Tips for Getting Your Professional Truck Driving Career off to a Good Start

At PAM Transport, we go the extra mile to give our drivers the resources they need to perform, serve our customers for the long haul, and develop successful professional truck driving careers. Whether you’re new to the trucking world or you’re a seasoned trucking professional who just joined the PAM team, these tips can help you establish a successful career in the business.

Find the Right Information

Some aspiring drivers have a romantic vision of life on the road. And while professional truck driving comes with some of that, there is a great deal of “behind the scenes” work that goes into pursuing a professional truck driving career that doesn’t involve actual driving.

How do you get a handle on these tasks? The best way to assess your professional truck driving responsibilities is to ask questions — lots of questions. Seek out Driver Managers (DMs), operations managers, safety personnel, and log clerks to learn their daily job requirements, and how they work with each other.

If you’re new to professional truck driving, make sure you take plenty of notes during your PAM driver training and orientation. Some of the presentations may feel a bit overwhelming at first, because there’s a tremendous amount of new information to absorb. But learning these tools of the trade can pave the way to a rewarding professional trucking driving career. At first, you may encounter instructions you don’t agree with, or that you don’t fully understand. Give yourself time to complete your orientation and go back for clarification if you still have questions.

PAM’s training material is a much better information resource than the “free” advice from various truck stops or non-company social media groups. Less experienced, non-PAM drivers may inadvertently give you faulty advice or encourage bad habits that can derail a promising, new career.

Plan Your First Trip the Right Way

When it comes to planning your first trip, you’ll want to start with these vital trucking tools. You’ll need at least one of each:

  • Notebook
  • Calculator
  • Current truck road atlas
  • Roadside guide or app such as Trucker Path, Truck Smart, Trucker Tools, GasBuddy, etc.

These supplies may seem overly simple, but they can help you stay safe during your drive and keep you on time. Other trip planning essentials include:

  • Understanding how to figure your average speed
  • Breaks and fuel
  • Routing
  • Load information
  • DOT breaks
  • Early pickups and drop offs

Average Speed

You’ll use your calculator to determine your average speed. Work from the time you start your run to the time you arrive at the receiver (not counting DOT breaks), and divide that by the number of miles you traveled. The result is your average speed. Note that your truck is governed to 62 mph at the pedal and 64 mph on cruise.

Despite what some non-PAM drivers will tell you, unless you are on an open road with no traffic starting and ending at a freeway exit, you can’t average 60 mph or even 55 mph. The best PAM drivers average 47 mph to 50 mph per trip. That may seem a bit slow, but you have to take road conditions into consideration, such as inner-city traffic challenges, construction, interstate congestion, inclement weather, auto accidents, driving breaks, and other potential factors that can impact average speed.

Breaks & Fuel

Many first-time drivers assume a restroom and drink break only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. But that’s a common rookie mistake. Your break calculation starts from the time you begin to decelerate from cruising speed.

Next you have to:

  • Slow down for the exit
  • Stop at the intersection
  • Pull into the plaza
  • Park your truck
  • Walk across the lot to the restroom
  • Fill or refill your drink
  • Wait in line at the register
  • Reverse the entire process until you’re back at cruising speed

Most break periods average about 30 minutes. If you have to wait in line for fuel or for scales, that will take longer and cut into your average speed. Don’t forget to take all these factors into consideration when you’re making your calculations.

Routing

Mapping out your optimal trucking route is key to successful trip planning. First, pull out your truck atlas and check the route. Maybe your route takes you through the I-95 corridor? In that case, you’ll be required to drive through some congested, urban areas. If you have to plan your route through a major city with heavy rush-hour traffic or ongoing construction, always try to avoid peak traffic times.

Load Information

Before you roll out your first trip, make sure you have all the correct and necessary load information, such as pickup and drop numbers. Without this key information, a 30-minute drop and hook can turn into a much longer and more complex situation. Without complete load information, unnecessary delays can cut into your driving time and negatively impact your overall average speed.

DOT Breaks

There’s a common assumption that if you don’t arrive at a truck stop by 4:30 p.m., you probably aren’t going to find a parking spot. But there are other options for taking a break that don’t require a truck stop. There are numerous apps available to help you locate an appropriate location to take a break.

Early Pickups and Drop Offs

Experienced PAM drivers make it a policy to ask for permission to pick up or deliver a load early. As a professional driver, you should request early pickup and deliveries whenever possible. Be sure to provide accurate trip planning information when you make your request. When you finish your current load more quickly, it expedites the process for the next load, which equals more miles for your paycheck.

The Professional Truck Driving Journey Continues

PAM provides its drivers with continual learning — and earning — opportunities through its Driver Lifecycle Program. Our goal is to help you develop a professional truck driving career that allows you to reduce stress, increase energy, and improve your overall experience. Be sure to broaden your trucking education by keeping an open dialogue with your Driver Manager.
For additional resources to put you on the right route to career success, check out more of the articles on our blog and visit us on Facebook.

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