Working as an OTR truck driver is radically different from other trucking jobs. These hauls are the longest, taking you coast-to-coast and likely away from home for lengthy periods of time. You would basically be living out of your truck, but if your company has invested in fleet amenities, it’s not a bad deal. You’ll spend many hours driving and few hours resting. But what about everything else?
Here’s a look at the typical day in the life as an over the road truck driver to get a better sense of how they go about their daily routine.
Most OTR truck drivers wake up early. Depending on your delivery schedule, you may have to adjust your sleep habits so that you sleep earlier at night at wake up before dawn. If you’re not an early bird, you’re either going to struggle a bit with the schedule, or you can try your luck asking for jobs where you don’t have to start early. Sometimes OTR drivers time their departures based on expected traffic patterns at certain hours. Most OTR semi-trucks have a twin-size bed that will pull down from the wall. In extreme weather, many truckers will choose to stay at truck stops, rest areas, or motels, to avoid losing sleep.
You’ll likely spend over 10 hours of the day driving, so you don’t want to skimp on rest. If you’re sleeping in the semi-truck and in a parking area, try to find a parking space away from other trucks and loud noises.
Using foam earplugs is also a smart choice so you can block out sounds which will be disturbing.
Make sure you set three different wake-up alarms- you don’t want to be late and miss your delivery window! Remember you’ll need some pre-drive time to run a safety inspection on your truck before leaving. Another tip veteran OTR drivers give newbies is that they should avoid caffeine during the second half of the shift, to ensure a restful night of sleep.
Maintaining good hygiene while driving over the road can be tricky. Most OTR truck drivers end up taking showers at truck stops. You can purchase a shower use while at a truck stop- they’ll give you a receipt with your number and security code. Bring your shower caddy with soap and shampoo and whatever else you need.
It’s just important is to bring and wear shower shoes- you don’t want to be stuck with toe fungus.
Sometimes OTR truckers will get a free shower with a fuel purchase, so these can add up. If you’re short on shower credits, its not uncommon to politely ask other drivers if they can spare a shower credit. Then you can pay it forward in the future.
If you’re showering at the truck stop, your best times to take a shower are early morning or late night. If you wait till the showers are the least busy, you not only save time with a shorter wait, but are likely to encounter a much cleaner and sanitized shower. If you’re not a fan of truck stop showers, you can consider purchasing a portable shower kit. This is a common practice with campers, since it allows you to take a shower wherever you are. This is a good solution for those driving in rural locations or if you’re facing a tight deadline.
We’ve written before about meals and cooking on our blog. That’s because meals are an essential part of lifestyle which OTR truck drivers cannot afford to neglect! Unfortunately, too many truck drivers find few options for meals while driving, and then stop by at diners or fast food joints to grab a quick bite. Veteran drivers will tell you that this is fine every now and again, but you shouldn’t rely on restaurants as the only option.
If you’re always eating out, eventually it will add up in terms of dollars, not to mention calories.
Your waistline will thank you if you invest in healthier (and cheaper) eating habits. Unfamiliar restaurants are unreliable too, and you may end up spending $20 on a really mediocre burger.
Many OTR drivers have embraced cooking! If your truck has a few amenities, then you can make some simple but hearty meals while on the road. If nothing else, invest in a crockpot. This handy device can help make hundreds of different means in a very quick and convenient fashion. You can share recipes with your family and other drivers as well. Smart snacking has also helped truck drivers who are looking to stay in shape. If you’re interested in finding good eateries, use apps like Yelp to search for quality restaurants which won’t break the bank.
Parking can be notoriously difficult for OTR truck drivers. Ideally, you’d be stopping at a truck stop and parking there. However, there are limited spaces and the later you arrive the fewer chances of finding a parking spot. Truck drivers also try parking at the location of the shipper or receiver. If there is a dock door, you can sometimes park right next to that. It will help to call ahead of time and get their permission to park there. While it is not ideal, sometimes truckers park near hardware stores or grocery stores. If doing so, make sure to check with the business owners. Often they won’t mind and will let you park there, or can direct you to the nearest truck parking
If you’re trying to park at a truck stop, plan ahead of time. Consult a truck stop directory and try to arrive early. Wherever you park, make sure it is a less congested area with no traffic.
When in doubt, ask business owners, local authorities, or the shipper/receiver about nearest truck parking
Don’t forget that safety is a big issue when it comes to parking, so check everything with dispatch. Check out some cool apps that help you find truck parking spots across the country.
Have no doubt about it, OTR truck drivers maintain a tough schedule. You’ll be on the road for more than a week before going home and getting a break. This takes a toll on home time, especially on family and relationships. The trade-off is that you may have more days at home with family before the next job takes you out again.
Keeping in touch with family while over the road can be tough, but not impossible.
There are many things you can do to stay connected with loved ones while away. Come up with some innovative ways to connect beyond just phone calls.
Many couples share recipes and plan to have the same meal together at the same time. Chatting on Skype or FaceTime allows you to have a virtual date despite the miles between you. Share a Spotify playlist or other music platform and you’ll know your partner will be listening to some of the same tunes during the day. Many truckers take photos of interesting sights they see across the country to share with their partners. You don’t need the latest technology to connect. Play a game of 20 questions or other ways to pass time with your partner. You’ll be surprised about how many new things you can learn about each other regardless of how long you’ve been together!
Over the road trucking isn’t for everyone since it takes you away from home for a long time. Still, many truckers enjoy the experience because they get the chance to travel, see the country, and meet interesting people. Keep these daily habits and helpful tips in mind whether you’re a veteran OTR truck driver or a novice deciding whether OTR is for you.