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Always have a good plan for the trip you are making. Rookie drivers tend to second guess everything they go through. In this career, there are surprises almost every day. You always want to have a plan. That helps you stay on track with your goals.
Proper trip planning helps you get to your appointments on time, purchase fuel when and where needed, and take breaks at the proper times and locations. Without a plan you simply can’t keep your dispatcher apprised of your ETA, nor can you assure your customer that you will be on time.
Professional drivers should attend to the details that help them increase their efficiency and productivity. We get paid based on how much we get done. They expect us to be very productive and very safe at the same time. Neither of those objectives are accomplished well without taking the steps to keep ourselves ahead of our competition. Fifteen minutes of planning will pay dividends that far exceed the odds of rushing unprepared into the unknown without regard for what may lie ahead.
Know what kind of weather you should be expecting. Sometimes waiting one day for a storm to blow through is smarter than trying to push through it.
Keep your dispatcher well-informed. Unexpected delays happen daily in trucking. Dispatchers cherish their drivers who keep them informed. It saves them a lot of trouble. They have to submit daily reports to their superiors about the progress of the loads they are managing. When drivers keep them informed it makes everything run smoother. It also helps them to know what loads they can reserve for you. If they are certain you will be empty at a specific time, they can make sure they have got more work lined up for you at that time.
Call your customers/receivers/consignees. Keep the lines of communication going with your customers. This can save you all kinds of time. If you can deliver early, communicate that with your customers. Many of them will adjust their schedule to accommodate you if they know they can trust your ETA. Think about how much more you can accomplish if you get to a customer a full day ahead of schedule.
Any time you can park at a customer’s location, take advantage of their generosity. If you get there early and need to sleep, you are right there whenever they are ready for you. If you get there the night before your appointment, you may have time to get in a full 10-hour break before getting unloaded, or you may be able to gain an advantage by using the split-sleeper-berth provision. Always pay attention to your hours and know what you can do to stay a step ahead of your fellow drivers.
Be flexible with your plans. Try to have a backup plan. Things change almost daily out here. Don’t be so inflexible that you can’t change your plan when a conflict comes up. Maybe it’s a traffic jam or an unexpected snowstorm. Be willing to adjust and deal with whatever rises up to delay you.
One of the biggest advantages more productive drivers have is their ability to work within the same rules and regulations as everyone else, yet not seem to be hindered by them. There is a world of difference in productivity levels between drivers who feel restricted by the HOS rules, and those who act as though they are empowered by them.
A good understanding of the rules, and how they help you take advantage of your circumstances, will put you well ahead of the folks who never apply themselves to learning these things. There are conceivable scenarios where drivers may end up being a day late to their consignee just because they didn’t understand how to extend their 14-hour clock by using the split-sleeper-berth provision. Sure, it seems complicated at first, but once you begin to grasp it, the many ways it can help you become exciting and motivating. Be innovative in your thinking. That will put you ahead of many in terms of being productive.
You want to be free to park where and when you want. Being dependent on truck stops for food and a place to park can seriously hinder your ability to plan an efficient trip at times. It is not too expensive to have your truck rigged out with items like a refrigerator and some means to cook with. It is also a money saving advantage if you can get your supplies at a grocery store or a large discount warehouse. Many of these large stores may even let you do your 10-hour break in their parking lot. If so, you are getting two things done at once. Truck drivers are the original multi-taskers. This is one opportunity where you can get some rest and some supplies all at the same time - that is efficiency!
There is absolutely no chance of you getting unloaded early if you are down the street at a truck stop. Being at a customer’s location greatly increases your chances of getting unloaded early. Whenever you can get to a customer early it is a good idea. Occasionally you are going to have a customer who doesn’t allow early arrivals, but for the most part, being early can work to your advantage. If you can get unloaded early, make sure and let your dispatcher know about it. Your communications with them will greatly assist them in getting you loaded again quickly.
We hope you have learned a great deal from this section, and we thank you for sticking with it. Any professional driver who has done well in this career has learned to be the master of their own time. Many folks complain about the problems they are having earning a good living at trucking. We have found that most of those same folks simply do not understand how much influence they can have over their own success at this challenging career.
By exercising your knowledge of the rules, and making a few sacrifices that many drivers are unwilling to do, you can greatly increase your income as a professional driver. We hope you will revisit this section at any time. We’ve purposely tried to clarify and simplify some of the confusing parts of the HOS rules and regulations. Once you understand them and practice your own little methods of arriving early, and communicating well with your customers and your support team, you should start realizing ways that you can become more efficient and productive. The highest-paid drivers are the most productive ones.
Most of us drivers get paid by the mile. We sometimes refer to that as incentive pay or performance-based pay. Professional drivers who can produce better results will see better paychecks. Those drivers who can figure out ways to be more productive than their peers will find themselves getting special treatment from load planners and driver managers. Knowing how to use the logbook rules to gain an advantage is one of the critical steps to becoming a professional driver.