Graduating from an Ontario trucking school can be one of the proudest moments of your life, and the start of a great new career that can last for decades as you enjoy adventure on the open road. However, no amount of school-based learning can fully prepare you for the reality of truck driving when it’s just you and 40,000 pounds of cargo on a thousand-mile journey.
However, at the 5th Wheel Training Institute, we do our best to help you with what’s ahead. Our teachers are all pulled from the industry, and everyone has years or decades of experience and advice – including a lot of tips for newbie drivers. These are some of the most common mistakes a rookie makes. Avoid them, and you’ll be able to advance in your trucking career that much more quickly!
Six Rookie Trucking Mistakes You Might Not Learn About at An Ontario Trucking School
1 – Not realizing you will make mistakes.
It’s easy for a new graduate to come out of school certain they have all the knowledge necessary to succeed, and that’s simply not the case. Absolutely, without fail, every new driver will mess up from time to time. It’s normal, and to a large extent, it’s expected.
New drivers who understand that they’re still learning will be able to roll with mistakes more easily than those who think they’re infallible. When you make a mistake, the real test is how you correct it. The best drivers are those who can mess up but then get themselves out of it, without damaging the cargo or causing any other harm.
So expect to make mistakes, and be prepared to focus on making them right.
2 – Always staying in the cab
It might seem strange at first, but good truck drivers are frequently hopping out of their cab whenever they need to check their environment. In particular, always get out and do a quick walkaround whenever you need to back up. It’s easy for things to hide in the blind spot directly behind the trailer. Verify your path is clear before you actually begin backing up, and you’ll avoid a lot of bad mistakes.
3 – Thinking life on the road will always be easy.
Movies and shows about truck drivers tend to gloss over some of the messier day-to-day elements. It’s all well and good to watch people slinging trucks across icy Alaskan roads or enjoy the classic antics of the Bandit outwitting Smokey, but they never show some of the less fun parts of the job.
Sometimes you’ll be stuck in high heat, sweating, and still expected to help load cargo. Other times you may be driving through sub-zero blizzards and suddenly need a pit stop. You might go multiple days without showering. You’ll probably be living off whatever food you can stuff in your mini-fridge. (But at least that’s better than always eating fast food.) You’ll constantly be juggling your on-road hours with everything else you need to do, without exceeding the mandated maximum hours.
Make no mistake, truck driving can be an incredibly fun, exciting, and rewarding career – but you’ll need to be willing to endure the bad times as well as the good times.
4 – Thinking you’re always in control.
Another fact of life in the world of truck driving is that you’re never totally in control of your environment. If you’re on the highway and an accident suddenly happens a quarter-mile in front of you, you could potentially be stuck for hours. Weather always does its own thing, with unexpected storms foiling even the best-laid plans. Shippers can cancel loads mid-route, or delays may wreck your plans for an easy drive. Your truck might suffer an unexpected breakdown, especially if you’re driving someone else’s truck.
You need to be willing to roll with problems as they occur. Always stay in contact with dispatch! Whenever something goes wrong which is outside your control, be sure to radio home and ask for advice.
That said, try to plan ahead as much as possible. Spend a little time before each day’s drive looking up weather reports, and thinking about optional routes if a wreck shuts down your main route. Preparation can help mitigate these incidents, but there’s always something that might confound you.
5 – Not listening to more experienced drivers
By and large, trucking is a friendly community with plenty of drivers who want to help out newcomers. After all, we’ve all been there, and most people have enough empathy to remember when they were young and still learning the ropes.
Don’t be a know-it-all. Don’t snub well-meaning advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from more experienced drivers, when trouble happens. Being standoffish can get you a bad reputation while being open to receiving help can help make you friends. And having friends in this industry is a very good thing.
6 – Not caring for your health.
Your health matters. Truckers have a reputation for being unhealthy, but it absolutely does not have to be that way. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be a better driver and you’ll be happier as well.
Find room in your schedule for exercise. Even if you’re tired after a long day of driving, you need to keep your muscle mass and stave off fat. And try to eat as healthy as you can. If you’re living off fast food, you’ll turn into a blob far too quickly. A minifridge and some sort of in-cab cooking equipment – like a burner or small toaster oven – will be your best friends. Eat well, and you’ll be able to keep yourself healthy.
If life on the road calls to you, the 5th Wheel Training Institute can help make it happen! We’re one of the premier trucking schools in Ontario, and we focus on preparing our students to be the best drivers possible. To get a great heavy vehicle education, click here to learn more.