There’s a steep learning curve when first embarking on a truck driving career. Getting the mirrors and seat adjusted properly the first few times you drive can be tricky! Even making a right-hand turn can go sour the first few times. Following are a few tips for gaining confidence as a new driver and a back-to-the-basics reminder for those seasoned drivers on the road.
Setting Up Your Driving Zone
Confidence begins with setting your mind and your workspace up for success. First and foremost, once you are in the driver’s seat of your truck, take a deep breath and let it all out. Get rid of all distractions and ready your mind for the task at hand with a few calming moments to relax.
Position yourself in your seat as if you were ready to start driving to make sure everything is to your liking. After all, you’ll be seated there for a lot of hours during the day. Are the pedals at a comfortable distance? Are you close enough to the steering wheel so that your shoulder muscles won’t quickly fatigue? Fix those things first.
Make sure to check your mirrors, too! Because of movement from wind, possible movement from a prior drive, and dirt that will accumulate, mirror checks and adjustments need to be made during every pre-trip inspection.
Back to the Basics: Backing up a Semi-Truck
You’re going to need to do a lot of backing up, so you should probably learn how to do it like it’s your job...Oh, wait!
Having confidence in your backing up skills can take some time due to its difficulty. It can seem daunting at first because you’ve got this huge visual obstruction behind you and very little wiggle room. So, what tricks work for consistently putting that trailer where it needs to be?
First, follow the acronym GOAL—get out and look. Check your surroundings to confirm you’re clear on all sides, estimate the distance to the nearest obstruction, and be cognizant of your proximity to that as you back up. When you’re close, get out and look again to make sure you’re still clear.
Once you’ve surveyed your surroundings and are ready to back up, place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. The direction your hand goes is the direction the trailer will move. Now that you’ve got it going the correct way, get your eyes on the side mirrors—both of them intermittently. Go slow and practice, practice, practice! Soon you’ll have done it successfully so many times, you’ll have the confidence of a seasoned driver.
Back to The Basics: Right-Hand Turns for Truck Drivers
Making a right-hand turn with a long trailer behind you can be tight. Really tight. It can be embarrassing to do a curb job, but taking out a sign or lodging a landscaping boulder under your axle can be an expensive mistake to make. Practice these tips below to increase your confidence completing right-hand turns in your semi-truck.
It’s important to be able to visualize where the center point—the part of the trailer that will veer furthest right—of your rig will be in a right-hand turn and this takes practice.
When approaching a right-hand turn, keep your vehicle as far to the left as possible. Always check your right mirrors before making your turn to make sure no cars have snuck between you and the curb. Pull forward as far as you can, then slowly begin making your turn, keeping an eye on your trailer wheels to make sure you have the necessary clearance to not hop a curb.
The most difficult places for maneuvering a truck are in cities right before arriving at your destination and parking areas as you get to the loading dock. Knowing exactly where your truck will be as you move gives you the advantage to avoiding mistakes.
Experienced drivers, we’d love to hear how you gained confidence with some of the more difficult aspects of your career. Leave comments below or on the NTB Facebook Page.
Once you’ve mastered, or at least become somewhat confident with the art of driving, NTB recruiters would love to hear from you.
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