Tips to Be a Successful Truck Driver

Your dream is to provide for yourself and your family. Becoming a truck driver is one route to making a great living and reaching your goals. How can you become a driver—and a successful one at that? 

Drivers have unique skill sets. They must handle their equipment as they handle day-to-day driving, communication and planning. Driving is more than steering and moving down the road. It comes with challenges, too. Over-the-road (OTR) drivers must accept the solitude and self-dependence of the job.

If you’re starting in the industry, you should keep several things in mind to be successful. Whether you’re on the fence or kickstarting your career now, read these tips on how to be a successful truck driver. 

Get Proper Driver Training

The first thing you need to be a successful truck driver is training. If you haven’t already, you must earn your Class A CDL to operate a tractor-trailer. In your training program, you’ll learn how to drive a semi-truck and engage with the different departments within a trucking company. 

Our Prime Training Program helps you prepare for your new career and get paid as you train. 

  1. You’ll start computer-based and simulator training before stepping into a truck.
  2. Once you’re ready, you’ll practice the fundamentals of driving with an instructor.
  3. You’ll take and pass your Class A CDL exam. 
  4. You will continue your training by driving as a team with a trainer. During this phase, you’ll earn a guarantee of $900 per week. 
  5. After training, you’ll be eligible for an upgrade review! 

The entire training process takes time. It’s an investment in your growth and future. With each training phase, you’ll become more confident in operating a semi. Mastering the foundational skills of your job will help you become a safe, successful driver.

Choose the Right Role & Route for You

Once you complete training, you’ll decide what type of driver you want to be. You can enjoy the benefits of remaining a company driver or chart your course as an independent contractor. 

  • Company drivers. Join your company’s fleet! Company drivers don’t own their equipment, so they don’t have to pay for regular repairs and maintenance. Prime’s company drivers are paid per mile with opportunities for bonuses and other perks.
  • Team drivers. If driving alone isn’t for you, try partnering with another driver. Teams take shifts, so you’re always moving toward your destination. Often, team drivers earn more than solo drivers because they can run more miles together.  
  • Independent contractors. Want to lease a truck? Becoming an independent contractor may be for you! Instead of pay per mile, independent contractors earn a percentage of the freight bill. 

What route will you drive? Not all drivers are out for the same lengths of time. Some operate within the same area, while others go across the country. Your choice may depend on job availability, how much you want to earn and your lifestyle.

  • Dedicated drivers. These drivers operate in a smaller, specific area. They haul cargo to the same customers every time, building long-standing relationships. Dedicated drivers often deliver to customers in cities and urban areas. Being comfortable navigating narrow streets is a must.
  • Regional drivers. Delivering to different customers within a single region is what regional drivers do. Regional drivers won’t go across the country, but they still cover a lot of ground within their region. They may be on the road for several days or weeks. 
  • Over-the-road drivers. These drivers go anywhere! Over-the-road (OTR) drivers deliver freight across all 48 contiguous states. They may also go to Mexico and Canada. OTR drivers travel for weeks at a time.

Always Put Safety First

A successful driver is a safe one! Discipline is key to meeting compliance and avoiding accidents caused by distracted driving. Always follow traffic laws and safety requirements. Use your best judgment in bad conditions. Remember, you are the captain of the ship. If you feel unsafe to drive, find a place to park and wait it out. 

Your driver training will teach you how to operate safely. As you begin your career, you’ll need to develop safe driving habits such as the following:

  • Always wear your seat belt! 
  • Check blind spots every 8 to 10 seconds
  • Scan ahead about 15 seconds or a few blocks
  • Always use your turn signal 
  • Be aware of stopping distances and wide turns
  • Always do a pre-trip safety inspection before heading out 

5 Skills That Great Drivers Have

As a driver, you are responsible for your cargo, other motorists and yourself when you step into your truck. You’re also expected to deliver on time and be communicative if you experience any issues on the way. 

At first, it can be challenging to figure out how to be a good truck driver and manage it all. Developing the following skills will help you become a better driver.

1. Planning & Organization  

Drivers get to flex their planning muscles. You’ll plan your days—when to eat, when to fuel up, when to sleep, when to shower and when to take breaks. You’ll also plan your routes, adapting based on road construction, weather conditions or accidents ahead. 

While on the road, make it a point to plan time for yourself, too. You’ll need time to rest, recharge and do the things that make you happy. This includes preparing healthy meals and leaving time in your day for exercise.

2. Patience 

When you’ve got somewhere to be, it’s hard to be patient. Yet, a patient driver is a safe driver. You must be able to cope with stress, tight timelines and delivery expectations. 

Some situations may be out of your control. For example, you may run into a roadblock or bad traffic, or you may be waiting on a customer. In these scenarios, the best thing to do is have patience.

3. Communication 

Drivers must be excellent communicators. Conditions on the road can change at any moment, which can delay deliveries. Remember—you’ve got a whole team behind you! 

When things veer off course, it’s important to communicate so everyone is aware and informed. Sharing potential delays early helps everyone work together to find a solution. It also manages the customer’s expectations.

If you’re struggling with something off the road, Prime Inc. has many resources to help! All you have to do is ask. We offer daycare and a doctor’s office at two terminals, sleep support from Cardinal Sleep, and counseling through Primed for Life, to name a few examples. Communicate your needs, and we’ll try our best to accommodate you. 

Your on-the-job planning and communication skills also transfer to the people you love. Don’t forget your family! Staying in touch helps you keep up with those at home and feel less alone.

4. Time Management 

Successful truckers are experts at managing their time. You want to be productive, but you also want to be safe. Managing time well prevents you from pushing yourself too hard or compromising your safety (and the safety of others). 

You’ll want to consider your route, customer loading or unloading times and necessary breaks. The more you drive, the better you’ll get at managing your time.

5. Mechanical Basics 

You should know the basics about the equipment you operate. You can’t keep earning if your truck isn’t moving. 

If you break down or notice an issue, you may be able to repair it on your own. At the very least, background knowledge will help you explain the situation to a maintenance professional. 

You should learn about your heating and cooling system and how your air brakes work. Understanding your tire tread depth and when to air up is essential, too!

At Prime, we offer Pro Maintenance classes every day. During class, you’ll learn how to make small repairs on the road so you can get going again faster. These classes take place at our Springfield, MO terminal.

Start Your Career at Prime Inc. 

You may already have what it takes to be a good truck driver. If not, there’s plenty of time to sharpen your skills and train for your CDL!

Our Prime Training Program helps you practice the skills needed to take your Class A CDL exam. When you pass the exam, you’ll drive with a trainer and continue learning. When you complete training, you’ll be ready for the next stage of your career. Drive solo or partner up. The choice is yours! 

If you’re ready to train, apply online today. For further questions, please call our Recruiting Department at 866-290-1568. 

You have what it takes to drive for Prime!

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