When you want to get into the trucking industry, excellent driving skills are a must but form only a part of what it takes to thrive. In today’s busy trucking marketplace, safety, documentation, speed, a friendly demeanor, and foresight can make all the difference.
Therefore, it’s not enough to have a clean driving record and the skills to back a tractor-trailer effortlessly. There are many more skills you need in your quest to become a truck driver. The best professionals who excel are well-rounded individuals whose particular characteristics and skills set them apart.
So whether you want to become a truck driver and start a rewarding career, are looking for jobs to support yourself, or are a working trucker looking to better yourself, these eleven skills are essential for success.
1. Always Puts Safety First
Truck driving can be dangerous for road users, which means safety and caution are among the top skills a driver needs to succeed. A good trucker puts road safety first by abiding by all rules and regulations, planning their trips well, doing thorough pre-trip inspections, and following proper procedures when loading and unloading cargo.
A good trucker also never lets pride get in the way of doing their job, asking for help, or taking extra time to complete a task correctly. Additionally, they are responsible on and off the road. They do not get easily distracted and always drive with caution. They never drive when tired and get enough rest to ensure they remain alert when on the road again.
As a trucker, you should put the safety of other road users first and watch out for circumstances that could potentially create harmful situations. You should also stick to your assigned task and avoid making unnecessary stops.
Being organized is a critical skill that truckers should possess and polish. Hence, you should know all your cargo details, routes, and other freight plans as a driver. It also means having all applicable licenses, permits, and paperwork in order.
Furthermore, you should keep track of your expenses, including receipts for meals, fuel, and accommodation. It’s good practice to take some time before your departure to file and organize the applicable paperwork you will need and have your passport, licenses, and certifications at hand. It’s a lot easier to process your payments and clearance forms on time when you have everything in order.
3. Possesses Basic Mechanical Skills
Commercial truckers spend most of their time alone on the road. Therefore, it helps to have some basic mechanical skills and knowledge of your track (such as your trailer hook-up or refrigeration units) should anything happen in the middle of nowhere.
Mechanical skills can help you fix your truck and get back on the road with little to no help. You can also diagnose potential problems, know when something needs repair, and reduce your risks of requiring roadside assistance that could sometimes take hours to reach you.
4. Good Communicator
Even the best-laid plans and itineraries don’t always go off without a hitch. Besides, a lot can happen while on the road, such as heavy traffic, bad weather, change in assignment, delivery issues from the customer’s end, and other incidents. Therefore, you should always keep all relevant parties informed of changes. Failure to communicate with a manager, planner, or customer can lead to missed loads, freight delays, and loss of miles.
5. Can stay Motivated
As with other jobs and careers, motivation goes a long way in helping you create a positive work environment, leading to successful results. Think of what you should accomplish daily as things you enjoy doing and not stuff you have to do. Approaching your work with that attitude and mindset leads to better results, increased motivation, and a long career.
Motivation also keeps you healthy and in good shape physically, emotionally, and mentally. It will help you get enough rest and eat well on the road. It also enables you to keep your truck in good condition since you have the motivation and willpower to fix issues immediately.
6. Has Excellent Navigation Skills
It takes a lot of time, experience, and memory to know your way around the states. The best truckers are good at deciphering the fastest routes and avoiding delays due to road works, accidents, festivals, and other issues.
Today’s trucks come outfitted with advanced navigation and GPS technologies to help streamline trucking routes, account for traffic congestion, avoid toll roads, and knock time off of your routes. However, while technology makes your life easy, relying entirely on it is a foolhardy endeavor since you may end up stranded should the equipment malfunction or lead you astray.
Try improving your sense of direction and be mindful of your bearings when driving. Finally, increase your knowledge of highways, interstates, feeder roads, maps, and geographic scope.
7. Has a Passion for Trucking
People often perform their jobs better when they love and enjoy what they do. So even on days when everything seems to go wrong, the best truckers have a glass half full outlook and see the bigger picture. Being a good truck driver involves having a passion for driving, working with customers, overcoming challenges, and getting the job done.
8. Has Strong People Skills
Excellent communication skills are essential for all truckers. However, strong people skills go beyond communicating well. Truck drivers with exceptional people skills can handle different situations they encounter along their route. They also have the patience and flexibility to handle situations if things go wrong at a customer location.
As a trucker, you should be courteous with people you meet along your route in truck stops, restaurants, filling stations, and motels. You should also have a cordial working relationship with fellow truckers and take the time to guide new drivers when they need help.
Finally, you should know how to build strong relationships with your customers to cultivate long-term relationships. Show your customers you care for and appreciate them through body language and communication.
9. Patient in Stressful Situations
Sometimes truck drivers experience challenging situations such as waiting for hours to unload their freight, dealing with unsafe drivers and road users, or forced stops due to bad weather. However, you should find ways to stay calm and collected when facing frustrating situations.
Stressful situations could also mean moving high-value freight quickly and meeting strict deadlines despite numerous distractions along the way. Reliability and staying organized are two ways to help reduce challenging circumstances.
If you are an unreliable person that no one can depend on, then none of the other skills on this list will make a difference. For example, if you promise to meet deadlines and make deliveries at a particular time, you should do everything to stick to your word and communicate when you cannot. The last thing you want is your management thinking you are unreliable.
11. Stays Alert at All Times
Since trucking can be a dangerous job when drivers are not careful on the road, it is advisable to remain alert. Drivers should never cut corners while driving to beat deadlines. Instead, they should always keep their eyes on the road, avoid distractions, follow the speed limit, check road signs, and use proper turn signals.
Staying alert means taking care of yourself to avoid incidents on the roads. You should get enough rest and sleep, exercise, eat right, drink plenty of water, and find ways to stay awake and alert on the road.
There you have it. Eleven essential skills to help you become a good truck driver.