7 Tips for New Truck Drivers
Choosing a career as a truck driver can open up a world of opportunity. The truck driving industry is growing, and currently, the demand for new drivers is high.
However, when you are just getting started, truck driving can feel overwhelming. Long hours, adjusting to driving a big rig, and time spent away from family and friends can all put a strain on your mind and body.
If you are a new truck driver, check out the following seven tips that can help make your first year a success.
#1: Square Away Your Licenses
First things first — when you drive a commercial vehicle, you have to hold a specific set of licenses to operate the vehicle legally.
For starters, you need to get your Commercial Driving License (CDL). To acquire your CDL, you’ll need to take a driving course, which usually takes approximately three to six weeks to complete. CDL courses are available through driving schools, as well as many community colleges. After completion of the required coursework, you’ll need to take and pass your CDL exam.
Additionally, to operate a commercial truck, you’ll be required to undergo a DOT physical. A DOT exam is designed to determine whether or not you are fit to operate a commercial vehicle. If you pass the exam, you will be provided with a DOT medical card.
#2: Keep Clear Records
Record keeping is a critical part of truck driving. There are numerous regulations and requirements regarding what documentation must be present in your commercial vehicle at all times. Examples, as outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Association, include:
- Proof of vehicle inspection
- A valid CDL
- A medical certificate for driver
- Hazardous Materials Shipping List, if applicable
- Proof of insurance
A good portion of the first year on the road will be spent learning the ins and outs of the industry requirements. When in doubt, hang on to any record or receipt that might come in handy later.
#3: Be Prepared for an Adjustment Period
Switching to life on the road is not without its challenges. As you embark on your first year as a truck driver, be prepared to go through an adjustment period.
You may become more tired or even exhausted as you adjust to your new schedule and routine.
It’s hard when you miss your family and friends, particularly during special events.
And, you might find there are days the job is more challenging than you anticipated.
As is true with any new job or life change, you’ll grow accustomed to your new routine after enough time has passed. Slowly but surely, things will become easier as you find your rhythm.
#4: Focus on Safety First
Passing your CDL exam is the first step in learning how to drive a commercial vehicle. However, the bulk of real learning usually takes place on the road.
During your first year as a truck driver, focus on making safety your number one priority. Even if it takes longer to do tasks that veteran drivers can accomplish quickly, never rush yourself when safety is at stake.
The longer you drive, the easier it will be to maneuver your truck through tight locations, back it up on busy streets, and tackle other complex driving tasks. But, for the first year on the road, take these tasks slowly and carefully to ensure your safety on the road.
#5: Make Your Mental Health a Priority
Driving long hours can take a toll on your mental health. It can be easy to focus on your work to the point that you neglect your mental wellbeing.
Make sure to take time each day to check in with yourself and be honest about how you are feeling. If you feel like you may be struggling with depression or anxiety, take the time to address these issues. You might need to reach out to a friend to talk through things, or maybe you need to schedule some time off to rest and recharge. Whatever it takes, be sure to keep your mental health a top priority.
#6: Ask for Help
Learning everything there is to know in regards to truck driving takes time. And, no matter how much you tried to absorb during training, you’ll still have some questions along the way.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you run into questions or concerns. If possible, try to find a seasoned driver who can mentor you during your first year. Someone who has already been down the road you are traveling can be a massive help in making your first year more manageable and more successful.
#7: Take Time to Unwind
Depending on your schedule, you might be spending weeks at a time on the road. In some cases, you’ll be hauling goods cross country, which can be an exhausting experience as you get used to the job.
Be sure to ask about your company’s time-off policies and put your vacation days to good use. Try to break up your first year of driving with a few different mini-breaks. This can help you stay both physically and mentally healthier.
Looking for a DOT Physical Provider? Search Today
One of the key requirements for truck drivers is passing a DOT physical every one to two years. If you are a new truck driver, make sure that you schedule your DOT exam as soon as possible. This will ensure that you are ready to hit the road the moment you get your first job. Using a quick online search for a DOT physical provider near you will quickly knock this to-do off your list.