The life of a trucker can sound exciting and fulfilling, and it is. However, it’s also challenging. Truth be told, like any career, there are satisfying experiences right along with the frustrating and difficult ones. In fact, as a truck driver, you may well experience all these emotions in quick succession.
Whether you’re an OTR driver spending weeks covering vast distances or someone who does daily deliveries, each day brings something different. On Monday, you could face the exasperation of being stuck in heavy traffic, but a few days later, you could be rolling along an empty state highway.
If you’re new to the world of trucking, this can be quite an adjustment. These tips will help you get into the swing of things.
Getting Going With a Good Start
The key to a good day is having a healthy breakfast, and this will require a little forethought on your part. Do you want something light that you can pack yourself, like yogurt and muesli? Or are you going to have a bacon and egg meal at a restaurant close to where you’re parked?
If you like taking a shower in the morning, work this into where you stop for the night. Some drivers prefer ending a drive with a shower while others want to be fresh and ready to face the day.
Before departing each day, you’ll need to do a pre-trip inspection of your truck. Ensure you have plenty of time for this, as you may need to address issues that can eat into your schedule. When the inspection is ticked off your list, you can safely get behind the wheel.
Creating a Daily Routine
The most important thing for a newbie driver is getting into a groove, with particular activities happening at specific times of day to give them order and routine. Your afternoons will often need to be played by ear since there are a variety of duties that could need doing.
Dropping and hooking is one, where you deliver a full trailer and pick up an empty one to take somewhere else. You might need to unload at a receiving dock and wait until you get information on your next load.
New drivers should take care to observe their rest breaks. In the US, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations stipulate that long haul drivers must take a mandatory 30-minute break by the eighth hour. When on a break, it’s important to get out of your vehicle. Take a walk, stretch, and grab something healthy to eat that will keep your batteries charged.
Planning and Parking
Newbie drivers will quickly see that planning ahead is one of the most important things a trucker does. This is especially true when it comes to what to do at night. Plan for the place where you’ll be spending the evening, whether it’s going to be at a truck stop or in a safe rest area with good lighting.
Experience on the road will help newbies find good stopping spots, but all evenings share some commonalities.
Do your best to be parked by nightfall. You’ll need to do a post-trip inspection of the cab and trailer to make sure everything’s secure and safe after spending the day on the road. Then it’s time to hit the paperwork and workflow duties. These can be time-consuming at first, but they are a crucial part of your workday and should never be ignored.
When all this is done, you can cook and relax for the night.
Cultivating Food and Sleeping Habits
A great way to keep your costs down is to carry your own food and cook it in your cabin or on the facilities provided at a rest stop. By doing this, you can control your diet and stick to healthier options that won’t lead to excess weight gain.
Eating out for every meal also takes its toll on your wallet, so newbies looking for a kickstart should start with a good meal plan. You should also ensure you stay hydrated and, rather than high sugar energy drinks or caffeine, boost your natural sugars with fruit juice. This will avoid a crash when the caffeine wears off.
Always be sure to get a good night’s rest; however you can. Whether this involves turning off all electronics before bedtime, reading, or catching up on your admin, try to create a habit that promotes good sleeping patterns.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
The road is stressful at times, and there may be a huge temptation to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms like unnecessary medication, alcohol, and isolating yourself.
Recent studies suggest that between 13% and 30% of long-distance drivers report feelings of overwhelming depression and anxiety. Mitigate these effects by instituting healthy habits right from the start. Calls to friends and family, good food, and getting enough sleep and exercise need to be your top priorities.
You need to be aware if you are feeling the effects of depression and address these timeously before they become an issue.
Putting the Power in Your Hands
Perhaps the most efficient way to slip easily into the lifestyle of a truck driver is to remember that it’s up to you to make the most of it. You need to stay focused and alert on the road, and you’ll need to adapt your lifestyle to do so.
The average mileage of a trucker can be between 350 and 450 miles a day, but distances of 500+ miles are not uncommon. This means you’ll be sitting for a large part of every day and will need to learn to combat the effects on your body and mind.
The best option is to work out a schedule that fits in with your route plan and do your best to adapt to a routine as quickly as possible. This will give you the drive to safely complete trips and to look forward to tackling your next route.
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