One of the very basic things that all truck drivers must understand and master is effective trip planning. You need to know how you are going to reach your destination before you get there.

Effective trip planning will help you answer five basic questions:

  • Where am I going?
  • How long will it take to get to my destination?
  • Where will I fuel along the way?
  • Where will I find safe parking for off-duty time?
  • What can I do to make my trip as profitable as possible?

Effective trip planning will also help 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.

Where are You Going and How Long will it Take?

Once you have received your dispatch, the first thing you should do is find your route and how many miles the trip is and how many days you have to complete the trip before the scheduled delivery. Using Google Maps, or 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.

Where will You Fuel?

Planning your fuel stops wisely can enable 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 you can save some 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.

Another consideration is winter weather. In winter conditions, some drivers prefer to fuel more frequently as not to run their fuel all the way down. If you’re caught in a severe storm, and roads start to close, you’ll need enough fuel to wait out the severe conditions and make it to a fuel stop.

Where Will You Find Safe Truck Parking?

Finding a place to park is a problem drivers face daily. There are parking shortages in various parts of the United States and Canada. Rural areas can make available parking a challenge. Anyone who has tried to find parking in the New England area, Northern Ontario or Southern California can attest to the difficulty with find parking, particularly in the evening.

When you have a delivery off the beaten path you may need to shut down a significant distance away from a pick up or delivery if closer truck parking isn’t available. Planning is essential in order to stay in compliance with HOS and arriving on time. Drivers states side also need to find a safe place for their 30-minute mandatory break.

There are various useful apps to help drivers find parking. Planning your stops will help you stay compliant and on time.

What can You Do To Make My 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 your not met with undue costs. Plus proper 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.