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FAQ: Your First Year As A Rookie Truck driver

Last Updated: Oct 3, 2016

How long are new drivers "rookies"?

It depends on the driver, of course, but expect most of the first year to be a learning experience, a sort of apprenticeship.

How are rookie truck drivers treated?

On the road, most people won't know your level of experience, unless you tell them. Most experienced drivers will be willing to lend a hand to a new driver, but, people being people, you'll find a few with bad attitudes.

How will my attitude affect my career and success as a driver?

Your attitude has simply everything to do with your success as a trucker. Your approach not only to driving the truck, but in dealing with your own company will be the deciding factor in how well you do out there. It's the difference between getting all the miles you want, and doing a lot of sitting.

How do hours-of-service work?

Basically, truck drivers are only allowed to be on-duty for a certain number of hours per day, and per week. The general limits are 14 hours on duty per day, in a row, with 11 driving, 60 hours in a consecutive 7-day period, and 70 hours in a consecutive 8-day period.

How do I manage my hours-of-service correctly?

Practice. Most companies are using electronic logs , so things will need to be done "by the book". You'll learn to plan ahead, and take your rest breaks strategically when possible, i.e. when at the customer. Effective communication with your dispatcher will help get you the next load as soon as you are finished with one.

If I get into an accident, will I get fired?

It really depends on the company, and the severity of the accident. Some give more leeway than others. Companies that have more time and money invested in a driver, like a company-sponsored program for example, may tend to be a bit more forgiving. "Go slow, be patient, and don't hit anything."

Will small incidents in the truck get me fired?

Usually not. Things happen. A tire gets damaged on a curb, or you nudge a pole. Too many small "incidents" however, will get you a stern talking to, and could get you fired.

How important is my first year as a truck driver?

Your first year is super-important. Many companies will require at least a year of OTR experience as a condition of hire, so getting that first year under your belt as cleanly and painlessly as possible should be a goal to shoot for. We constantly stress the importance of sticking with your first company for at least a year, if possible.

Who do new truck drivers turn to for help, advice, or assistance on the road?

By it's nature, truck driving is kind of a solo act, where successful drivers will figure out how to handle things without having to rely too heavily on others. That said, if it's company-related, obviously you will contact your company. Most other drivers will be helpful if you need a spotter for backing, or advice, etc. And the Trucker's Forum is always open, 24/7.

How many miles will I drive as a new truck driver?

At first, not a ton. The learning curve is pretty steep for new drivers, but at the end of the first year most OTR drivers should be getting somewhere around 2000-2500 miles per week.

How can I get more miles as a truck driver?

Generally, take all the loads your dispatcher gives you, be on time for pickups and deliveries, be patient, and have a great attitude. Once you prove your worth to your dispatcher as a top performer, they will go out of their way to give you the high-mileage loads, and the best runs.

What if my truck breaks down on the road?

Get off the road safely, if you're on it, contact your company, and they will handle. You may get a stay in a hotel while repairs are being done.

What should I bring with me on the road?

Living in your truck OTR usually lets you set it up almost like a tiny version of your house. Clothes, hygiene supplies, electronics, coolers, refrigerators, etc. We have a pretty expansive List Of Things To Bring On The Road.

What if I get too sick to drive?

If you are sick enough that it compromises your ability to safely drive, then get off the road ASAP, and contact your company. In extreme cases like that, you'll probably be looking for an emergency care facility, or an emergency room.

Will I be forced to drive in bad weather

The decision on whether or not you can safely drive is the drivers, and the drivers alone. Snow and ice accumulations, and/or poor visibility make for dangerous driving conditions that should be avoided when possible. Pay attention to the weather around you, as well as the forecast and patterns for the areas you'll be traveling.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Electronic Logs:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

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