Truck drivers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. A life constantly on the road,...
How to Become a More Efficient Truck Driver
Truckers go through a lot when on the road. Between schedule pressures, delays, traffic and days from home, it is one of the hardest jobs to have. When you're the driver, the miles and the days add up quickly. Time is our most valuable resource as truck drivers. Every second counts, and every second wasted can cost you money. Make sure that your time is spent on the best things in life, with these quick hacks to maximize your productivity as a trucker:
- Schedule your driving times strategically
Setting up a schedule for yourself that you can maintain while avoiding highly congested traffic hours will do wonders in terms of saving you time and money. Getting up earlier, around 4AM can help you get a head start on the road, this also means ending your hours before 5pm, which may help you stay on track. Anticipate weather conditions as well. Nobody likes to lose sleep, but keep in mind that driving when everyone else is awake likely means congested traffic!
In pick up and drop off, knowing when your load picks up and delivers is important so that you can set a schedule for yourself. Sometimes you may be asked to travel a short distance but the pickup time is later, then you have hours wasted, which is why it’s good to have the contact info of shipper/receiver if you can, or ask your dispatcher to call for you, to ask if its possible to deliver or load early. Some shippers do like to send out freight as soon as possible so they may welcome this. If you find you are ahead of schedule, don’t be afraid to ask if you can drop off early or pick up early.
- Stay smart when planning your trip/route
Look into truck stops and areas to stop/find parking ahead of time, so you are not wandering around looking for space. Ask truckers on Twitter or in trucker Facebook groups about their recommendations, too. The big chains are best for laundry, showers etc. usually, but not parking. Consider finding parking at smaller chains rather than the big common ones like Loves, because those fill up quickly. Trucking companies use fuel discounts at the big chains, which means most truckers end up there, creating space issues.
- Know basic mechanic terms/repairs
When you drive a vehicle for a living, you will want to know it inside out. Your job is to be on the road, which means overuse may become a common part of your truck's life. Learning to recognize some of the basic things that could be off with your car will save you a lot of money. Knowing how to check some basics around your truck are good to inform you how much you can drive/whether you need a mechanic right away, since it isn’t easy to find a shop nearby on the road. Watch a few YouTube tutorials or read up on some basics of the mechanics of your truck before you hit the road, when you can!
- GPS Skills
Your best asset is your brain! When you are driving, you can run into all sorts of issues with your phone, so being able to navigate yourself is important. Always consult Google maps before you head out, or at the least become familiar with the main roads and highways, before leaving for your trip. Look into which roads you will be taking, so you have some knowledge of the names/where you’re headed, scan this one or twice before leaving. This way, if your devices stop working, you still have some knowledge of where to go.
- Keep on top of your ETA/PTA
ETA and PTA stand for: Estimated Time of Arrival and Projected Time of Availability. If you are arriving to the customer at 11:00am that does not mean your PTA is going to be 11, rather it will be whenever they are done unloading, which can sometimes take hours. You will be more professional and likely form better relationships with the dispatcher and your clients if you keep your times updated and keep them informed. Some dispatchers can track this but making their job easier gets you a better relationship with them and thus makes it easier for you. This also helps you avoid rushing or overbooking yourself.
This bonus last tip is a little controversial in the trucking community, because often there is little access to washrooms, food, laundromats etc., where you’re unloading: However, if you need to keep your logbook in check, sometimes it helps to sleep at the customer if you know you have only a certain amount of driving hours left, it helps you make better use of your HOS. You can ask your dispatch if you can sleep there, if you really do find you are scrambling for time or are going t be wasting a lot of time given your HOS distribution.
Most importantly, in order to do your best, you need to get enough sleep. Make it a priority to have a set sleep schedule and get at least 6-8 hours, as this will improve the rest of your day and work in all areas. Remember that at the end of the day, trucking is a job, and prioritizing your time and ensuring you stay safe are most important! There's no time like now to start making your life easier as a truck driver.