When you’re a long-haul truck driver, you’re your boss, which is great! But that also means that you are responsible for time management, or in this case, trip planning. Before you leave the yard, you should know:
- Where you are going.
- How long will it take to get to your destination.
- Where you will fuel along the way.
- Where you will safely park for off-duty time.
- What can you do to make your trip as profitable as possible.
By knowing the answers to these questions before you leave and not just winging it, not only will your pickups and deliveries go smoother, but you’ll have a safer, less stressful experience. Effective trip planning helps truck drivers avoid unnecessary risk, damage and violations such as not finding safe places to park, taking non-truck routes, and running out of hours.
So, how do you effectively plan your trip?
Where, When, and How Long?
First things first, you need to know where you are going, when you need to be there, and, realistically, how long it will take you to get there. Decide on the route you will be taking, note how many miles the trip is and how many days you have to complete the trip before the scheduled delivery; making sure that the route you have picked fits the time frame of the expected delivery day/time.
Outline your route and include scheduled stops for fuel, downtime, breaks, and food and grocery shopping; more on those later, though. Do this by using Google Maps, a mapping app, or a good atlas such as the Rand McNally Motor Carrier’s Atlas will give you a good starting point.
In a perfect world, one without delays that are out of your control, drivers should be able to travel 550 to 600 miles a day. With this in mind, you can start planning your trip.
Don’t Forget to Fuel Up
As mentioned above, it is essential that you plan your fuel stops – and do them wisely. The two big reasons to plan your fuel stops are 1). you won’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere, running low on fuel, with nowhere to park safely and no truck stops nearby, and 2). this enables you to find better prices.
For example, fuel can be more expensive in New York and California. If you can fuel close to those states and get back out without fueling up, you can save fuel expenses. Len Dubois Trucking supplies each trip envelope with preferred fuel stops along our drivers’ route. While these are not etched in stone, it gives our drivers an idea of better places to fuel.
Plan Where to Park Safely
A big headache drivers face almost daily is finding a place to park. When you have a delivery off the beaten path, you may need to shut down a significant distance away from a pickup or delivery if closer truck parking isn’t available. Planning is essential to stay in compliance with HOS and to arrive on time. Drivers states side also need to find a safe place for their 30-minute mandatory break.
But, have no fear! Check out our blog, Finding Truck Parking Tips, for tips on ways to successfully plan and find those parking spots.
How Can You Make Your Trip as Profitable as Possible?
Everything we’ve discussed improves the profitability of your run. Saving money on fuel, the proper route and staying in compliance and on time all help ensure you’re not met with undue costs. Plus, adequate preparation makes life over the road less stressful.
Profitable owner-operators will also lower their speed where time allows. Driving a lower consistent speed will use less fuel. Lower fuel costs can add a lot to your bottom line. There’s gold in them tanks. This obviously applies to company drivers too.
Many things go into delivering safe, compliant, and on time. It all starts with proper preparation.
How Else Can You Improve Your Trip?
We’ve talked about the basics of trip planning, but there’s always room for improvement, right? If you’re ready to be the most productive, efficient, and stress-free (okay, maybe not entirely stress-free) driver on the road, check out these blogs.
Len Dubois Blogs
From Around the Web
Road Trip Planning Tips for Truckers – Smart Trucking
10 Tips for Truckers to Stay Healthy On The Road – The Healthy Trucker
5 Movements To Stop Truck Driver Back Pain – The Healthy Trucker