There are many things new truckers have to learn over time. The goal of this two-part article is to help you learn those things now instead of having to wait. Hopefully this will make your life as a new trucker easier. And in doing so, you’ll make everyone else’s lives better too.
In Part 1, we covered some of the fears new truckers have when they’re first getting started. We also discussed health and fitness issues truckers face.
In Part 2, we’ll be covering more “hands on” trucking stuff. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you might want to jump back and do that. But for now, let’s carry on with my advice for new truckers.
*The podcast version below covers Part 1 and Part 2*
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Don’t get in a hurry
In trucking, few good things ever come from getting in a rush. Here are some common situations where you’re going to be tempted to hurry. Don’t.
Chill out when loading or unloading
One of the biggest mistakes I see that even veteran truckers make is getting impatient at customers. When I first started, I’d constantly be worrying if I wasn’t getting loaded or unloaded promptly. Sometimes I’d even get pissy with the customer. I can tell you from personal experience, that never works out the way you think it will.
I still see this happen all the time. A driver comes in screaming and cussing at a receiving clerk because they’re taking too long. Quite frankly, the trucker may be right. But it only seems to make the
customer move slower. I’ve been in multiple situations when they’ve bumped me up in line and I’ve gotten finished quicker than Mr. Impatient, all because I have a calm, friendly attitude while they’ve got steam coming out of their ears like Yosemite Sam when he’s hopping mad at Bugs.
It took me far too many years, but I’ve learned to stay calm in these situations. There’s simply nothing you can do to speed up the process. You can ask what the issue is, but you need to do it in a
Just a few days before I recorded this episode, I went into a shipper late because I had been held up in construction traffic. When I walked in, he was printing up a flyer he was planning to leave on the door telling me that I arrived too late and that I would have to wait until the next morning to be loaded. A hot-head would’ve raved about why it wasn’t his fault and that the shipping clerk was screwing him.
Instead, I chuckled and said, “Well that sucks. I’ve still got 6 hours of driving available, but it is what it is. I know you don’t make the rules.” I stuck around and chatted about the bad construction (which he drove through every day to get to work) and had a few laughs. By the time I was backing into the dock, a loader stuck his head out
and said they were going to stay late and load me. You think that would’ve happened if I’d copped an attitude? Heck, I’ve got a better chance of waking up with a nipple growing out of my forehead.
I might add that this is good for any situation where you find yourself waiting. Whether you just found out there’s a three-hour wait to fix a flat tire, your company can’t find a load for you, or you’re standing in a long line at the fuel desk, just take a chill pill. Getting impatient won’t help the situation. It will only raise your blood pressure and your overall hatred of the human race.
Don’t be pressured into driving in bad weather
NEVER let someone convince you to drive in bad weather if
you aren’t comfortable doing so! NEVER! You have to be the judge! In the beginning you’ll start freaking out as soon as you see the first few snowflakes. But over time you’ll continue to learn more and more about what you and your truck are capable of.
Your dispatcher isn’t driving your truck, are they? Yes, they may have the Weather Channel playing in the background, but they have no idea what the actual current conditions are outside your windshield. I repeat, you have to be the judge.
Sometimes you are your own worst enemy
Here’s an excerpt from Trucking Life that illustrates this perfectly.
Now my company wasn’t pressuring me and I didn’t much feel like lying in two feet of snow to chain up, so two days later, we were still sitting there. As I tend to do, I was eventually feeling the itch to get rolling. After all, I only get paid when the truck is moving. Against The Evil Overlord’s advice, I finally broke down, installed the chains, and left Reno in my mirrors. About ten hours later, we got to Sacramento. The thing is, it was only a 135-mile trip… but it took ten hours. So was it worth chaining up? Probably not. That particular night was one of the most miserable times we’ve ever spent in a truck. There’s nothing quite like listening to “I told you so, Dumbass” for ten straight hours. I hate it when she’s right, largely because it happens so often.
Now my company wasn’t pressuring me and I didn’t much feel like lying in two feet of snow to chain up, so two days later, we were still sitting there.
As I tend to do, I was eventually feeling the itch to get rolling. After all, I only get paid when the truck is moving. Against The Evil Overlord’s advice, I finally broke down, installed the chains, and left Reno in my mirrors.
About ten hours later, we got to Sacramento. The thing is, it was only a 135-mile trip… but it took ten hours. So was it worth chaining up? Probably not.
That particular night was one of the most miserable times we’ve ever spent in a truck. There’s nothing quite like listening to “I told you so, Dumbass” for ten straight hours. I hate it when she’s right, largely because it happens so often.
As this story illustrates, trucking is not a race. Best case scenario here, I wasted about 7 hours of driving time due to my impatience. Worst case, I could’ve wrecked and had my butt eaten like ol’ Carl. Although now that I think about it, there’s actually no chance of that happening. The Evil Overlord has shared a bathroom with me
for over 20 years and there’s no way she’d go anywhere near my butt with a steak knife. However, a good possibility is that I could’ve easily slid into a ditch and racked up some points on my CSA score (explained in a minute).
The point is, just because you can run in bad weather, doesn’t mean you should.
Always remember: No load is worth your life!
Let up off the accelerator
Listen, depending on your school, you’re probably spending anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks right now learning how to drive a truck so you can earn your commercial driver’s license. So protect it already!
I don’t know if you’ve discussed the CSA in class yet, so forgive me if this is rehash. The CSA, which stands for Compliance, Safety, Accountability, is a fairly new program where they are using points to rate both truck drivers and carriers. This way a driver can use the carrier’s CSA score to see how safe their fleet is and the carriers use the score to decide who is a good driver for hiring purposes. So basically, both drivers and carriers get a score based on their safety record.
So why would you risk losing your newly acquired license by speeding? Besides, tickets for traffic violations in trucks usually cost about twice as much and as when you get one in your personal vehicle.
I say it again, you need to protect your CDL! Without it, you can’t earn any money. And how can you buy Cheetos without money? Now I can hear some of you thinking, “But I may have to speed to deliver my load on time!” If that’s truly the case, then I say your company is crappy at dispatching.
The way I see it, a carrier’s inability to plan loads properly has nothing to do with me. It’s truly not my problem if they assign me a load that simply cannot be delivered legally. I’m not going to drive more hours than I have available because of their incompetence, nor am I going to go over the speed limit to deliver on time.
Here’s a great tactic. If a dispatcher ever tries to make you run illegal or belittles you because you aren’t willing to run in bad weather, tell him to transfer you to the safety department. That will end that conflict quicker than a squirrel all hopped up on Red Bull.
Keeping with the subject of speeding, if you take nothing else out of this entire blog post please listen closely to this next topic. This one little thing will save you lots of frustration and it will pretty much give everyone in the world one less reason to hate truck
Don’t be a turtle racer
Turtle racing is when two speed-limited trucks are trying to pass each other on the interstate. In case your driving instructor hasn’t mentioned this yet, many carriers have installed speed-limiters on their trucks. Most of them set it somewhere between 63–65 mph. That can make it really hard to pass other trucks when you can only go slightly faster than the other driver.
Since the vast majority of governed fleets are set a 65 mph, me and my lightning-fast 64 mph truck deal with this a lot. You can see that I am always having slightly faster trucks trying to get around me. Now back when I was a rookie, I was stubborn just like you are going to tend to be. My thought was always, “If you can’t pass me faster than that, then that’s your problem.”
This is precisely the wrong attitude to have. And it’s something I still
hear quite a bit on the CB when I’m trying to pass some donkey head who stubbornly refuses to let me around. I went into a lot of detail about turtle racing and how to avoid it in TD 66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing, but I’ll try to sum it up quickly for you.
Everything I do in my life, I always try to run it through the golden rule. In case you had horrible parents who never taught you this rule, it basically states that you should treat others as you would like them to treat you. Now let’s put this in the context of turtle racing.
If you were an automobile driver or even another trucker being held up by these two jerk faces blocking both lanes, how happy would you be? Wouldn’t you wish they got out of the friggin’ way so
you could go about your business!? Golden rule, folks.
Now put yourself in the place of the slightly faster big rig trying to get around the slightly slower trucker. It’s taking you forever because the slower guy is being stubborn. Wouldn’t that piss you off? Of course it would! And yes, I understand the word “forever” is a bit
of an exaggeration. But trust me, when you’re out in the fast lane holding up traffic for 3 to 5 minutes, it feels like forever.
Here’s my logic on this. Why should a faster trucker have to go slower than he is capable of, simply because some stubborn turd-flinger won’t let him pass quickly?
I am probably in this scenario at least five times a day. Trust me when I say that your load is not going to be late if you tap the brakes to let someone slightly faster get around you a bit quicker. To be fair, your delivery probably won’t be late either if you ease off the throttle and stay behind the slower truck for the next 9 hours, but why should you have to do that? It literally takes 10 to 15 seconds
to let the other driver pass and then you are back at full speed as they’re slowly pulling away from you.
There are two things wrong with you being a stubborn bungmunch. First, you’ve got a semi with an irritated trucker riding alongside you for a long time. And mark my words, the second he gets past you here’s going to nearly take your front bumper off by pulling back in
front of you too soon. Second, you are actively pissing off all of the
automobile drivers and the other truckers who are you holding up. Please don’t be a turtle racing bonehead. Simply tap your brakes and let the other truck around.
Sitting there being stubborn about “winning the race” only makes you madder about the situation. You feel it’s the other guy’s fault for blocking all the traffic, when in reality you can put a stop to it by one little tap of your brakes.
I’m going to finish up with some trucker etiquette that every new driver should start doing to make this industry a better place to work.
Truck stop parking lot etiquette
This “don’t hold up traffic” thing even extends into the truck stop parking lot. One of these situations involves something you newbies are probably scared spitless of right now; backing into a parking spot at a packed truck stop… at night… with other drivers watching. Don’t worry, you will get better at backing. But for now, your goal is to minimize the reasons more experienced drivers have to complain about you.
When you’re setting up for the backing job, look around you. Is there another truck behind you that you could let around before you start? Simply stop in front of the spot so they can’t steal it from you and
turn on your 4-way flashers. They’ll get the hint that you’re letting them around and they’ll always be thankful for your thoughtfulness.
It never ceases to amaze me how many times I see a driver whip out into a 45° position when they’ve got four or five other trucks behind them who simply need to get out of the parking lot and back onto the road. You may be a rookie, but you don’t have to be stupid.
Remember the Golden Rule! Here are 4 rules to live by when parking at a truck stop.
- Don’t let your pets piss or
crap where other drivers have to walk.
- You should follow this rule
too. If you don’t believe me, email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send you
a photo. Ugh.
- Keep your pets quiet. I once was awakened by a yapping dog. I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I looked out at the truck next to me where a dog was barking at absolutely
nothing. I got dressed and grumpily knocked on their door. A woman answered and I asked if she could keep her dog quiet so I could sleep. She said one word to the dog and it shut up. No apology whatsoever. So basically, just remember that while you may be deaf to your best friend’s barking at the wind, other drivers aren’t. Put a muzzle on that mutt.
- Keep in mind that truckers sleep at odd hours. Just because it’s 2:00 in the afternoon doesn’t mean you can back into a spot and crank up your Milli Vaniili. This has happened to me a
few times and each time I had to get dressed and go knock on their door. One of those times, the driver peeked out at me and refused to acknowledge me standing there. I stood there and steadily pounded on his door for a whole minute until he finally rolled down the window. He actually had the nerve to get pissed at me when I asked him to turn the music down!
I have no shame in saying I called his company to report him. Yes, I’m a big fat tattle-tell. And an unrepentant one in this case. Similar to loud music, don’t carry on long, loud conversations outside your truck with another driver. You may be talking right beside someone’s head while they’re trying to sleep.
Fuel island Etiquette
Another situation where you need to be mindful of other drivers is at the fuel island. I know this is going to come as a shock, but fuel bays are meant for fueling. They are not meant as a parking spots for people who want to go in and shower. They are not places to take your 30-minute mandatory breaks. And they are definitely not places to wash your entire truck with a tiny windshield squeegee. Trust me, I’ve seen all of these things numerous times over the years.
Time is money in this industry, especially with the advent of electronic logs. When you pull into a fuel bay, you need to do your fueling and then immediately pull up so the driver behind you can get started. After you pull up, there is about enough time to run inside to grab your Mountain Dew and Cheetos (obviously), but that’s about it.
Pull up when finished fueling
One of the most frequent things that happens is drivers pull up and park in front of the bay like they’re supposed to, but instead of making a quick trip in and out, they go order food at Wendy’s or stand in line at the ever-present Subway. Next thing you know,
you’re standing in line being picky about how much mustard the sandwich artist is using, while the driver who was fueling behind you is forced to do one of four things.
- They sit there and impatiently wait for you to return. Don’t be surprised if you get a dirty look when you get back. You deserve it.
- They risk backing out of the fuel island, which is never a good thing. I’m sure your instructor has already taught you that you don’t back up unless you absolutely have to. Backing is one of the leading causes of accidents, you know.
- They want to back up, but another driver has cued up in line behind them, which now means you’re pissing off two drivers. You are now officially a pinhead.
- They decide to go into the truck stop and take care of their own business instead of waiting on you to move. Now they’re keeping someone else from fueling. When they finally come back out, you’re already gone but the driver behind them is now pissed at them. Nice going starting a chain reaction there, D-bag.
Now it is possible to get your food and get back to your truck before the other driver is done fueling, but you need to use the Golden Rule here. Would you want to be held up? Nope. So if you’re demanding fresh curly fries, go back out and move your friggin’ truck or at least make sure no one has pulled in behind you. Yes, I’m serious. I know it’s inconvenient. But inconvenience yourself, not someone else you selfish jerk. Golden rule, man. Live it.
Taking a 30-minute break on the fuel island
As for taking your mandatory 30-minute break on the fuel islands. The only time I consider that acceptable is if it’s late at night and you can’t find anywhere else to park. Even then, be mindful of the other drivers. Here’s how you do this properly:
- Pull through the fuel bay so you aren’t keeping someone from fueling.
- If someone pulls in to fuel behind you, wait until they are done and then pull around and go back through another open fuel bay.
- If your elogs won’t allow any movement whatsoever without ruining your 30-minute break, then it’s quite simple: DON’T PARK ON THE FRIGGIN’ FUEL BAY IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!
For more detailed information about all
this, check out TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule.
So there we have it. I hope these things will help you jump start your career with the right kind of attitude. I would like to leave you with a personal request.
Don’t tarnish the reputation of truckers
Trust me, it’s bad enough as is. You can pretty much accomplish this by keeping the Golden Rule in mind. If you wouldn’t want another driver keeping you awake, not letting you pass, blocking you at a fuel bay, stepping out of your truck into a puddle of icky urine or stinky cigarette butts, then don’t do those things that will put another driver in that position.
I hope you have a great trucking career ahead of you and if you have any questions, please feel free to holler at me on Twitter where I’m @ToddMcCann or reach out to me at TruckerDump@gmail.com. Or you can join the Trucker Dump Slack group by emailing an invitation request to that same email address.
Now get back to out there and learn to drive that stinkin’ truck. Grind some gears. Take 30 painstaking minutes to back into a wide open parking spot (while only mowing down a couple of orange cones.. HEY, THEY WERE CONES!). Whatever works to give your instructors heart palpitations. After all, every doctor says that raising your heart rate on a regular basis will increase your life, right? Well, if that’s the case, I guess your instructor will never live forever. They should be thanking you, right?
Links mentioned in the podcast version:
TD110: Jabbering With Jared includes an interview I did with nephew Jared after he rode in the truck with me. Some good laughs here!
Jewel Jones is @JewelJonesIRL on Twitter
Check out the videos from trucker BukWildTrucking on YouTube
Australian country artist Jayne Denham performed at the TA/Petro truck parking community at GATS. She sang her #1 hit, Addicted To The Diesel as well as her new release called Stacks. Check out the links for the YouTube videos.
I was interviewed at GATS by Rachel Folkenroth from AllTruckJobs.com.
The interview aired on Episode 7 of a new podcast called Big Rig Banter, hosted by Troy Diffenderfer and Connor Smith. It’s a fun podcast from AllTruckJobs.com that is informative and very well produced. Check it out by following the links above.
AllTruckJobs.com put out a funny 80s-style workout video for truckers. You don’t want to miss Troy Thunder BRING THE THUNDER!!!
Check out this story from The TruckersReport.com of a 23-year-old trucker who wiped out a 6-ton historic bridge.
Check out the photos and read the story of a trucker who destroyed a 3-ton bridge in his 30-ton truck.
TheTruckersReport.com story of mandatory speed limiters being scrapped. Thank God!
FleetOwner.com did a story on platooning.
Ice Cold Justice is a story from TheTruckersReport.com about a thief who was locked inside a refrigerated trailer. Serves him right!
Check out my YouTube video rant about an anal retentive customer.
It’s not too late to enter the drawing for the Meritor jacket!
TD100: What Makes The Evil Overlord Evil? explains how my wife got her nickname.
TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing goes into great detail about how you can keep from impeding traffic out on the interstate. It’s one of my favorite episodes and something that every trucker should hear.
TD107: The Fuel Bay Golden Rule covers the proper etiquette for the fuel bay area.
Links in the feedback section:
An anonymous ex Over-The-Road trucker (email said Bluegrass Cellular) writes in to thank me for producing the podcast. You’re welcome, man!
Fullofit (Steve) has been binge listening and comments on a range of topics. So you can blame him for the next few links.
TD74: Doing Dallas
TD67: The Road To Smutville
TD31: Is Forced Dispatch Forced?
TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing
Renae Savage is one of the newest members of the Trucker Dump Slack group. She has comments on
TD93: The Driver’s Seat Phenomenon, but she’s also started her own blog at Truck Driving Woman. She finishes up by asking me why I write books, blog, and podcast if I’ve been trying to get out of trucking forever. I answer as best as I can.
My singing isn’t as good as it used to be, but I still have fun on Singsnap.com.
You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com
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