Back to Trucking FAQ
Effective trip planning is one of the keys to being a successful, efficient, profitable driver. A proper trip plan includes knowing how to get where you are going quickly and safely, getting proper rest, loading and unloading before the end of the day, refueling at standard times, avoiding traffic, maintaining your vehicle, operating your vehicle safely, and driving within the bounds of the law. This article should help you plan your trips so that your driving record will be clean, your pocketbook full, and you and your employer both satisfied. When you formulate a plan for your trip, you increase your ability to receive more loads. And the more loads you haul, the more miles you travel, and the more resources flow into your hands.
So whether you are going cross-continent or a few hundred miles, the following steps will help you generate a plan that is safe, fuel-efficient, and time-saving.
Step one: Figure out how to get to your destination quickly. You should be planning how to get to your next destination as you are being loaded. This will save fuel, time, and money. You can find the easiest route to your destination through an online map or a commercial GPS unit.
Step two: Estimate the length of your trip. Once you have decided on the best path to your destination, you should see how long it will take you to finish the journey. Divide the total hours of the trip by the Hours Of Service. This will give you the number of days before you arrive at your destination. Always factor in extra time for unknown stops at borders, tollbooths, or weigh stations. If those situations do not present themselves, you will be ahead of schedule.
Step three: Plan your breaks. Separate your day with short breaks every few hours. You should plan these breaks before you are on the way to your destination so that you can take your break at a mall, rest stop, truck stop, or other establishment, not in the middle of nowhere. You can use these breaks to fill logbooks, use the restroom, refuel your truck, eat, or simply stretch your legs. You should always complete your logbook each day at the end of the day, but if you take the time to do pieces during the day, you will save time.
Step four: Plan to avoid traffic. Now you might be wondering how to avoid traffic before you leave for your destination. The answer is simple. Although you can never avoid all traffic, if you plan to drive through cities at times other than rush hour, you will avoid most congestion. In some large cities, these breaks between heavy traffic only exist late at night. It is up to you to drive when no one else is out or when traffic is moving at five miles an hour.
Step five: Set up your refueling times. Plan to refuel before you have to. If you refuel once a day on a predetermined break, you will not have to waste time that you planned to drive on refueling. Or maybe, you could refuel at the end of each day. Whatever the case, make refueling a part of the day instead of an emergency.
Step six: Plan your maintenance. Downtime is one of the biggest wastes of money in the trucking industry. If you schedule maintenance between loads, on breaks or holidays, or while a trailer is being loaded or unloaded, you can actually save money and avoid sudden malfunctions.
Step seven: Adjust your schedule so that you can load or unload before the end of your Hours Of Service. Getting a head start on each load is key to saving time and making more money. Try to get unloaded and reloaded before your day expires.
Step eight: Plan a detour around trouble spots. If you know that a certain area has a reputation for huge delays, potholes, or other disturbances, avoid the area. Add a backup route to your plan.
Step nine: Get proper rest before each trip. This is probably the most important step. Remember that a tired driver is a hazard on the road and unproductive at his job. You always want to be fresh before you leave.
One way to maximize the effectiveness of your trip plan is to write it down, preferably on a printout map. You can place your route, breaks, deliveries, night stops, fuel stations, and eateries all on one map. Then you can see if your plan is realistic and working like it should. If not, adjust your plan so that you can follow it while maintaining safe operating procedures. Be sure to make a backup copy so that if you lose the first copy, your plan will not be gone, too.
Trucking companies differ in their policies and procedures. You may have to adjust your plan to compensate with any changes brought on by rules. With a suitable plan in mind and on paper, you should be able to do your job in a more profitable manner. Those who fill truck driving jobs and are productive at what they do are valued highly by their employers. You want to be an integral part of your trucking company. So drive safely, maintain your vehicle, rest when needed, and be productive at your job.