Category: over the road drivers

The Value of Planning Your Route Carefully

A useful anecdote that I often repeat to myself is “careful planning and goal setting are the keys to a happy and healthy life.” This is especially true when working and forming healthy lifestyles. In addition to making life easier, planning will also help you remain punctual and will give you some flexibility because you know the time that you need to be at a pickup or drop off along the route. 

Planning Ahead

It may not be incredibly far in advance of a trip that you find out your route but taking even 15 minutes to delineate when you should be where and when you should take a break can save you a lot of time in the future. Adding stops into your GPS (or on your map if you’re more old-fashioned) can help you make sure you take adequate break time and recharge more efficiently. With a schedule, you can get more done and save time while you’re at it!

How do you build a plan even in a time crunch? The best way to do this is look at a map of your route and the specific drop-off and pick up times between each part of your journey, if there is a difference in the time it takes between transit and your next point of cargo transfer, you can use this extra time to take a break either for activity, rest, or a bite to eat. 

If you are a local driver, you will likely have more stops to plan around, so familiarize yourself with the area and locate nearby parks, quick restaurants, or greenways so you can get in some quick activity and hopefully healthy food. If you are a long-haul driver, planning is even more crucial because you will likely be in unfamiliar territory. Look at your route and plan around avoiding high-theft locations, and finding safe spots to rest, eat, and take breaks. For each type of driver, it is a good idea to write down what time you should be where and follow this to the best of your ability. You can even use your phone to write down times or set reminders!

Staying Healthy

Creating a schedule will help you to stay healthy because it allows you to plan out restaurants in advance, so that you can avoid the high fat, sodium, and sugar meals that are so tempting on the road. Finding restaurants that offer healthier meals can be a life and health saver as you continue taking on new cargo. Planning well is a part of forming healthier habits for the road, and your body will surely thank you for this.

In addition to eating healthily, you can also plan for exercise and stretch breaks. Taking a walk in between long hours of driving can help you to stay fresh and fit. Remembering to stretch can also be beneficial because it will help you stay flexible and avoid stiffness and pain as the hours get long between pickups and drop offs. 

Final Thoughts

Planning ahead can be an actual lifesaver, and less drastically can greatly improve your health and timeliness in transporting cargo! Writing down details and a schedule for your route and setting reminders with your phone can be a great way to make your route happier, healthier, and more on-time! There are plenty of online resources to help with this, so do some research and create a custom way of planning that suits your needs.

What to do if your truck breaks down in traffic.

Breakdowns throw a wrench in the plans of truck drivers on their transportation journeys. Breakdowns cause delays in the strict schedules many drivers keep, and this time delay can mean late transportation of goods and less family time for the drivers as breakdowns increase the time that drivers must spend away from their family. 

The good news is that there are many ways to effectively manage breakdowns that will help save yourself time and effort. From effective stress management techniques to knowing who to call, it is possible to experience a breakdown without it being the end of the world. Meaning you can return to transporting goods quickly. 

Stay Calm 

The most important thing to remember when your truck is starting to break down is to breathe and stay calm. If you can pull off on a wide area, that would be the best, and if you can catch the breakdown early, finding an exit or stop along the way with a semi repair shop nearby would be the best decision. The main thing you want to avoid when you feel a breakdown coming is to be stranded in the middle of the highway. 

After you pull off, allow yourself to gather your bearings and call the correct people. This will likely vary by company, but the best decision if you are somewhere remote or unknown, is to contact your boss or someone in charge at the company you work for and they will be able to provide some guidance. Also, prop your hood up to signal you are broken down and then set out the triangles or flares behind your truck in 50-foot increments. 

Driver Help 

Some drivers may have experience working on trucks or have been trained to fix issues, but it is a good idea to leave the repairs to the experts. If you are an owner operator who is responsible for your own semi, make sure you have a resource that you can refer to when locating repair facilities and searching for safe stopping spots. 

If you are a driver for a company, your dispatcher or manager should be able to inform you on how to handle the breakdown. They can tell you information such as who to call for a tow truck and what facility your truck should be taken to. 

It is very important to remember that your safety is of utmost importance. With that in mind, please remember the safest place to remain until help arrives is in the cab of your truck with the

doors locked. Standing on the side of the road can make you a target for speeding, inattentive drivers. Stay alert and be aware of the dangers around you. 

Final Thoughts 

Breakdowns can be scary, especially if it is your first one, but there are people who can help you. The most important thing is to stay calm and call assistance if you cannot repair the truck on your own. As a final safety tip, pulling off to a wide, well-lit area will pay off in safety and allow help to find you easily. Being a driver will mean that you will likely see at least one breakdown in your life, but they are manageable as long as you remain calm, everything will be okay soon!

Reducing Stress while Truck Driving

“That stresses me out!” This is a phrase that we hear often about a variety of subjects. Stress is something that all people deal with to some degree, as it is a biological response to a stimulus that is perceived as being dangerous or concerning. Stress is a feeling of physical tension and anxiety and cortisol, the primary hormone associated with stress, is known to raise blood pressure and increase heart rates in those with higher-than-normal levels.

The Wear of the Road

Truck driving can be a very rewarding career with the ability to travel across the nation and solid pay after a few years of experience. However, this can also be a very stressful career as it is fast-paced, full of responsibility, and hugely schedule-dependent. Managing the safety of your cargo while providing expedient transport is a big responsibility, and can be very anxiety-inducing when it seems like you cannot make it to your destination on time.

These worries, coupled with long hours, can lead to a lot of stress which can be unhealthy for extended periods of time. This keeps your body running in survival mode which can lead to many ill effects on your health like, an increased risk of heart attack and stroke (According to the American Psychological Association). The good news is that stress is manageable with some effort and this means that you can remain calm and secure even in the worst situations.

Stress Management Tips

Stress seems like an insurmountable wall when you experience it firsthand, but it is possible to overcome the anxiety of the moment. One of the best things to remember when facing a stressful situation is that it will not last forever, and you will be free from it soon. If you find yourself experiencing stress, try to breathe slowly and evenly to lower your heart rate and blood pressure to reduce the panic response your body is producing. It may help to go to a quiet room or pull off at a truck stop to walk around for a minute or two. After you have initially calmed down, it is important to address the stress.

The best way to keep stress under control is by being aware of the things that cause you stress and learning how to better approach them before they upset you. Writing down things that cause you stress, and attempting to remove your exposure to them can be one strategy of reducing the number of stressors you are exposed to. If you cannot avoid the things that are stressing you out, it may be a good idea to find ways to better cope with them- this may take time and some compromise. For example, if you find yourself worrying about time, it can be a good idea to write down a schedule and try to stick to it. Simply writing down tasks you need to complete or times you need to arrive at various destinations can help you reduce the load on your brain and keep your thoughts organized.

A Note of Encouragement

Stress can be difficult and unhealthy, but it is possible to reduce the amount of stressful thoughts. Getting organized and giving yourself mental breaks, while trying to maintain regular breathing, goes a long way in reducing the stress you may experience. There are plenty of resources, with a wide array of strategies, available to help keep your stress at bay. Some may work better than others, so it is important to explore and find the strategy that is best for you. 

Cargo Securement Tips of the Trade to Avoid Downtime

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Depending on how you’ve been taught, you might think that a strap is a strap and a chain is a chain. Securing your cargo might be something you haven’t given a lot of thought to in a while. Something to think about is that there are rules in place that you could be unknowingly violating. These rules are in place in an effort to avoid causing damage to other motorists on the road.

Understanding the proper way to tie down and secure loads improves highway safety and keeps you from the lengthy downtimes involved with violating the rules set out by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

The specific rules to follow come from an older set of regulations given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that took effect in 2004.

The general overview of these rules can be summed up in the following: “Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (loose materials used to support and protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags intended to fill space between articles of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tiedowns or a combination of these.”

A rule of thumb to go by from these rules is that one tie down is required for items 5 ft. or less in length and under 1,100 lbs. Two tie downs are required for items 5 ft. or less in length and more than 1,100 lbs., or greater than 5 ft but less than 10 ft. long, regardless of weight. An extra tie down is required for every additional 10 ft.

Officers from CVSA enforce these rules during their routine roadside inspections of tractor-trailers and their drivers. If a truck driver is found in noncompliance, their truck can be taken out of service due to inspection item violations.

The concern, from the CVSA officers, is that improperly secured items can fall off the trailer and damage, injure, or even kill other motorists. The item itself might not directly cause a fatality, but a flying, bouncing, and fast approaching object on the road can cause accidents that could possibly lead to a fatality.

New drivers are spooked easily and aren’t accustomed to objects hitting their windshield. Older drivers with declining vision and reaction time, are also susceptible to crashes involving unexpected hazards.

In addition to following proper securement rules, routine checks of strap conditions not only help secure the load, but can also prevent unplanned downtime due to a failed CVSA inspection.

A variety of things can damage your straps. Get ahead of this and regularly check straps for cuts, burns, fraying, or other damage.

In cases where you do find damaged straps, replace the strap immediately. Spending a little bit of money now can prevent a significant loss of money due to downtime if the strap fails or is found to be damaged during an inspection. Having extra straps in the cab of your truck is highly recommended.

Healthy Meals You Can Have in Your Truck

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Obesity has long been associated with driving a truck.  It’s a mainly sedentary job and despite the lack of physical activity, it can be exhausting. After a long stretch behind the wheel, drivers want to relax and rest up for the next shift.  Fitting in adequate exercise can be difficult so maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging.  

It doesn’t have to be that way.  With effort and planning, it is possible to make healthy meals while you’re out on the road.  One of the keys to healthy eating on the road is to keep your truck well-stocked with healthy choices.  If you don’t have them on hand, it’ll be harder to resist picking up truck stop food.     

Start by using the right equipment.  Space in a truck is always limited so think about the foods you’d like to make in your truck.  There are numerous cooking options such as a hot pot, microwave, toaster, small slow cooker, portable stove, and two-burner stovetop.  A fridge is a necessity and one with a freezer is best.    

When you make your own meals, you are in total control.  How many calories, how much salt, and  fat are entirely up to you.  Processed foods tend to be higher in all of these things, especially sodium, and if you are overweight and have heart issues or high blood pressure, it’s important to watch your salt intake.  

Breakfast

Protein helps you feel fuller for longer. Having a protein-packed breakfast will help keep you from reaching for snacks.  Some delicious ideas to start the day are:

  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter (lots of protein)
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Cottage cheese with fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal 
  • Low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Omelets (throw in your favorite protein, cheeses, and veggies)

Lunch

  • Wraps are great for lunch because you can eat with one hand and fill them with anything you like.  Use lean meats like sliced turkey, or tuna, and add tons of fresh veggies.  Use a low-carb or whole wheat wrap to make it even healthier.
  • Soups (pick the non-creamy, low-sodium varieties)
  • Veggie pasta salad

Snacks

If you have a freezer (you should), stock it with healthy treats like frozen yogurt or fruit bars.  Other handy snacks: 

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers
  • Dried fruit (great snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated)
  • Unsalted mixed nuts

Dinner

Meal prep is your friend.  Many websites show you how to make a week’s worth of meals in one day.  Make them the day before your trip and pack them in reusable plastic containers.  Meal prep often involves cooking a protein, like chicken, and then adding rice or noodles, various veggies and sauces and spices, varying them so each meal is different.  It’s an inexpensive way to give yourself some variety in your healthy dinners. 

Rotisserie chicken can be thrown in with some pre-cooked rice and veggies and a little soy sauce, made into a delicious chicken salad wrap, or tossed on a salad. 

Tuna casserole can be cooked on a stovetop or in a slow cooker.  Egg noodles, tuna, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and frozen peas, and you’ve got a hardy meal.

Mac-n-cheese can be made in a crockpot with cheese, macaroni, milk, butter, and eggs.  It’s not the healthiest, but you’ve got to indulge every now and then.  

When you do eat out on the road, try for healthier options like food that is grilled instead of fried, skip the hamburger bun, and drink water instead of soda.

By planning and prepping your meals before you head out on the road, it’ll be easier to maintain a healthy weight, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll feel better about yourself.  

If you’re looking to start a career in the trucking industry, Trucker Search can help. Connecting truck drivers and employers is what we do.  It’s quick, easy, and it can get you that dream job on the open road. Get started today at TruckerSearch.com or call us at (888)254-3712.