A professional driver knows the importance of road trip planning. A well planned trip is profitable. It also raises a trucker’s comfort level and eases the stress level of the day.
Knowing where you’re going to stop for meal breaks, fuel and rest, is absolutely imperative.
Once upon a time, before heavy regulations ruled the roads, smart truck drivers would trip plan around their abilities.
They’d drive until they were tired or hungry and find a safe place to stop.
Now, a trucker must plan around the electronic logbook, hours of service regulations, the trucking company and the demands of the customer.
Consequences of NO Plans For a Trip
- Running out of fuel
- Over fueling before scaling, can cause an overweight issue, adversely affect the driver’s schedule
- No convenient restaurant or truck stop for meals
- No proper rest area or truck stop parking for the night
- Not knowing where repair shops are located, or other essential services
- Potential danger…could end up in unknown, unsafe areas.
- Could cost the driver money if he takes the wrong route (extra miles)
- Driving time (hours of service) wasted and money wasted (extra fuel) and potentially late for a delivery
- Poor planning can damage your driving record. It’s not worth the risk.
15 Handy Planning Tips for Truckers
- When road trip planning, take a look at the total distance of the trip. We like to calculate trips at 38mph. Many drivers may scoff at this calculation. But, if stopping for bathroom breaks, eating, fueling, border time crossing, traffic, weather are taken into consideration, you’ll find it fairly accurate. However, this calculation can vary, depending upon where you are traveling. When traveling in Wyoming, a truck driver can usually put lots of miles behind him, if the weather is good and the traffic is minimal. I-80 is pretty straight forward running. However, a trucker traveling through New York, NY or Charleston, SC, where traffic volume is insane, covers fewer miles in a day.
- For otr or long haul truckers, set a goal for your destination stops daily, that’s realistic, taking into consideration all of the variables…weather expected, traffic delays and volume, mountains vs. flat area, border crossings etc.
- Know where the essential services are located, such as repair or tire shops.
- Trip planning can save money in many ways. For eg., there can be as much as a .10 per gallon price difference from one state to another, so you’ll want to plan on a fuel stop where fuel prices are the best deal.
- Plan around Walmart stops, if you wish to buy groceries, instead of doing the ‘restaurant’ or truck stop scene.
- Road trip planning helps to forecast a ‘realistic’ delivery time for dispatch and/or your customer.
- The good trucking companies will give you a customer profile, which includes a detailed description and map to your delivery point.
- Allow more time than you think you’ll need. Expect the unexpected. Arrive ahead of schedule. There shouldn’t be any need to to rush, speed, risk a violation and/or run out of fuel.
- If you’re an eastern seaboard driver, road trip planning is critical. If you don’t stop to land for the night early in the evening, you may not find a place to park and sleep for the night. Real estate in this part of the U.S. is very expensive, so there aren’t many truck stops and rest areas with lots of good parking. There are also more trucks than parking spots. Choose a good place to stop and plan on landing by around 6pm.
- Many sections of the eastern seaboard, simply aren’t safe. Don’t put yourself and your big rig in a dangerous situation, lost in a high crime area in the dark of night.
- Listen to the weather reports and plan accordingly, no matter where you are trucking. In the winter or storm season, finding yourself stranded, or out of hours, in a storm in New York City or in the middle of the Rockies in British Columbia, could be a very bad situation.
- If you’re running in Nebraska, where the real estate is relatively cheap and plentiful, getting a decent spot in a truck stop even late in the evening, shouldn’t be much of a problem.
- In remote areas, it is extremely important to carry food, essential supplies and extra clothing. These supplies could save your life in the event of a breakdown. Ice road truckers sure know how to pack for survival…their lives depend on it.
- Many professional drivers like steady, dedicated runs because they know where things are located, like good restaurants, parking, good truck stops, repair shops etc.
- No one likes surprises. Dispatchers and trucking company owners appreciate and recognize drivers that take the time to plan, as it shows from their on time deliveries record. When work is a little scarce from time to time, it’ll be the truck driver with good planning skills that consistently delivers on time that’ll get the work when times are a bit ‘lean’.
Tools For Road Trip Planning
Road trip planning is so easy to do and well worthwhile, especially with so many handy tools available today.
Cell phones, GPS, computer and navigational aids, map book (yes, a good old-fashioned map is still one of the essential tools of the trade for drivers), truck routing software, books(exit books) and online resources for truck stop locations, rest areas, groceries and services, are just some of the many tools available to help the driver plan a successful road trip.
The Electronic Logbook and Trip Planning
Electronic logs have forced changes on the trucker. It’s even more important than ever to plan carefully before departing on a trip.
When the on-board recorder says you’re out of hours in ‘no-wheresville’… no fuel stops for hundreds of miles, no restaurants or food stops, and no rest areas or truck parking until the next state…. you’re find yourself in a very uncomfortable and very dangerous situation……driving tired and illegally, low on fuel and high on stress. Situations like this can even be fatal….pulling over to sleep on the side of the interstate due to poor road trip planning is just plain negligent.
Well-orchestrated road trip planning results in ‘on-time deliveries’ for truck drivers.
Remember the saying, ‘Under promise, over deliver’.
Being on time is a trait of a successful trucker.
More Skills for Professional Drivers
- Backing Up a Big Rig
- Sliding the Fifth Wheel
- Scaling a Tractor Trailer
- Calculating the Weight of Diesel Fuel