What are the differences between professional truck drivers and just truck drivers? -Well at first glance you might think there is not much of a difference.
Some might even say it depends on all matters of issues to determine what the difference is, but believe me when I am saying, there is a big difference, and I am going to speak in this article and tell you all about that difference!
So first of all, let’s touch on a few key points about the overall truck driving job. These are the points that are obvious yet the same, regardless how one is classified. First and foremost is what is required to legally operate a commercial truck and what is even considered a commercial truck?
So to the second point first. The simplest answer is: a commercial vehicle is any vehicle used for official business. Further descriptions would say one that is used for and represents a company, organization, business, or other in any official capacity. Some examples are:
I could list many more but these examples should be more than enough. After all we all have seen these either on the road, in our neighborhood, or flashing their lights in our review mirror.
Typically, to drive these vehicles you will need more than regular driver’s license. For some a chauffeurs license (might have a different name depending on your state) might be enough. But as you get into larger vehicles and one with airbrakes, or requiring special endorsements, you will need a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
That brings us back to the first point. Where do you get a CDL? What are the special requirements for a CDL? What do you need for a CDL?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers a lot of good information and answers to those questions. But here are some basic requirements:
Now that you know the basics that are need in order to become a truck driver, what are the differences between professional truck drivers and truck drivers?
Well they are not as drastic as you might think. After all a truck driver is anyone who has met all the obligations to get their CDL, in accordance with the FMCSA and their state of residence. Technically, anyone who operates a commercial vehicle (class B or Class A) is a truck driver.
It doesn’t matter the size of the company; it could be big or small trucking company. The number of trucks in the fleet is not important as well, the job title will still be truck driver. Of course some might call it a commercial vehicle operator or something else but the concept is the same.
So if it isn’t the trucking company they work that makes the difference, then what is it? Age, experience, gender!? – No, no, and still no.
When we better think about, none of that matters, or at least it’s not supposed to matter. There is another element, well actually several, that separates a regular truck driver with what can be labeled professional truck drivers! So…
Professional truck drivers, as stated above meet all the same basic requirements. They do the same basic job. But the first of many differences is how they became a truck driver. So what do I mean by this?
Well it is of a curtail importance if the driver went through a one day school or did they go to an official truck driving school? Did they just borrow or rent a truck or had they spent some time learning the truck and the rules?
Perhaps they were working in the trucking industry long before they got their CDL; maybe they were a truck driver in the Military?
There could be million and one reason for somebody to be much more experienced truck driver from someone else that completed the exact same driving and training and have same miles under their belt.
It all depends from the different circumstances and environments of those two trainees and most important than that – the talent that one person can have for a spatial thing.
After all, it is not same when you are traveling down the open road on a major highway of 2000 miles straight line, and when you are on the middle of no were, on one of the most dangerous roads out there or when you are a ice road trucker! Heck, we all have some talents and not everybody have the driving skills talent!
Surprisingly enough I must say that there are still those people who do well from the one day school, but truthfully they are not the norm.
So allow me to sum this up: proper training, talent, hard work while practicing and attention to detail are some of the key elements to being in league with professional truck drivers.
Another one thing, something that isn’t taught in a truck driving school and you either have it in you or you don’t is the personal traits needed.
“And they are?” -I’m so glad you asked.
Personal traits are the characteristics that one has. Most of us are born with a particular set. These we just seem to have, they come natural, regardless your background.
Then there are others which are taught and gained with hard work and dedication. These either come to us through our upbringing, our environment, or we just develop them over time.
Of course people will debate about what is the most important trait. Some would say it is the honesty or the integrity, while others might say loyalty and accountability are as much important if not more. On the end of the day it really depends on you and the nature of what you’re involved in.
The best characteristics for a co-worker, your team driver, or an employee might not be the same as what you seek in a boyfriend/girlfriend. Plus you might have a difference in opinion as what really counts and matters.
However, I did try to come up with a few that seem particularly important when it comes to professional truck drivers and to this particular job.
These are not so much based on the individual level as they are on “what is good for the overall industry”. These are traits or characteristics that might be suited for this industry, but they are not the only ones, nor are they all “a must have”.
But here below I will list some suggested traits or characteristics for professional truck drivers and what I thing is the thing that separates a professional truck drivers from just a truck driver!
Now I know some are saying, “What are you speaking about”? Well, it is true actually most of the truckers I have met and worked with were some of the nicest people!
Actually truckers seem to be some of the best people period, not all but most. Oh sure even the best of people have good and bad days, but they were still polite.
Now this doesn’t mean they say “sir and ma’am” or always hold the door. But it does mean they treat people with respect. They tend to keep their frustrations controlled.
After all, who wants to have a 10 am appointment and not get to the dock until after 3 pm? And yet they managed to not curse and scream out loud to every leaving being on the world! How is that for patience?!
But professional drivers will have all the patience needed and they will still maintain the appropriate attitude, as best as possible.
Punctuality is the key. You can’t help what the warehouse company will do and you definitely can not control the weather or control the traffic!
But one thing that what you sure can do is to plan the best you can. With all those industry related electronic gadgets for truckers, like example route optimizer, route mapping, or GPS software available today, there is really no excuse for being late!
Sure sometimes there are just those things that simply happen and you can’t do much about it! There might be a major pile-up on the freeway. Perhaps you have a flat tire of other mechanical issue.
Then you need to call the dispatcher and/or the client immediately, and by the time you know, you are running late.
Of course if you follow a routine truck maintenance schedule you shouldn’t have too many unexpected issues, but things can happen, and sometimes it’s out of your control.
You can be one of the best truck drivers out there and still do a mistake here and there, and that its all ok and fine, as long as its decent and honest mistake.
Professional drivers know how to manage their time, and if something unexpected happens they know how to apologize, make amends and redeem!
They are experienced enough to know where to go and get everything they need in order to stay on the road.
They will also do their best to go to the safer locations and stops and in case where they have to go someplace unsafe, they will use Smart Fuel Cap (an anti-siphoning device to protect the fuel).
Another thing that they will do is check their vehicle regularly for fuel and other leaks.
Often there are other deals from which professional truck drivers can take advantage of, such as tire alignments, discounts and such. Typically they will be members of price or fuel club as well.
Professional truck drivers make sure that they are getting the best fuel price per gallon! They just know when and where the best deal is at!
This is very important and crucial. The trucking industry is almost overwhelmed with regulations. It is essential that you are well versed on them and are well aware of the fact that they are constantly changing.
But knowing the federal stuff isn’t enough, not by a long shot. Professional truck drivers keep themselves up-to-date on everything that relates to their industry.
This includes state and local level regulations. Additionally it also means knowing the rules, regulations, and requirements regarding your freight, and being well informed on the company related rules and policies.
Professional truck drivers always keep their self up-to-date and well informed. They always know the upcoming trends in the trucking industry!
This is another important point, some might say it is more important that your knowledge of the rules and regulations!
As a driver your job hinges on your safety rating and your company safety records. Now, only to get the job you will be asked about your driving ability and record. Most likely they will use a pre-employment screening program (PSP) , as recommended by the (FMCSA).
Companies often do regular driving record checks as well. Some go so far as to base your performance off all you truck driving accidents and even incidents, regardless if they are work related or not.
Sometimes minor things won’t be an issue or can be ‘fixed’. But the more serious offences such as DWI/DUI will follow you for a long, long time!
Professional truck drivers drive smart and keep their driving record clean!
This goes hand in hand with your driving record actually. Because safety is a key factor in getting good driving contracts and even keeping your job.
Liability is very important, especially this day and age. When something goes well everyone wants the credit, but when it goes bad they are quick to point fingers.
Make sure you know what you are transporting, and see if there are any special instructions, such as don’t get the freight wet or feed it after midnight.
Make sure that you are securing the freight properly, by tiding it. Have industry standard locks and seal in place, when possible. Drive carefully; be aware of the other drivers and road conditions.
Getting there on schedule doesn’t mean much if the freight is damaged or lost, – the professional truck drivers will know that!
No one expects you to be a regular Mr. Goodwrench, but you need to have basic mechanical aptitude. You need to be able to use the standard tools for your job and enlist half of the tools in your truck toolbox. It might depend on what you’re hauling but still you should be able to handle the basics.
Obviously the idea of doing an engine overhaul on the shoulder of the road is not a “must”. Not even changing tires, though knowing how is important!
There are numerous times when you will need to use a screwdriver, players, or other tools. So, not only have them, but know how to use them (at least take them out of the packaging).
Basic mechanical ability is a MUST. Professional truck drivers know much more then basic repair do!
Just like you need to know the difference between a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver, you need to have some tech skills. This doesn’t mean you need to be software engineer or computer programmer.
But you do need to understand the basics. Know how to use your laptop, iPad, cell phone apps. You need to be able to operate these and update them as needed.
It is not like it was even 15 years ago, heck just 10 years ago it was different.
These days of age professional truck drivers need to be able to use their electronics and other trucking tools in order to perform their job well.
But, more than that, you need to keep yourself well informed on the overall industry and changes to keep yourself competitive.
Professional truck drivers constantly advance and update their skills and knowledge.
Now, here is one that can be difficult, especially if time management is not one of your strong suites. First of all, federal law requires certain amount of rest and hours of service.
Secondly, your body needs its sleep to restore itself. The brain needs to shut down, so to speak, and your body needs to recoup. The exact amount we all need varies but most studies say 6-8 hours is the preferred amount.
The regulations constantly change and the amount of drive to rest cycles vary, so recently they changed again!!
The thing now is that you can’t fake it like you could years ago (not saying anyone did).
But now they have tracking systems and electronic logging devices (ELD), so you might as well route your trip and plan on rest stops just being part of the time table.
Professional truck drivers know what a proper rest means so they will probably say to you: “Get a good truck mattress and pillow, it will help”.
This is another issue for those in the trucking industry, but the key is to keep yourself healthy and sharp on the road.
You got to eat right! That doesn’t mean twigs and trail mix, but keep the junk to minimum. Don’t smoke; don’t drink excessive amounts of coffee. Something in moderation is ok but don’t overdo it.
But also remember, a good diet isn’t enough! You need to get proper rest (as mentioned above), but also you need exercise. There are several things you can do. Do some stretches, take a walk around the lot, do some truck driver fitness, do anything you want but just get yourself out of the seat sometimes.
A healthy diet goes a long way to maintain good mental health. Professional truck drivers always care for their health and do everything to keep in shape. They know how important truck driver health is!
Professional truck drivers need to understand so much more than just the truck. They need to realize that they are often the only in-person contact a client might have with the carrier.
Sometimes they are single point in whether the customer chooses that trucking company or decides to use another one. It’s because they were just a truck drivers and not professional truck drivers!!
You must be more than just the person behind the wheel!
I have touched on so many of the points; some might seem more obvious than others. Some might be subject to personal opinion, those I think these are good. But I would agree there are many other traits, some I hinted at already but here are few more:
And, I could list a few more, but I think you get the idea. You only get that one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one!
Just because people have preconceived notions of what professional truck drivers look and act like, doesn’t mean you must fit the mold. You can be a professional truck driver in your own unique way!
Do you have these characteristics? Or at least feel you are more than just a guy who drives a truck down the road?
After all there are those who would argue that people who are getting money for driving a truck are actually professional truck drivers. But, are you more than just a guy or gal who drives a truck for a living?
If the truth is to be told, most anyone can get a CDL and drive a commercial truck, but not all of them are professional truck drivers and know how to live a life on the road.
They will never understand that there is more to the position than just operating a truck. They won’t understand that driving a truck on the open roads is a unique lifestyle!
There is a lot to driving. It takes practice, and an actual skill to maneuver a truck into some of those tight loading bays. But it is also about how one conducts him/herself.
Not every doctor is a true professional. Nor is every actor, news anchor, delivery person. The title doesn’t make you a professional, you must be a professional.
You might be thinking, “Well this is just silly”. Not that long ago you would have been right, but we live in a customer oriented society now.
And with social media, YouTube, and a host of other communication resources (that didn’t exist a decade or so ago) image is everything.
If you fail to act appropriately it will be shared a million times before you reach your next truck stop!