6 Quick Tips for New CDL Holders Away From the Wheel
New to the truck driving profession?
If you’ve got your CDL and are ready to hit the road, heed the advice below we gathered from our own team.
Getting behind the wheel of a tractor trailer is a big decision, sometimes 80,000 lbs + big. You need to know what it’s all about since this isn’t just a career – it’s a lifestyle.
Know your equipment.
The best thing you can do to set yourself up for success from the start is spend the time you need to know the ins and outs of your equipment. Think of it as an extension of yourself.
- Go front to back and in and out.
- Test drive your equipment in varying road conditions if possible.
- Google reviews about your equipment on the internet to gather tips and tricks from other drivers.
We hammer this away at our CDL school because it is so important. Pre-trip is a safety measure you can take before even hitting the road. You cannot skip steps during the inspection. If you want to set yourself up for a successful trip each time, pre-trip needs to become second nature. This goes hand in hand with knowing your truck from front to back and in and out. If you make this a habit from the start, you will save yourself headaches in the future. Drivers are on the frontlines of road safety. Remember that.
Communication is key.
We all know how the supply chain is siloed and how that causes disruptions and communication issues. That’s why communication is so important. It goes beyond basic updates though. You have to communicate with your team about your experience and continually provide feedback. Are you experiencing recurring issues at certain shipping and receiving facilities? What are your personal goals? What are your preferences? If you like a lane or really enjoy working with a specific customer, location, or piece of equipment, make sure you let your team know. It’s not just about reporting bad experiences, but reporting good ones too.
Ask lots of questions.
Who to ask? If you are a company driver, talk to your dispatcher and/or driver manager or any other experienced drivers on your team. Talk to other drivers at truck stops if you have to. Ask open-ended questions to encourage sharing personal experiences, so all you have to do is listen and pay attention.
- What was your first year like on the road?
- What’s been your experience with (fill in the blank)?
- What advice do you have for me?
It’s more important now than ever to keep in touch with your company. Be sure you are connected to your company by visiting their website and following them across social media. If you are an independent contractor, be sure to join an association or group online to keep up with the latest news, events, and updates for the trucking industry. Why?
- You will find there are ample opportunities to provide feedback via social media – whether it’s from your company directly or otherwise.
- You will stay informed about new regulations, severe weather events, and new company updates, policies, events, initiatives, and opportunities.
- You will find that many of these platforms are used to distribute educational information for drivers, especially around safety.
- There is a whole community of drivers online to help other professional drivers. You never know what you’ll find useful there unless you join.
Find your niche.
Through all of this, you should be able to find your spot, your ‘bread and butter’. Maybe you become the go-to driver for your team for a specific customer or lane. Maybe you learn the ins-and-outs of hauling something obscure or obtain additional certification to haul something specific. It’s about marketing yourself. You will only be able to identify what you really enjoy by taking on new experiences and providing feedback. Since trucking is truly a lifestyle, it’s important that you figure out what you enjoy most.
There is always room for improvement and, of course, there is a lot to be learned from on-the-road experience. However, do not underestimate the little things you can do outside of driving that set you up for success in what is very possibly a lifelong, rewarding career. Hopefully, these few pointers help provide you some direction.
For more information about obtaining your CDL, please email: [email protected]