Essential Truck Driver Skills To Master In 2023
The history of American trucking goes back to the late 18th century when farming was extensive due to the abundant availability of land. The farmers used to transport their produce using pickup trucks to the markets for selling. With time, the realization of having a better transportation network led to Americans building-wide, straight and flat roads to cross the countryside. The construction of an Inter-state highway system and freeways linking the main cities changed the face of trucking in the United States.
Transportation of essential goods depends heavily on the trucking industry in the United States, as trucks transport nearly all goods consumed. While trucking is underrated as a profession, it is vital to the economy as it is responsible for moving 70% of all freight in America. The vast majority of the American populace is dependent on trucks for supplying food, raw materials, fuel, medicines, garbage, etc. The following scenario is an envisaged timeline if trucking activities are affected or stopped:
- 24 Hrs – It will affect hospitals and medical supplies. Fuel in service stations. Shortages in food & mechanical components for manufacturers.
- 2 to 3 Days – Escalation of food shortage. Supplies of essentials like powdered milk, bottled water, canned meat, etc. ATMs will run out of cash. Piling up of garbage.
- 1st Week – Hospitals will run out of oxygen supply.
- 2nd Week – The clean water supply will run dry.
- 4th Week – The country will be exhausted from a clean water supply.
As you can see, any interruption in trucking will have far-reaching effects. Hence it is necessary to ensure that the trucking industry is adequately provided in terms of workforce and machines. Driving a truck requires special skills, as it involves managing multiple variables. Let us delve into the various aspects of truck driving through this article.
What are Truck Driving Skills?
Truck driving abilities are virtues for managing time and resources for operating a truck. The lives of professional truck drivers are grueling, as it keeps them on the roads and away from their families for long durations. In addition to managing their truck, they have to ensure the safety of the consignment, adhere to deadlines, have mechanical knowledge, and understand the routes. Most importantly, they need to keep a calm demeanor as there is more than truck driving involved.
There are numerous strategies to improve your truck driving abilities. Following are some of the skill sets that are essential that you can apply in your day-to-day work to help you in your truck driving career.
The basic requirements that will determine your capabilities are education and training. A high school diploma or equivalent is a requisite for most businesses. You need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a long-haul truck.
The CDLs come with different classifications like A, B, and C depending on your vehicle size and weight. CDL-A license offers better career opportunities and allows you to drive interstate or locally, long-haul or over-the-road. CDL-A is the best if you want a long-term carrier as a commercial truck driver.
Some businesses also offer comprehensive driver training programs. You must take these programs seriously and gain as much knowledge as you can about the operations of the organization.
A truck driver should be effective in communicating with all the stakeholders. The driver is the key contact person entrusted with delivering the load on time. There may be situations when there are delays beyond one’s control which could lead to flaring tempers. A glib driver will play the role of soothing nerves and reassuring all parties involved. Lack of communication will lead to missed loads and delays in freight. You must maintain your temper whenever you are trying to convey any message to your boss, fellow truckers, or your clients.
It is difficult to steer a 70 feet long truck carrying a load of 80,000 pounds, even with the availability of GPS to give accurate directions. The responsibility lies with the person behind the wheels to manually steer the behemoth.
It is always advisable to possess a map and carry a road atlas as it is the tried and tested way to find directions. The ability to read a map and, when necessary, follow written or spoken directions is even more crucial than that.
Researching your chartered route is recommended as it will give you the confidence to navigate your truck better. It’s the best method to prevent needless and expensive navigational mistakes like taking a prohibited route, collapsing a bridge because you’re too heavy for it, or being caught under an overpass or bridge because your truck can’t fit under it.
Basic mechanical knowledge is a great skill to possess if you are driving a truck. If you know how to tackle minor maintenance problems, you can save time and go to a secure area to thoroughly repair issues that arise while traveling. A commercial truck driver should be able to deal with the following tasks:
- Change flat tires
- Change lights
- Replace truck fluids
- Check the engine for any issues
- Trailer hitch
- Refrigeration systems
- Conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection
When your truck breaks down in a remote location, you run the danger of waiting for roadside assistance which could take hours to arrive. This will delay deadlines and deliveries if you lack basic mechanical knowledge or the capacity to identify potential problems.
Patience is a must-have virtue for every truck driver. The following scenarios, which a truck driver might experience, will put your patience to the test:
- Traffic jams
- Aggressive drivers
- Weight inspections by DOT inspectors or state highway patrols
- Waiting for fuelling
- Waiting for the load to be assigned
- Waiting to load and unload cargo
- Sudden tire blow or mechanical issue
Any of these circumstances can quickly arise during a truck driver’s day. It’s crucial to be calm and patient no matter what happens. Driving carefully and adhering to the rules of the road is advised rather than rushing and putting other drivers and yourself at risk.
Act maturely and learn to take these delays as a learning experience. Reacting or showing irritation will affect your mindset and cloud your judgment, thereby proving costly. Once you overcome these frustrations, you will feel less stressed and enjoy your job.
Organizational skills will help you stay disciplined and benefit you professionally and personally. You must have all the requisite paperwork in your vehicle to record your load.
You also need to monitor your hours of service (HOS), plan your routes, and maintain track of daily pre-trip inspections. All of these call for strong organizing abilities. Your organizational skills are tested when you meet your client. Make sure you have all the required papers before you go to your location to ensure a smooth transaction with the client. Give a seamless experience to your client so that they not only come back to you but also recommend your services to others.
A good truck driver will always complete their logbooks and record information about fuel costs, trailer identification codes, and addresses. They will keep it arranged by maintaining a binder or a filing cabinet for easy access to their supervisor and other employees.
Truck drivers can work safely, healthily, and effectively with the necessary tools and equipment. Here is a guide for truck driver essentials including 19 must-have items for the road. It can help you manage the difficulties of long-haul truck driving.
Reliability is a quality that is crucial in every job. It also holds for truck drivers, as much depends on their dependability. If you lack this quality, no amount of talent will make up for your actions. Ensure delivery of whatever you have committed, as this goes a long way in building your brand image. Truck drivers deal with far too many variables that are out of their control. There can be times when you’re unable to fulfill your promises. Therefore, it is crucial that you are sincere, adaptable, and accommodating.
Being a dependable truck driver will boost your earnings by ensuring on-time deliveries and arrivals. Hiring companies and trucking companies will also take note of your long history of dependability.
When driving, staying alert is crucial, for your safety and others around you. Experienced truck drivers are aware of the significance of maintaining continual alertness to be safe because operating a truck can be perilous. While driving, there are numerous things to pay attention to, like the condition of the road, turn signals, maintaining a constant line of sight, and adhering to the posted speed limits, your truck, trailer, and the weather.
Being alert and using all your senses is a requisite for being a good truck driver. Any strange noises or odors during your trips should set the alarm bells ringing and prompt you to investigate the cause. Also, being alert to a potential collision or hazardous situation ahead will help you from disasters. Taking care of oneself when not driving helps great truck drivers stay awake while operating. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, eat healthily, and stay hydrated to be alert on the move.
As a truck driver, you are a brand ambassador of the company you represent or your truck. You will come across good as well as nasty clients. The real challenge is handling demanding clients. A good truck driver will tide over such issues by using diplomacy and negotiating skills and forging a close relationship with them. They will be able to show the client that they value and care about them through their words and body language.
Making the clients feel heard, guiding them, and providing amicable solutions will go a long way in cementing your professional relationship. The clients will feel more confident if you can reassure them of your support resulting in mutual benefit for all concerned.
Motivation is a positive skill that every truck driver needs to possess. The ability to stay motivated to finish your work is a great quality. Levels and Types of motivation vary in every individual. For some, it is pulling over the curb and enjoying the scenic landscape, or for others, it is listening to music while driving. Motivation is to be appreciated by your employer and client as a reputed and dependable driver.
Motivation makes it easier to obtain a good night’s sleep, maintain a healthy diet despite driving for 10 hours each day and keep a high level of composure. Truckers face the risk of allowing situations to spiral out of their control if they lack the drive to take care of themselves and their trucks. Make every effort to maintain your motivation levels so that you are content to carry out every task assigned to you.
A sound fleet management system will complement your truck driving skills. A good fleet management system will boost your confidence and give an impetus to your career. However, with the availability of multiple options, it becomes difficult to choose the right brand for you. Matrack fleet management system, with its array of products, is a tried and tested company. Matrack provides its customers with high-end and sound-performing gadgets.
Matrack offers the following gadgets, which cover all the requisites needed in a fleet management system:
Following is a brief of the features offered by these gadgets:
- Real-Time Tracking & Log Reports
Extensive reports that are simple to read, including information such as the battery level, mileage, street address, coordinates, and direction. You can plan your journeys more effectively if important information is available.
- Customized Alerts
Settings for the alert system include turning on/off the ignition, low battery alarms, tow alerts, and speeding. You can customize alerts to suit your needs.
- Geofence Feature
Ten geofences can be created per account. These virtual barriers protect your asset. You will get an immediate alert if the geofence is violated.
- Dispatch Manager System
It is an organizer that prioritizes tasks, allocates deliveries, and chooses the most efficient paths for each assignment. Your truck’s fuel efficiency will improve as a result.
- IFTA Reports
It has a provision for generating IFTA fuel tax reports, a regulatory requirement for interstate commercial vehicles.
- Arrival Tracking System
Tracking the in-transit deliveries of your clients.
- Preventative Maintenance Alerts
System notifications are sent when a vehicle needs maintenance, such as an oil change or tire rotation.
- Blink Roadside Assistance
Blink roadside assistance and Matrack have partnered to offer you significantly reduced rates on responsive emergency services.
- Diagnostic Reports
The OBD plug-in device offers a feature that lets you read and keep track of your vehicle’s diagnostic status. This function allows you to obtain diagnostics reports for any problems you may be having with your car at no additional cost. It will speed up the process of making your repairs.
Trucks play a pivotal role in the commerce and economics of the United States. The expectations from the trucking industry are tremendous due to the nature of the load transported. Truck driving requires lots of patience and skills. If you are planning to embark on a career in truck driving, you will need to factor in and implement all the points highlighted in this blog.