To say a trucker's life is easy would be absolute nonsense. Anyone who has been in the industry can attest that life on the road is a hard grind day in and day out. While we all have to start somewhere and don't learn how to get better by being perfect, sometimes you'll see all sorts of ignorance on the road—not only from everyday drivers but from some of our fellow truckers, as well.
Before we get into all the ways truckers confuse the rest of the driving population, I've tried to take into consideration the kind of guidelines and various policies truckers have to follow—and some are different depending on the companies they work for. This list also mentions things that might seem like no-brainers but that I've read about or seen personally. These kinds of mistakes bug not only myself and the everyday driver but also responsible truck drivers who are just trying to get done with their day safely.
Trucking isn't a job to just jump into and it takes years of practice—and perhaps a little luck—to come out of it unscathed and with a little money in the bank. I hope that some of the ladies and gentlemen who have an interest in big-rig driving can use this as a sort of guide as to some of the worst things truckers do that doesn't make any sense at all. After all, in the end, these mistakes could cost them their job.
It's best to learn from these mistakes and try to avoid making them yourself when going through the day-to-day routine. And for the folks out there trucking responsibly, stay safe.
This could happen to any of those drivers who get a little too trusting of their GPS. But a mistake that might not be so big in an everyday car would be more foolish as the size of the vehicle increases. GPS systems are not to be followed without a little common sense, especially in a big rig hauling a huge load. Signs are decorated along side of the roads to tell everyone of upcoming obstacles along the road. Unfortunately, GPS doesn't account for these conditions on every road and who knows when the GPS might be wrong and tell someone to take a left into the nearby lake.
Since we're on the subject of signage, paying attention to bridge clearance is a must for truckers. Let us point out that almost any driver knows how tall their car is and where it can fit. Even those lesser professionals in a moving truck should know how tall the thing is before trying to go under certain bridges. The highways are made for tall trucks and have been overhauled to supply ample room for just about anything to go under it. The side roads and city street bridges are to be paid attention to, though. Just because it looks like you truck could make it doesn't mean it always will and most likely, when these incidents happen, it costs someone their job.
There has been a crack-down on truckers driving after having already signed out for the night. We all have to sacrifice sometimes to manage our deadlines. The problem for truckers is that not only is some personal rest at risk, but so is the job that is depended upon by so many businesses and people. And that's not to mention the possibility of being caught and receiving a fine. Even worse is that if an incident were to happen, no matter if you were just sitting there and someone ran into you, you'd be the one hauled off if something bad happened to that person. There are a lot of risks when trying to complete a run when you're way behind.
This may not be so extreme for some of the local haulers but it's certainly important even if some people may not do it as much as others. Taking a few minutes to check the lines and tire pressure can save a lot of headaches and lost time later on and it lets you know if there may be anything that may want to be keeping an eye on. Just a quick check can save you the difference between a nice easy drive to the delivery site or a hard long day while you wait on a new tire or, even worse, a tow truck.
Though one thing that shouldn't be worried about when fording a river in a diesel is the engine stalling halfway through for diesel engines run under compression and not electrical, as long as you don't get water in the air filters or the exhaust (which isn't usually lower than the air filter on a semi) your engine should be okay. It's everything else that should be worried about. The transmission and transfer case both have vent holes in the casting, which when filled with water makes them very prone to failure if used much longer without maintenance. Also, it could do some damage to the trucks electrical systems that may not affect the engine so much, but just about everything around it.
Truckers are always on a schedule; whether they're working for a large company or own their own truck, they have places to be. Though most respect the workers offloading them and just leave them alone, sometimes, this isn't always the case. As with some reports, truckers have yelled at a stocking crew to hurry up when they have just started. It makes absolutely no sense to yell at the guys offloading the truck. Sure, the crew may not be the best in the world, but they might just take a little bit longer to offload until their manager comes by and starts pushing them. Though it can be infuriating to the drivers, they can only make it worse for themselves.
Whether hauling around a flatbed or a container, it's important to have things strapped down nice and tight. Common knowledge among professionals would be to have the straps flat along the surface of what you're holding down and to have strap protectors handy in case of sharp corners. One of the worst things I could think of that would make a bad day is a strap snapping under tension and causing the load to fall off of the trailer. It's always a good idea to check the straps. I know it sounds like a training video, but it's seriously a problem that can cause a lot of money loss and grief among some of the other cars around you.
The mirrors on a semi-truck are quite big even, when compared to large pickup trucks with towing mirrors. And it should be this way so then drivers can best see around their 53-foot trailers. In driving school, they train you how to back into spots and to accurately judge distances using your mirrors. Why, then, are some drivers backing up into spots of a truck stop with their driver's door wide open? Using the mirrors is something any driver should know how to do well, as it's suggested to use the side-mirrors even when driving a one-ton with a headache rack.
Weight plays a big part in driving a big rig and distributing the weight properly is perhaps the second-most important aspect (behind how much weight you're pulling). Not only will it cause the truck to be harder to slow down, but it also puts extensive wear on tires, making them susceptible to blowouts. More expensive wear happens where no one sees it because the axles and differential also are under stress and could break at any moment—most likely when it's all under the most stress while climbing a long hill. It never made sense to drive overloaded trucks, and it's something could land you in serious trouble at the weigh station.
Some drivers are as brash as they are brazen; they go through rough stuff on the road and don't have much care for how they act. The problem is that though they don't deal with people much, when they do, they can be rather unpleasant. Perhaps the most mindless thing that some of these drivers do is use naughty language over the CB. Everyone driving may be over age, this doesn't mean their passenger necessarily is. Besides the censorship regarding children, there is some professionalism that needs to be maintained. To own your own company is a terrific feat in life, but to have other owner-operators talking down a company because of a bad attitude and a foul mouth that can't be held in is just unfortunate.
I love cab-overs; this entry isn't to diss or hate on those who drive them professionally. They're very maneuverable in tight spots and are also safer the newer they are. No one can deny the fact that they are still really dangerous, though, with no real crumple zone and very little in the way of protecting the driver from going through the windshield. A cab-over doesn't seem much safer than a Smart car, which also doesn't have any crumple zone for absorbing impacts. Cab-overs have their uses, especially in the city, but they should be driven with as much caution as possible.
Now we're getting into some serious issues. Most companies have a policy that a driver can't drink anything that might impede on their ability to drive. Many seem to keep it off the road, but this policy should apply during lay-overs too. To relax and enjoy a brew is one thing, but to lay a livelihood and license in the line for a road soda is a whole different issue. So, before anyone starts trying to relax too much, I'd try to get ahold of something that tells you whether your company has a policy on this or not—and make the responsible choice.
Many car owners neglect the maintenance that is recommended for their cars. Regardless of what the factory manual might say or even what the lit-up Check Engine Light suggests, they just keep on truckin' their way to work and back with not a care in the world. But for big-rig drivers to act in the same nonchalant manner is actually a dereliction of their duties. Part of their job is making sure that they're on top of anything that is not quite right with the rigs, so that they can ensure that their loads and delivery schedules don't get delayed by unnecessary breakdowns.
When called in for a mandatory blood test, it's best to just get to the collection site you need to go to and get things done sooner rather than later. Not only do the DOT regulations state to get it done immediately, but it's just always best to get these things out of the way so you don't have to think about it later on. You only have whatever time your employer has set for you to turn up at a test site. By not doing so, it counts as a failure on the test, which comes with the same consequences as others who failed it outright.
Quitting a job without notice is bad in every industry, no matter if you're out on the road or a meat packer at the local grocery store. It's best not to do it anywhere, as it leaves a tarnish on your employment record that could cost you a job in the future. This makes things especially difficult for drivers, where positions may be easier to fill at Swift but those jobs won't come with the pay of, say, Sysco, where the annual salary is $87,204 according to Trick Driver Salary. If a trucker quits without notice, any company looking for hires is going to skip right over them and move onto the next applicant.
I didn't even know this was for real until watching the Trucker's Justice streaming channel and then reading more about it later on. With just about 0% down and no credit check, you can lease-to-own a truck through a trucking company. That sounds like an amazing deal but can lead to things being too good to be true. This is not to say that some trucking companies actually offer good lease-to-own options, it's to say that reading the finer print can save you some grief. One of the bigger complaints with this practice is that they can over-charge you for repairs they require you to do to your truck through one of their repair facilities. It's best to save up some money and buy a truck from an actual dealer or via a private sale.
We spoke earlier about quitting without notice and how it can affect how other people see you as a hiree. When you're a trucker who is quitting, most companies would ask that you leave the truck somewhere where they can retrieve it. Though most trucks, if not every one by now, have a tracker on them, that doesn't mean the truck can be left just anywhere and doing so will count against you as abandonment. This is the only thing I could think of that is worse than just flat-out quitting and the repercussions from doing so are bad, as it won't take long before you're deemed unhireable.
This may be done by those drivers who have heard the old wive's tale of retreading not being as safe or as effective as new tires. This is simply a myth, with the only supporting data going back to the 50s and 60s, where retreads were good for trucks that were slow and didn't haul heavy loads. Since then, retreads have improved drastically, becoming a wallet-friendly way to have some decent tread on your truck. They're just as good as any other tire and the practice is used in many different applications, from heavy-duty trucking to racing. At one time, retreading wasn't as good of an idea, but we've come a long way since then.
A critical part of the job is knowing what you're hauling as much as you can (this is unless the government is involved, where things get a little foggy.) Being caught with contraband you didn't realize you were hauling means a lot of trouble for not checking your load before heading out. There are some places that won't let anyone inside their warehouses and if you feel the place is a bit suspicious, don't be scared to call the dispatcher. It's also worth mentioning that is the company puts their own seal on it, that is when the contents are no longer your responsibility, just the weight distribution on the tandems.
Sometimes, drivers come upon some very inclement weather conditions that make it too dangerous to proceed. It is the trucker's responsibility to continue on or not, and they have the right to choose not to—for whatever reason. Make sure to take pictures of the reason, though, and document it well, so that there is something to back you up if the company were to threaten your job because you decided not to continue as scheduled. They have to respect your safety and by having good documentation of your reasoning you're only helping yourself protect your job, as well as your own well-being.
Sources: Thought Catalog, Truckers Justice, and Trucking Careers.