Before you hit the road - for a day, a week or longer - you’ll need to consider the items that can make your trip safer, more comfortable and more successful. It starts with developing a trucker’s travel kit.
Lists Come First
The first thing you’ll need for your kit is a detailed list of items to pack; use this list as you prepare, then stick to the routine of the list with each trip until it becomes a familiar routine. Some drivers will need a second list to prepare their homes for an extended absence.
- Organization is the key to getting ready for a trip without the stress of last-minute scrambling. While at home, keep everything meant for packing together in a corner, a closet, or under the bed. Use gym and duffel bags for your belongings; they stow easily in a truck, while suitcases are too rigid and take up space even when empty. Over-the-road tractors today have a fair amount of storage space. Most of your clothes and other belongings should easily fit into the drawers and cabinets that are part of modern cabs and sleeper berths, but keep a bag or two dedicated to things not commonly used -- like winter clothes in summer -- and leave them unpacked.
- Keep your most important and commonly used items in one bag. This includes staples like your cell phone, keys, logbook and glasses. The majority of drivers have to park their tractors at a company terminal while they enjoy some home time. If you have an assigned truck (one that only you use), leave belongings that you do not need to take home in the tractor with the exception of any valuables.
- Always take valuables home with you -- especially expensive electronics that are susceptible to extreme temperatures such as laptops, tablets, MP3 players, satellite radio receivers, and other portable devices. Keeping these items together in one bag will make things easier when packing and unpacking.
Trucker’s Packing List: Tools
You will not need an extensive toolkit; these tools are for simple jobs such as tightening a loose license tag, dislodging road debris, or changing a burnt fuse.
- Bring screwdrivers of different sizes, some wrenches, a small socket set with torque and star fittings, pliers, channel locks, a work knife, fuse puller and assorted fuses. A small jar of spare nuts, bolts, and screws will prove useful also.
- With their many uses, duct tape and electrical tape should be a part of your survival kit. Two good flashlights, spare batteries, a truck tire pressure gauge, and gloves are also necessities. Regular gardening gloves are inexpensive and sufficient for your needs. Industrial hand cleaner and shop rags can keep you from getting grease on your clothes or inside the cab.
- Truckers should carry a hard rubber mallet for use on trailer axles that will not easily slide or lock into their needed positions. A fifth wheel puller comes in handy when dropping trailers; they can be found at just about any truck stop for $10 to $20. A lightweight pry bar is often useful too. An extra landing gear crank handle will save a lot of work when you have to hook to a trailer that has a damaged or missing handle.
Over-the-road trucks have side boxes behind the driver and passenger doors that open via a pull cord located inside the cab. These cubbyholes are perfect to keep tools and other items that are likely to get dirty and greasy. Keep window cleaner and a roll of paper towels in the cab with you so they do not get dirty.
Your trucking company should supply you with a couple of gallons of extra oil, fuel additives for cold weather, reflectors to use if a breakdown occurs, and at least one spare tire. Having snow chains is mandatory in some areas of the country at certain times of the year and your company should supply them. But it is your responsibility to make sure that these items, as well as load securing devices such as straps and load bars, are among the inventory before heading out on a trip.
Trucking Office Supplies
Your truck is an office on wheels, so stocking it with supplies is a must-do.
- Logbooks and vehicle inspection reports need to be kept clean and dry, so invest in a case to keep these documents in good order. You will need large manila envelopes to keep bills of lading, receipts, and other paperwork for each trip neat and separated. Over-the-road drivers are required to use only their home time zone when filling out logbooks, so a small digital clock, or a watch in your logbook case, will help you keep to the correct time zone.
- Keep a few notebooks in your cab for taking down directions, tracking mileages, trip planning, and for to do lists. Buy spare pens, paperclips, sticky notes, and folders. Truckers have to keep copies of their logs and maintenance reports going back three months with them in the truck, and you should keep the paperwork from every load hauled until paid in full, just in case there are any discrepancies. A file box is a good place to keep paperwork until it can be thrown out.
- An atlas published specifically for motor carriers is a must-have. Do not try to use a regular road atlas or a GPS exclusively, because you will miss important information such as low clearances, truck routes, and state trucking regulations. A magnifying glass can be helpful when using the atlas, even for those with good eyesight.
- Dry erase markers work well on laminated atlases to highlight common destinations or problem spots. A truck stop guide can be a great tool. Cross out any pages with bad information and do not rely too heavily on these guides until you have self-edited them quite a bit.
Truck Driver Clothing and Toiletries
A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to packing clothes for your trip is bring enough to last a full week before having to do a wash. Having too many clothes in your truck wastes available storage space. A good rule of thumb is to wear loose-fitting, breathable layers of clothes that you can add to or remove as the weather changes.
- Plan on extreme cold in the winter months and pack a good coat, gloves, ski-cap, and work boots to keep your feet dry. Consider investing in chemical hand- or foot-warmers if you’re going to be spending time outdoors.. Keep summer clothes with you in the winter, and vice-versa, because temperatures can vary wildly from region to region.
- Pack a few extra towels for showering and keep your shower bag stocked with soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, and nail clippers. A small first aid kit with tweezers is another important item to bring along.
Other Necessities for Your Truck Driver Survival Kit
Always keep fresh water and snacks in the truck because there will be times when you cannot get to a store or truck stop for long periods. Some trucks come with mini-refrigerators, and most provide a space for one if the driver wants to make the purchase. The important thing to remember about these mini-fridges to run them only while the truck’s engine is also running. This makes their use limited but still nice to have at times.
- As an alternative to a mini-fridge, buy a canvass cooler that folds up neatly when not in use. Purchasing a mug at a store will save you money over time in coffee refills. Get a large mug for iced drinks.
- No trucker should be without satellite radio; they broadcast a wide spectrum of music, sports, talk shows, trucking shows, and offer local traffic and weather for most metropolitan areas. A separate MP3 player, or one included with your smartphone, lets you listen to your own downloaded content on the road. Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time while driving. They are available for rental, purchase, and in some cases free from libraries that are digitizing their content.
When packing for your next trip create a list before starting and update it as you go. This will make your preparations go smoother and you will be less likely to forget something important. If you have some tips you want to share leave them below in the comments and check back on our future blog posts!