New to trucking and want to avoid some of the rookie mistakes? As a rookie to the profession, some mistakes can make life on the road harder. Don’t sabotage yourself before your career picks up steam. Getting ready emotionally helps you face the many obstacles on the path from earning your CDL to dealing with the truck’s daily pressures. Many truckers look at this profession as a lifestyle than a career because it requires your heart and soul. Despite the demands, the rewards outweigh the responsibilities for many truckers as they get to see the nation and get paid well to do it.
Mistake #1: Ask Questions When Needed
A big mistake that we see from driver recruitment is when rookie drivers don’t ask enough questions. We implore you: Ask questions. The average tractor-trailer weighs 35,000 pounds, according to the EPA. Put that weight up against a car, accidents with semi-trucks mean a fatality more often than not. You want as much knowledge on the job as possible so that you can do your job effectively. We’d prefer you made mistakes in training, rather than on the road.
Mistake #2: Set the Right Expectations
You will spend up to 14 hours behind the truck’s wheel, and the trucking lifestyle can take a toll on the body and mental health. Spending days or weeks away from family can hurt relationships. Cell phones nowadays keep us more connected than ever before, but you should still come to the profession with the right expectations. Things on the American highway can change with the shifting wind, so you must remain flexible and adaptable to survive. To give an example, you could haul a load over a thousand miles to learn that the receiver needs the product elsewhere, which reroutes you. You might have another case where you arrive at the shipper to have your load canceled. The dynamic environment requires you to think on your feet.
In some cases, eating healthy on the highway poses a challenge because you have to move from one location to the next in a matter of hours. The problem compounds with a lack of physical activity. Many truckers complain about obesity because of issues like this.
Mistake #3: Beware of the Strings Attached
Heard about a great trucking company that wants to hire you straight out of trucking school? Don’t pull the trigger until you know the details. Tons of great trucking jobs can be had by filling out a job application, but you should understand how some trucking jobs come with strings attached, especially as a rookie trucker. Good companies know how to negotiate excellent benefits for the best drivers, but they will most likely try you out with a lower salary at first. Exercise caution with a company that seems overeager with sign-up bonuses because the terms and conditions often mean that you walk away empty-handed.
Mistake #4: Know Your Value
Too many rookie truckers sell themselves short at the negotiation table with trucking companies. As a new CDL driver, you should acquaint yourself with the rate for rookie drivers. You don’t want to overestimate your value, but you shouldn’t underestimate it either. Along with the pay, consider the perks, benefits, and bonuses offered to new drivers. Here’s how to understand your position in the market. Speak with veteran truckers and ask them about the companies offering the best perks and pay. Since they have walked this path for years, they can advise how long you start to see pay raises and promotions.
Good trucking companies will offer competitive pay and benefits because they want to keep the best drivers on the job.
Mistake #5: Not Understanding What Makes a Good Trucker
Let’s highlight some of the critical qualities that a good trucker will exhibit. Understanding the qualities to cultivate can help you to command better pay. The qualities of a good trucker include:
- Deadline oriented
Having qualities like this will let dispatch know that they can trust you as a driver to handle the task on time and professionally. They want the freight delivered to its destination safely and on time.
Mistake #6: Assuming Expertise Right out of the Gate
You have things that you can only learn in the truck. The training and certification matter, but getting behind the wheel differs significantly from the training. Things taught in class can be put to use right away, but the actual learning begins once you hop behind the wheel. You will have to learn how to handle the high-pressure situations that truckers must face every day. Also, learning how to pass other cars properly takes time and practice. You won’t struggle too much with it on an empty road, but when the traffic is bumper to bumper, your truck takes up more space and lends less room for maneuvering. You have to learn how to do this safely without causing an accident.
Mistake #7: Listening to the Wrong People
If one trucker tells you something, take it with a grain of salt. On the other hand, if two or three truckers say the same thing, you have a good indication of the information’s accuracy. You have some truckers that may give you inadequate information if you don’t evaluate it carefully. Consider the source. While you can ask for information from other drivers, you ultimately need to use what was given to reach your conclusion. After all, you will be the one to deal with the consequences and deal with the loads.
Mistake #8: Arguing with Management
A poor relationship with management can lead to unnecessary stress. In particular, cultivate a good relationship with dispatch. The dispatcher can mean the difference between a successful freight shipment and getting stuck on the road with no backup. You need to have an exact route and clear instructions that simplify the process of freight shipment. You want to check in with dispatch at the first sign of trouble because they can fine-tune your route and make sure that you don’t get stranded with goods. Dispatch serves as a lifeline to truckers, and every rookie trucker should understand their importance. You want to have a positive relationship with them because it makes your job easier.
Mistake #9: Safety Matters
With driver recruitment, we never recommend a cavalier attitude in trucking. You have to take safety seriously because it matters in more than one way. First, it matters because it keeps you and other drivers safe. Second, it matters because if you don’t follow the trucking regulations, the FMCSA hands out fines in the thousands of dollars with a smile, and this can eventually make you uninsurable. It would help if you considered safe for your freight, too, because cargo theft is rising. Especially beware if you happen to be hauling pharmaceuticals, food, apparel, and consumer electronics. Thieves like anything they can sell quickly and easily, and you have organized crime syndicates who target cargo theft.
As a new CDL driver, you have a few things to understand about becoming a better trucker. Learn from the veterans who have driven trucks for two or three decades because these people have a treasure trove of helpful knowledge to rookies. As much as possible, try to follow company policies because those policies exist to improve safety and efficiency.