In those first twelve months on the road, some serious adjustments will be made. Odd hours, lack of typical creature comforts, and high stress can take their toll. But this is your new normal, and you’re determined to make a career of it. How can you cope? Here are zinc’s tried-and-true practical suggestions to set you up for initial and ongoing success. Let’s make trucking work. Personal
Prepare yourself: It’s been said that no one can truly prepare you for life as a trucker. Short of camping out in your backyard, it’s hard to get your mind ready for the sometimes grueling, always inconvenient nature of life on the road. So talk to your peers, read folks’ stories, and do all the research you can to put yourself in the driver’s seat. Get the real story, and think about how you’d respond and adapt. Make your game plan.
Keep things in perspective: Yes, this is a tough job that most people can’t do. But hey, that makes you pretty tough. Life on the road can be difficult, but who wouldn’t love the opportunity to see the country while making a living? Driving alone can be lonely, but how many people could do without the friction and micromanaging all too common in the workplace? The job isn’t unconnected by any means––customers and employers need to be in the know, and industry standards have to be met. But the relative independence is liberating for so many truckers and a strong motivation to keep driving.
Manage your time: Experienced truckers will tell you that not all rest stops are convenient, friendly, or easy to access. So when you have some down time, combine tasks and make an efficient use of what time and resources you have available. Between self-care, laundry, meals, relaxation, exercise, and sleep, there’s a lot to be done and not much time in which to do it. Keeping a balance between needs will mean that nothing gets overlooked. And while you’re on the road, factoring in driving conditions, traffic, load size, and speed limit will ensure that you have a solid grasp on the route and the timing expectations.
Know that you don’t know: Whether you’re in month one or twelve, to seasoned pros you’re still a rookie. Realize that there’s much to be learned from those who have come before. Twenty years of experience can’t be condensed into one, but while you’re training it’s still vital to ask questions and admit where you can deepen your knowledge. Ask for tips on specific maneuvers, techniques, or tasks you’re having trouble with. Learn best practices and tricks of the trade. Remember that with others’ help, you can only improve and progress.
Be upfront and honest: If you’re uncomfortable, unwell, unsure, or otherwise uneasy, speak up. Addressing the issue straight on will handle it and help you to then make adjustments, put it aside, and do your job. If your health is taking a dive, be clear that you need time to take care of yourself to be a better driver. Should you happen to experience discrimination or any racial- or gender-based violence, don’t let that lie. Tackling these topics can be tricky, but you should be able to reach out to a trainer or advisor for help. And if you’re just looking into trucking, be honest with recruiters about your history, health, and pay and schedule preferences. If you find that your physical, mental, or emotional makeup isn’t conducive to the job, be honest with yourself, too.
Check all the boxes: Whether it’s a timing, customer service, or shipment issue, if there’s a problem you’ll likely be the first under fire. So focus on completing all necessary checks and tasks and document what you’ve reviewed. When you do everything possible to make each run a success, you’ll give yourself something to fall back on should an issue arise. If you present yourself professionally and represent the company well at every turn, you’ll go far to resolving potential problems.
Be there: When you’re on the road, make a conscientious effort to stay connected to loved ones. Use all available technology to keep your presence real in their lives, even setting a call schedule to keep everyone in touch and give you something to look forward to. Trucking is an isolating job, and for some that’s a welcome change. But there’s no need for that new-found freedom to keep you from the ones you love. And when you’re at home, do your best to acclimate to their ‘normal’ right away. Go places, do things, and spend quality time with friends and family. It makes for great memories to reflect on during your next run.
Health and Wellness
Be your own advocate: To the extent that you can, tailor the circumstances in which you find yourself. Talk to old hands and find out what sorts of scenarios you could face on the road, then take measures and bring any supplies that would make the situation easier on you. Whether this means bringing favorite personal care items, setting a daily schedule for yourself, or having a few items from home on board, these little comforts will mean so much more should the going get tough. And consider using audiobooks or language learning tools to pass the time and positively engage your mind.
Healthy in, healthy out: Eating on the road often means a select few calorie-dense and nutrient-poor foods. But sticking with less healthy “comfort foods” will eventually lead to plummeting physical wellbeing and could put you at risk for some serious health problems. Instead, commit to a healthier way of eating––stock up on fresh ingredients, supplies, and cooking implements to stick to your plan while on the road. And if nutritious options are available at rest stops, opt for those. Not only will you avoid some of the main health risks associated with trucking, but you’ll be more likely to pass industry-required physicals. And ultimately, you’ll just plain feel better.
Balance is key: Sitting all day in a cab isn’t good for anyone. But at the end of a run, you’re exhausted, relieved, and ready to chill. Getting some exercise in might seem like the last thing you’d want to do, but it’s more important than you know. Regular periods of exercise––from a brisk walk, to a jog, a bike ride, weight-lifting or stretching––is vital to keeping your body strong and resilient, ready to face what comes. Regardless of what you haul, your physical health will eventually come into play. Keep yourself healthy and make time to get any concerns checked out. Using a padded seat and other ergonomic products can also help to reduce some of the jarring physical impacts of driving.
If you’re looking to become a trucker, you’ll find that there are various steps of training, testing, licensure and approval needed before you can get behind the wheel. All those requirements ensure that you’re safe out there. Another necessary piece of the puzzle is reliable trucking insurance. Whether you’re setting out to be an independent owner-operator, or develop a fleet of your own, insurance plays a vital role in protecting you, your customers, any employees, and the loads you haul. But there are facts to gather before you can know which policy is best. And while it’s key for you to understand your insurance needs and what your trucking policy covers, know that partnering with an expert is the best way to go for access to the widest selection and top providers.
On the Road to Success
Trucking is far more than just moving goods––it can be a complicated career. It’s an exercise in extremes and in how to find balance. And if you aren’t careful, it’s a job that can overrun you. But we believe that if you follow the above tips and glean and implement knowledge from others, your first year on the road can be a sure success. Whether you’re an owner-operator or looking to develop a fleet, taking the necessary steps to set up comprehensive insurance protection will bring peace of mind that can’t be underestimated. With that safety net in place, you can better navigate the highs and lows and the risks they bring. And with an expert by your side, you know that you’ll always have someone to turn to. At zinc, our trucking experts are always ready to help. If you’re in need of a policy, or want to better understand the one you already have, get in touch with us. We’re happy to get you where you want to be.