Tips For New Drivers – Part Two

#5. Plan Your Trip.

Then, plan it again. Take two looks. Can you adjust your plan as you go? 

Wait! Since this is Part 2, should that be number one again?

Nevermind, it’s not that important.

There’s an old saying. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”. This, applied to trucking simply means that you have to be flexible. Let’s say you’ve got your fourth drop and hook done, haven’t run over anything or anyone,  you hate short haul freight and really look forward to ending your day. You’ve got your parking spot in mind for the night!

But some teenager was sending a text while driving and smashed into another teenager who was tailgating an elderly couple on the way back home from the early bird Country Barrel dinner hour, who were next to a school bus of football players who were yelling about their recent victory causing the driver of the school bus to rear-end a septic truck. 

Now, you’ve got a mangled wreck that’s going to tie up the highway. For God knows how long. A running river of hazardous materials and mostly liquid poop streams across the pavement, glistening in the afternoon sun. 

Were you able to plan an alternate route to your second favorite parking spot?

Did you pick an alternate location to stop entirely?

Are you going to end up using the Hours of Service exemption? Even that is only good for so much. Frankly, I try to avoid it altogether.

Do you have food in the truck in case you’re there on the highway overnight? 

Because that happens too.

After a while on the road, you’ll probably even start to memorize locations of places to stop. Be they truck stops, rest areas, company terminals, or even customers that allow you to park on their property. But in the beginning, you’re going to need all the tools you can find to tell you as much information as possible about potential places to safely park a truck. Also, you simply cannot plan for everything. Don’t make yourself even more crazy trying to do so.

Don’t try to be a hero, and don’t try to squeeze every minute out of every day.

At least not in the beginning.

There are more tools available today for trip planning than ever before. Technology more powerful than what sent the astronauts to the moon is right in the palm of your hand. A single dash mounted GPS unit is something explorers hundreds of years ago could not have dreamed of. Because there were no satellites. Or electricity. Or roads.

Rand McNally GPS Circa 1978.

Log violations are not a good thing, and will give you a poor reputation quickly. 

Back in the military we had another saying. “One ‘aw, shit’ wipes out ten ‘atta boys’.” Think about it.

#6. Your Ideas of Comfort Will Be Tested

You’re going to have to apply yourself in ways you’ve previously never thought of in that old life. The only thing you can do is to try to figure all this into your day. I won’t call it a ‘daily routine’ because few days are actually ‘routine’ at all. 

There are few more tense times than being stuck in a massive traffic jam and looking around in the cab for something in the cab to use as an ad-hoc restroom. It happens. Anyone telling you otherwise is not being truthful. Restrooms can be scarce

How you handle this is entirely up to you. You’re an adult. I’m not going to lecture you on potty-time. Just know that it’s normal. Though, some of what you’ll see on the road is not normal. At all.

Sometimes you’ll go longer than you’d like without a shower.

You will sometimes be cold, hot, awake, tired, hungry, and in desperate need of a restroom all in the same day. Sometimes in the course of a few hours. 

And with that, we move to the final tip for this article –

#7. Right Now Is Temporary.

Even I forget this sometimes. You’ll be so irritated, and uncomfortable in so many ways, you’ll feel like parking that damn truck and getting on a bus home. Maybe you even followed tip #4 and have enough for a quick plane ticket so it’s even more tempting! You’ll feel like going back to your old life. The one where you had a social life, and friends you interacted with on a regular basis. Weekends off. The life where you were able to keep up with your favorite TV shows and discuss them with your friends. 

But you know what? That old life isn’t there anymore. It was temporary.

You’ll be so damned mad at that shipper that treated you like garbage you’ll feel like driving through the building. Don’t bother. First of all, most of your truck is plastic and fiberglass, and you’ll likely just embarrass yourself. So take a few breaths and be thankful you don’t have to work in that crappy place like that cranky shipping manager does. You’ll be out of there – eventually. He’s stuck there in that little box, probably with a boss or five constantly breathing down his neck. He doesn’t have a better job than you. He probably makes less money too.

Your truck. Not actual scale.

Your time at that place is temporary. 

You’ll be so sick of seeing the same interstates you’ll feel like you’re lost in time. Like you’re in some sort of limbo. You’ll have billboards for ambulance chasing lawyers memorized. You’ll know potholes to steer around. You’ll see the same deer carcass laying on the shoulder until it’s decomposed into its natural elements. You might be sitting in a four day blizzard with three feet of snow on the hood and a closed interstate.

It’s all temporary. 

When you run into any number of not-so-great situations, most of which are perfectly normal to the trucking industry, just ask yourself something. 

A year from now, am I even going to remember this? 

You might. But probably not. None of it is worth ending up on the news about

Because it’s all temporary. 

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