We’re back at it again, folks! For those of you who missed our previous post, we asked a few of our veteran drivers about some of the things they wish they had known before they went out on the road solo. Our first installment came from former driver, driver trainer and now fleet manager TJ Hargis.
Now it’s time for our second installment – this round of advice from former and current drivers Ken Moore and Tom Hachiya.
It’s actually not what a rookie driver does, that’s his/her mistake. It’s what’s not done. Before we start driving, we’re generally used to three square meals at relatively specific times of the day. This can change in a truck. We might not be able to stop for meals at the times we want to due to traffic, appointment times, etc. Now, in order to be our best, to think most clearly, to be safest, and to make our most rational decisions, we need to eat properly and consistently. I’m not talking just eating healthy. When someone first starts driving, there’s so much on his/her plate that food often doesn’t end up on the plate. I’ve spoken with drivers who’ve only eaten fast food and I’ve spoken with drivers who filled their trucks full with cans of beans. We need to eat a variety of food, snack during the day, and pay attention to getting enough non-fast food calories in our system. If we can do this, we are safer, less likely to be irritated by annoying things we have to deal with, and our families will like us more when we get home.
One of the biggest mistakes a rookie driver makes is not finding a way to wind down at the end of the day. When you first start driving, you have a ton to think about: driving safely, appointment times, eating properly in a strange environment, FMCSA regulations, hours of service, and on and on. It’s all pretty daunting in the beginning, and it’s honestly really stressful. If you play guitar, bring your guitar. If you hike, now you can hike everywhere. Personally, I like to find and collect fossils while I’m out. Whatever you choose, you need to have something at the end of the day (and sometimes in the middle) that you can do to help release that stress and feel better. Otherwise, the stress builds day after day and your time on the road isn’t what you want it to be.
From Tom Hachiya:
Time management: Consider your options before you head out on the road. Take some time to think about your 8 hour and 10 hour clock before taking off. The same thing pertains to your 30 minute break. Make sure you have a clear plan and direction, but also keep in mind your options and for hiccups that may come up along the way.
Backing: Make sure you do a good job of surveying your surroundings when you come into a customer’s area. Know where your safety threats and obstacles are at all times. Before you start backing, just stop. Look around and take an inventory of all of those things you might run into or that could hit you: a pedestrian walking along, a car that’s driving, a truck starting up. And as you’re backing up, keep track of them.
Rookies often lose track of the front of their truck. When backing, don’t be so focused that you lose track of the front. Every 10 seconds, look around as you’re backing up so you can keep track of all 4 corners of the truck.
Enjoy being a rookie: When you’re new, people expect you to make mistakes. People don’t expect you to be at 125 PFP points (Pay for Performance). Ask the extra questions, take the extra minutes. When it’s your first time at a customer, let them know. Ask them where they want you to check in, where to park. Don’t worry about the fact that you’re brand new. “Hey I’ve never been here before – where do you want me to go?” You’ll keep yourself out of trouble. Most people are happy to help you – they don’t want to see you fail!