Things Not Often Taught to New Drivers: Part One
Congratulations, you have a commercial driver’s license and are about to start, or have started your adventurous career as a professional driver. In general, you know the basics of the job, but there are tips that most of us have learned by the seat of our pants that fine tune the ease of the job and can save you time, money and stress.
One of the things that you should have even if you have GPS, is a good motor carrier’s atlas. The motor carrier’s atlas has information in the front of it from Hours of Service regulations to the numbers to call for road/weather information by state. On the maps, you can find rest areas, scenic roads to avoid and a golf course if you play golf. In the back of the atlas is a chart of the distances between major cities.
Another important tool is a good truck stop guide. The truck stop guide has information on repair facilities, restaurants, motels, laundries, scales, and even grocery stores and Wal-Mart’s that are close to the truck stops. Addresses and phone numbers for the truck stops are listed so if you break down you can call the closest truck stop to your location to find the closest road repair.
Scales/State Weigh Stations
Axle scales are at most truck stops and used to make sure you are not overweight on your axles or over gross. You pull gently onto them and then without setting your brakes, you push a button and the cashier will ask you your truck number then tell you to pull around, this means to either park in a parking space or pull thru the fuel islands if they are not busy and you are not staying inside long. If you are driving a semi, you will need your trailer number when you go inside. One never slides tandems on a scale. Just a note, if you set your brakes while on the scales, it applies more pressure to the scales and can make the reading wrong.
State weigh stations can be confusing; some you roll across on the highway, some you roll across coming down the on ramp into the scale. Some weigh stations have full axles scales that can weigh the whole rig and some have a single axle scale where you either stop with each axle, or axle set, on the scale or roll slowly across it.
Scales with rolling scales in the highway will have signs on the highway telling you to enter the scale or by-pass it. Scales that have rolling scales in the on ramp into the scale will have arrows above the lanes telling you to either go into the outer lane and by-pass or to go into the scale lane to weigh. One thing to remember on any rolling scale other than highway scales, there will be a speed limit on the ramp into the scale, always do the speed limit posted; the rolling scales are calibrated to read correctly at that speed.
One thing that scale masters hate is when a driver jams on brakes on the scales; it can throw the scales out of calibration. Always ease onto the scale at idle speed and slowly stop wherever you are supposed to stop. Release the brakes. The scale master will tell you to go on over the speaker or will turn on the green light, they then switch it quickly back to red and many think they should stop again, do not stop, ease slowly off of the scale. The best thing when you are just starting out is to fall behind some other trucks and see what they do when they go into the scale. Remember, if the scale master pulls you around to inspect you and/or your truck, be pleasant, they have a job to do just as you do.
Never go inside the truck stop with the fuel nozzles in your tanks. Fuel pumps at 60 gallons a minute and you will not only have to pay for the fuel spilled if the nozzle jumps out, you will have to pay for clean up if it is a significant spill. If you have to use the facilities before fueling, park on the fuel island, run in, use the facilities, and get back to your truck to fuel. Always pull ahead after fueling, or go park, to open the fuel lane for the next driver while you go in to get your fuel ticket.
Bugs accumulate then dry on the windshields and can be hard to remove. If you pre-spray the windshield with an ammonia-based window cleaner and let it set while you start fueling, then scrub the windshield, the bugs soften up and will come off easier. A small piece of carpet used as a scrubber will also clean bugs off if you want to climb the engine to get to the windshields.
Windshield wipers clog up with ice and snow in the wintertime so sometimes you have to lift the wiper and allow it to slap back against the windshield to knock off the accumulation. To avoid having to climb during icy/snowy weather, keep either a long ice scraper or a pin puller to extend your reach from the top step reaching between the door and the windshield to lift the wiper with the tool and gently let it slap back against the windshield.
Backing into a Building
Backing into a building from the daylight is hard to do. If you leave your marker lights on, you can see the back of your truck or trailer easier. In addition, you can place a small flashlight on the dock bumper to help your aim (this works in night backing also).
The longer you drive, the more tips you will find to make your job easier because trucking is constantly changing; and yes, some of the tips you will have to learn by the seat of your pants.