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Rookie Truck Driver Mistakes: What Not to Do

Many truck drivers that are new to the industry make rookie truck driver mistakes. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple solutions you can use to avoid making them.

By

Jacob Lee
July 7, 2022
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There are some common rookie truck driver mistakes that every new driver in the trucking industry is bound to make at one point or another. To help you get through your growing pains as a new driver, we’ve compiled a list of mistakes you should avoid.

These are some of the most common rookie truck driver mistakes new drivers commit when they first get on the road:

  • Speeding
  • Forgetting they have a trailer behind them
  • Ignoring road signs
  • Ignoring basic safety practices
  • Not having the right expectations about the job
  • Not staying healthy while you’re on the road

As surprising as some of these mistakes might be, many of these rookie truck driver mistakes plague new drivers during their first few months of driving. We’ll give you the details on these mistakes and more throughout this article.

1. Speeding

Speeding is a mistake rookies often commit when they first start driving for a company. Like any other type of driver who speeds, truck drivers make this mistake simply because they’re not paying attention. While this might seem like an innocent error, it’s also one that’s dangerous and can hurt other drivers. 

Semis can build up a lot of momentum, especially if they’re going well above the speed limit. Whether you’re coming up to a red light or someone has cut out in front of you, slowing down is a lot harder for a semi that’s speeding.

There are two easy ways you can prevent this mistake from happening. For one, be more aware of the speed limit signs that you pass. The second way is to check your GPS for the speed limit of the road you are on. This is a helpful method to use if you forget the speed limit or are going down a long stretch of the open road that’s absent street signs. 

2. Forgetting Your Trailer Behind Your Truck

As hard as it sounds to do, new truck drivers that don’t have a lot of experience sometimes forget that they have a trailer attached to their truck. This mistake is most noticeable when they misjudge the amount of space they need to perform a turn or other type of maneuver. 

Anytime you make a turn, change lanes or pull into a parking spot, be mindful that you have a trailer behind your truck that you have to account for. Doing so can prevent an accident from occurring. 

3. Ignoring Road Signs

A truck going down a winding road

One of the many truck driver mistakes that rookies are primarily known for is ignoring road signs. Not paying attention to road signs is what leads to the speeding problem we discussed above. However, more mistakes can happen on the road if you ignore some of the warnings on other types of signs. 

Thanks to modern technology, GPSs might make a driver feel like they don’t have to pay attention to street signs. Unfortunately, GPSs don’t always take into account closed roads or roads where construction is occurring. It’s in instances like these that paying attention to signs is important. 

Additionally, you’re going to have to look out for the sign on your navigational system with the actual sign that has the street you need to turn, stop or make an exit on when following a highlighted sign isn’t an option. The one sign that you must always make sure to look out for is the clearance sign. 

Some young drivers let their overconfidence get the better of them and ignore these warning signs. Don’t make this mistake when you come to a clearance sign. Instead, obey it and find an alternate route that is less dangerous. 

4. Ignoring Basic Safety Practices

No matter how far along you are in your trucking career, safety will always be important. Unfortunately, many rookies on the road underestimate many key safety practices. Some safety practices that the Department of Transportation (DOT) recommends are:

  • Buckling up
  • Avoiding distractions
  • Using your turn signal
  • Pre-trip inspections
  • Carefully make wide turns

All of these practices are good habits to start building when you become a truck driver. When you use them in your day-to-day routines, it’ll start to feel so natural you won’t have to remind yourself to do them anymore. Fortunately, we also have an article that outlines a pre-driving inspection checklist that every driver should follow. 

5. Having the Wrong Expectations

Truck driving is a job that can be rewarding and even fun. You’ll come across drivers in other trucking companies and even forge relationships with the people you make routine deliveries to. That said, there are plenty of challenges that you’ll face as a truck driver. 

Even when you work for a company that gives you plenty of time off, you’re still likely to spend long amounts of time away from your friends and family when you do go on the road. There’s also plenty of waiting around when you get loaded and unloaded.

Before you start your job as a driver, keep these things in mind so you don’t get the wrong idea of what truck driving will actually be like. 

6. Not Taking Your Health Into Consideration

A driver in their cab who sad about the rookie driver mistakes they made

One struggle rookie truck drivers have when they first start their careers is that they don’t take care of themselves properly. Staying healthy as a truck driver is difficult to do regardless of your experience. Spending hours on end sitting in the driver's seat will keep you from getting a lot of physical activity. 

Many truck drivers don’t eat the healthiest on the road either. Rather than packing healthy snacks for their journey, truck drivers often opt for less healthy foods while on the road. To prevent this from happening, start by taking every opportunity you have to move around during your trip. 

Whether you’re parked at a rest stop or your waiting to be loaded or unloaded, stepping out to do some stretches and exercises will give your body some much-needed movement. Scenarios like these are the best times to exercise. Another good habit that you should get into as a truck driver is eating healthily. 

There are a variety of foods out there that have great nutritional value. This includes some great make-ahead meals that you can prepare before even setting out on the road. While meals are important, it’s also a good idea to have some healthy snacks ready in case you get hungry in between meals.

If need some ideas on what snacks to get, check out our article on some of the best healthy snacks for truck drivers. 

7. You Get Lost

Truck drivers are known for being able to get where they need to go with little to no trouble. That said, rookie drivers tend to get lost a bit more often than a more experienced driver. Using a GPS is a tool that just about all truck drivers use to get to their destinations. While this tool is an excellent one to use, it can have its faults. 

A GPS or Google maps is likely going to take you to a route with a bridge your truck can’t make it under or on a truck-restricted road. Therefore, a good backup plan to have in case a GPS fails you on your journey is the latest issue of a U.S. road atlas. A road atlas is great to use because it can help you find the best routes for your truck and account for potential hazards that a GPS or Google maps can’t. 

8. Your Truck and Paperwork Are Unorganized

Many experienced truck drivers have learned to treat their truck as an office or second home while they’re away. They do this not just because they have pride in their vehicle, but because being organized makes their job much easier. Unfortunately, it takes many rookie drivers a while to realize this. 

Some of the things that you can do to keep your truck more organized include:

Besides making your job easier, staying organized might even reduce some of the stress that you encounter while on the road.

9. Failing To Prepare Properly For A Trip

A truck driver sleeping in the back of their cab

Every rookie driver needs to make preparing for their trip one of their routines when they get their first driving job. Not preparing for a trip can cause some of the other mistakes we’ve addressed so far. For example, taking the time to plan your route before you hit the road will reduce the likelihood of you getting lost. 

Likewise, using your off-time to get some healthy food before your journey will help you take better care of yourself on the road. These preparations will also help you have a successful journey when you start your journey:

  • Pack clothes that match the weather of where you’ll be traveling
  • Make sure you have well-stocked first aid kit
  • Sheets for your bed (if applicable)
  • Pack all of your hygiene products

These are just a few things that you should make sure that you have. For more truck driver essentials, check out our article here. 

10. Ignoring Help When It’s Offered To You

It takes a lot for people to offer help, especially when you’re as busy as a truck driver. That’s why if an experienced driver offers you some advice, take it into consideration. There are many drivers out there that have learned many useful things during the course of their career.

If one offers you a tip that you’ve never heard, chances are it might be able to help you. Even if you don’t decide to use it, it’s still good to hear what the driver has to say. Additionally, blatantly disregarding a truck driver when they offer advice can prevent you from forming a good relationship with them if they work for the same company you do. 

Rookie Truck Driver Mistakes Or Not, ABCO Cares

Unlike other trucking companies, ABCO cares about our drivers. Every trucker that works for us is given a flexible schedule that allows for a good life/work balance. We also offer local routes for truckers that don’t want to drive too far from home. 

Lastly, we pay our drivers a great salary for their services. The starting salary for all of our drivers is $67,000 a year but can be more based on a driver’s experience. If you’re unhappy with the current company or are tired of being an owner-operator then start your journey with ABCO by filling out your application. 

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