Truck Driving Tips [29 Trucking Tricks & Skills for New Drivers]
Trucking tips and tricks are important for drivers to learn when they're out on the open road for the first time. As a new truck driver, you need all the truck driver skills you can acquire, because you don't have the same level of experience as someone with years of OTR driving behind them.
Following these truck driving tips will help you get the skills of a truck driver and get your career started right.
While there’s no substitute for experience, if you’re well-prepared for your first year on the road, you’ll be much better off and have the right expectations of what life as a truck driver will be like. Take our advice to help you get started, and in turn pass on the golden nuggets of knowledge you acquire over the years to the next generation of drivers.
We need a variety of truck driver skills to be successful in our jobs. While you might spend endless hours on the road alone, people skills are a must when you work with inspection officers, shippers, other drivers, and so on. You will also need good driving skills, organization skills, routine vehicle maintenance skills, and expert driving skills in all kinds of weather. Here are some examples:
Backing up correctly is one of the most important truck driver skills to master. It requires practice. If you struggle with your backing skills, trying to quickly back up and drop off a load isn’t the time to practice. Take the time beforehand to get comfortable with backing, and always get out to check your surroundings before backing so you don’t cause any damage in the process.
Some shippers can be difficult to work with, but treating them rudely won’t make the situation any better. Always remain polite when working with shippers—or anyone else. Good people skills will take you far in your career and are some of the most important skills of a truck driver.
Maintaining good relationships and developing people skills also extends to your dispatcher. That person can help you when you’re on the road and is a valuable resource.
Your truck is your office and home (if you’re an OTR trucker), and keeping it clean not only shows inspectors that you care about the state of your living arrangements, it also shows you care about your responsibility to keep your paperwork and information up-to-date and organized. Scheduling some daily and weekly cleaning tasks can help you keep your living and office space clean and make it a more enjoyable place to work and live.
Some quick tips on keeping your space clean include:
Keep some cleaning supplies on hand.
Get a small dust broom and sweep out your truck weekly or daily.
Use a milk crate to keep things organized.
Keep your work shoes out of your living space.
Keep a small garbage can or bag on hand.
Purchase a small vacuum.
Clean the inside and outside of your windows.
Use floor mats.
Keep antibacterial wipes handy.
Wash your floors with soap and water.
Clean up right away.
Keep a laundry bag for dirty clothes.
Use an air purifier to keep your space smelling clean.
One of the most important truck driver skills to master is the basic maintenance of your vehicle. Purchasing a good set of tools will give you the ability to make simple repairs as needed and can help you avoid DOT violations during DOT inspections. Of course, any major repairs should be handled by someone with the experience and tools for the job.
When you first start driving, the season of the year can have a real impact on how confident you feel as a new driver. Winter is generally considered the hardest season to drive in. There are two major opinions on whether new drivers should start in the winter.
Winter driving is incredibly dangerous. You’ll face difficult road conditions, bad weather, dangers from other drivers, and more upkeep and maintenance on your vehicle. Note that if you start your driver training in the summer, you might finish and be sent out on your own without a trainer when winter rolls around and will have to face the snow and bad weather on your own.
Some drivers heartily recommend starting your driver training in the winter because you will face all the difficulties and dangers the road has to offer right off the bat. Plus, you’ll have a trainer with you to show you the ropes and help you keep your vehicle running smoothly.
Truck drivers aren’t known for their healthy lifestyles. Some of the best trucking tips and tricks you can learn are about how to stay healthy on the road. Making your own food and getting enough exercise are only the tip of the iceberg. Mental health and maintaining a good work-life balance will also keep you healthy and help you avoid burnout.
Not only is eating out every night extremely unhealthy, it’s also very expensive. You’ll quickly realize that the convenience of eating out doesn’t outweigh the toll it takes on your body and your wallet. Crockpot cooking or simply grabbing a pan and cooking up some healthy meals will save you money and allow you to prepare healthy meals on the road.
If you don’t have a stove or don’t have an inverter in your truck to plug it in, an inexpensive camp stove will give you the same result and still allow you to cook fresh meals daily.
As a truck driver, you don’t have the option of getting up and moving around while you’re on the road. This means most of your day will be spent sitting in one place—not the best situation for staying healthy and fit. This means that your time off is very valuable. You should aim to be as physically active as possible.
Scheduling a regular exercise routine can help you stay on track. That’s a great truck driving tip to follow to stay healthy.
Staying entertained while on the road is also an important trucking tip and trick to help you resist boredom during long hours on the open road. If we’re being honest, driving down the road every day isn’t always a fun adventure. Listening to good music, podcasts, or audiobooks can make your drives more enjoyable.
It’s easy to let your whole life revolve around trucking, especially if you’re an OTR driver living out of your truck for weeks at a time. But just because you’re living in your truck, that doesn’t mean your only focus or fun should be based on trucking. Find a hobby that separates you from your work so you can take a mental break. Reading, writing, exercising, photography, music, or another hobby can really make a difference.
Just because it’s only you on the road doesn’t mean you have an excuse for not showering and maintaining basic hygiene. Make sure you wash your clothes and take regular showers. Other drivers, inspectors, and your own health will thank you for it.
If you’re not careful, you can easily find yourself spending too much money while you’re on the road away from home. Snacks, eating out, and forgetting things from home and purchasing them on the road will all lead to overspending and put you behind financially. Here are some great trucking tips for saving money.
Just like anybody, a good rule of thumb for not overspending is simply to stop buying things you don’t need. Purchasing food, tools, and random items at truck stops is more expensive than buying them somewhere else and is usually unnecessary. Plan ahead, bring food with you, and if you really need something, try to purchase it at a regular store, not a truck stop.
When you’re home, you want to enjoy your time there and don’t want to think about heading back out. But taking a little time to prep for your next drive is incredibly important and will save you money on the road. Pack up your snacks, food, and clothes before you go.
A great truck driving tip to keep you motivated to save and make money is to set some important financial goals. Retirement, a new home, financial freedom, or another goal can give you the motivation you need to save money and make more money as a driver.
Finally, for your first year or two as a trucker, it’s important to know that you won’t make as much money as more experienced drivers. This is simply because experience drivers have shown they have the skills and experience to safely haul freight and will be given loads that pay better. Keep a great record, work hard, get all the experience you can, and you will be moving up and making more before you know it.
One of the most important truck tips you can take away from this article is that safe driving is the best type of driving. Keeping a safe, clean record not only protects you and other drivers on the road, it also means you will be trusted with better, higher-paying loads in the future and make more money as a result. Here are a few truck driver tips to keep you safe.
A good GPS unit is an absolute necessity for truck drivers. Trucking GPS units are specifically designed to keep truckers safe. They show you truck stops, gas prices, roads to avoid, and underpasses you won’t clear.
While a GPS is essential, you should always have an old-fashioned, paper map on hand, just in case.
This truck driving tip is especially important to heed when road conditions are less than ideal. Always drive at a speed you feel safe at and make sure your speed is always controlled—especially when you're driving on declines and inclines. Staying safe will get you to your destination faster than driving fast and risking an accident.
This trucking tip and trick is pretty simple. Make sure you do your pre-trip inspections and check your landing gear multiple times before you head back out on the road. Yes, you’ll need to hop out of your truck to do it, but do it anyway. It’s always better to check your equipment than wreck your equipment.
One of the best skills of a truck driver you can adopt early is to take your time and double check yourself. Double check your air lines when you hook and unhook them, review your paperwork, and don’t rush. Rushing, especially when you’re new, will lead to unnecessary mistakes and could land you in trouble. As you gain experience, you can pick up the pace a little.
Every driver will experience difficult driving conditions from weather, road conditions, and other drivers during their time behind the wheel. Gaining truck driver skills and following these truck driver tips and tricks will help you stay safe while you’re hauling your loads across the country.
You are responsible for keeping yourself, others, and your cargo safe. Don’t let anyone push you to do things that aren’t safe, including driving too fast, going over your hours, or anything else that puts your safety and the safety of others at risk.
Ice, snow, rain, and fog create unsafe driving conditions that require you to be extra cautious and watch your speed while driving. It’s an important skill of truck drivers to learn how to drive safely in poor conditions. A good trucking tip to remember is simply to slow down when the roads are unsafe and don’t go faster than you feel you should.
Lots of drivers first hit the road with their own expectations of what life as a trucker will be like. When reality sets in, you may find that what you had in mind and what you’re actually experiencing aren’t the same. These truck driver tips and tricks are some rookie truck driver mistakes you can avoid.
Whether you have a family at home or plan to have a family in the future, understanding what a trucker’s life is really like is important so your family can plan for how it will affect your lives. Establish expectations, and plan for how you will prioritize family time in your daily life.
Discuss what you will do for vacations, holidays, family gatherings, religious events, and more. This will make living the life of a trucker much easier and make your life more enjoyable
This trucking tip will help you set expectations for the kinds of loads you will get. When you’re new, you won’t get the best or highest paying loads. This is because experienced drivers have their track record to back them. Once you get more experience, you can start getting better loads too.
This goes along with the point above. Taking on as many loads as you can as a new truck driver is one of the best ways to get good truck driver skills and prove yourself in the industry. The more loads you’ve hauled, the more experience you have. Getting this experience early on will help you make much more money in the future.
It may be tempting, but other drivers won’t appreciate a rookie parking at the pump while they wait for you to move on. Everyone needs to get gas, so be considerate of their time.
Parking right next to other drivers when there’s plenty of space in the parking lot isn’t appreciated. Take this trucking tip and give other drivers some space when you park, whenever it’s available.
Helping other truckers on the road is a great trucking tip that shows you can be considerate. Let other trucks pass you if needed, give them some space, and generally be polite to other truckers on the road.
Always being on time will go a long way towards establishing trust with your carrier. Making calls and arriving early or right on time will help you get more loads in during the week and help you make more money in the long run.
Your first year of driving will be tough. Expecting difficulties and a steep learning curve will help you face your first year with the right mindset. The best truck driving tip and trick you can learn isn’t a tip or trick at all, it’s simply to work hard and don’t give up. Like most jobs, the more experience you have and the harder you work, the more money you can make and the easier your job will get over time.
Hard work is highly valued in the trucking industry. Do a great job, and you’ll reap the rewards of your work down the road.
Following these trucking tips and tricks can really help when you’re starting out with your new career. As a new driver, getting as many skills of a truck driver as possible will make it easier to get more loads and higher-paying loads in the future. Good truck driver skills are invaluable to a carrier and may even give you the opportunity to be your own boss in the future as an owner-operator. Whether you choose to work for someone or for yourself, you can pick up and pass on great truck driving tips to make your life easier.