New Article Published: Your Best Advice To A Driver Preparing To Go Solo

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Brett Aquila's Comment
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Update 6/29/2017 - Article Now Published!

Preparing To Go Solo For The First Time? Experienced Drivers Share Their Best Advice

Go check it out!

Hey folks, we're getting ready to put out another article on Thursday and I wanted to get some quotes to use for it. This week's article is going to be:

What Is The One Piece Of Advice You Would Give To Someone Preparing To Go Solo?

Attending truck driving school and preparing for the CDL exam is challenging. You have so much information to learn and of course you're learning to shift, back up, and drive that rig out on the highways.

Handling life on the road with your trainer can be even more challenging because now you're away from your home, family, and friends and you're out on the road doing it for real. You're trying to adjust to a new lifestyle, you're confined in a truck with a stranger out on the highway, and it all gets very real very fast.

But going solo is a whole new level of difficulty. As nice as it is to have your own truck to yourself, the solitude can be a nightmare in itself. You're now isolated in that truck probably 18 or more hours per day, you have no companion to share the experience with, and of course you no longer have someone next to you helping you through it all. You're truly out there on your own, learning the rest the hard way.

Going solo is pretty scary for most people. So what is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who is getting ready to go solo for the first time? Here are some thoughts we can cover:

  • What are some of the things they should know before they get cut loose? For instance, the proper drop and hook procedures, fueling procedures with the company card, breakdown procedures, etc. In those last days with their trainer, what should they focus on?
  • What was the toughest part of those first few weeks solo for you, and what could you offer to make it a little easier for the new drivers getting ready to take their turn?
  • How hard should a new solo driver try to run in the beginning? Is 2,000 miles enough? Should they be able to turn 3,000 miles per week like the big dogs? What are some realistic expectations?
  • What tools should a new solo driver have with them? A CB radio? Trucker's Atlas? Dedicated truck GPS or maybe just Google Maps for now? Hand tools? Electronic devices?

For new drivers, one thing I want to stress is that we highly encourage you to come here to the forum and speak with us about any questions you have or problems you're facing. I've lost count of the number of times drivers came to us after they've suffered through difficulties for months or even quit their job altogether to let us know about the problems they had. Please, please come here immediately and ask us about any uncertainties you may have or challenges you may be facing. Problems that may seem overwhelming to new drivers are often not difficult at all for experienced drivers to help you with, and we'd love the opportunity to help out along the way.

Thanks everyone! I'll be putting together this article during the week and I'll be using quotes in it from this conversation.

What Is The One Piece Of Advice You Would Give To Someone Preparing To Go Solo?

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.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

John M.'s Comment
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It's not a race if it takes 15 minutes longer to get somewhere so be it doing safely is the number one reason you're there.

Philly Boy's Comment
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While going through training you'll make mistakes. But when you go solo you'll make all new mistakes. Take your time and learn from your mistakes. Don't let them discourage you.

Eric G.'s Comment
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1. Trip plan, trip plan, trip plan... I can't stress this enough. Know all the roads, every stop ahead of time. Each day know where your 30 minute break is, know your stop for the night. Use google earth or some satellite view to know the roads in and out.

2. Have back up plans for your stops.

3. Slooooooooowwwwwe doooooowwwwn. Don't be in a rush to get the miles. I know in the beginning we all need money real bad. But I do think 2000 miles is s good target for the first week or two. Give yourself enough time to work through the issues that will pop up. The issues you only encounter once you go solo. Ex. Actually having to park and be shut down for the night. The truck stop might be crowded, the spots might be tight to get in and out if. There might be no parking and you need to find a spot before your clock runs out. Not knowing the stops. Not having a trainer with years of experience there to say hey there is a spot x amount of miles up the road, they are always empty is going to be missed.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rainy 's Comment
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When in doubt DON'T do it.

If you don't think you will make a turn, you don't think the weather is safe, if you don't think the space is wide enough to back up....just DON'T do it.

That last space in a packed truck stop at 0200 is open for a reason. Most likely no one else could get in it either. If that long dark road looks too narrow, it probably is. If you don't think it is safe to keep driving in the snow, then don't.

Listen to your common sense. Listen to your gut.

When in doubt, don't. Ask for help from other drivers, but don't attempt what you already know is not right.

OldRookie's Comment
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Turn off your CB... if you can't ignore those who will give you crap when you are slow, etcetera.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Unholychaos's Comment
member avatar

The first day, first week, first month can be extremely stressful on a new solo driver. Up to this point, you've been used to having someone watching your back and giving you pointers. Now you're all by yourself; every desicion is made by you, and it can be catastrophic if it's the wrong desicion. How do you get over this? Learn to breathe; take a breath in, let it out. Do that a few times if you ever feel like youre about to tense up, you'd be surprised at how much calmer your nerves and mind will be. Just don't overdo it as you may get light headed, and that never ends well.

It's a big, scary world out there. Just relax, take your time, and breathe. Eventually, it'll all become second nature.

Keep in mind that a little bit of nervousness is good. It keeps you from becoming too relaxed and helps you remain focused on the task at hand.

G-Town's Comment
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There are so many things that a solo driver needs to think about and deal with on a daily basis. Taking things one day at a time and never rushing should be foremost in everyone's mind. I also think effective preparation is a key element required to survive the first few months of solo running. Do not start driving without any kind of plan. This includes road-driving but also yard operation as well. When backing, don't rush, GOAL before setting up, have a plan. At the end of each day review the previous activities noting anything of importance than can serve as a learning experience. Record this sort of thing in a notebook and refer to it often.

I strongly recommend performing a cursory level post trip on the rig at the end of each shift. Walk around checking major components like tires, brakes, air hoses, any leakage, etc. Finding something requiring attention ahead of the next day's pre-trip can save time, aggravation and perhaps keep you moving instead of waiting.

The absolute best advice is NOT allow the "lows" get you too low, and the "highs" get you too high. There will be good days and bad days; try to learn something regardless. We always seem to focus on what went wrong in this business, the mistakes. Attention to what "went right" is just as important not only for technical reasons, but also building that much needed confidence.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Turtle's Comment
member avatar

When in doubt DON'T do it.

If you don't think you will make a turn, you don't think the weather is safe, if you don't think the space is wide enough to back up....just DON'T do it.

That last space in a packed truck stop at 0200 is open for a reason. Most likely no one else could get in it either. If that long dark road looks too narrow, it probably is. If you don't think it is safe to keep driving in the snow, then don't.

Listen to your common sense. Listen to your gut.

When in doubt, don't. Ask for help from other drivers, but don't attempt what you already know is not right.

^^This is GOLD^^

Also, never ever let someone rush you into being unsafe. When you're trying to back up into that spot, and the other drivers are waiting for you to get out of the way, do not rush just to appease them. Ignore them. Fugetaboutem. Do your thing.SAFELY!

Rainy's quote is the best I've seen:

"When in doubt, DON'T! "

Fatsquatch 's Comment
member avatar

Never be afraid to admit you don't know something, can't/aren't comfortable doing something, or need help. Pride and ego are your two biggest enemies no matter how long you've been behind the wheel, but especially as a rookie. Also, be willing to freely admit to and own your mistakes. You're going to make them, it's inevitable. The key is to learn from them so you don't make them again.

Oh, and fuel rewards are your friend, especially when you're first starting out and your bank account is still playing Oliver Twist. Use them for everything you can, and swipe that card with every transaction you make in the truck stop, even if you're just buying a slice of pizza. You never know what promotions will get you a discount or add to your points balance.

Dm:

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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