How to Survive As a Beginner Commercial Driver

You have finally completed your CDL training and got hired by a carrier company a few months later. Things go smoothly the first days of your assignment until you realize everything is not as easy as you thought. In fact, most new drivers quit commercial driving within 6 or 12 months after getting into the industry. Veteran drivers will tell you their first year of commercial driving was not really much about the pay cheque but about survival. It would be naïve to say commercial driving is for everyone but the truth is, it requires a certain character to persevere the stressful, lonely, tiresome and demanding job. If you are a beginner, be assured of challenges but how you deal with it will determine your long run in the commercial driving industry.

Reality Check 1; You will get lost en route to your receiver- It happens all the time, the driver takes a wrong turn or the company gives out the wrong directions. Whatever the reason, don’t panic. Just pull over your truck at a safe distant and re-check your designated directions. If you still don’t know why you are lost, request a consignee or a special macro from your company to confirm the directions. However, not all companies offer that option to their truckers and in that case; you can resort to using Google Maps on your smart-phone. Keep in mind that one of the most common mistake rookies make while using GPS or Google Maps not supplied by the company is following non-truck routes. You don’t want to end up stuck in a cul-de-sac probably somewhere in Atlanta and you have to maneuver without knocking a residential mailbox or a parked car. The Rand-MacNally Motor Carrier Road Atlas is quite popular with truckers because it highlights every truck routes including low bridges. The CB radio is another alternative if everything does not work out. Just remember to familiarize your route next time before commencing your journey.

Beginner Commercial Driver

Reality Check 2; Parking your truck will be a headache- Most carrier companies have designated parking spot but wait until you reach the customer’s locale and you will solve a puzzle on how to park your trailer. It is surprising how most of the load receivers have buildings equipped with docks but how the trucks gets there is left to the driver. You will have to reverse through an alley with literally no room for mistake, cause a traffic snarl up in a busy street or find an alternate route due to a police road block. Because of such unavoidable circumstances, make sure you gain the most experience from your trainer while in CDL School. Finding a parking spot after dark is also challenging especially after 9pm. Most popular truck stops are usually congested and drivers are advised to be vigilant of both their security and the commercial load. Hence, it is better to start searching for a parking spot earlier enough since it can even take 2 hours or more to settle.

Reality Check 3; You will get exhausted- In commercial truck driving, nothing is really what it seems on paper. For instance, you are legally allowed to drive 11 hours per day but sometimes finding a parking spot takes 2 hours or more of your time. Then you probably have to take a shower and get something to eat before you sleep. By the time you get to bed, you realize you only have 5 hours or less before the alarm tells you to get back on the road. It is tough for beginners the first 6 months especially with a busy schedule. However, the best method to avoid getting fatigued is to take care of your wellbeing first before the job. If you know it will be hectic to find a parking spot, then start looking for a parking spot after 9 hours on the road. Don’t waste too much time to drink in the bar if you know your next schedule starts in the next 10 hours. Use that precious time to sleep and work out a little bit, because if you don’t, you will regret it. However, if you feel excessively tired while driving to the point your concentration is demanding, pull over the truck and do some quick exercise that gets your blood flowing. You can even splash some cold water on your face or even take a brief nap if everything else is not working out.

Reality Check 4; Always be transparent- One day you are stuck in a snow storm in the East Coast which delays your delivery for at least 2 days or more. The next day your truck breaks down but you get it towed and fixed only to be told there is a delivery delay for diesel at your designated fuel stop. You can relate to the fuel tanker driver that is late to deliver diesel to the gas station but you are wondering, will your company believe your bad luck streak? Fortunately, carrier companies usually understand things don’t always go according to plan and they will offer the necessary assistance. Just be transparent to your manager in a professional manner and give an update every time there is a new development.

Reality Check 5; You will feel lonely- It is a normal reflex if you are used to constant family affection but after you got enrolled as trucker, you feel lonely without their presence. That is why it is often said truck driving is not for everyone. Regardless, there are many commercial drivers who are happily married with kids yet they have been on the job long enough to be veterans. The secret is to keep regular communication with your family. Even a friend who you can call anytime of the day or night can really help you out to beat the loneliness.