Time Management For Truck Drivers

Last Updated: Nov 6, 2018

Effective Time Management and Why It’s Important

Time is valuable when you are an over the road truck driver. Whether you are paid by the hour, a percentage of the load, or the mile, your pay revolves around the time you spend behind the wheel, so it is important to plan out your schedules and know how to get the most out of your day.

Veteran truck drivers can often spot the difference between a rookie driver and an experienced driver by how they handle their time in truck stops. While this may seem condescending, there’s a reason, optimizing your time in every aspect of your day affects your career and how much money will be on your paycheck.

Optimizing Driving Time

To maintain public safety, and keep fatigued drivers off of the road, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates how many hours a driver can drive per day and per week. Drivers are regulated to 14 consecutive hours-of-service, limited to 11 hours of actual drive time, with a required 10 consecutive off-duty hours.

Drivers must also monitor their 60-70 hour Duty Limit. Depending on the motor carrier, drivers will be limited to 60 hours of drive time in 7 days, or a 70 hour limit in 8 days.

Hours-of-Service

Once you begin any kind of work, the clock starts for your hours-of-service and will continue, even if you stop for a break or take a quick nap. During this time, drivers are allotted 11 cumulative hours of drive time. You can utilize the three hours of non drive time to make restroom stops, grab a something to eat, get fuel, or even take a quick nap. As a driver you will be required to take at least a 30 minute break if you have been driving for 8 hours without a 30 minute stop.

Three hours may seem like a long time on the surface, but it will disappear quickly as you stop for restroom breaks and other needs. To get in the full 11 hour drive time, drivers will want to make sure to minimize stops and how long those stops last.

To minimize stops drivers should:

  • Monitor fluid intake - When sitting in a climate controlled vehicle, your body doesn’t need as much to drink. Staying hydrated is important, but drinking too much will lead to more restroom breaks, with the average break taking about 10 minutes. Some drivers find it helpful to chew gum while they drive to help reduce how much they drink.
  • Limit caffeine - Coffee, soda, and energy drinks can give you a boost in energy quickly, but the effects are only temporary. Caffeine drinks should be limited because they can result in more restroom breaks, and you could build up a tolerance towards caffeine. Natural boosts in energy can come from eating foods such as apples, bananas, whole grains, nuts and leafy greens. Avoid eating fruit while drinking a diet soda, the combination of the artificial and natural sugars effects your brain, essentially creating a brain crash, resulting in fatigue.
  • Keep food in the truck - Invest in a microwave, refrigerator and food that stores easily. This will help speed up lunch breaks, maintain a healthy diet, and save money!
  • Plan ahead - Drivers should look ahead and plan drive time with needed stops and arrival time. Also be aware of how much time is spent driving to ensure you are not forced to stop to fulfill off-duty time that will make you late for a delivery.
  • Calculate in unloading and loading times; as this counts towards your hours of service.
  • Add in a buffer for unexpected stops - always try to stay ahead of schedule as drivers cannot predict traffic accidents or other unexpected issues on the road such as mechanical failures.
  • Keep maintenance up to date - This will limit the risk of mechanical failures on the road.
  • Refrain from spending too much time in truck stops - Truck stops often have arcade games inside, playing them can use up a good chunk of time before you realize how much time has been spent. Screen time can add additional strain on your eyes, increasing fatigue. Instead, if you enjoy playing video games, play during your 10 hour Out-Of-Service requirement.
  • Avoid picking up your phone during stops - Phones also eat up a lot of time before you are aware of the time loss. Social media, games, and other applications are not quick checks. Videos lead to more videos, posts to more posts, keep the phone at a distance. Putting the phone away promotes safe driving and helps you stay on top of your schedule.

Benefits of a Midday Nap

As a driver, you may consider taking small naps during the day if you find that you are getting fatigued more often.

Signs of being fatigued include:

  • Having difficulty making decisions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Slower at completing tasks
  • Inability to control emotions
  • Feeling drowsy/ Heavy eyelids

The benefits of taking a short 20-30 minute mid-day nap:

  • Restores alertness
  • Enhances performance
  • Reduces mistakes
  • Prevents accidents

Sleep plays an important role on your physical health and a full night’s sleep can help your day run smoothly. When you are fatigued you cannot think straight and it will affect your decision making.Underestimating the importance of sleep can affect your overall performance on the road.

Off-Duty Hours

Once your 14 hour window is closed, drivers must fulfill 10 hours off-duty. This is an optimal time to take a quick walk, talk with family, unwind and sleep. You can also use this time to restock food, catch up on laundry and wash up, especially if you have encountered a 34 hour reset.

Knowing how to plan and use your log book in your favor can benefit drivers in a time crunch.This article, Making the Most of Your Log Book, will show you how to use a sleeper berth provision to your advantage, and cover other methods for making the most of you service time.

Deliver On Time

Optimizing your time behind the wheel can help you reach your destination on time, or even ahead of schedule. This improves your customer service experience during deliveries (because customers are happier when they get their deliveries on time) and it helps improve your overall performance as a driver.

Companies may also offer incentives for saving fuel, driving safely, and on-time deliveries. Keeping up with your time (to ensure you have the full use of the 11 hours), and planning ahead, can lower the stresses of being an over the road truck driver and help you reach your goals.

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.

Over The Road:

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.

Sleeper Berth:

The portion of the tractor behind the seats which acts as the "living space" for the driver. It generally contains a bed (or bunk beds), cabinets, lights, temperature control knobs, and 12 volt plugs for power.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

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.

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.

Fm:

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Out-of-Service:

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.

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.

Join Us!

We have an awesome set of tools that will help you understand the trucking industry and prepare for a great start to your trucking career. Not only that, but everything we offer here at TruckingTruth is 100% free - no strings attached! Sign up now and get instant access to our member's section:
High Road Training Program Logo
  • The High Road Training Program
  • The High Road Article Series
  • The Friendliest Trucker's Forum Ever!
  • Email Updates When New Articles Are Posted

Apply For Paid CDL Training Through TruckingTruth

Did you know you can fill out one quick form here on TruckingTruth and apply to several companies at once for paid CDL training? Seriously! The application only takes one minute. You will speak with recruiters today. There is no obligation whatsoever. Learn more and apply here:

Apply For Paid CDL Training

About Us

TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

Read More

Becoming A Truck Driver

Becoming A Truck Driver is a dream we've all pondered at some point in our lives. We've all wondered if the adventure and challenges of life on the open road would suit us better than the ordinary day to day lives we've always known. At TruckingTruth we'll help you decide if trucking is right for you and help you get your career off to a great start.

Learn More