When Did You Decide You Were An Experienced Driver?

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Bird-One's Comment
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Was thinking about this while reading Junkyard K9's post on his one year (congrats by the way). Was it reaching your 1 year? 2 year? Maybe a certain milestone.

And if you don't feel you are an experienced driver what do you feel you need to accomplish to be considered one?

Brett Aquila's Comment
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I've always felt that the learning curve kinda goes like this:

  • First 3 months - you're a total mess. You either do everything wrong, inefficiently, or you just get lucky! Regardless, the entire goal is to not hit anything and try to make all of your appointments on time. Absolutely nothing comes easy and nothing is automatic. You have to think about every move you make all the time and it's exhausting. If you don't hit anything and get to all of your appointments on time you've done fantastically well
  • Months 3 - 6 you've learned a lot from your mistakes those first few months and you're getting better in every way. Your time management, navigation, backing, and your understanding of the job and the industry as a whole has improved noticeably. It's still pretty clumsy and awkward at times, but much easier than it was.
  • Months 6 - 12 you're really catching on at this point. You should be able to turn a lot more miles because you're far more efficient with your load planning and time management. You should be making all of your appointments on time. You've developed a better understanding of how to communicate with dispatch, how your company distributes freight, and how to move appointments ahead or other tricks to turn more miles each week. There will even be days when you're smiling and thinking, "Hey, I'm really starting to like this job! I think I can do this!"
  • Years 2 through 4 you're digging deeper into the finer nuances of the job, the industry, and the lifestyle. You're amassing all sorts of tips, tricks, and techniques to maximize the usage of your time and avoid all of the little pitfalls that rookies run into regularly. You've developed a strong relationship with dispatch and you have an excellent understanding of what you need from them, and what they need from you in order to keep your wheels turning. You've developed a strong reputation at your company and if it's a solid one you're going to be getting a lot more favors from dispatch and leniency when it comes to the rules that apply to most other drivers. At this stage you're really honing your craft and realizing that almost every detail matters in the grand scheme of things. Everything can either be a tool to help you, or a detriment accomplishing your mileage and service goals.
  • Year 5 and beyond you've become a truly polished professional - a real Top Tier Driver. You are just killing it. You've pretty much seen it all, done it all, and almost nothing ever stumps you. You have an answer for pretty much every challenge that gets thrown your way. No one outperforms you when you're at your best, which is pretty much all the time. You're truly enjoying your time on the road and you know at this point that you've reached the pinnacle of this career in terms of productivity, efficiency, and earnings. Your reputation should be so spectacular within your company that they'll just bend over backwards for you every chance they get as long as you keep performing at the highest level. At this stage you can dress like a cowboy even if you're not from Texas or Wyoming.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Tractor Man's Comment
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At this stage you can dress like a cowboy even if you're not from Texas or Wyoming.

.....or one of the Village People!

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Keep something very important in mind though. This is the learning curve for those who go on to be Top Tier Drivers. Unfortunately that's not a large percentage of the industry. It's actually quite appalling how many drivers out there have done this job for many years but never learn to succeed at the highest level. For these underachievers, their downfall tends to be their utter lack of emotional intelligence:

Emotional Intelligence:

The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

In other words, they're usually loud mouth, obnoxious jerks who don't know how to be a team player, can't get along well with other people, and always think they're getting screwed by someone. They tend to complain, blame, and criticize the world around them incessantly and the only way they know how to handle a challenging situation is to argue with people, and they're usually yelling and threatening. If that doesn't work they'll just get more angry, yell louder, and argue longer. They basically handle themselves like cavemen.

The industry is overrun with these types. They're unbearable. I spent the better part of my 15 year career hiding behind newspapers in the restaurant so people wouldn't see me as their next opportunity to complain about "The Man." Nowadays you can only hope your mobile phone is a good enough substitute. Newspapers are hard to come by.

That's why I always say be careful who you get your advice from. Make sure the person you're listening to has been very happy and successful in their career for quite a few years. If someone starts blaming, complaining, and criticizing you need to get away from them as quickly as possible to maintain your sanity and prevent yourself from becoming jaded.

Episode 19: You're Getting Career Advice From The Wrong People

I've watched a lot of people over the years come through this website and completely change after being on the road for a little while. They start out really kind, humble, friendly, and enthusiastic. Then within a year or two their attitude changes dramatically. They become infected by the terminal rats:

Episode 10: Terminal Rats Are Derailing Trucking Careers

They become snarky, cynical, condescending, and they complain constantly. They hate the job, the Government, their company, the regulations, and pretty much everything about their lives. It's a sad and dramatic change they go through.

After being on the road for years I'd say everyone has experienced enough that they either become bitter, resentful, miserable, and cynical or they become as happy and pleasant as a monk, enjoying their time on the road and always counting their blessings.

You'll find that our moderators are the latter type. They're highly successful, incredibly valuable to their companies, and they thoroughly enjoy their life on the road. However, even they're not immune to the terminal rats. We have had two different moderators that started out fantastic and had me convinced they really "got it" - they were going to be fantastically successful and happy as can be out there but they eventually were swallowed by the darkside. They've stopped contributing altogether. We won't be discussing names, it isn't necessary. Just know that it can happen to you to:

Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear

"Closer to Fine" - Indigo Girls

Life on the road is so filled with experiences that it affects everyone profoundly. How it affects you will depend on whether you tend to focus on the light or the darkness in everyday life.


A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Mikey B.'s Comment
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I would also like to add you are at least getting close when you have been driving long enough and have picked up enough to truly see and understand why lease OP is a really bad idea...😆

Spaceman Spiff's Comment
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I think the cowboy outfit is a great top tier trophy item.

Old school, when does your outfit arrive?

Chief Brody's Comment
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Junkyard Dog's Comment
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On my anniversary thread one of the guys told me to switch my description to "experienced driver." Even though I've learned so much and this job is so much easier than it was even a month or two ago I've got so much to learn yet... I do have a pair of cowboy boots and I used to have a beautiful Stetson hat but I lost that about 20 years ago. No, not getting any Cowboy outfit yet...

Dave S (formerly known as's Comment
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There is a point called the terrible 2's. This is where you get comfortable and open yourself up to mistakes. I'm quickly approaching this point in my career. I have to remind myself every day to stay on the ball. Don't get lax on the pre/post trips. Stay on the ball while driving. Don't let your guard down even for an instant. An instant is all it takes to sink your career!

RealDiehl's Comment
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Feeling experienced - for me - will be pretty much when I'm no longer surprised by or unprepared for everyday challenges. That's not to say there will be no more surprises or challenges. I'll just be able to meet them without the uncertainty that I currently feel at times. Things have already greatly improved but I still think I have a long way to go. I am my own worst critic though.

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