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Tips for Women Truck DriversBeing a woman driver in the male-dominated trucking industry comes with a unique set of challenges. Driving provides women truckers with many of the same advantages as it does to men—independence, flexibility, and the opportunity to travel across the country.

But the obstacles don’t affect men and women truckers equally. Women truck drivers have to think about the job, safety, and hygiene differently. While the industry is starting to change to become more friendly toward women, there’s still much work to be done. Until then, here are 7 tips for women truck drivers.

work life balance women truck drivers1. Work-life balance

While work-life balance should be important for all truckers, it’s sometimes not as important to men. Carriers may become used to offering insufficient home time and opportunities for balance simply because men aren’t as vocal about these concerns as women. Women truck drivers may find themselves on the short end of the stick simply because their male counterparts aren’t asking for more!

We spoke to Heather, a truck driver with 2 years of experience. She said, “I did OTR just long enough to get a little experience to find a local job. I have 3 boys so I wanted to be local as soon as possible. Was a VERY LONG 7 months, and I learned everything in the winter months in the snow and ice.”

Communication with your fleet manager or leader is essential to ensuring that you get the work-life balance you deserve. In fact, women drivers shouldn’t be waiting that long to start discussions around home time. Communicating with recruiters that this is a priority for you will set you on the right path to achieving the kind of balanced lifestyle you’re looking for.

2. Safety in your truck

The trucking industry can be tough on women for reasons of safety simply because they are on the road. There’s no predicting what kinds of characters you can run into across the country and in truck stops. Solo drivers may feel particularly uncomfortable if shady characters become aware that they are driving alone.

We spoke to Michele, a truck driver with a few months of experience so far in the industry. She suggests that solo drivers keep their bunk curtains closed at all times. “Let people think there [is] someone sleeping in the back even while you’re driving,” she advises.

Michele also notes that placing a team driving sticker on your truck will also create the impression that you are not traveling alone, and she highly recommends this trick to other women drivers.

truck stop safety tips3. Safety at a truck stop

Truck stops are notorious for being minefields for women truck drivers. Although many truck stops are taking measures to improve conditions and become more woman-friendly, they can’t control the behavior of the characters who lurk around.

We encourage women to know precautions to take to stay safe at truck stops.

Heather said, “When walking through the truck stop at night, have something handy in case you need to protect yourself.”

Although violence at truck stops is rare, there are always safety precautions people can take.

4. Behind the wheel

Some of the women truck drivers we spoke to had specific advice about staying behind the wheel. Road conditions can become dangerous during nighttime or the winter season.

Michele recommends that women truck drivers pre-plan and keep checking their routes, especially in the winter. She states, “Just because it was open 2 hours ago, doesn’t mean it’s open later.”

Heather listens to forensic files and chews gum to help keep her awake during night driving. She encourages women drivers to pull over if needed and states, “If road conditions become too treacherous, just stop! Freight can wait!”

5. Hygiene

Women truck drivers will have specific concerns about hygiene that male drivers won’t. And unfortunately, sometimes male drivers, fleet managers, or truck stop employees may be unaware or unsympathetic to these issues.

Heather said that one of the biggest lessons she learned from her OTR driving days is to always have baby wipes handy. She also recommends to “keep an empty big gulp cup because they are the easiest to pee into.”

Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but with OTR driving, the stops can be few and far between, so it’s better to be prepared in the case of emergencies!

women truck drivers6. Reach out to other women drivers

While it may seem easy to understand the concerns of women drivers, or imagine what the job will be like, there’s no way to know until someone has done it. We recommend completing some research about what to expect, but there’s no substitute for speaking with other women truck drivers who’ve been there themselves.

Reaching out to other women truck drivers will give you an inside look at what issues they’ve been facing and how they’ve handled them. As you speak to more women drivers, you’ll build a network of colleagues who have each others’ back and can work together. You may also want to connect with organizations like Women in Trucking, which focus on addressing these obstacles.

7. Find the right carrier

While women drivers can take certain measures themselves, they can’t do it all alone. It takes a community that values women’s issues and concerns in the trucking industry.

Before signing with your next carrier, do some research and find out which carriers value their women drivers.

Some carriers will do more to promote career opportunities, improve conditions, and deliver resources needed to address women’s issues in trucking. A company’s culture can have a large impact on a woman truck driver’s sense of belonging, identity, and purpose. Finding a carrier that aligns with your own values will help you feel comfortable and secure in a male-dominated industry.

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For emergencies, it’s better to be overly prepared than to be caught unprepared. This rings especially true for truck drivers. Drivers find themselves in all kinds of weather and road conditions, at all times of the day, and quite often in remote areas. It’s not practical to have everything you might ever need with you. But to make a truck driver’s life a little bit easier, here’s a list of 19 items to keep in your truck. Better to be safe than sorry!

Personal Items

1. Water & Food: This should go without saying, but any driver should have water and non-perishable foods available in their trucks. Even if you don’t have any cooling or cooking tools, keep at least a few days’ worth of water and food in the truck with you.

2. Medications: Have enough of each required prescription for the length of your trip. Probably even a few extras of each medication just in case. Best idea is to have them sorted out by day in a daily pill organizer, so that it’s convenient for you to know what to take and when.

3. First Aid Kit: Have a well-stocked first aid kit to treat minor injuries over the course of any trip. Band-Aids, pain relief medication, antibiotic ointment, and some basic bug bite creams are must haves for anyone spending time on the road.

4. Earplugs: Earplugs are a great idea for anyone working in a loud environment. Or anyone that might need to catch a good night’s sleep away from home.

5. Hygiene Items: A well-stocked shower caddy is a must have for anyone needing to grab a shower at a truck stop. Keep everything you need to stay clean, plus a pair of good flip-flops are necessary items to keep in your truck. For days when a shower stop just can’t happen, keep a package of personal wipes handy to stay fresh.

6. Good Blanket: For sleeping, and also in case of a breakdown in a colder area, a good blanket is a required item for any trucker. Find a good blanket that’s warm, and easy to roll-up and store during the day.

7. Winter Boots & Jacket: Being prepared for snowy weather is important for anyone travelling through areas where snow is a possibility. You might be the first one into the truck stops before the plows get there, or in case you get stuck and must walk somewhere in the snow. Good boots and a warm winter jacket are great to keep in your truck.

Safety and Basic Maintenance Tools

8. Toolbox: A small toolbox with all of the basics should be a staple for any truck driver. Be sure to check on the contents from time-to-time to make sure everything is in there, and in good working order. Consider keeping a folding shovel in with your other tools too!

9. Flashlight: A good basic safety item to keep in your truck. Whether you need it to look around once you’re in your cab for the night, or if you have to walk around in an unfamiliar area after dark, a flashlight with fresh batteries should be available at all times.

10. Headlamp: One step better than a flashlight, is a headlamp. When you want to have your hands free when walking around outside at night, or performing a basic repair, a headlamp with fresh batteries should be in your truck.

11. Work Gloves: Protect your hands when working on a repair, or moving around cargo. Keep a pair of gloves handy for working on or off of the truck.

12. Flares: In case of a breakdown, or if you stop to help someone who needs it, setting flares is a good idea to help other drivers be aware of trouble ahead.

13. Fire Extinguisher: At the first sign of a fire, be sure you can easily get to full fire extinguisher. Be sure to have them well maintained to ensure that they will work when you need them.

14. Printed List of Phone Numbers: Just in case your mobile phone malfunctions, have a list of important phone numbers printed somewhere. You can keep them on a small card in your wallet or somewhere easy to get to in your truck.

Entertainment and Electronics

Porapak Apichodilok

15. Tablet: A smart phone loaded with basic trucker apps goes without saying. A tablet is a real video upgrade for your non-driving time in the truck. A subscription to a streaming movie channel will help make the hours go by faster before you’re asleep for the night.

16. Mounts: Having mounts for your portable electronics can help you better navigate during the day, and have a more relaxing experience watching a movie at night. Have one mount for each device or an adjustable one that can work with everything.

17. Chargers & Batteries: All of your tools and electronics should be well-charged or have a fresh set of batteries. Keep your chargers handy, and spare batteries available for any long-haul trip.

18. Hobbies: Are you an amateur photographer? Or a budding musician? Bring along the things you need to keep up with your hobbies or passions while you’re out on the road.

19. Duct Tape: We’ll mention this one last, as it’s the all-purpose, universal item that comes in handy for just about anything! Keep this in your tool kit along with plenty of blinker fluid and you’ll be ready for any needed repairs that come your way.

Let us know the one unique thing that you always keep with you in your truck. Or something that’s saved you in a pickle at some point. Our readers are always looking for a new idea to make their lives just a little bit easier. Drop a note in the comments below, or on our Facebook page here. We’d be happy to share your great ideas!

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Nicer weather usually means that road construction season is about switch into high gear. Though driving safely is always a best practice, there are some additional things to be aware of when it comes to driving in a construction zone. A little bit of extra care and planning when trucking through construction zones will ensure that you AND the road workers make it home safely. Here are 3 work zone safety tips to focus on this time of year.

1. Always Be Alert

Expect the Unexpected. Be alert for work zone signage along the side of the road, and the overhead digital signage as well. Watch for workers or flaggers helping to direct traffic. Be prepared for the changes in speed limits and lane closures. Give yourself plenty of time to react and keep an eye out for those that aren’t reacting correctly.

Using your height advantage to see signage and changing traffic patterns ahead gives you an advantage when it comes to work zone safety.

And be sure to stay alert if you drive the same routes daily. A long-term construction project might have daily lane shifts or different road closures.

2. Exercise Defensive Driving Skills

Apply the best driver training and experience here. Quick stops from other drivers ahead often lead to rear-end collisions. Using good defensive driving practices allow truckers to avoid accidents and have plenty of time to stop safely.

In construction zones it’s recommended to use extra caution to prevent accidents that most commonly occur due to road work.

Give a little bit of extra braking room to allow for late mergers or someone reacting poorly to changes in the road.

3. Plan in Advance

An ounce of prevention applies here. Plan routes and timing according to what your GPS app or travel websites indicates are the best. Many times this will be to avoid road work if possible. These often will be a little bit longer but will keep you moving and not stuck in traffic jams due to construction work. And everyone arrives safely at the end of the day.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, almost 30 percent of all work zone crashes involve large trucks.

The number of people killed in work zone crashes involving large trucks has been increasing. Over 1,000 fatalities and over 18,000 injuries have occurred during the last 5 years.

Work Zones might be temporary, and some might be multi-year projects in the same area. A one-day closure for minor repairs or lane painting and a 3-year interchange overhaul should demand the same amount of safety precautions from those using the roads. The construction team is out there working, sometimes around the clock, to keep the roads in good repair and improving for the future of all drivers. Be sure to continue to reference these work zone safety tips and “GIVE ‘EM A BRAKE” as the saying goes!

How to Protect Yourself from the Sun Over the Road

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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!

How to Protect Yourself from the Sun Over the Road

Download the complete guide for 5 easy tips for sun protection while on the road.

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Kyle’s career path took quite a few different turns before arriving in his current role as the Apprenticeship Program Leader for Veriha Trucking. Kyle, 33 was born in LaCrosse, WI. He spent his high school years in Alma Center, WI.

Military Service

Right after he finished high school, Kyle enlisted in the U.S. Army. His 5 years in the service, took him around the world. He went from Wisconsin, through Germany, to Iraq and finally to Fort Hood, TX. As a Combat Engineer he spent his time “doing a little bit of everything—from security, dismounted patrols, route clearance, building bases.”

After leaving the military, he dabbled in a career in the medical field as respiratory therapist, though ultimately it wasn’t the right fit for him. “I loved learning” he said but didn’t like working in the hospital environment at all. From there, he dug into a 5 year stint in the mining industry.

“Loading rail cars, moving trains, in the actual pit.  I had a blast.” But ultimately when the oil industry took a turn, he took that opportunity to move on and decided to learn how to drive a truck.

He “picked a company with good on-the-job training, that fit me and my family. I got my CDL in 2 weeks, got my own truck and away I went for the next year”. Kyle noted that being an over-the-road truck driver gave him a great opportunity to see more of the United States. Driving through Tennessee was a route that he really enjoyed. Up to that point, he said he’d been in more different countries than states.

Veriha Trucking: Opportunities to Grow

veriha truckingBeing away from home for long stretches no longer best fit his family’s needs, and he looked for a new job that kept him closer to home. He found an opening at Veriha Trucking as a Yard Spotter and joined the team there 2 years ago.

From the yard, he moved on to being a coach in the Safety Department, and then ultimately to his current role as the Apprenticeship Program Leader. He’s been with that program “as part of the startup, from inception to today”.

When asked about the Apprenticeship Program, he talks about how it’s “unlike anything else. Instead of learning on a range, we get people out hauling freight with an actual trainer. Giving them the clear picture of what it’s like to be a driver.”

Kyle talks about what he thinks differentiates their program from others. “The big difference is we’re invested in these people from the beginning.”

Once candidates are identified, successfully interviewed and pass all background checks, “people are hired from day one.” The program boasts “accelerated results from drivers. People are out there doing great work, much faster than expected. It’s really paying off for them. If it’s good for the driver, it’s generally good for the company.”

At Veriha Trucking, “everybody in the company is encouraged to do personal development. Book clubs, networking. Everyone is encouraged to better themselves.”

Kyle is married and has twin 5-year old children, a daughter and son, who keep him very busy. Currently, they enjoy residing in northeastern WI. In addition, in his free time, he enjoys fishing, hunting, and woodworking.

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Edward “Eddie” Dalzell talked his way into his first truck driving job at age 19 in Massachusetts.

3 million accident-free miles and almost 50 years later, Eddie’s now retired from truck driving but still logging miles on foot as a hiker and lead CSR for Penske in San Antonio.

truck driver

As he tells the story, he got his first truck driving job through good old-fashioned persistence. And telling a little bit of a lie.

“The company I was working for went out of business. There were no other jobs around. The car I had ran out of gas, I had no money. So, I walked 3 miles down the road to a place that was supposedly hiring truck drivers. I had no clue how to drive a truck. I kept going back day after day until they finally hired me!”

From there, he had a friend teach him how to drive a truck.

Once he got his start with that first job in Massachusetts, Eddie moved south after a few years. There he got his first job as a tanker truck driver. He spent the next few decades with various jobs between Texas and Louisiana, driving tankers between refineries and operating other heavy equipment. He mentions that some of those were dangerous jobs, and that thankfully he got lucky a few times.

Living and working near the Gulf of Mexico, he saw his share of hurricanes and severe weather.

The memory of those storms still stand out to Eddie. “Dodging hurricanes, wasn’t fun. Everyone else was leaving, but we’d be heading into the storms with the plywood to help. Last hurricane I drove 27 hours straight because of all the road closures to get around it. Had to get right back up in 5 hours to go back into it.”

When asked about his time as a truck driver at Dupre Logistics, he said that they were big on safety, and provided great training.

dupre-logistics

He also fondly recalls having a great boss who became a life-long friend to this day.

“At Dupre, Leadership was very good. We had good drivers. We could laugh and have fun.  They are VERY fair. They also gave a nice safety bonus every 3 months which was nice”.

That bonus came with a safety meeting at a great local steakhouse. Eddie mentioned he never missed a bonus, or the steak dinners. Working for Dupre, he said that integrity was important.

“There’s lots of competition out there but the jobs kept coming back to us because they liked what we were doing.”

Over the years, he also spent time as a driving instructor and unofficial career and life coach.

“Taught people how to drive standard trucks. I enjoyed that. I also told students to follow your dreams. Listen to Mr. Eddie: Don’t do something you hate, you’ll be miserable your whole life.”

Now retired from driving, Eddie spends his days working as a hiker and lead Customer Service Representative for Penske.

truck driver

He says he logs over 52 miles a week on foot, 20,000 steps, walking around the facility. Quite a change from all of the hours and miles behind the wheel!

Eddie, 68, has a wife, 6 children and 10 grandkids. In his free time, he enjoys living close to 3 of those grandkids.

“I get to see them all the time. Grandma loves to keep them on the weekends – gives their moms a break”. He also enjoys fishing and keeping fit and active.

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driving-in-severe-weather

The weather is a popular topic of discussion any time of the year.  But this time of year it seems to be nearly constant headline news.  All drivers must prepare for the day’s road conditions.  Sometimes that preparation leads to making the call to not drive at all.

But for truck drivers who NEED to drive to make their living, where is the line drawn for being able to safely navigate the roads?  Do you know your rights when making the call that it’s just not safe for driving in severe weather?

In a conversation with Overdrive.com, attorney Paul Taylor discusses common questions about driving in severe weather.  He details your rights as a driver to protect yourself and your job.  The key is knowing your rights, having good communications with your dispatcher and keeping proper documentation when the situation arises.

As the article states: “Under the employee protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, you have the right to refuse to operate a commercial vehicle if it would be unsafe to drive. U.S. Department of Transportation regulations state that “if conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed” until it’s safe to drive.”

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truck-driver-winter-roads

Winter is coming, and truckers are beginning to notice the effects of the weather on the roads. What were once long stretches of asphalt are now covered in ice and snow across many of the northern states. Any smart trucker is always prepared, especially when hitting rougher conditions.

In order to stay safe this winter, we’ve compiled some go-to tips to make sure that your wheels stay on the road.

  1. Use your best judgement. If weather becomes so severe that you can’t see out of your front windshield, take it to the side and wait out the storm. But don’t just stop on the side of the road! Find either a truck stop or a safe place to park to wait for the weather to clear.
  2. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.Don’t just follow the headlights in front of you. Leave plenty of room between you and the next car or truck in front of you should you hit a patch of ice.
  3. Double check your systems during your circle check.Before you leave, make sure your defroster and windshield wipers are working properly. Your tail lights, as always, should be clean, your tires and brakes should be unfrozen, and your mirrors should all be wiped clean. If they can’t see you, you can’t see them. Though simple, some drivers might forget this significant step.
  4. Don’t use the jack brake on icy roads.Never brake with an empty unit, as this may increase your chance of spinning off the road. Also try to avoid braking unless the entire unit is driving straight down the road.
  5.   Your winter safety kit.Along with the mandated safety kit, carry a bag of kitty litter with you. Throwing some of this onto your tires is a safe way to get that extra bit of traction in the snow and ice. A hammer and putty knife can help you deal with frozen air tanks. And don’t forget an extra blanket!

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A truck driver’s quick thinking recently prevented a collision with a school bus. The near-accident occurred in Topeka, Kan., when the school bus entered the path of an oncoming truck driven by Delbert Henson.

Fortunately for the 22 children and school bus driver, Henson recognized the likelihood of a crash, leading him to hit the brakes hard to swerve. His rig subsequently overturned in a ditch, resulting in minor injuries. No students were injured.

Parents are hailing Henson as a hero, reaching out to thank him. “[The students] had some angels watching over them,” said Melissa Bowles, mother of Jaxon, a boy riding the bus that day.

 

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A newly proposed bill may allow younger truck drivers to drive across state borders. Currently, federal law prohibits younger truck drivers aged 18-21 from driving outside their licensed state.

However, on March 27, California State Representative Duncan Hunter and Indiana State Representative Trey Hollingsworth introduced a new bill. The bill allows younger truck drivers to avoid this three-year limitation. To encourage more young people to pursue driving as a career, the two state representatives believe it is imperative to allow young drivers to cross state borders if needed. They argue that this could address the driver shortage and allow older drivers to retire. It could also help keep costs down for employers by having a larger pool of employees to choose from.

This age reduction would come with limits, such as longer chaperoned hours on the road and more on-duty hours before being awarded their new license. However, not everyone remains convinced that adding younger drivers to the pool would provide a positive outcome. Also, some industry leaders believe that allowing young drivers across state lines could lead to higher crash rates and result in catastrophe.

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