Here are 5 starter tips that every rookie driver needs to be aware of. Knowing them, and owning up to them, will help make sure that you have a long, lucrative career as a professional trucker.
#1 It’s Going to Take at Least a Year
Getting your CDL may seem like the hard part, but it’s really just the beginning. You will learn a lot from trucking school, but the real test comes when you hit the open road. Your first year of trucking is going to be rough. It’s going to take you at least that long to become comfortable with life on the road and the responsibilities of being a truck driver. The job gets easier with each run. In your rookie year, you’ll be best suited to find a company who will work with you and provide additional training. Starting regionally and growing into a long-haul position as you develop your skills.
#2 Safety Should be Your Number One Priority
Safety, safety, safety! It’s the motto of the industry. You’re in a 72-foot-long, 80,000-pound rig, with no shortage of blind spots – what could go wrong? A lot. Your goal as a truck driver is to get through each and every day without an incident. No dings or scratches, no rubbing up against things that you shouldn’t and absolutely no roadway accidents.
#3 Don’t Job Hop
This is a common problem in the trucking industry but is particularly worse for drivers just starting out. It can be difficult to find the right trucking company, especially when you are fresh out of school. The first company you sign on with may not be your dream job, but unless there are serious safety concerns, we suggest sticking it out. Hopping from one company to another does not reflect well on your resume and may hinder your ability to sign on with your dream company because you are not reliable. In many situations, switching companies will not change the driving experience. Disagreements with dispatch or getting the bottom of the barrel lanes are going to happen – remember you’re new at this – you have to prove yourself before you can run with the professionals.
#4 Your Attitude goes a Long Way to Ensure Your Happiness
Having a positive attitude towards the job, with an eagerness and willingness to learn will drive your career forward quickly. While there is a driver shortage, and companies are eager to fill their trucks, they want drivers who will add value to their company. There is a mutual benefit here, if you are a good driver, with an open and friendly attitude towards the job, you will quickly move up the ranks and become a dependable driver. This, coupled with your commitment to safety, will lead to better lanes and more money as you move through the ranks of the company.
#5 Keep Your Expectations in Check
Fresh out of school, you are not going to be earning top dollar, or working for your dream company. This takes some time, not a lot, but some. First, you need to prove that you have the skills to do the job. This means that you are starting at the bottom of the pay scale and working with a company willing to continue your training and development as a driver. Fresh out of school also means that you are a rookie, and you need to own that until you have developed the skills and qualifications of calling yourself a professional driver. This is going to take years accident-free miles to build up to. Be patient and focus on learning and adapting to the industry during your first year.