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7 Mistakes New Truck Driver Make and How to Avoid Them

Though it’s a thrilling career choice, becoming a truck driver has a fair share of its difficulties. Rookie drivers make common mistakes, such as not taking breaks, not planning routes well, not checking the vehicle often enough, and misunderstanding the dynamics of huge trucks and trailers. 

As Warren Buffet rightly said, “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” 

So, in this article, we seek to shed light on these challenges and offer vital pointers to driving safely and effectively by relying on the knowledge of experienced drivers. A rewarding and successful driving career is within your reach if you take the time to learn about and avoid these typical mistakes. 

New Truck Driver Mistakes – What You Need To Know

We often go overboard with our enthusiasm at a new workplace or job. As a new truck driver, you may get overwhelmed and drive with inadequate rest, shoddy route planning, skipping vehicle inspections, and misjudging weather conditions. There is a lot to manage, and mistakes can happen. However, with these tips, you can surely avoid these problems and have a smooth driving experience.

Neglecting Maintenance and Inspection of the Vehicle

Mistake: Forgoing maintenance and Inspection of the vehicle.

Problem: Sudden vehicle breakdown (rarely close to assistance).

Solution: Take 10 minutes to inspect the truck before the trip.

The most common mistake you, as a rookie driver, can make is neglecting to regularly check the condition of your truck while using it continuously. It significantly impacts the truck’s health and can shorten its lifespan. Additionally, inspecting various components of your vehicle is crucial for your safety on the road. Thorough inspection before a long journey can reduce the chances of encountering issues. 

Below is a checklist of things that require occasional inspection or maintenance to ensure a smooth and trouble-free journey: 

  • Documentation
  • Oil Changes
  • Tyre Alignment
  • Tyre Rotation 
  • Condition of Clutch and Brakes
  • Exterior Lights
  • Engine Compartment 
  • Seat Belts
  • Suspension
  • Steering System
  • Horns
  • Fluid Level
  • Batteries
  • Emergency Kit or First Aid

Starting the Journey Without Planning

Mistake: No planning

Problem: Getting stuck in traffic, wrong directions, and more

Solution: Plan your route

The highways are full of surprises, as there can be diversions, detours, and work in progress. Trucks are big vehicles and need room to move. Hence, you must plan before you start your journey. Look for the best and fastest routes. If you need to make multiple deliveries, find the best way to reach all the locations without delay. 

Following are some tips you can apply to your plans before starting. 

  • Use GPS or Navigation Apps

Before starting a journey, use GPS apps to estimate the cost and time needed. These apps help plan a clear route, saving time and fuel by providing navigation and tracking in advance.

  • Weather Monitoring

Stay updated with the latest news and keep track of the weather forecast. Before the journey, check for storms, snowfall, tornadoes, etc. This preparation will help ensure your safety against natural calamities during your travels.

  • Use ELDs

An Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is electronic hardware that connects to your vehicle’s engine to record driving hours or Hours of Service (HOS). It includes several features, such as real-time GPS tracking and violation alerts with the Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR). Matrack ELDs can also integrate with Matrack fuel cards, allowing you to download all receipts with a single click. Therefore, an ELD ensures accurate and legal documentation of driving hours.

Neglecting Proper Weight Distribution

Mistake: Overweight truck

Problem: Vehicle breakdown, fines, and penalties

Solution: Get the right permit

As a new truck driver, you may overlook necessary weight distribution requirements. Driving without risk assessment or following standards can be an issue for you and your truck. Properly plan and execute weight distribution management to ensure overall safety. Here are some fundamental factors of truckload management you must consider.

  • Weight Limits

Different trucks and roads have specific restrictions and allowances. Always follow the latest government guidelines to ensure your journey’s safety.

  • Weight Distribution 

Balancing weight evenly across the truck’s axles is crucial to prevent imbalance and damage to the goods. Proper weight distribution also improves stability on rough roads.

  • Material Length and Width Limits

There can be certain goods on the truck that can be bigger than the size of the available trucks. It becomes necessary to issue a permit for the materials to avoid fines or delays in delivery.   

Not maintaining communication with the Dispatch

Mistake: Not communicating with Dispatch

Problem: Miscommunication and inaccurate information

Solution: Communicate

As a new driver, you might overlook the importance of communication points, which can cause several problems if you don’t pay attention. You can avoid these mistakes by communicating and seeking help from your colleagues and peers.

Here are some communication mistakes you should stay away from to keep your activities running smoothly. 

  • Not reporting Check-ins

As a rookie, you must tell the dispatch team when you’ve arrived at a certain point on your route. If you don’t report in, they won’t know you’re there, which can cause delivery delays.

  • Missing or Ignoring Important Instructions 

The dispatch teams usually divulge instructions to the truck drivers regarding the routes to be taken, the estimated load, and schedules. Ignoring such instructions causes problems in the route for the rookie truck drivers. Hence, you must keep in check with the instructions divulged by the dispatch teams. 

  • Not Reporting Ground Updates

If you don’t inform the dispatch team about the traffic, weather, and any obstacles, you could end up making the wrong deliveries.

Using Poor Driving and Braking Techniques

Mistake: Unsafe driving

Problem: Potential risk to driver, truck, assets, and other people on the road

Solution: Be alert while driving and train in safe driving techniques

Another rookie error is failing to know how to turn and stop the truck safely. When inexperienced drivers downshift unsafely or rely too much on the engine brakes, they endanger themselves and others on the road. Because of these factors, the vehicle becomes more difficult to steer.

Here is what you must do:

  • Practice Smooth Braking

Instead of stopping all at once, slowly apply the brakes to keep control and keep your truck from wearing out. Slow down a long time before you must stop, especially if there is a lot of traffic or bad weather, so you don’t have to stop quickly.

  • Maintain a Safe Following Distance

Maintain a reasonable gap between your truck and the one ahead of you. There will be less need for forceful braking since you will have more time to respond and come to a safe halt. At speeds below 40 mph, a decent rule of thumb is to allow one second of the following distance for every 10 feet of vehicle length. If you’re moving faster, add one second.

  • Use Engine Braking

Use both the engine brakes and the service brakes when going down hills. This method helps you control your speed without making the brakes too hot, so they work when you need them.

  • Avoid Aggressive Acceleration

Smoothly speed up and slow down to keep your car’s engine and brakes from working harder than they need to. Driving too fast wastes gas and damages your truck’s parts faster.

Therefore, it is critical to stress the need to learn safe driving and braking techniques. 

Rash Driving and Speeding

Mistake: Speeding and driving rashly

Problem: Loss of control over the truck, resulting in accidents

Solution: Stick to safe driving

Most of us are guilty of finding a traffic-free highway and not resisting the temptation of speeding. And when you are behind the wheels of a big rig, breaking a few rules for the sake of a little thrill may seem like a good idea. 

WRONG! 

Moreover, you cannot always foresee the problems you encounter while driving. These can cause a delay, tempting you to drive over the limit so that you can reach your destination on time. 

Here are some ways through which you can avoid speeding and rash driving – 

  • Set Realistic Schedules

While planning your schedule, always keep a buffer time. For example, after loading, if it takes you 10 hours to reach a destination, after taking all the necessary breaks as per the HoS, set aside 30-45 minutes in your entire plan for unforeseen circumstances.

  •  Use Speed Limiters

Using speed limiters or cruise control in your truck can help you maintain a consistent speed and avoid overspending. It’s important to use these features to keep yourself and others safe on the road. By doing so, you can reduce the temptation to go faster than necessary.

  • Stay Informed on Road Conditions

Before and during your trip, check for any road conditions or traffic that might require slower speeds. Adjusting your speed according to the road and weather conditions can prevent rash driving.

  • Focus on Defensive Driving

Practice defensive driving techniques, such as keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and being aware of your surroundings. This mindset encourages safer speed choices and reduces the likelihood of accidents caused by rash decisions.

Complying with speed limits, having a responsible driving mindset, continuously learning, being patient, and being aware can help avoid accidents and create a safe driving environment.

Spending Inefficiently on Fuel

Mistake: Getting less than required fuel

Problem: Truck breakdown due to no fuel

Solution: Carry extra fuel

The irony here is that ‘not getting required fuel’ is one of the most common mistakes and the easiest to avoid. All you need to do is calculate the amount of fuel necessary for the trip based on the distance and mileage. If you take a longer trip, research all the gas stations on your route and make a quick stop. This small oversight can throw your entire plan in the trash, cause delays, and eventually mar your reputation. 

Here is what you need to do:

  • Find Fuel stations

You already know where you are traveling. So open the map app, put it into your destination, and mark all the gas stations. As soon as the fuel gauge indicates that you are low on fuel, make a stop, get your fuel, and you are good to go. 

  • Integrated Fuel Cards

You can get a fuel card that integrates with your fleet management system or ELD or tracking system. For example, Matrack offers a fuel card that helps you keep a check on your spending, calculate IFTA, and also find the nearest gas station with the lowest price. This way you can also save up to 50 cents on every gallon of fuel.

Conclusion

It’s normal for rookie truck drivers to make a few slip-ups like neglecting maintenance and

inspection, starting the journey without a proper plan, avoiding proper weight distribution, having

poor communication with dispatch and the list is never-ending. But the key to handling it

appropriately is to get thorough training. 

Another thing you can do is get a good vehicle tracking solution that comes with a recognized ELD and fuel card. One such solution from Matrack can take care of all your compliance worries, plan the route, schedule routine maintenance, and optimize your fuel operations. For any rookie driver, a solution like Matrack can make the job easier.