Newbies - Starting as a Company Driver

Regulations | Carrier Policy | Planning | Accurate Records

Now that you have graduated from truck driving school, successfully received your CDL, chosen a carrier and completed your training, it's time to go out on your own. You have probably already noticed during your training that going out on your own means more than just getting behind the wheel and driving the truck. Yes, driving is your primary job and should be your primary focus, but if you don't do the other necessary things you won't realize your full potential for success. So, what else do you need to do now that you are out there on your own?

First, become familiar with federal and state regulations. By familiarizing yourself with federal and some state regulations you will be able to better maintain the legality of your driving operation. Think of it this way: The less time you have to spend correcting violations and the less money you have to spend paying fines for violations, the more successful you will be. Familiarity with federal and some state regulations will ultimately give you more time, and more time means more money. For additional information about federal and state regulations, please visit the section on regulations.

Carrier Policy
Another thing you will want to do is to learn your carrier's rules. Although most carriers are similar, there are differences in some of their rules. Perhaps the most important thing you will want to familiarize yourself with is the payroll process. When do your trips have to be submitted in order to be paid? How often does the carrier pay? What deductions will be taken from your check? What do you do if there is a discrepancy between your records and the carrier's records?

In addition to pay, it is helpful to know other rules as well. For example, how much notice do you need to give in order to be provided home time? Are spouses or pets allowed on your truck? Are you allowed to refuse a load? What do you do if you are ill? How often do you need to check in with your dispatcher and what information is required when you do check in? A number of the important rules will be discussed in the initial driver orientation, but if you have questions about other items make sure you ask what the official carrier policy is.

Somewhat related to knowing the carrier's rules is doing your job without complaining. When you are being recruited, certain expectations will be put forth for you from the carrier and you will have the opportunity to accept them and go to work for that carrier or look elsewhere. Once you have chosen to take a job, it's time to do the job and do it well. You will find that trucking is no different than any other industry in this regard. If you consistently complain, you won't be successful. If you do your job without complaining, you will have a far better chance of being successful and of getting what you want--like home time, loads, miles, etc. Note, this is not to say that you should be wary of expressing your opinion and expressing a little dissatisfaction, but you should do it in a professional manner. Just use common sense.

Next, you will want to make certain you are prepared to make all of the right "business" decisions associated with driving a truck. Part of this includes planning. Each and every trip is different so each and every trip requires careful planning to achieve the utmost efficiency. What route will you take? Then, on that route, when and were will you eat, fuel, shower, sleep, etc.? All of these are key, but the number one thing to keep in mind when planning your trip is the pickup and delivery times. Everything else just fills the time in between.

Accurate Records
Of course, when you are on the trip you will need to pay attention to certain details as well. Keeping accurate records for each trip is essential. Load pickup and delivery times, miles driven, meal expenses, other personal expenses, fuel receipts and an up-to-date log are all important to keep track of. In addition, supervising or assisting with the loading and unloading is important. This will allow you to make certain your bill of lading is correct and that your trailer is loaded properly for the weight. Accurate records will make it easier for you to be paid or reimbursed for expenses.

Part of the accurate records should include keeping your receipts for all tax deductible purchases. Truck driving is one of those professions where a great number of purchases are indeed tax deductible. As you purchase items that are tax deductible, keep the receipts. Many drivers have a shoebox to keep them in and some even maintain a filing system. If you don't know what is tax deductible and what is not, knowing which receipts to keep is challenging. One solution to this is to keep all of your receipts until tax time, that way you won't miss any.

Finally, keep a log of customer names, routes, phone numbers and employee names. Every time you go on a trip, keep a record of that trip. You will likely end up taking a similar load to that customer again. If you've already planned the trip once, why do it again? Simply refer back to your records for contact names, locations, routes, phone numbers and even specific notes you may have written about that trip. This will end up saving you a lot of time as you gain experience. Before you know it, you will have a vast archive of information on a number of customers. This information will, at some point, prove to be quite valuable to you--whether you get in a bind or are able to help someone else out.

Being on your own means more than just sitting in the driver's seat and keeping the truck on the road. It also means doing the little things to ensure your personal success. Proper planning, maintaining records, professionalism and self-education are all good steps in achieving the success you want and deserve.

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