeks.

You’ll see ads for schools offering a CDL in a week or two: avoid them! Learning to drive an 80,000 lb tractor-trailer takes time and can’t be rushed within two weeks. Finally, research to make sure the driving school has a high graduation rate. You can research all these things by checking online reviews, the school’s website, and talking to previous graduates and current drivers about the reputation of the driving school.

3. How practical is it?

Finding a great school won’t be any help if it is impractical to enroll. You’ll need to consider cost, location, and your schedule before investing the time and money into the program. You can expect to pay between $4,000 and $10,000 for CDL training. That’s a pretty penny, so you’ll want to make sure you’re in a strong financial position to be able to invest in the driving school. Signing with the lowest tuition can be really tempting, but make sure that the school fits all your criteria before doing that.

There are dozens of truck carriers willing to pay drivers to get their CDL and come work for them. Carriers may cover a portion of your tuition or offer tuition reimbursement after you graduate.

Look into different companies to find the details and don’t be afraid to ask around about financial aid options. There are also various federal and state funding programs, including for veterans, which can help cover the costs.

Try to be flexible about the location of the driving school. If there’s a better school 30 minutes further away, then consider driving the extra distance if you think it is worth it. Even if your preferred school is in the next state, consider if you want to live there temporarily for a few weeks while in the program. You’ll be driving and living all over the country, so this can be good practice to get in the habit. Make sure to confirm that your CDL will be transferable to your state of residency. On the other hand, you may have job or family commitments during the week and can’t take off a few weeks for driving school. In that case, look for a school that offers the training program during nights or weekends. There are many students with other commitments and schedule constraints, so schools will understand that students need flexibility in order to enroll.

4. How will it help me get the first job?

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is job placement.

Your purpose in getting CDL training is a to land a great first job to set you up for a career in trucking. Ask about the driving school’s job placement services.

Many schools will have relationships with different trucking carriers which can help you find the right job for you. Opportunities to connect with visiting recruiters from the carriers upon graduation will be a major advantage in securing the first job. You can even get ahead of the game by narrowing down which companies you’d like to work for and speaking to recruiters to ask about the driving schools you are considering. If they’ve never heard of that school, it’s a good sign you shouldn’t enroll there.

Company-sponsored training programs are an alternative to finding an independent CDL driving school. If you go the company route, you get free training and a job with the company when you graduate. However, you’ll have long training days away from home and have to agree to work for the company sponsoring your training, even if its not the best fit. Consider all your options before you decide on a company-sponsored program versus an independent driving school.

Investing your time and money to start a new career path is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Ensuring that you receive proper training and at a licensed CDL driving school is an unavoidable part of that decision. You’ll want to find the best deal for you that provides good training, is practical, and helps you land your first job, without breaking the bank. Remember these four factors when choosing a CDL driving school.

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A truck driver’s work and life can be full of inefficiencies. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re losing time and energy because you ended up doing things in the wrong order. Sometimes other people’s schedules don’t match yours. Inefficiency can be annoying, but it can also waste resources like time, money, and fuel. Improving truck driver efficiency means saving more time, money, and energy by doing things in more optimal ways. You’ll feel more productive and get the sense that you’ve hacked some mysterious way of the universe. Here are three simple ways to become a more efficient truck driver.

1. Attempt early pick-up and drop-off

Every time you get a new dispatcher, find out when the load picks up and delivers. This is important because sometimes they’ll ask you to drive a very short distance to pick up a load, but the pick-up time is five hours away. Let’s say you’re only 70 miles away from the pick-up and expect to be there by 1:00 PM. But dispatch says that pick-up time is 5:00 PM, which means you’ll have arrive four hours early and will have extra time to kill. Or you may find yourself arriving at the delivery location several hours early as well.

Yes, you can take a break during this time, but if you’re interested in efficiency you won’t like that option. Instead, always find out if you can load or deliver early.

Your documentation will usually have some notes on this sort of this, but it isn’t always 100% accurate. If you have the shipper/receiver’s contact info, call and ask whether it is an option to load or deliver early. You’d be surprised how often the shipper wants to send out the freight quicker and how often the customer wants to receive is sooner. If you don’t have their contact info, you can contact your dispatcher and ask them to make the same inquiry. Yes, your dispatcher may get annoyed if you do this repeatedly.  But remember that it’s part of their job to manage efficient fleets. A few instances of successfully changing to an early pickup/delivery time will remind your dispatcher that this is possible.

2. Keep everyone updated on available working hours

By now you’re aware that your ETA and PTA times are important to remember and communicate with others. But wait, what are these again?

ETA means estimated time of arrival and PTA stands for projected time of availability.

To make things more confusing, some people might use ETA for estimated time of availability. This is completely different and is more like PTA. What’s the difference? Your estimated time of arrival (ETA) at the receiver location may be 2:00 PM, however you won’t be available right after. It’ll take the customer an hour or two to unload, so your projected time of availability (PTA) is closer to 4:00 PM. But if either the customer or your dispatcher is using ETA to mean the other thing, then they’ll be confused and believe you are free at 2:00 PM instead of 4:00 PM. If you arrive at the customer location the previous night and don’t unload until the morning, there may be a twelve-hour difference between your ETA and PTA! Make sure your shipper, receiver, and dispatcher are all kept up to date on your ETA and PTA. More importantly, coordinate to see if they are all using those terms in the same way. Otherwise your schedule and route will become very confusing!

3. Plan your route and truck stops

You’ll find trucking to be easier once you have a tentative idea of where and when to stop instead of playing it by ear.

When you do close for the day, consider stopping at smaller or independent truck stops instead of the big chains (Pilot, Love’s etc). Parking fills up quicker at the nationwide chains and it can be difficult to find a spot.

The reason for this is that most trucking companies are getting fuel discounts from the big chains, so they become required fuel stops for drivers. While there is no requirement to park there for the night, most truckers will do so because they’re already there! Parking spaces at smaller truck stops won’t fill up as quickly—you could easily refuel at a chain and then go elsewhere to park for the night. That being said, if you’re looking for laundry, showers, or other amenities, then the chains are your best solutions. It all depends on your needs for the day. Some of the bigger stops have laundromats. If you run into these wash your dirty clothes even if you have plenty of clean clothes. These premium stops are few and far between, so it’s most efficient to utilize them whenever you find them.

How are you going to know your options for stopping, fueling, or parking? Sure the dispatcher has some information, and you have a handy GPS app, but are those enough? Every trucker knows that both dispatch and GPS will fail them sooner or later. Build redundancies by picking up some essential books. The National Truck Stop Directory is an essential guide to the truck stops you’ll hear about, and more importantly, all the ones you won’t hear about. Another gem is The Next Exit, which documents every exit on Interstates in the country. Finally, the Rand McNally Road Atlas is a fantastic guide to turn to when your GPS provides sketchy directions. Planning your route and schedule through these resources will help you locate where you should stop at the end of your day.

Takeaways

The trucking job and lifestyle usually has many competing demands to juggle. Trying to tackle them all without a method can lead to losing time, money, and other resources. Try out some of these methods to maximize your schedule and route efficiency. You may find that using route planning resources, communicating about available working hours, and trying for early pick-ups and drop-offs will make you a much more efficient truck driver.

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new truck driverIf 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.

Safety first

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.

Professionalism

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

7 Things to Consider Before Becoming a CDL Truck Driver 

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Truckers must always be aware of their surroundings and changing road and weather conditions. However, summer trucking days can take those changing conditions to the extreme. More people on the road, extremes in the weather, and large construction projects can add time to your routes and impact deliveries. Here are 4 summer trucking tips to make your travel easier.

1. Extra Traffic

Once the kids are out of school, many families pack up the cars, campers, trailers, and RVs to head out on annual family vacations. Driving cross-country with overly-packed vehicles, and hauling extra gear in tow adds to the congestion on the road.

Being prepared to deal with these extra drivers, and to potentially reroute yourself away from tourist hotspots is a good way to keep your summer trucking travel on track. Keep alert for under-experienced drivers that are hauling over-sized boat trailers or campers. They might be out for the first time this season, so give them a little extra room.

2. Extreme Weather

Summer is a season of extreme weather conditions. Extreme heat, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes are just some of the types of weather that can impede your travel plans while summer trucking. Being prepared for these and the potential delays that might result, is an important part of summer trucking.

Make sure you’ve got a good weather app, and that notifications are setup when weather conditions are changing. If you do have to pull off for a while somewhere unexpectedly, be prepared. Have extra water and supplies in your truck just in case.

3. Construction

In some areas, summertime is also known as “major road construction” time. This is a great time to remember that double-checking routes for construction delays and planning alternates can save you both time and money. Prepare for road closures and traffic jams due to construction.

Be ready and aware of workers on the road. Keep an eye out for posted “Construction Zone” signs, and  watch your speed to avoid any unexpected fines. Do this and it will help keep you moving along and your deliveries on track.

4. Sun Protection

Though it’s a good practice to wear sunscreen daily, it’s a good reminder for summer trucking as well. The sun’s UV rays are coming through your windows all day, every day, even when it’s cloudy. Those UV rays are most potent during the summer months. Make it a habit to put on a good layer of SPF before you get in the driver’s seat for the day. Wear long sleeves, sunglasses, and a hat. Your skin will thank you later!

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how to become an owner operator

Becoming an owner operator is considered a bit of a holy grail in the trucking industry. Everyone has considered it, and some eventually become successful owner operators. Essentially it’s like running your own business, and comes with more independence and flexibility. Be careful though, as being an owner operator involves a great deal more responsibility and management tasks. Generally you’ll want to consider being an owner operator only after years of experience on the road as a company driver. Once you’re there though, here’s what you need to do to become an owner operator.

Evaluate and Decide

So you’ve spent nearly a decade as a company driver on all sorts of hauls and trucks across the country, and you feel you’re ready to become your own boss. Now is the time, right? Not so fast!

There are many things you need to take into consideration before being sure that you’re ready to be an owner operator. The first set of factors is professional and financial. Are you financially ready to run your own business? Do you have enough in savings if things don’t pan out for 6-8 months? Where and how will you find a place for closing deals with transportation companies?

If you’re successful, you could be making over $100,000, but many more owner operators will be struggling before they start making a profit.

Perhaps more important than the financial considerations are the personal factors. Are you and your family ready to make such a large commitment? How will this decision impact your family and home life? How will your health be impacted by being on the road for so long? Will your family be able to help you with the business-side? Take all these questions into account before making a decision.

Authorization

The first step is to acquire the proper authorization. You’ll need to acquire the US DOT (Department of Transportation) and MC (motor carrier) numbers. There is a one-time $300 filing fee to request an MC number with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can learn more and acquire the MC number here.

As an independent truck operator, you’ll also need to be covered by the mandatory health and truck insurances.

Aside from being enforced by the federal law, truck insurance will protect you as an owner operator in the event of unpredictable situations.

There are different types of coverage depending on the goods you plan to haul. Learn more about insurance coverage and requirements here.

In general, the trucking industry is heavily regulated. As a company driver you probably didn’t have to worry about this too much besides making sure you follow the regulations the company made you aware of. As an owner operator, you’ll need to be aware of all the regulations ahead of time, and make sure you are in compliance. For example, you’ll need to find out everything you can about the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and find the right ELD solution for you.

Get a Truck

The next step is to find your own truck. This can be the most exciting and the most frustrating parts of becoming an owner operator. You’ll need to decide what type of operation you want to run to determine what type of equipment to obtain. Having experience with certain kinds of trucks and hauls will give you the edge in making this decision.

You could choose to aim for very general and generic hauls or pick a niche that suits you best. Or you could aim to strike a balance between the two.

For getting the truck itself, you generally have two options. Either buy your truck and trailer entirely or acquire them through financing with the bank. As you can see, this depends heavily on the state of your finances. Most people choose to go through the bank to acquire a truck.

Since this is one of the most cost-intensive steps, remember these two tips: find the best truck deal for yourself and find the bank with the lowest interest rates.

Keep in mind that the bigger your down payment on the truck, the lower your monthly payments will be. Banks will consider a number of factors for the loan including your credit score and history, whether you’ve had a permanent address, and if you’ve had a stable job. This is where your years of experience and preparation will count.

Become Business-Savvy

Being your own boss in the trucking industry isn’t easy. All of a sudden you’ll have to master all sorts of concepts you didn’t think of too much while a company driver. Regulations, compliance, cost per mile, gross revenue, maintenance costs, tax filing, and accounting are only a few of the various aspects of a job. Hopefully you’ve been exposed to all of these for years as a company driver and feel ready to master them.

Most importantly, you need to start being more cost conscious. Your profit is going to depend on two factors: how much revenue you bring in and how much you can cut costs. In fact, you should familiarize yourself with the “golden equation”, which simplifies your finances.

The golden equation is:

  • Revenue per mile – Cost per mile = Gross revenue
  • Gross revenue – Taxes = Net Profit

Once you’ve processed this, you’ll find new ways to cut costs like finding the quickest and shortest routes, avoiding maintenance issues, and reducing vehicle idling. You’ll also need to develop a system for finding loads. Using load boards is a popular method to find freight. These are online sites where owner operators can find loads posted by shippers and brokers. Many of these will have mobile apps for your convenience. Take to your owner operator buddies as contacts to get recommendations of who to work with and who to avoid.

Becoming an owner operator is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a truck driver. Ideally you’ve prepared for it for years, and you feel comfortable and ready for the impact it will have on your life. While you stand to profit more, and enjoy more independence, it comes with many challenges. While this covers the basics of how to become an owner operator, you should also research and talk to many other drivers before making the decision to become an owner operator.

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