We love talking to truckers like you from all over the country to learn about your tips and tricks for staying happy, healthy, safe and profitable on the road. Throughout the year, we interview dozens of company drivers, owner operators and carriers to understand what’s working for you and what’s not, and about how you deal with life on the road. We recently asked those who follow our social media channels and several drivers in recent interviews for tips for both new drivers and seasoned truckers. We received some great (and admittedly funny) answers, including great advice on things that truckers should avoid doing.
Check out these five things truckers should never do — according to current truckers and carriers.
1. Text and Drive
When you hear that magic notification sound telling you that you have a new text message, it can be tempting to pick up your phone while you’re behind the wheel and answer it. But according to owner operator Larry Cothran, texting while driving is the biggest no-no for truckers. There is a federal law on the books that specifically prohibits truckers from using smart phones/cell phones when driving. States have individual laws in place regarding cell/smart phone usage, as well. Research commissioned by the FMCSA shows the odds of being involved in a crash, near-crash or unintentional lane deviation are 23.2 times higher for truckers who text while driving. If you text while driving, you could get in an accident, get a ticket, pay a steep fine or even be disqualified from driving for up to 120 days. Thanks to Larry for contributing this answer via Trucker Tools’ Instagram.
According to 2016 data from the FMCSA, rear-end crashes make up a quarter of all fatal crashes and over one third of all crashes that result in injury. It’s easy to see why then that tailgating is something that truckers should try to never do. When you’re driving a big rig, you need additional space to brake and stop. The FMCSA recommends that if you are driving below 40 mph, you should leave at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length. For your typical tractor-trailer, that means four seconds. For speeds above 40 mph, you should add an additional second. In adverse weather and when road and visibility conditions are poor, you should double your following distance.
3. Ignore the Bill of Lading
The bill of lading (BOL) is a receipt of goods document that you issue to the shipper. It provides proof that you received the goods from the shipper. The BOL includes key information for you as the driver, including description of the goods being shipped, the number of units, special instructions, required special handling and the value of the shipment. Before signing off on the BOL, it’s extremely important to make sure that the actual goods that have been loaded onto your trailer match what’s listed in the BOL. If you ignore the BOL, you risk the chance of being held responsible for differences between the BOL and what you actually transported to the receiver. If you notice that any of the freight is damaged or missing, be sure to note this on the BOL.
4. Put Your Health on the Back Burner
As a company driver or owner operator, you’re likely to spend a significant amount of time sitting behind the wheel. That time behind the wheel along with the stresses of the job are why a CDC survey found that long-haul truckers are more likely to smoke, be overweight and less likely to be physically active than other U.S. workers. In fact, truckers are twice as likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. You don’t have to be one of those statistics, however, and you can integrate healthy eating and exercise into your trucking lifestyle. Nearly all of the seasoned trucking veterans we speak with have found ways to keep it healthy, even when they’re running freight. Whether it’s cooking heart-healthy crockpot meals on your truck or stretching and jumping rope during a break, you can be a healthy trucker.
5. Skip or Skimp on Your Pre-Trip Inspection
Performing a pre-trip inspection every time that you’re about to go on the road helps you avoid breakdowns, accidents, injuries and mechanical failures when you’re on the road. Pre-trip inspections also are an FMCSA requirement. The FMCSA’s safety rules and regs require that you conduct a DOT pre-trip inspection every time that you’re going to drive a commercial truck or vehicle. If you fail to perform an adequate pre-trip and are pulled over for DOT inspection, you may receive a fine, suspension or even jail time if the issue is severe enough. As company driver Kim Loescher told us in a recent interview, you also must pre-trip your reefer if you’re hauling refrigerated cargo.
Read Three Ways To Cultivate Positive Relationships with Brokers to build your owner operator or carrier business. To download the Trucker Tools app, visit https://www.truckertools.com/carriers/.