Learning to drive an eighteen-wheeler never really ends—it’s an ongoing process with plenty of things to learn! Here’s a list of some of the best advice from experienced trainers.
After you’ve parked your truck, always look back at it when you’re leaving. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll see lights flashing, a blinker going, or a bad parking job. You might think you’ve covered all your bases, but it never hurts to double check yourself—more often than you think, you’ll see something you missed.
Mind Your Trailer
Always be aware of your trailer. It’s a hazard to you and others, and it could easily injure or kill someone. If your trailer leaves the road or goes outside of the line while driving, you aren’t driving safely enough and you need to reevaluate what you’re doing!
Always be aware of your inspection dates. Before every trip, check your lights, tires, pins, your fifth wheel, and your valve stem covers. It’s a good idea to keep extra valve stem covers in your side door. Make sure you have everything you need, and everything might need, before you start your trip! Remember that maintenance will usually be glad to accommodate you with free valve stem covers and extra lights if you need them.
When you see where you want to park, pay close attention to the tire path. Oftentimes, a truck that has just pulled out will have left the perfect path for you to park. Follow that path with your own tire—you’ll be surprised at how close you can get, and how much more accurate you’ll be, by paying attention to the path your wheels are taking. Don’t forget to GOAL (Get Out And Look)!
Make sure you’re always thinking ahead. Know where you’re going, how many miles you have until your next direction, and be aware of your surroundings. When you’re exiting to a truck stop, make sure you know how to get back to the highway. Pay attention to mile signage for gas stations and truck stops to keep your out-of-route miles to a minimum. Never risk getting lost! It’s okay to stop and check your map or your phone, even to ask for directions. That’s much better than being lost in an unfamiliar place. Paying close attention in the first place will help you avoid a lot of problems.
Don’t Swerve For an Animal
Don’t ever swerve to miss any animal. It’s not worth risking your life or other drivers’ lives by swerving 8,000 pounds around the road. Just grip the wheel tightly, keep your truck straight, and slow down as much as you can while still being safe. A lot of times, animals will get out of the way in time! However, it’s never worth risking your life in case they don’t.
Ask For Help
You aren’t in this industry alone. Whether you’re brand new, or you’ve been driving for years, you should never be afraid to ask for help or advice. No matter what your experience level is, there’s always something new to learn—and if you have experience and wisdom to share, don’t be afraid to share it! Treat your industry like a community, and support each other along the way.