After graduating from trucking school and heading out on the open road, there are several pitfalls that newbie truckers can easily get trapped in. These common mistakes or errors in thinking are not just a minor issue; they can result in accidents, injury and truckers leaving the industry before they really get a chance to see the benefits that this career offers.
The good driving schools will address these common mistakes in their training program, but this is only at a theoretical level for the new drivers. It is a far different thing when these mistakes start occurring and cutting back on your income, getting you in trouble with the company or, even worse, leaving you doubting that you made the right decision when it comes to your career.
By thinking ahead about these issues you can be prepared to avoid the common mistakes and help prevent bad habits from forming. Once you have established yourself as a trucker you still need to stay on top of these issues, but with increased confidence and experience your chances of making these mistakes goes down with each mile you drive.
Mistake #1: Failing To Understand The Job
Many new truckers have a complete misunderstanding of the type of work they will be offered and the actual expectations of the job. Some graduates assume that the best jobs will be offered to them without having to pay their dues and work up through the less desirable trucking jobs.
You often will have the worst routes, the most difficult loads, and a lower salary than you may initially have expected. Typically you will be on the road more than you are home, no matter what the recruiter or the company representative may have alluded to during your interview. In fact, those jobs that allow you to be home most nights are there, but you have to work your way into them.
Mistake #2: Unrealistic Expectations Of Your Abilities
As a new trucker you have a lot of skills, but they are in the early development stage even after a comprehensive driver training program. A CDL means you have the knowledge to do the basics, but it doesn’t mean that you are qualified for all types of trucking jobs.
It is important not to overestimate your abilities when it comes to handling trucks and trailers out on the highways and roads. One mistake is not only dangerous and costly for you and the company you drive for but it can also be devastating for other vehicles, drivers and passengers on the road.
If you aren’t comfortable driving through the mountains, in rush hour in a major city, or in rainy or snowy road conditions it is important to speak up and get help. Taking on these jobs and having an accident is simply not worth the risk no matter how much you want to prove yourself to your company.
Mistake #3: Listening To Everyone
There are truckers and there are professional truckers, and there is a definite difference between the two. Not everyone that has years of experience driving the big rigs is a professional in the true sense of the word. Listening to truckers that are providing you with misinformation is not only going to impact your career but it can also cause you to make mistakes that can cost you your job.
If something that a fellow trucker says doesn’t sound right, talk to other people and get the truth. Lots of truckers have developed their own style of doing things which may work for them, but it may not be in the policy and procedures your company uses. Even if these truckers work for the same company as you do, stick to what the policy says and then, if there is an issue, you are covered by the company policy.
Mistake #4: Failing To Maintain Safety Practices
In a hurry to get out of the dock or yard in the morning, not wanting to spend time in the heat, cold or rain, or simply running behind schedule are not reasons to skip on a truck inspection each time you get behind the wheel. Failing to check load tie-downs, making sure the tires are in good condition, checking the fluid levels and looking for any signs of damage to the truck are all sure ways to have a breakdown later on.
Failing to maintain safety checks and practices will also increase your personal liability in the event of any type of accident or injury while you are behind the wheel. This is true both for company drivers as well as for owner-operators. Getting into a habit of a 10-15 minute overall truck, trailer and load check each day is the best way to protect yourself, your truck and your career.
Mistake #5: Not Seeking Help
Asking for help, clarification and further information is all part of being truly professional. You shouldn’t need to ask about the basics, but if you are not sure about something you are asked to do then you need to get the right information before proceeding.
Getting help means having a group of people that you trust in the industry that will provide you with accurate information. Building this network can start right in truck driving school and it will help you when things come up all through your trucking career. Getting involved in a professional organization is also a great resource where you can get accurate information.
Everyone starts in the trucking profession with different levels of experience and skills. By understanding your limits, understanding the job, surrounding yourself with trusted support people, and avoiding bad habits you will have a positive career both now and into the future.