Month: August 2006

Advice for the Student Driver

I was in the Idaho DMV the other day and a guy sat down beside me and started to mention how hard it was to get his CDL license.

I laughed to myself and remembered the day I first got my CDL about 7 years ago. He was excited and told me all about the great company he was going to work for and how his new found company was going to give him the world! He told me he reported for orientation in about a week in Omaha, NE. He asked me if I had heard of the company, Werner, and I said I did. Once the sugar coating wore off, I got down to business giving him my best advise for someone venturing out on the road for the first time. GET YOUR FINANCIAL AFFAIRS AND PERSONAL BUSINESS TAKEN CARE OF BEFORE HEADING OUT ON THE ROAD FOR THE FIRST TIME!

Of course I had to stress the later. Not one person in my trucking school or the company I started with, US Xpress, ever mentioned getting your personal affairs sorted out BEFORE reporting for orientation. Little did I know I would be spending the next 8-10 weeks of my life in a “foreign” state, 3000 miles away from home.

My best advise for this new student of the road was to pay the bills back home at least 2-3 months in advance. This would include rent, utilities, credit cards, car payments, etc. Leave enough money in the bank for the family at home, and buy as many phone cards as possible from your local Wal-Mart, NOT the truck stop!

We could have talked for hours, but I needed to get my two cents in before this guy left the room and I would never be able to warn him about life on the road as a rookie. One other piece of advise that I gave him, and any other student out there, do not get suckered into the “advance trap”. Most larger companies will allow you to advance yourself .09 – .10 cents per mile. It has been my experience that more payroll errors occur when a driver hits his or her advance limit every week. Not to mention that after payroll taxes, insurance, SSI, etc., not much is left on the paystub to send back home to pay the bills. Keep a budget and stick to it! Plan on spending anywhere from $10 to $20 dollars a day on miscellaneous items and food. If you spend your budget and still have a day left before next payday, you may have to skip a couple of meals before you get paid again.

I feel the advance program was developed by someone who knew human behavior all too well. If you look at the process objectively, if one is broke, won’t that motivate the driver to spend more time on the road trying to make more money? More time on the road equals more miles. More miles equals more revenue for the trucking company. Student drivers, stick to a budget, DO NOT take advances, and don’t buy over-priced junk at the truck stops. 90% of American Wal-Marts and K-Marts, even supermarkets and malls, have ample room for a truck to park. Do not park there for long periods of time, be polite, don’t litter, buy your groceries and hit the road. Even thanking the manager of these establishments for allowing you to park on “their” property goes a very long way.

Be smart, save your hard earned money, keep a budget, sign up for direct deposit and start using online bill paying services. As a driver, don’t stay on the road for 8 weeks at a time. Life is short, visit the family often and get plenty of rest. When I was an OTR driver, my ideal time out was 3.5 weeks and 5 days off at home. I still ran plenty of miles, but I was a safer and more alert driver.

Please read my blog often and think about the tips I mention. It can save you a few dollars and a lot of heartache!

Be Safe!