Over-the-road trucking companies recruit heavily at truck-driving schools looking for new drivers. These companies provide their new hires with further on-the-job CDL training. New graduates need experience behind the wheel to get their career moving forward, and signing on with an OTR company is the most common way that new truckers get the experience they need.
This relationship is beneficial for both parties, but it does leave new drivers with a lot of questions about life on the road. Here are the answers to some of the most common.
Where Do Truck Drivers Sleep?
Modern over-the-road trucks have sleeper berths in the rear of the cab with a built-in bed (or bunk beds), storage cabinets, a small clothes closet, and designated space for a television and refrigerator. They are large enough that you are able stand up and walk from the driverís seat to the bunk. The mattresses are roughly the same size as a single bed.
Companies supply the mattresses but the TV, refrigerator, and other appliances are up to the driver to purchase. Anything you buy is yours to keep. Sleepers have plenty of lights and most are equipped with a small slide out desktop for using a computer, doing paperwork, or mapping your next route. Some models even have moonroofs. Two small vent windows, that only open from inside, keep smokers from fogging up the cabin and come in handy during nice weather.
Sleeping compartments are equipped with a built-in bedside table and drawer, reading lights, and independent sound systems that allow one audio or video source to play in the cab, and another in the sleeper berth -- both at different volumes. Heating and air conditioning units also have separate controls for the sleeper.
Modern berths are comfortable and have thick blackout curtains separating the bunk area from the rest of the cab to make sleeping during the day easier. Some tractors have curtains that cover the windows and windshield for privacy. If your truck does not have front curtains, there are many alternatives available at truck stops for a reasonable price.
Truckers usually park for the night at a truck stop, company terminal, or rest area; though sometimes you will have to stay overnight at a customerís facility. Most drivers begin their day early in the morning and because of federally mandated Hours of Service rules, they all have to shut down for the night around the same time. Truck stops, especially those near large metropolitan areas, begin filling up between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Drivers should purchase a national truck stop guide that contains information about truck stops; such as the services they offer and the amount of parking spaces. These guides are a good reference but should not be relied on solely because they sometimes contain bad information.
Every new trucker, and experienced drivers for that matter, should keep a notebook with the location of truck stops you have visited. Note the amount of available parking at that time of day and day of the week. In some areas, truck stops are nearly empty from Friday night to Sunday morning while others are always full on weekends. You will visit truck stops daily and it becomes impossible to remember those you prefer. Keeping notes will save you some major headaches in the future.
How Do Truckers Shower and Wash Clothes?
Truck drivers shower at truck stops or company terminals. Most truck stop chains have showers available and they are typically clean and private with a sink, shower, and toilet. A clean towel and travel bar of soap are provided. Showers cost around ten dollars, but you will rarely have to pay this fee.
Truck stop chains, and even independents, offer rewards cards that you swipe while buying fuel. A shower comes free with the purchase of at least 50 gallons; which is not much for an OTR truck.
Shower credits stay on your rewards card for about a week. You can quickly accumulate credits because fueling is a daily task. These credits are accepted at any store in the chain regardless of where the fuel is bought. Alternatively, you can present a receipt for 50 gallons or more to the cashier and receive a free shower within 24 to 48 hours of the purchase.
Rewards cards also credit the driver with a one cent per gallon cash back deal. This money is added to your card and can be redeemed for merchandise at any store in the chain. This may not sound like much but those pennies add up over time.
It is a good idea to get a fuel rewards card for every major chain because some of them only have a strong presence in one region of the country and may be non-existent in others. Trucking companies keep track of diesel prices nationwide and they will usually let you know where to fuel.
The best time to shower is in the middle of the day when it is slow and there are no lines. Avoid the evening rush because it gets very busy and the wait times can be long. Bring a gym bag for your clothes, extra soap, shampoo, shaving cream, razor, toothpaste, and toothbrush. You will also need a laundry bag for dirty clothes. Do not use a hamper or laundry basket because they take up too much space in the truck and are harder to carry.
There are plenty of truck stops with coin operated washers and dryers. Make sure you have the time to spare before beginning a wash though. Bringing detergent from home will save you money. Many truck stops will have a driverís lounge with a television and video games located near the showers and laundry room to pass the time.†
Do Truck Drivers Know the Best Places to Eat?
Not necessarily. Truckers are limited to eating at restaurants and diners that have truck parking. With that understood, truckers do know the best places to eat. You will discover some fantastic -- and inexpensive -- roadside eateries during your travels.
Truck stops, with a few exceptions, will have a restaurant, buffet, grill, or fast food franchise on the premises. More and more are going toward fast food only though, so foodies and health conscious diners may have to work a little harder to suit their palettes.
Keep snacks, water, and soft drinks with you at all times because occasionally you will travel through desolate areas. Breakdowns and bad weather can leave you sitting on the side of the road for hours without access to food or water.
Keep in mind that truck refrigerators should only be on while the truckís engine is running. They will wear down the batteries after a while, so do not plan on storing perishables for long. These mini-fridges are used more to keep drinks, snacks, and sandwiches cool.
It is a little more expensive to live on the road because you will be eating out a lot. However, if you itemize your taxes you can take a daily deduction for food and some supplies.†
Whatís Considered Appropriate, Comfortable Clothing?
Trucking companies want their drivers to appear professional, but this does not mean you need a suit and tie to haul a load of green beans to Paducah. Jeans, shorts, and t-shirts are all acceptable as long as they are clean and not torn.
Even in very cold weather, you do not need to bundle up while driving. Flannel shirts and light jackets are popular because they do not restrict movement, and that is very important. Avoid thermal underwear unless you will be outside of the truck for long periods.
Boots are great in the snow but most of the time you will be more comfortable driving in a light pair of sneakers. The slip-on kind are excellent for long hours behind the wheel. Drivers should pack heavy winter gear for being outdoors, and in case of emergencies. For driving, however, comfort is the biggest concern so wear lightweight loose fitting clothes.
So whatís left? Enjoy the adventure you are about to embark on and be safe.