Tips and tricks for new drivers

Written by: on August 5th, 2016

For those new to the industry living over the road can be a huge adjustment. You are learning a new career and at the same time a new lifestyle. We recently sat down with our Driver Advocate, Tim Hicks to talk about some tip and tricks of the trade.

 

TL: How would you describe life as an over the road driver to a person from a different career?

Hicks: One word “hard”. Most people that drive a car back and forth to work each day are oblivious to trucks, until one is front of them or is slowing them down. What most people fail to even think about is that driver is just trying to do his or her job safely and to return home.

Driving an 80,000lb piece of equipment is nothing like operating a car, or a pickup or a U-Haul. It takes a practiced skill set, with little or no margin for error.

But it is also rewarding. Every day is different. Even if you’re driving a dedicated route, the scenery may be the same, but the environment you work changes. Night to day and summer to winter.

 

TL: What was the biggest thing that helped you adjust to the new schedule?

Hicks: As a professional over-the-road river there is no set schedule. One day you might be driving from 7 am to 6 pm and the next might be from 7 pm to 6 am, you just never know.

As a professional driver you learn to sleep when you can. The home-time schedule is not like the 9 to 5’ers that get to go home every night or off on the weekends. You learn to have birthdays and anniversaries when you get home. Your family also learns this. It is the sacrifice one does to have this career. Everything is planned, scheduled, and re-planned, it’s just trucking.

 

TL: Do you have any military experience?

Hicks: Yes, I was in the Air Force.

 

TL: Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare for you for this career?

Hicks: Yes, coming from a military background into the trucking industry has similarities. Deployments and TDY’s happen, the service members learn to adapt to that adversity.

The families are left at home and learn to be self-sufficient. Vets and their families already understand, they know that dad isn’t going to be home for a ball game or mom won’t be there for a skinned knee. That family takes on all kinds of roles that the “normal” family may note.

Folks that have prior military experience understand “hurry up and wait.”

 

TL: What was your favorite part of driving over the road?

Hicks: Driving. I love to drive, whether in a truck, car or riding my motorcycle – I have to be moving. Being up in that cab, having 450 horsepower underneath me and driving across the desert one day, then in mountains the next. It’s all about the drive.

I have the chance to take all three of my kids on truck trips, and have a grandson that will be 12 soon, hopefully I can get him out. I’ll take vacation just to go drive truck with him.

That trip I would do for free.

As an OTR Driver you see things and places that the normal working person dreams about. People work all year to take a vacation to see this great country. We crisscross it each week.

I like the adventures. The challenges. There was a sense of pride when you delivered the hot load or when you backed into a dock that you knew others would struggle with.

 

TL: Can you please share some advice for new drivers?

Hicks: Every day is a learning experience. Truck driving is a skill, it takes practice.

Most anybody can drive forward, it’s the part of the job we do the most. Our peers, our customers and ourselves sometimes score us on the part of the job we do least, that is backing.

Backing is a skill that is only mastered over time and is only mastered by practice. As a driver, there is a feeling of accomplishment when you back into a spot, straight and square.

As a professional driver we can never let out guard down, not for a second (a second is half of a football field).

Advice: don’t let others dictate what you are going to do.

Back to school safety

Written by: on July 29th, 2016

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In a few short weeks kids will be putting on their backpacks and heading back to school to start a new year. Just like with the start of summer a new school year means a change in driving patterns, an increase in traffic on the road and congestion in certain spots will worsen. It’s important to be cognizant of school buses and the different standards they are held to. Attempting to pass a stopped school bus could be a violation of state law and increase the risk for unnecessary dangers.

While adjusting your driving schedules may not always be possible, it’s important to factor in the school traffic when doing your trip planning and if possible adjust accordingly.

Slow down

The majority, if not every school will have school zones that require drivers to slow down. It’s important that you should never exceed the posted speed limit in the school zones as they are put in place for a reason. According to the AAA, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

 

Eliminate distractions

We talk about the dangers of distracted driving a lot in this industry. Making sure that your focus is 100% on the task hand will make it easier for you to stop when a child darts out in the street or if the traffic stops suddenly.

Come to a complete stop

Research shows more than one third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

Drivers should always be alert and watching for children near schools, bus stops, school buses and in school parking lots. Take extra time to look for children at intersections, on medians and on curbs by any schools and pay attention to your surroundings.

Staying healthy on the road can be a challenge, but possible. Whether the goal is weight loss or muscle gain there are plenty of ways that you can stay fit and active while being an over the road driver. It’s easy to fall in the trap of the “paralysis of analysis”, meaning that we tend to have information overload and we get lost in the analysis of the exercise and nutrition available out there and never apply any of it to our daily routine. Below are some tips to help you incorporate and exercise or two into your daily routine.

The important thing is to keep on moving!

  1. Make it constant – make a commitment to challenge yourself that no matter what happens, no matter where you are, every other day you will find a way to work out – no excuses.
  2. Where should I work out? – whenever you go to a new place, make your mission to go for a walk.
  3. Track your progress – your goal is to be better today than you were yesterday.  Keep track of what you’re doing, including how much time you spent doing it and make a note how you felt afterward.  This way you can see how many repetitions you will need to do in order to be better and stronger.  There are apps like Evernote which help, but a pen and paper work just fine.
  4. Make eating a big priority –  eat quality food with minimum processing.  Stick to the basics, protein, cheese, whole grain bread, fresh fruit and veggies and nuts.  Minimize eating junk food, processed grains and sugary beverages.  Stock up at grocery stores when you can since options are slim at some truck stops.  Sounds too easy to be effective, but it’s not – if you plan ahead, it IS that easy.
  5. Stay active – it doesn’t matter if you’re walking laps in the parking lot while waiting to be unloaded or waiting for your next load.  FIND A WAY TO BE ACTIVE EVERY DAY.