Thousands of people join the trucking industry every year, and we’ve put together recommendations that will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes new carriers tend to make.
Creating safety-conscious habits early in your trucking career can help you avoid common safety violations. You can start safety-focused practices before you even hit the road by conducting regular vehicle maintenance, familiarizing yourself with weight limits and checking the weather and road conditions before each trip. Once on the road, be sure to adhere to highway safety practices, like following speed limits and using proper signaling, that can prevent putting you and others on the road in danger.
Keep Your Paperwork Organized
There are a lot of things to keep track of as an owner-operator, and making sure everything is organized is important. From fuel purchase receipts and load paperwork to maintenance records and driver qualification files, maintaining proper documentation and organization will lead to better operations overall. Adversely, not keeping organized files can lead to failed DOT inspections, messy and time-consuming fuel tax calculations and even lost income and business. Whether you use Excel spreadsheets, a trucking app like RTS Pro or trucking software, keep your physical and digital documents organized and easy to find so you can access them quickly when you need them.
Take Care of Yourself
Not taking care of your health can have serious implications for you and your career. According to the FMCSA, nearly 350,000 drivers were disqualified in 2021 because they failed their DOT physicals. Things like maintaining a healthy diet, taking necessary medications on time every time and following basic healthcare recommendations like staying hydrated can help keep you healthy on and off the road.
Get Enough Sleep
When you neglect your sleep, you put yourself and others at risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 100,000 motor vehicle accidents occur per year because of sleep deprivation, and over 50% of crashes caused by commercial truck drivers are a result of extreme fatigue. Get plenty of sleep, take breaks when needed and remember, being tired while driving puts you and others at risk. A good driver knows their limits, so be sure to take care of yourself and get the rest you need to function properly and operate your truck safely.
Plan When and Where to Fuel Up
Not knowing when and where to fuel up can cost you money. Fuel is heavy, and each gallon weighs roughly six pounds, so avoid any extra charges by fueling up after the weigh station. Where you fuel up is equally important. You can use a trucking app to search along your route for the best deals and discounts on diesel. You can also familiarize yourself with IFTA and utilize fuel planning to take advantage of fuel tax rates across state lines and maximize potential savings.
Be Aware of Your Trailer
Too often, new drivers fail to understand the size and weight of their trailer. It can be easy to misjudge turning space, the distance between you and other vehicles and the clearing height between the top of your trailer and tunnels or bridges. Be sure to take your time, move at a cautious speed, leave space between you and other vehicles and always check your surroundings.
Take Measures to Prevent Cargo Theft
Cargo theft is among the top concerns of truckers everywhere. As a best practice, try to avoid leaving your loaded trailer unattended, whenever possible, and especially in areas of higher cargo theft. Be sure to lock your trailer (e.g., air cuff locks, rear door locks, etc.). If staging or dropping a load is unavoidable, consider also installing landing gear locks. For more tips on preventing cargo theft, read How to Prevent Cargo Theft.